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What is AWS

What Is AWS? Explaining Amazon’s Most Profitable Division in 2024

Amazon is an absolute behemoth in the tech industry, thanks in no small part to AWS, its web hosting and cloud computing service. You may have seen the acronym around the web and wondered: “What is AWS?” Well, wonder no more and read on for the full answer.

Aleksandar KochovskiAleksander Hougen

Written by Aleksandar Kochovski (Writer, SEO Editor)

Reviewed by Aleksander Hougen (Co-Chief Editor)

Last Updated: 2024-05-23T10:55:00+00:00

All our content is written fully by humans; we do not publish AI writing. Learn more here.

Key Takeaways: What is AWS?
  • Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a cloud platform that offers a wide variety of services at a low cost.
  • The platform-as-a-service model lets users pay only for the resources they use, which means that you can save more money on cloud services using AWS.
  • Amazon Web Services lets companies use its data centers for remote storage and computing, even going so far as to offer tools for developers and managers, so they can use the same platform for all of their cloud needs.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past two decades, you’ve probably heard of Amazon (and no, we’re not talking about the rainforest). Its founder is one of the richest people in the world, after all. However, you might be scratching your head at one of its myriad services and asking yourself: “What is AWS?” The answer is a bit more complicated than you’d think, as you’re about to find out.

AWS is short for “Amazon Web Services” and it’s one of the core services offered by Amazon, along with its insanely popular e-commerce business. The low-cost AWS platform offers services ranging from web hosting to cloud storage to artificial intelligence models, and we’ll lay them all out in this handy-dandy guide.

  • 05/23/2024 Facts checked

    Added video explaining AWS’s history and importance to Amazon as a whole.

What Is AWS and How Does It Work?

In the olden days, if your company needed storage, you would have to purchase expensive hardware or sign up for a costly cloud storage plan. Both of these solutions have their downsides. Storage hardware brings unwanted upfront costs and a traditional cloud storage plan would leave your business with lots of unused space that you still have to foot the bill for.

Amazon Web Services is a cloud computing platform, which means it provides the means for a website to operate at a cost that scales with use. This is great for businesses that don’t want to overpay for storage they aren’t using fully. This approach is also known as platform-as-a-service, because it represents more than just a single software solution.

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what is AWS
Amazon offers cloud computing at an affordable price through AWS.

Is AWS Secure?

On paper, Amazon AWS has solid enough security, with all the industry-standard encryption measures in place, as well as two-factor authentication and 24/7 surveillance for its data centers.

You might be wondering, then, why AWS leaks happen as often as they do. Well, the fact of the matter is that AWS is just very complex. Even its Simple Storage Service isn’t quite as simple as advertised when it comes to keeping all the loose ends tied.

Although AWS is secure by design, its users are very often confused by the avalanche of settings. Despite Amazon offering detailed instructions on how to keep your data buckets secure, human error remains the biggest cause of AWS data leaks.

The Main AWS Services

Although AWS is a cost-effective solution for businesses, thanks to its pay-as-you-go model, its wide adoption mostly comes from the cornucopia of services it offers. The AWS infrastructure encompasses around 175 different services, though these are mostly hidden to the end user as different APIs within a larger framework. Its vast network of data centers around the world brings reliable speeds as well.

The two major services AWS provides are Elastic Cloud Compute (known as Amazon EC2) and Simple Storage Service (or Amazon S3, for short). EC2 provides virtual machines that can be used as real computers, letting users develop and deploy applications without spending on hardware. Amazon S3 is an object-based storage solution with some data management features thrown in.

AWS Cloud Storage
AWS has a large number of web services under its umbrella.

These two services represent the main ways AWS functions, but there’s much more to it than that. Next up, we’ll take a deep dive into the major services comprising the Amazon Web Services platform, from machine learning to e-commerce and everything in between.

Overview of Amazon Web Services (AWS)

The Amazon Web Services infrastructure includes a staggering number of services, so there’s really no way to explain what each of those does. However, to help you learn about AWS in the easiest way possible, we’ve decided to focus on the core services Amazon offers through the AWS platform. Let’s get started.

Amazon Cloud Storage

Amazon provides several services dedicated to remote data storage and archiving.

1. Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3)

AWS Simple Storage Service
S3 is Amazon’s main cloud storage platform.

Amazon S3 is AWS’ premier cloud platform, controlling around a third of the entire infrastructure-as-a-service market. It’s an object-based cloud storage service, which makes data easier to find through customized search parameters based on granular metadata. It’s a scalable storage solution, which means you only pay for what you use, making it an affordable choice for businesses.

2. Amazon S3 Glacier

AWS S3 Glacier
Glacier is AWS’s cold storage solution, meant for files you don’t frequently access.

Amazon Glacier is a cold storage platform, meant for archiving files rather than keeping them in a “hot” state where you can access them at all times (read our hot vs cold storage article). Although they used to be different services, it has now been folded into the S3 storage system.

3. Amazon Elastic File System (EFS)

AWS Elastic File System
EFS is Amazon’s elastic storage platform that provides more storage as you need it.

