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While Amazon Web Services (AWS) is well-established as a leader in providing enterprise-level cloud services to organizations all around the world, the suite of available services offered by AWS also includes tools specifically designed for small businesses. These SMB-sized cloud services are often simpler to use but are still potentially powerful tools for driving growth.

One of the primary use cases for cloud services is the establishment of virtual machines (VMs). AWS offers a full array of VM servers and application stacks that could overwhelm an inexperienced small business owner. However, AWS also offers a streamlined VM creation tool called Lightsail, where the creation and deployment of a fully functional VM, complete with appropriate user-chosen application, is only a few clicks of the mouse away.

This tutorial shows you how to create a virtual machine in AWS using the Lightsail tool. Download the free ebook, AWS: 9 pro tips and best practices (free PDF).

SEE: Amazon Web Services: An insider’s guide (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Lightsail basics

Besides streamlining the technical process of creating and deploying a VM, Lightsail also streamlines the cost. The smallest Lightsail VM can be deployed for $3.50 per month. A VM with average specifications under Lightsail will cost about $20 per month with up to 4TB of data transfer.

Available Lightsail services include web apps, websites, test environments, managed environments, and storage. One-click applications with the tool include WordPress, Ubuntu Linux, Windows Server, Drupal, and Node.js, among others. A Lightsail-produced VM can always be upgraded to full-fledged Amazon EC2 at the click of a mouse.

How to create a virtual machine in AWS using Lightsail

To create a VM using Lightsail, log on to AWS with administrator credentials, and navigate through the list of services to find the Lightsail link and click it.

As you can see in Figure A, the Lightsail dashboard page is light and less intimidating than the typical AWS dashboard. Click the Create instance button to start the process.

Figure A

Figure B shows that your first choice is where your VM will reside on the AWS system. Servers close to your physical location are generally better for performance purposes. A default selection will be made for you, but you can change it, if you like.

Figure B

Next, you will be asked to choose your instance image (Figure C). Lightsail provides two server operating system choices, Linux or Windows. Under each OS there are a number of available blueprints to choose from. Linux offers blueprints that include WordPress and Drupal.

Figure C

As you can see in Figure D, choosing Windows as your OS limits your blueprint choices to one of two Windows Servers (16 or 12R2) or SQL Server.

Figure D

The next choice (Figure E) is for an instance plan, where you will choose what technical specifications you would like for your VM and then determine how much you are willing to pay for it. In the example, a Linux VM running a WordPress blueprint with minimal performance power will cost $3.50 per month with the first month free.

Figure E

The last primary step is to give your instance a unique name so you can find and use it later. You may apply tags to your new VM, but for most small businesses, it will not be necessary.

When you are satisfied with your choices, click the Create instance button at the bottom of the page.

Back on the Lightsail dashboard page (Figure F), you will see that your new VM is up and running.

Figure F

Click the dropdown menu to connect (Figure G) and manage your VM from the dashboard.

Figure G