I have been looking for a simple web server in the cloud. Something to host web pages but with full root access to do all kind of fancy things.

I have had one for over 10 years. That is in rimuhosting.com. I am fully satisfied with that, but the minimum system is $20/month and it is very minimal.

Amazon EC2 reserved instance seems to be a viable alternative. Pricing starts from ~$10/month and even the minimal system is more powerful than my current server.

However, I have all kind of doubts. To read and really understand EC2 pricing takes hours. In I still am not sure if there are some hidden costs. At least, pricing is difficult.

For example, fixed (elastic) IP address costs per hour the same price as the hour cost of reserved micro instance if it is not associated to any instance. If the address is assigned to a micro instance, it is free. So, you get a free micro instance with the price of the address. If you release the elastic IP address, it will be different next time. To have a fixed IP address pays you $43.80/year, $3.65/month even without running instance. If you need a public IP address and have an always running instance, you get first $43.80/year free because IP address costs that anyhow.

The instance price includes only the virtual computer, not a permanent "hard disk". By default, instance image is reset if you restart an instance. Permanent disk costs $100/TB/month. And you must remember to tick "do not delete when instance finishes".

How much it costs to make a backup out of AWS? 1 TB network traffic out of EC2 costs $120! Much more than a hard disk of that size.

The basic calculation for EC2 minimal reserved instance is:

  • 12 month reserved instance "heavy utilization", cheapest area: $62/year [*]
  • 24 hours * 365 days * $0.005/hour: $43.80/year
  • Elastic IP address free, if your instance is running 100% of time, otherwise $0.005/hour
  • 10 GB/month permanent disk: $12/year + something for the use ($0.10 per 1 million I/O requests)
  • 10 GB/month traffic out from the instance (inbound is free): $13/year
  • Total: ~$131 / year
  • Average: ~$11 / month

It is much easier to use EC2 to what it is originally meant: start pre-configured instances for special purposes for limited time and delete everything when you are finished.

Google has a competing solution Google Computing Engine, but the minimum server there costs around $100/month. It is potentially cost-efficient for enterprise use, but there is no small servers.

If you just want to serve dynamic web pages, Google App Engine is my favorite solution (with Python or Go).

Other potentially interesting solution is GoDaddy web hosting. It is cheap, has all kind of fancy applications (Wordpress, Joomla, …), but limited root access.  They also have GoDaddy VPS hosting, but the price is starting from $25/month.

I you just want to host static web pages, Amazon S3 may be an interesting solution. I’ll return this later. Also, there are some solutions to publish your web pages directly from GitHub etc.

[*]Note that light utilization would mean that you do not use server 100% of the time. But, then you pay as much of the fixed IP address. Therefore the utilization here is "heavy" even though you planned to use the server very "lightly".