AWS Best Practices: five key approaches to get you started

There’s a whole mountain of official documentation on AWS best practices. Here’s a list of just some of the best practice documents currently available:

Most new users will probably have a great deal of trouble working through all that material (not that you shouldn’t try). So I’m going to try to provide you with a bit of a short cut and present what I think are the top five AWS Best Practices you absolutely must know right now.

1. AWS Best Practices: protect your AWS credentials

Your AWS account represents a business relationship between you and AWS. Since you use your root AWS account to manage your AWS resources and services, it will need full access, which requires root permissions. But with great power comes great risk.
Do not use root account credentials for day-to-day interactions with AWS!
One of the very best of AWS best practices is to avoid creating an access key for your root account. Unless, for some strange reason, you absolutely must have a root access key, it is best not to generate one. Instead, create one or more AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM) users, give them the necessary permissions, and use those users for everyday interaction with AWS.

2. AWS Best Practices: secure your Applications

Sometimes it is better to explain a concept with a picture or diagram rather than with words.
The diagram below could be a small scale deployment on AWS. You have a Web Server, an App Server, and a DB server. You should allow access from the outside world only where necessary. So a security group should be created for the web server that only allows traffic through ports 80 (HTTP) and 443 (HTTPS). Another security group could restrict traffic into the App Server to port 22 (SSH), and even then only to sessions originating from a defined range of IP addresses. All other Internet traffic should be denied.
Further security configuration could control access between the servers themselves.
AWS Best Practices - security

3. AWS Best Practices: backup a lot and test your recovery resources before you need them

With all your AWS credentials protected and your applications secured you should be sleeping better at night. Now it’s time to start thinking about a backup and recovery plan. Here are some things that should be part of any robust backup plan.

  • Regularly back up your instance using Amazon EBS snapshots or a backup tool.
  • Deploy critical components of your application across multiple Availability Zones, and replicate your data appropriately.
  • Design your applications to handle dynamic IP addressing when your instance restarts.
  • Monitor and respond to events.
  • Ensure that you are prepared to handle failover. For a basic solution, you can manually attach a network interface or Elastic IP address to a replacement instance.
  • Regularly test the process of recovering your instances and Amazon EBS volumes if they fail.

4. AWS Best Practices: use the Trusted Advisor

I’ve written about Trusted Advisor before.  As it turns out, so has the Amazon documentation team. They characterized their Trusted Advisor as

…Your customized cloud expert! It helps you to observe best practices for the use of AWS by inspecting your AWS environment with an eye toward saving money, improving system performance and reliability, and closing security gaps.

The good news is that there are four Trusted Advisor services available at no charge:

  • Service Limits Check
  • Security Groups – Specific Ports Unrestricted Check
  • IAM Use Check
  • MFA on Root Account Check

This is a must-use tool. All you need to do is click on the Trusted Advisor icon in your AWS console under Administration & Security and the screen will appear and give you an instantaneous snapshot of  the current status of the four items listed above. This is the easiest of all the AWS Best Practices listed here, so there is really no excuse for not using it.

5. AWS Best Practices: understand the AWS Shared Responsibility Model

You must know what you are responsible for and what lies under Amazon Web Services’ control. Once again rather than bore you with a long explanation, when a diagram will be more effective, see if this doesn’t make things clear.
AWS best practices - shared responsibility model
AWS Best Practices exist because they work best. And their significance increases exponentially as the size of your deployment grows. However, figuring out what to focus on can be very confusing at first. Hopefully this article will give you some idea of where you should begin.

Written by

I have been UNIX/Linux System Administrator for the past 15 years and am slowly moving those skills into the AWS Cloud arena. I am passionate about AWS and Cloud Technologies and the exciting future that it promises to bring.

Related Posts

— September 18, 2018

How to Optimize Cloud Costs with Spot Instances: New on Cloud Academy

One of the main promises of cloud computing is access to nearly endless capacity. However, it doesn’t come cheap. With the introduction of Spot Instances for Amazon Web Services’ Elastic Compute Cloud (AWS EC2) in 2009, spot instances have been a way for major cloud providers to sell sp...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Google Cloud
— August 23, 2018

What are the Benefits of Machine Learning in the Cloud?

