Amazon EC2: How to

by Alexander Weiß

You want to try out Amazon EC2 but don’t know how. Here’s a short guide that teaches you how to set up an EC2 micro instance in five minutes. The best of it is: you may get the micro instance for free.

Usually installing a new server is tedious work which consumes quite a lot of time. With Amazon EC2 this process is reduced to a few minutes and is kind of fun – at least until you get used to it. Practically there are only three absolutely necessary steps, as long as you are satisfied with a preconfigured OS image. In this how to I’ll install an Ubuntu Linux on the instance.

First you have to create an Amazon Web Service Account. Just go to the Amazon Web Service homepage and click on the “Sign Up Now” button. Keep your credit card ready, because you can’t create an account without one. You have to fill in some forms, enter your credit card details and verify your identity. After your account has been confirmed you are ready to set up your first instance.

How to setup an Amazon EC2 instance

For this how to I’ll use an Ubuntu image, because that’s how I started with Amazon EC2. But there is also a huge supply of other OS images, including windows, where the set up procedure is as simple as the Ubuntu setup. You can even install your own OS if none of the offered images meets your expectations.

Just open the Ubuntu webpage for Amazon images – I’ll use version 11.10 in this example – under the URL You’ll face a very long list of different images: no worry it’s not hard to choose the right one.

Amazon EC2 How to Ubuntu Linux Images

Amazon EC2 How to – Ubuntu Linux Images

First, you have to choose the region where your instance should run. Second, you have to decide which architecture, 32-bit or 64-bit, you want to use. There are at least two rows for each combination of region and instance.  Choose the ebs-row, and make sure that in the last column the word micro shows up. If you have verified that the word micro is in the last column, click on “Launch”.

How to configure the Amazon EC2 instance

You should be redirected to Amazon EC2 and see a window looking like this one:

Amazon EC2 How to setup screen

Amazon EC2 How to – setup screen

Continue and choose one of the availability zones form the drop down menu. I don’t want to get into details about availability zones, because at the moment it doesn’t matter which one you choose. The next three windows don’t need any customization so click on “Continue” three times. Now the step “Create Key Pair” should be highlighted on the progress bar in the top area of the window:

Amazon EC2 How to create key screen

Amazon EC2 How to – create key screen

The next step is an important one because you create the keys which you’ll use to log into your instance. If they get lost you can’t log into the instance and if they fall into some evil guys hands you have a serious security problem. So keep the key safe!

The creation of the keys is pretty straight forward: give a name to the key pair and click on “Create & Download your Key Pair”. Save the key in a secure location. The next step is also security related because you have to configure the firewall. For this how to I’ll choose the default Security Group:

Amazon EC2 How to setup secuity group

Amazon EC2 How to – setup secuity group

Now you have done all the necessary configuration steps. After you have reviewed the summary page you have to click on “Launch” and voila: Your first Amazon EC2 instance is running.

In the following blog posts you’ll learn how to use the EC2 Management Console and how to login to the instance you just created. Last but not least, in the excerpt I mentioned that you may get a micro instance for free. Visit this website to get an overview over all Amazon Web Services free usage tiers.

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