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Amazon EC2 vs Amazon S3: What are the differences?

Amazon EC2: Scalable, pay-as-you-go compute capacity in the cloud. Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) is a web service that provides resizable compute capacity in the cloud. It is designed to make web-scale computing easier for developers; Amazon S3: Store and retrieve any amount of data, at any time, from anywhere on the web. Amazon Simple Storage Service provides a fully redundant data storage infrastructure for storing and retrieving any amount of data, at any time, from anywhere on the web.

Amazon EC2 can be classified as a tool in the "Cloud Hosting" category, while Amazon S3 is grouped under "Cloud Storage".

Some of the features offered by Amazon EC2 are:

  • Elastic – Amazon EC2 enables you to increase or decrease capacity within minutes, not hours or days. You can commission one, hundreds or even thousands of server instances simultaneously.
  • Completely Controlled – You have complete control of your instances. You have root access to each one, and you can interact with them as you would any machine.
  • Flexible – You have the choice of multiple instance types, operating systems, and software packages. Amazon EC2 allows you to select a configuration of memory, CPU, instance storage, and the boot partition size that is optimal for your choice of operating system and application.

On the other hand, Amazon S3 provides the following key features:

  • Write, read, and delete objects containing from 1 byte to 5 terabytes of data each. The number of objects you can store is unlimited.
  • Each object is stored in a bucket and retrieved via a unique, developer-assigned key.
  • A bucket can be stored in one of several Regions. You can choose a Region to optimize for latency, minimize costs, or address regulatory requirements. Amazon S3 is currently available in the US Standard, US West (Oregon), US West (Northern California), EU (Ireland), Asia Pacific (Singapore), Asia Pacific (Tokyo), Asia Pacific (Sydney), South America (Sao Paulo), and GovCloud (US) Regions. The US Standard Region automatically routes requests to facilities in Northern Virginia or the Pacific Northwest using network maps.

"Quick and reliable cloud servers", "Scalability" and "Easy management" are the key factors why developers consider Amazon EC2; whereas "Reliable", "Scalable" and "Cheap" are the primary reasons why Amazon S3 is favored.

Airbnb, Uber Technologies, and Netflix are some of the popular companies that use Amazon EC2, whereas Amazon S3 is used by Airbnb, Spotify, and Netflix. Amazon EC2 has a broader approval, being mentioned in 3607 company stacks & 1618 developers stacks; compared to Amazon S3, which is listed in 3235 company stacks and 1615 developer stacks.

Advice on Amazon EC2 and Amazon S3
Vibhanshu Biswas
Sr. Software engineer at Neurosensum International India Private Limited · | 2 upvotes · 5K views

We have an Angular app for our B2B app and I'm unable to understand what to choose and why? currently, we use the Azure Web app. What can be the possible issues with each Stack?

I want to make sure that we have high availability with minimum infrastructure requirements such as load balancers and web servers. But with maximum performance metrics. 1) EC2 will give full control to me but I will have to manage everything on my own. 2) EBS is a more or less managed system but will we lack any less control? 3) S3 is it scalable and can it handle large requests that will need load balancers and what about performance metrics.

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Replies (2)
Julien DeFrance
Principal Software Engineer at Tophatter · | 5 upvotes · 4.7K views

Hi Vibhanshu, When it comes to serving a static website, single page application, S3 or a combination of S3/CloudFront, is a great fit. There is no server that you need to manage, and S3 is as resilient and scalable at it gets. Moreover, it's certainly the most cost-effective solution you'll be able to come up with. Is your application fully static or does it come with compute needs? - Regardless, I would highly discourage you from running anything directly on a custom EC2 instance of your own, as this will from the get-go but also over time, come with high maintenance costs. - Elastic Beanstalk, (not to be mistaken with EBS, which acronym stands for Elastic Block Storage), on the contrary, is a rather powerful way to manage your applications and environments. Either via the CLI or through the console, you can easily configure your environment variables, load balancers, certificates, events/thresholds causing your instances counts to scale up/down, steaming of logs... - Elastic Beanstalk supports by default a couple of language, but these don't always allow you to run the version/dependency you need. For best decoupling from the underlying instances, you might want to look at leveraging Docker (Elastic Beanstalk has Docker-compatible AMIs), so you are in control of the stack you application runs on.

