Amazon isn’t just a marketplace anymore. With Amazon Web Services, you can go beyond picking out a new toaster and experience innovative applications that can help you to better run your website. Check out these 10 creative ways to put Amazon Web Services to work for you.
Survive the Digg effect
By now, you’re probably familiar with the Digg effect. Your site makes the front page of Digg and you become subject to loads of traffic from users that don’t contribute much more than a server crash. The exposure is great, but it’s a headache for those that prefer to keep their site online. So how does Amazon Web Services help you survive a Digg traffic spike? According to Theron Parlin, CTO of Geezeo, it’s all in Amazon Web Services’ storage and processing power. They have Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), a tool that allows you to create as many new server instances as you want. You create a new server, modify it, upload your website, and can create an image of your newly-configured server. Parlin explains, "This is the “elastic” part of the “compute cloud”. Whenever you need more juice, there it is, simply turn it up to 11. Then, when you no longer need it, no problem, you can turn it right back down again." This feature is especially useful when faced with a surge of Digg traffic. Another helpful facet of Amazon’s Web Services is Simple Storage Service (S3). The simple part about it is that it’s simply unlimited. If you pair this storage with a load balancer, you’ll have a solution that routes web requests through your multiple Amazon servers. By routing your traffic through different servers, you save yourself the strain of attempting to use a single server that will likely fail under the immense traffic. Parlin recommends using Firefox plugins EC2 UI and S3 Organizer for administration of these two great features from Amazon Web Services.
Inexpensive file hosting
Amazon’s S3 helps with more than just Digg spikes. With its unlimited storage, website owners have the opportunity to stash their multimedia files at a fraction of the cost. Chris Pirillo points out that files like images and videos are normally expensive to transmit to users. At $.015 per GB of storage, Amazon’s Simple Storage Service is truly affordable and rivals most if not all other hosting solutions out there. Amazon offers a unique pricing structure for data transfers, with transfers in currently pegged at $0.10 per GB and transfers out starting at $0.18 per GB. Transfers out become cheaper once you hit 10 TB. You’ll only be charged for transfers in and out of S3, not for data transferred between S3 and EC2. Pair that with the fact that with this pay as you go service, you’ll never pay for a larger package than you need, Amazon could be your best bet for multimedia storage.
Host your application
With Amazon’s affordable hosting and simple API, it makes perfect sense to use them to host your web application. Applications like Webmail and SmugMug are already doing so. Webmail, an email hosting company, turned to Amazon Web Services for better reliability as well as cost. They were able to cut their costs by 75% using Amazon’s S3, Simple Queue Service and EC2. Webmail touts Amazon’s services as a shift from "do-it-yourself to let-the-experts-do-it." SmugMug, an online photo storage application, uses the Amazon S3 capability to its fullest. They store and serve massive amounts of media with Amazon using their pay as you go pricing. By the end of this year, SmugMug will have probably saved half a million dollars in storage costs, which allows them to provide their service at a fraction of the cost and realize higher profits.
Provide pricing information
The Internet is a great resource for comparison shopping, and Amazon makes that easy. You could search by hand for pricing information, but you don’t have to anymore. Instead, Amazon offers Web Services users access to their product data and historical pricing from the last three years. Scanbuy realized how this could help their business grow. They use Amazon’s eCommerce API to provide users with comparison shopping information on mobile phones. With the API, Scanbuy users are able to look up prices on the phone of their choice by scanning an item’s barcode.
Thumbnail other sites
Whether you’re linking, offering search results, or simply discussing a website, you may want to provide a thumbnail of the site’s homepage on your site. Amazon has made this not only possible, but easy, using Alexa Site Thumbnail. With this service, you can allow users to preview a site before deciding to visit it. Like Amazon’s hosting solutions, this service is on a pay as you go basis. Users are charged at a rate of $0.0002 per thumbnail returned. Plus, if you request a thumbnail that doesn’t exist, you won’t have to pay for it. Even better, any thumbnail image you request that does not exist yet will be automatically made available within 24 hours. Images can be utilized with code that can retrieve up to twenty images at once, and they’re available in sizes of 147×201 pixels and 82×111 pixels.
Create a merchant website
Amazon has opened up the technologies that they’ve always used to run their merchant website and made them available to Amazon Web Services users. Essentially, they are "rent[ing] out just about everything it uses to run its own business, from rack space in its 10 million square feet of warehouses worldwide to spare computing capacity on its thousands of servers, data storage on its disk drives, and even some of the millions of lines of software code it has written to coordinate all that." With this availability, you can use Amazon’s eCommerce Service to set up your own online store. You’ll have Amazon’s product information, history and structure to help you out. You can sell as an Amazon affiliate, or just use their knowledge to grow your own store.
Store customer information on the cheap
Blogger Thomas Anglero points out that telco providers like Vodafone spend "tens of millions of dollars per month storing customer type data in each of its international companies." Instead of using their own resources to store this data, they could instead use Amazon’s S3 storage to take a load off and save lots of money. This application can extend to virtually any online service. Message boards, email providers, news sites and other service sites can benefit from Amazon’s cheap data storage. What’s more, providers don’t have to worry about monitoring and supporting their own equipment as long as Amazon is looking over things for them.
Track website statistics
Amazon’s Alexa Web Information Service opens users up to an opportunity to access statistics and analytics for web sites. Net Applications‘ HitLinks has already taken advantage of it. Using Amazon’s Alexa XML data feed, Net Applications is able to provide details on web statistics that its competitors do not. This has allowed them to differentiate themselves from other services and succeed in their business. You can use Alexa data similarly. Instead of paying to use a statistic service, you can take advantage of the Amazon Web Service. Additionally, Amazon Web Service users can create a business like HitLinks, organizing Alexa data and offering it to others for profit.
Offer storage and replication to clients
Amazon’s S3 storage offers seemingly limitless possibilities. SmartSheet realized what Amazon storage could provide and have used it to improve their business. They use Amazon’s cheap storage to store customer-created documents while ensuring security and reliability for their content. Amazon’s scalability has been especially helpful, allowing SmartSheet to grow along with their customer base. Other Amazon Web Services users can take advantage of S3 storage just like SmartSheet. Essentially, you can set up a website in which customers pay you to store their projects and data. You’ll be able to provide this service at a very low cost and realize profit thanks to Amazon’s low storage costs. Paired with EC2, which allows you to replicate servers, you can offer ready-made databases, websites and storage to clients as well.
Connect freelancers to tasks
Podcasting is a popular form of media, but it’s not as accessible as simple written words. As a result, some users are not able to enjoy them, or worse, search engines can’t find them. The easy solution is to transcribe the audio into text, but it could be costly and time consuming to do it on your own. Fortunately, Amazon’s Mechanical Turk makes finding quick, cheap podcast transcription possible. The Mechanical Turk API offers a way to use human intelligence tasks in processing. That means companies like CastingWords can upload podcasts to their Mechanical Turk site and allow freelance transcribers to download and complete the task based on the listing. Mechanical Turk enables businesses of all types to connect freelancers with tasks. This could be used for translation services, writing, programming and more.
Amazon Web Services open up numerous opportunities to small businesses, large industry, and personal users alike. Check out what they have to offer and consider how they can improve on your needs.