What Could You Do With $1000 of AWS Credits?

Author: Chris Miller
Last modified: February 8, 2020

A little known benefit of being a Santa Cruz Works Sponsor is that you get $1000 of AWS credits each year (along with other benefits here). You might be asking yourself, how can I actually use this great benefit?

To the individual “the cloud” is this mystical place where we store photos and check email. To businesses small or large, the cloud provides a lot of benefits that were previously too expensive or out of reach. Below are four examples of what you could do with your AWS credits. Hint: We saved the best for last.

  1. You can run your bookkeeper’s workstation in the cloud.

We’ve heard from a number of clients recently who are looking to centralize access to their PC based accounting software, such as Quickbooks or Sage. With “fractional” positions becoming popular, in which a person serves a work function as a part time contractor, these functions are increasingly done remotely.

Providing secure remote access to a computer in your office can be painful, especially if you are a smaller organization without IT staff. This is where AWS Workspaces comes in really handy. With Workspaces, you can “rent” a dedicated Windows (or Linux) workstation for a monthly flat fee that includes the Windows 10 license, and you can add Microsoft Office for a few dollars more.

The advantages are many, such as no requirement to own the hardware or software licenses, and you can upgrade the processors, memory, and storage at the flip of a switch. AWS Workspaces provides a secure desktop client which allows you to connect to your desktop securely with an encrypted connection, and without the need for additional VPN software. 

  1. You can backup your data to the cloud.

Making backups of our data is something we all know we should do, perhaps we make manual backups on occasion, but rarely do we find automated and dependable backups. Ask yourself – if my place of business was inaccessible due to a fire, flood, earthquake, or Zombie Apocalypse, is all my important data safe? The answer is probably not 100%.

Defining exactly what a backup is, is somewhat convoluted with a number of correct answers. We’ll provide one example here. AWS Storage Gateway is a service that allows you to automatically backup your important files, such as those contained on a central server in your office, or a NAS device, and automatically back those files up to cost effective storage in the cloud.

Those backups can consist of daily snapshots that automatically rotate, giving you a “retention time” of your choosing (30 days for example). You can also create archival backups that you would only use in the case of a catastrophe. Depending on how frequently (or infrequently) you may need to access this data, you can choose the best pricing for this storage. The less frequent you need access to the data, the cheaper it is.

  1. You can host your website in the cloud.

AWS provides cloud based hosting for any manner of website, from simple WordPress websites, to more complex and highly trafficked websites and web applications. Depending on your use case, you have a couple of options.

AWS Lightsail provides a simple to launch web hosting environment with support for a number of popular website platforms. It’s also great if you need to spin up staging environments, or run self-hosted business applications.

Another great benefit of Lightsail is that it scales with your needs, starting with fast SSD based storage, load balancing to handle traffic spikes. Each plan includes a static IP address, DNS management, server monitoring, SSH terminal access, and secure key management. It’s geektastic, but also designed for the rest of us.

  1. You can keep tabs on your dog while you are at work.
Object Detection – No Dogs Were Harmed…

Hey wait a sec, I thought you were talking about the benefits to businesses? We are, indulge us for a moment. You’ve probably heard some blah blah blah about Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence lately. More than just buzzwords, it’s a real thing with practical applications. One way this tech has become popular is with Computer Vision which you’ve already used on your smartphone, namely facial recognition.

Computer Vision can be used to detect all sorts of objects and take an action in response. In our example, what if you absolutely just need to know if Fido is on the couch while you are at work? You can use AWS for that. With AWS DeepLens you can “train” Machine Learning to detect certain objects as seen below in our hilarious test footage.

We know Fido is allowed on the couch, and this same technology can be used for a lot of interesting purposes such as intruder detection, traffic monitoring, license plate recognition, or telling you when the postman came by. How do you ask?

Once an object is detected, you can configure AWS Lambda to send an SMS message to your phone. You can also use AWS Kinesis Video Streams to record the video so you can watch it online from your AWS account. There are a lot of practical uses for object recognition. How might you use Computer Vision in your business?