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Amazon S3

As you have only mentioned an Angular app so I'm assuming that you're hosting your backend APIs separately. You can do a production build of the Angular app and put it in S3 (without public access). Next, you can create a CloudFront distribution for this bucket and point a record in your Route53 hosted domain to this distribution. This way your website will be highly available and fast as caching will be available. Note: With this method, you should make sure when you push new build in the bucket, you do not delete the service-worker script or else service worker will stop caching.

I will not recommend using EC2 as it seems overkill for this task. You will have to manage an AMI with Nginx or Apache or some other static web server on your own. You will also have to attach an elastic IP with the instance or an ALB for connecting it to a Cloudfront distribution. Too much work.

You can go with Elastic Beanstalk. It will reduce the setup work but still big resources for an Angular SPA.

As a bonus, you can have multiple Cloudfront distribution+S3 bucket for multiple environments (production, staging, etc.) and use weighted routing in Route 53 record for AB test or blue/green deployments.

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Decisions about Amazon EC2 and Amazon S3
Jerome/Zen Quah
Shared insights
Amazon EC2

DigitalOcean was where I began; its USD5/month is extremely competitive and the overall experience as highly user-friendly.

However, their offerings were lacking and integrating with other resources I had on AWS was getting more costly (due to transfer costs on AWS). Eventually I moved the entire project off DO's Droplets and onto AWS's EC2.

One may initially find the cost (w/o free tier) and interface of AWS daunting however with good planning you can achieve highly cost-efficient systems with savings plans, spot instances, etcetera.

Do not dive into AWS head-first! Seriously, don't. Stand back and read pricing documentation thoroughly. You can, not to the fault of AWS, easily go way overbudget. Your first action upon getting your AWS account should be to set up billing alarms for estimated and current bill totals.

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Craig Finch
Principal Consultant at Rootwork InfoTech · | 5 upvotes · 69.4K views

We first selected Google Cloud Platform about five years ago, because HIPAA compliance was significantly cheaper and easier on Google compared to AWS. We have stayed with Google Cloud because it provides an excellent command line tool for managing resources, and every resource has a well-designed, well-documented API. SDKs for most of these APIs are available for many popular languages. I have never worked with a cloud platform that's so amenable to automation. Google is also ahead of its competitors in Kubernetes support.

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Stephen Fox
Artificial Intelligence Fellow · | 2 upvotes · 73.3K views

GCE is much more user friendly than EC2, though Amazon has come a very long way since the early days (pre-2010's). This can be seen in how easy it is to edit the storage attached to an instance in GCE: it's under the instance details and is edited inline. In AWS you have to click the instance > click the storage block device (new screen) > click the edit option (new modal) > resize the volume > confirm (new model) then wait a very long time. Google's is nearly instant.

  • In both cases, the instance much be shut down.

There also the preference between "user burden-of-security" and automatic security: AWS goes for the former, GCE the latter.

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Pros of Amazon EC2
Pros of Amazon S3
  • 644
    Quick and reliable cloud servers
  • 515
  • 391
    Easy management
  • 276
    Low cost
  • 269
  • 88
    Market leader
  • 80
    Backed by amazon
  • 78
  • 66
    Free tier
  • 57
    Easy management, scalability
  • 12
  • 10
    Easy to Start
  • 9
  • 8
    Widely used
  • 8
  • 7
    Node.js API
  • 4
    Industry Standard
  • 3
    Lots of configuration options
  • 2
    GPU instances
  • 1
    Amazing for individuals
  • 1
    Extremely simple to use
  • 1
    All the Open Source CLI tools you could want.
  • 1
    Simpler to understand and learn
  • 590
  • 492
  • 456
  • 328
    Simple & easy
  • 83
    Many sdks
  • 29
  • 12
    Easy Setup
  • 11
    1000+ POPs
  • 10
  • 5
  • 2
    Plug and play
  • 2
    Web UI for uploading files
  • 2
  • 1
    GDPR ready
  • 1
  • 1
    Faster on response
  • 1
  • 1
    Easy to use
  • 1
    Easy integration with CloudFront

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Cons of Amazon EC2
Cons of Amazon S3
  • 13
    Ui could use a lot of work
  • 6
    High learning curve when compared to PaaS
  • 3
    Extremely poor CPU performance
  • 7
    Permissions take some time to get right
  • 6
    Takes time/work to organize buckets & folders properly
  • 5
    Requires a credit card
  • 3
    Complex to set up

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