A Comparison of Machine Learning Services on AWS, Azure, and Google CloudArtificial intelligence and machine learning are steadily making their way into enterprise applications in areas such as customer support, fraud detection, and business intelligence. There is every reason to beli...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Google Cloud
  • Machine Learning
— August 17, 2018

How to Use AWS CLI

The AWS Command Line Interface (CLI) is for managing your AWS services from a terminal session on your own client, allowing you to control and configure multiple AWS services.So you’ve been using AWS for awhile and finally feel comfortable clicking your way through all the services....

Read more
  • AWS
Albert Qian
— August 9, 2018

AWS Summit Chicago: New AWS Features Announced

Thousands of cloud practitioners descended on Chicago’s McCormick Place West last week to hear the latest updates around Amazon Web Services (AWS). While a typical hot and humid summer made its presence known outside, attendees inside basked in the comfort of air conditioning to hone th...

Read more
  • AWS
  • AWS Summits
— August 8, 2018

From Monolith to Serverless – The Evolving Cloudscape of Compute

Containers can help fragment monoliths into logical, easier to use workloads. The AWS Summit New York was held on July 17 and Cloud Academy sponsored my trip to the event. As someone who covers enterprise cloud technologies and services, the recent Amazon Web Services event was an insig...

Read more
  • AWS
  • AWS Summits
  • Containers
  • DevOps
  • serverless
— July 11, 2018

AWS Certification Practice Exam: What to Expect from Test Questions

If you’re building applications on the AWS cloud or looking to get started in cloud computing, certification is a way to build deep knowledge in key services unique to the AWS platform. AWS currently offers nine certifications that cover the major cloud roles including Solutions Archite...

Read more
  • AWS
— June 26, 2018

Disadvantages of Cloud Computing

If you want to deliver digital services of any kind, you’ll need to compute resources including CPU, memory, storage, and network connectivity. Which resources you choose for your delivery, cloud-based or local, is up to you. But you’ll definitely want to do your homework first.Cloud ...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Cloud Computing
  • Google Cloud
— March 13, 2018

Choosing the Right AWS Certification for You and Your Team

As companies increasingly shift workloads to the public cloud, cloud computing has moved from a nice-to-have to a core competency in the enterprise. This shift requires a new set of skills to design, deploy, and manage applications in the cloud.As the market leader and most mature pro...

Read more
  • AWS
  • AWS certifications
— March 7, 2018

How to Encrypt an EBS Volume

Keeping data and applications safe in the cloud is one the most visible challenges facing cloud teams in 2018. Cloud storage services where data resides are frequently a target for hackers, not because the services are inherently weak, but because they are often improperly configured....

Read more
  • AWS
  • encryption
— February 28, 2018

How to Develop Machine Learning Models in TensorFlow

Predictive analytics and automation—through AI and machine learning—are increasingly being integrated into enterprise applications to support decision making and address critical issues such as security and business intelligence. Public cloud platforms like AWS offer dedicated services ...

Read more
  • Amazon Machine Learning
  • AWS
  • AWS Labs
— February 15, 2018

Is Multi-Cloud a Solution for High Availability?

With the average cost of downtime estimated at $8,850 per minute, businesses can’t afford to risk system failure. Full access to services and data anytime, anywhere is one of the main benefits of cloud computing.By design, many of the core services with the public cloud and its underl...

Read more
  • AWS
  • Azure
  • Cloud Adoption
  • Google Cloud
— February 13, 2018

Cloud Academy Sketches: Encryption in S3

Some of 2017’s largest data breaches involved unprotected Amazon Simple Storage (S3) buckets that left millions of customer data records exposed to the public. The problem wasn’t the technology, but administrators who improperly configured the security settings.For cloud teams in char...

Read more
  • Amazon S3
  • AWS