Amazon VPC: 5 Reasons to Use and Learn it…with Cloud Academy!

Amazon VPC (Virtual Private Cloud) is probably one of the most used and famous services inside the Amazon Web Services suite. The reason is simple: this service is mostly related to the concepts of security in the cloud and access to our data inside a third-party data center, like the ones of Amazon.

A bit about Amazon Virtual Private Cloud: it was initially released in August 2009 as Jeff recounts in this post of the official AWS blog. Then Amazon was already aware of the fact that VPC was a great addition to its platform in order to have more security and isolation for its customer. Since then, Amazon did another step ahead introducing a Default VPC for everyone.

See who is using VPC: we recently published a great presentation by Anki Drive. Read how they are using VPC in our blog post.

How to learn Amazon VPC: based on our users’ behavior we know that Amazon VPC is one of the hardest and most answered question set. You can decide to start with our random quizzes or pick a Deck dedicated to Amazon VPC. For every quiz, you get also a basic learning experience. If you’re interested in learning more about Amazon VPC, we recommend the Cloud Academy’s Working with AWS Networking and Amazon VPC Course.

Well, when it comes to cloud security, you are going to hear a lot of crap and prejudices. It was like this at the beginning, when people used to say “you don’t know where is your data” and it is not that different today; the reality a bit different, fortunately, and AWS like other IaaS cloud computing services, is proving it with different approaches.

So, Amazon VPC is one of the few things that you should learn immediately if you want to start using AWS for your business. In this article, I want to cover, very quickly, the most important 5 things about VPC that can help you understand how to implement VPC and how to do that in relation with your infrastructure and kind of business you have.

Amazon VPC (Virtual Private Cloud)
Amazon VPC

At the end I will also suggest you how to learn to use Amazon VPC, Cloud Academy has a great set of quizzes and basic learning information on it, so this is, of course, the first step for you, but there are many others.

1. Amazon VPC gives a lot of security to your data and instances

So I would like to start saying what is Amazon Virtual Private Cloud. My feeling is that our users sometimes are getting lost in the jungle of services and they simply need a structured guide to start using them. Well, the first step is understanding why you need to use Amazon Virtual Private Cloud.

When you launch a normal instance inside a public cloud, this is basically exposed to the Internet with a lot of potential risks for your business: attacks, DDoS and possible bugs that can compromise it and so your security. This is not something happening only with a cloud computing provider, it happens with a dedicated server or a virtual machine anywhere else, if you expose it directly to a public network, you get troubles, most of the times.

Amazon VPC is a logically isolated portion of Amazon Web Services that gives you a virtual network where you can launch instances with particular rules and policies to get access to the Internet. It is really like having a virtual network inside a cloud computing service with the possibility to have a specific range of IPs, subnets and networks rules in order to specify a set of rules to communicate with external resources, in AWS or in another data center or publicly available.
To summarize, using Amazon VPC you have:

  1. An isolated environment inside AWS to launch your instances 
  2. A virtual network where you can define rules and policies for your services
  3. A great solution to have a wall between the Internet and your instances, you can decide to expose only a part of your infrastructure, basically, the only one that needs to speak with the rest of the world
  4. The opportunity to set up subnets, IP ranges, and network configurations as you prefer.

2. Amazon VPC is the best way to connect your data center to your Instances on Amazon Web Services

When it comes to public cloud computing, there a lot of companies that have already a private data center or a set of private dedicated server around the world and they need to split their workload between those servers and the public cloud. It is generally called a hybrid cloud, and even if it’s not the purpose of this article, it’s something that you should know if you are considering to use Amazon VPC.

In VPC you don’t need any external hardware or VPN to set up your own networks with your rules, this is the perfect setup in order to create a private channel between your own data center and AWS: there is a great option to start within VPC’s configuration, select “VPC with a Private Subnet Only and Hardware VPN Access“.

In case you are thinking about this use, well there are many other things that you should consider, like having a small set of instances inside your VPC that directly back up your own data center for the most important server. This is a smart solution because in case of disaster, those instances inside AWS are already up and running and you don’t have a long and painful downtime. This is a great lesson also for many hosting providers (I come from this industry, so I know a bit about them) that could use AWS to enforce their disaster recovery strategies, starting from services like e-mail and DNS.

A note: in any case, you will need also a Virtual Private Gateway.

3. Not all your web applications components need to access the Internet

Designing an AWS infrastructure is not so simple as you can imagine. Of course, you get a nice GUI for all the services but the devil is in the details; one of the reasons why you should use Amazon VPC to organize your AWS instances is because not all the parts of your applications need to be exposed externally to the Internet.

In a multi-tiers scenario, where my web-app is using a database (let’s say MongoDB) and an application server, Amazon VPC allows you to enforce the security of your database and application server: they will not be accessible from the Internet, but only by the instances acting as web servers inside your AWS. This means that you can also specify rules and policies to get them connected through the use of security groups.

4. Security Groups

Security Groups is something that you will love in  AWS and in particular inside Amazon VPC.

A security group can be compared to a software firewall that authorizes the traffic inbound and outbound from your instances. You can use Security Groups in VPC in order to set which instance can communicate with others.

5. AWS Certification candidate? You need a lot of VPC!

Yes, we know that Amazon VPC is probably the best topic you should know before taking the AWS Certification. We heard a lot of candidates saying that VPC was a great part of the questions for the certification. It’s pretty clear why: Amazon VPC is a core component right now in AWS and being an expert on this means knowing a good part of Amazon Web Services.

This is also the reason why you will find a lot of Amazon VPC quizzes and learning statements.

Watch this short video on NAT Gateway (a key VPC component) which is taken from the Cloud Academy’s Working with AWS Networking and Amazon VPC Course

Check the Cloud Academy’s Training Library on all VPC-related content we’re produced so far.

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