As the name implies, Elastic File System is an elastic cloud file storage solution, or ECS. Like Amazon S3, it can expand and shrink to meet your company’s needs, but it’s meant specifically for Amazon EC2 (which we’ll talk about next). However, unlike S3, it uses a traditional file-folder structure rather than an object-based storage system.

Amazon Cloud Computing

The cloud computing category is made up of the AWS services that can provide remote cloud computing services. These are mostly data centers that do the heavy lifting, so you don’t have to invest in your own hardware.

1. Elastic Cloud Compute (Amazon EC2)

AWS Elastic Compute Cloud
EC2 offers cloud compute capabilities with OS-level control over the data center virtual computers.

Amazon EC2 is the flagship cloud computing platform that AWS offers. It’s designed to make cloud computing easy for developers, providing control of the virtual machines at the operating system level.

2. AWS Lambda

AWS Lambda
Lambda is a remote computing service that simplifies server management.

AWS Lambda lets you run cloud computing operations without having to worry about servers. It’s an easy-to-use solution because it eliminates the server management aspect from the development process.

3. Amazon LightSail

AWS LightSail
LightSail makes cloud compute easy even for complete beginners.

LightSail is the most beginner-friendly cloud computing service from AWS. It forgoes the pay-as-you-go pricing model in favor of a monthly payment, but the simplicity of the service is well worth it for a smaller business without access to development resources.

Amazon Software Development Tools

Amazon offers a ton of AWS resources for developers, including several tools for software development.

1. AWS Cloud 9

AWS Cloud9
AWS Cloud9 is a browser-based coding experience.

Cloud 9 is an integrated development environment that lets developers build, run and debug code, all from the comfort of a web browser.

2. CodeCommit

AWS CodeCommit
AWS CodeCommit lets developers store Git-based repositories securely.

CodeCommit is basically the Amazon Web Services version of GitHub. It provides a cloud storage space where you can store code privately and securely.

3. Amazon SageMaker

AWS SageMaker
SageMaker is an AI-powered service for building machine learning models.

Amazon SageMaker makes it easy for developers to build, train and deploy machine learning models. Like most other AWS services, it offers a comprehensive set of features meant to enable developers to fully deploy a machine learning model within one environment.

Amazon Databases

Databases are layers of data that software interacts with and uses. Managing databases can be a hassle as they can get very messy very quickly. AWS offers a few services dedicated to helping businesses manage their databases more easily.

1. Amazon DynamoDB

AWS DynamoDB
DynamoDB is a secure database built for high speeds.

DynamoDB is a lightning-fast document database with built-in security, backup and restore. 

2. Amazon RDS

AWS Relational Database Service
RDS is an automated relational database.

Amazon RDS is a relational database service that automates processes like database setup, hardware provisioning, patching and backups.

3. Amazon Aurora

AWS Aurora
Aurora is a super fast MySQL database.

Aurora is a relational database that’s compatible with MySQL and PostgreSQL that boasts being up to ten times faster than other MySQL-compatible databases.

Amazon Migration

Now that you’re keyed into databases, it’s time to move on to database and server migration. There are a number of AWS services to help you migrate your data to AWS, but the following two are the most prominent ones.

1. AWS Database Migration Service (DMS)

AWS Database Migration Service
DMS migrates on-site databases to the AWS cloud.

DMS is the major database migration service offered by Amazon Web Services. You can use it to migrate from an on-site database to one offered by AWS with minimal hassle. Plus, you can use it to switch the type of database you’re using, if that’s the kind of service you need.

2. AWS Server Migration Service (SMS)

AWS server migration service
SMS transfers data from your physical servers to the cloud.

SMS is AWS’ server migration tool, which makes it easy to transfer your data from your company’s hardware servers to an AWS cloud server.

Final Thoughts

Although this list of services is far from comprehensive (listing all of Amazon’s services would be a mammoth task), you now have a good idea of what AWS is.

Compute, storage, management tools, networking and content delivery are just some of the things AWS can do. It’s quite the impressive suite, and it’s no wonder Amazon hosts 33 percent of the world’s public cloud.

What are your thoughts on AWS? Which AWS service piques your interest? Let us know in the comments below. As always, thank you for reading.


  • AWS stands for “Amazon Web Services” and it’s a big-tent cloud platform that offers companies a cost-effective way to create, host and maintain their entire web presence. The service includes a number of cloud services and tools, including cloud file storage capabilities, remote cloud computing via virtual machines and software development tools. The best part is you only pay for what you use.

  • A better question would be: “What isn’t AWS used for?” Using AWS, you can create a website, host it, create an e-commerce storefront, build web applications – and the list goes on.

  • The main benefit of AWS is that it offers an all-in-one solution for companies’ cloud needs, with a comprehensive suite of cloud services. It packages all of this in a low-cost infrastructure-as-a-service (or IaaS) model that gives your business the agility it needs to gain a competitive edge. Plus, its worldwide network of data centers guarantees reliable speeds.

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