This article uses Amazon EC2 and does not require any additional software installed on your machine to get your own cloud instance running other than your browser. To further configure your instance once it is running you will need Putty or an RDP client depending on your server instance.
Amazon EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud) is a service by Amazon which lets anyone create, launch, and terminate server instances as needed, paying by the hour for active servers, hence the term “elastic”. The service starts as low as 0.11$ per hour. For this article an instance of LAMP server and a Windows Server 2003 was launched and cost about $0.25. This is very cheap for your on-demand server needs.
Steps to Launch your server instance
3) On the management console, Click on Launch Instances
4) Select an AMI (Amazon Machine Image). You will get a huge list ranging from windows servers to LAMP servers, Ruby on Rails server, Ubuntu, Debian, Open Solaris etc. If you also look at the community supplied options you will have nearly 3000 AMIs.
5) Create a key pair by following on screen instructions. This is to help you to login to your AMI once it is ready.
7) Configure firewall settings and limit access to the server (SSH, MySQL, Web, etc).
8 ) You will now arrive at the final step of your wizard. Enter number of instances. Select an instance type Small, High CPU, etc. You will also have to select the key pair that was generated for you at Step 5. Click Launch once set.
9) Voila! your instance will be available in just a few minutes. Now you can pat yourselves on the back for all the hard work!
It is amazing how quickly you can get an instance running. Once your server is up and running how do you connect to this instance? Well, it is pretty simple if you are using windows you get to use RDP (Terminal Services). For non-windows instances you will have to use SSH to connect to the server.
Advanced configuration of your Windows instance using RDP (optional)
It is easy to connect to a windows amazon instance via RDP compared to SSH connection to a linux server. To retrieve the RDP password, you will have to right click your instance and retrieve connection information using the key pair you have been given.
You will have to connect using Administrator as your username. You will find all other info you need on the management console.
Advanced configuration of your Linux instance using SSH (optional)
You will need putty to connect to your linux server via SSH on a windows machine. If you are on a linux machine you will be able to use the ssh command as shown on the management console. With putty you will also need an additional tool to create a PPK file from the PEM file that you are given from the management console. To do this you will have to download an additional tool called PuttyGen.exe. You have to load the PPK file under the SSH Auth section of the putty client.
Once your instance is up and running you will be able to connect to the webserver, connect to the MySQL server, if it is enabled with the AMI. The last two sections are to help you further configure your instance further. There are so many AMIs available with a lot of features already built in. Technically you will have your services running after the first set of steps which can be complete in 15 minutes!
If you do not want to configure a server yourself take a look at the Windows Azure, Force.com or the Google App Engine which runs Java, Python and PHP using Quercus for free (certain usage limits apply).