With the release of AWS Lightsail, Amazon Web Services steps into the market of easy-to-use and quick-to-provision VPS servers. Currently offering both Ubuntu 16.04 and Amazon Linux AMI images, as well as Bitnami-powered application stacks, Lightsail allows users to spin up a server without any of the additional (and sometimes excess) services normally included in AWS.
You can log on to Amazon Lightsail using your regular AWS account at amazonlightsail.com. From here, it’s as easy as selecting Create Instance to get started.
On the Create an instance screen, you are prompted to select an Apps + OS image, powered by Bitnami, or a simple Base OS instance. There is no deviation in the deployment process, regardless of if you are launching a base OS image, or one containing an app.
From here, you can add a launch script, if desired. This is generally a series of commands, or Bash script you want to run when the instance is provisioning. For those coming from an AWS space, these are the same as any launch script you may input at the creation of an EC2 instance.
You can also change or add an SSH key pair. Every instance requires an SSH key, and cannot be created without one. Select Change SSH key pair if you wish to create a new key pair; otherwise, keep the default key pair selected. Then select your instance plan. The $5 a month plan currently allows you to use up to one month, or 750 hours of service, for free, making is excellent for testing Lightsail.
Additionally, you need to select an Availability Zone. Currently, Lightsail is only available in the N. Virginia region. Meaning, your VPS must be located in a N. Virginia data center. Within this region, there are four zones from which you can select. Choose a zone; if using other AWS services, this may impact which zone you choose.
Finally, name your instance, and select how many instances you wish to create. Create your instance.
The Instance Dashboard
Once you have an instance to work from, select that instance on the main, or Resources page. From here, you can further manage your VPS, starting from being able to Stop or Reboot your server, to more in-depth information regarding metrics and instance history.
Lightsail allows you to connect to your instance from your web browser. Select Connect using SSH to allow a pop-up window act as your terminal. This automatically logs you in as the default user. Lightsail also provides user with an IP address and SSH username. You will, however, need your key pair when logging in from a regular terminal. Your key pair can be downloaded from the Acount page of the Lightsail website. Ensure it has 400 permissions, then SSH in as normal:
ssh -i LightsailDefaultPrivateKey.cer firstname.lastname@example.org
AWS provides basic metrics for all Lightsail instances. This includes CPU utilization, incoming and outgoing network traffic, and failed status checks. You can view these metrics between a timeline of one hour up to two weeks.
Networking provides you with information regarding your instance’s public and private IP addresses. You can add up to five static (unchanging) IP addresses to each instance, for free.
The networking tab also provides firewall control for your instance. From here, you can add, remove or otherwise alter firewall rules to limit access to your server.
Snapshots provide a way of taking an image of your system in its current state to use as a backup. Snapshots are billed monthly, and based on the amount of GB storage taken up by the snapshots themselves. You can have unlimited snapshots, but be cautious of the cost.
Your instance history contains information on services added or otherwise changed in relation to your created instance, as well as starts, stops and reboots.
Allows users to permanently destroy their image. Note that there is no turning back from deleting an instance. If you will need the instance again, consider only stopping the instance, then restarting it again in the future, when needed.
Additionally, your snapshots for that instance will not be deleted, and you will be responsible for the cost of those snapshots, unless also removed.
AWS Lightsail offers a simple VPS service that AWS has traditionally lacked. With only the brief amount of information above, you have all but mastered this new service, and are more than prepared to hop on your newly-created instance and get to work the way you want to — either on the command line, or within one the provisioned app stacks.