Cloud Computing Made Really Easy, with SAS from Alibaba Cloud

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If you’re daunted by the prospect of setting up a blog or e-commerce site in the cloud, Simple Application Server from Alibaba Cloud is for you. The number of available configuration options has been pared to a minimum so you can be up and running in just a couple of minutes, even if you’re not an IT expert and have never created a cloud server before.

Cloud computing has revolutionized modern IT. Companies are moving existing data centers to the cloud in order to save money and to become more agile. Organizations that previously constructed brand new data centers are now choosing the cloud instead, to avoid the large costs traditionally associated with planning, building, commissioning and managing a new installation.

Cloud providers such as Alibaba Cloud offer a wide range of features that allow even the largest company to replicate their complex data center off-site. Using our flagship product, Elastic Compute Service (ECS), customers can choose from a range of geographical regions and availability zones, and can also replicate key servers across zones/regions in order to provide resilience, fault tolerance and guaranteed availability. They can pay for servers by the hour or month, or use more complex billing arrangements such as buying preemptible instances, where you bid the maximum amount you’re willing to pay and the server will automatically start running when the market price reaches the bid amount.

Powerful and Convenient Cloud Services for Your Every Need

Alibaba Cloud ECS offers hundreds of combinations of server architecture, both as virtual machines and Bare Metal Instances, or even super-computing clusters. You can choose whether your server is optimized for raw compute speed, or memory, or Big Data. You have a choice of operating system, and dozens of preconfigured images.

If you know that your bandwidth requirements, i.e the outbound internet traffic from your server, will be relatively constant then you can opt to pay for this traffic by bandwidth. If traffic levels are less predictable you can choose a more flexible option, where you pay a small fee for each gigabyte used.

You can create one or more Virtual Private Clouds and virtual switches to contain your ECS cloud servers, and assign IP address ranges to each. These, along with firewall rules and security group settings, ensure that any servers which need to communicate with each other can do so.

And, perhaps even more importantly, vice versa. For added security, Resource Access Management is a fully featured identity and access control system that allows you to grant access to your cloud datacenter resources to individual employees or contractors on a highly granular level.

When high performance and 24/7 availability are crucial, you can create multiple servers and assign them to a load balancer which will automatically direct incoming traffic to the least busy node. If demand is going to be irregular, auto-scaling will automatically spin up additional servers when needed, and release them when demand drops.

As an alternative to cloud servers, you can run containers using industry standard technologies such as Container Service for Kubernetes. Or you can go serverless with Alibaba Cloud Function Compute.

And of course, no cloud-based data center is complete without databases. You can install your own RDBMS on one or more cloud servers, or you can use Alibaba Cloud ApsaraDB RDS. For massive, unlimited storage, you might prefer Object Storage Service

All of these features, and more, make Alibaba Cloud the ideal choice for creating cloud-hosted datacenters. But what if you’re not an IT expert? What if you are a small startup without dedicated IT staff, and you don’t have the in-house skills to understand and configure everything we’ve talked about so far? Perhaps you simply want to create a small WordPress or e-commerce site and you don’t want to pay a consultant to help you set it up?

The good news is that Alibaba Cloud has exactly what you need. The product is called SAS, or Simple Application Server. Unlike ECS with its multitude of options, SAS is incredibly quick and simple to set up, and you don’t need to be an IT whizz. You can choose from a small set of carefully-curated server images that are already installed with all of the software you need, ready to run. These include WordPress and OpenCart. So once your SAS server is created, you’re ready to go. In the case of WordPress, this means you can log straight into your new blog and start creating content.

Creating a WordPress SAS Instance

As an example, let’s run through the steps involved to create an Simple Application Server cloud server running WordPress from scratch. You start by logging into your Alibaba Cloud account and choosing SAS from the console screen, and then clicking the button to create a new instance.

The new instance screen is very easy to understand and there are only four things that you need to choose before your server is ready to launch. First, the region in which your server will be hosted. Currently supported options are Silicon Valley, Sydney, Frankfurt, Hong Kong and Singapore. If your business is based in China, choose Hong Kong. Otherwise choose the location that is closest to the majority of your users.

Next, you choose your server image. Pre-configured instances include WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, OpenCart and Plesk. If you’d prefer a bare operating system with no other applications, ready for you to configure as you wish, you can choose from various versions of Linux and Windows Server. For this example we’d choose a WordPress image running on Linux.

OK, two steps down and two to go. In step three you choose your pricing plan. There are currently six available, and they all include everything you need for your server: CPU cores, memory, a solid state SSD disk, and data transfer. You can add an extra data disk if you want one, up to 16 TB, but for a simple site such as a blog this probably won’t be necessary.

For Linux-based servers, even those with an application such as WordPress already installed, the price starts from just US $3.40 a month. This is perfectly sufficient for a site that gets a few thousand hits per day. Windows-based server pricing is higher but it includes the Windows Server licence.

The fourth and final step is to choose your subscription option. How many months do you want the server to run for? And once that period is up, do you want the service to renew automatically? By default, the subscription won’t auto-renew, thus helping you to avoid any unnecessary expenses.

When you’re ready, you click on the Buy Now button and after a minute or so your server will be up and running, and in the case of this example your WordPress site is now ready to use. The server will show up in the list of SAS instances on your management console.

At the bottom right hand corner of the server’s information panel you can see its public IP address. To view the WordPress site you simply enter this address into your browser. To be able to access it by name, you’ll need to log into the site on which you registered your domain name and “point” the name at this address.

To explore your new server from the command line you can log in from your browser. Just click the icon above the IP address, at the top of the information panel. No password is needed because you are already logged into your Alibaba Cloud account.

While you’re logged in, you can look up the admin password for managing the WordPress site. At the command prompt, type:

Make a note of the password then log out by typing exit. To reach the admin area of your new WordPress site, add /wp-login.php to the end of the IP address when typing it in a browser. Log in with a username of admin, and the password you just retrieved from the server. You can now start creating blog articles, applying a theme, installing add-ons, and so on.

In Summary

Alibaba Cloud’s ECS service allows companies and IT experts to plan and create complex cloud-based networks and data centers. If you’re not an IT expert and you want to create a cloud server, you will find it much less daunting to use the SAS service instead.

SAS lets you create a fully functional cloud server, complete with WordPress or other market-leading application already installed, in just a couple of minutes. It’s ideal for small companies and startups which don’t have complex needs, or for anyone who wants to experiment with cloud servers that don’t need to communicate with each other. And with prices from less than $4 per month it’s an incredibly cost-effective way to introduce yourself to the power of cloud computing.

If you don’t already have an Alibaba Cloud account, you can create one for free at https://www.alibabacloud.com/

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