AWS China vs AWS Global Price Comparison

Following up on to my blog post on AWS China Tips and Differences I have had a few people ask me about pricing in China. With this in mind I wanted to share a little information on the differences in costing for AWS China (Beijing) as its only available if you already have an account. This isn’t particularly useful if your only exploring your options for entering the market.

Firstly you should be aware AWS China is still scaling up so I would expect the economy of scale to have some effect on their prices.  Also there are different regulations and costs involved with doing business in China and I don’t know the impact this has on local pricing. Having said that I wouldn’t be surprised if we see price drops in the future. At the moment its a little more expensive than their global services. If you need low latency access from within China on AWS its the only way to go.

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Hosting Moodle on AWS – Part 1 – The Concepts

If you take a look at the average Moodle install within schools you will generally see all aspects of the setup deployed on a single server.  This would include both the web server and database.  The courses and server will be backed up but there will be no other form of failover or high availability support.  Cloud services such as AWS allow us to relook at these types of deployments, I discuss the benefits of AWS in detail in another blog post entitled The Case for migrating school IT infrastructure to AWS.

As for this post it is part one of a series of blog posts discussing how to host highly available Moodle installs on AWS.  In this post I will be focusing on the design and key issues involved in this type of deployment.  I will discuss high level concepts related to code management, auto scaling, storage and other features of a cost efficient highly available setup. Future articles will focus on configuration, working examples and migrating from on premises to AWS.

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Secure and monitor your S3 buckets!

Security of S3 buckets is not a new topic but recently there have been a number of high profile data breaches resulting from improperly secured or maintained buckets.   For example the recent WWE breach where three million wrestling fans data was left in a publicly accessible bucket, you can read more about that here.  AWS works on a shared responsibility model and while they provide all the tools to securely store objects and monitor them its up to customers to use these features, manage their internal processes and track changes.

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An Introduction to AWS Polly, S3 and PHP.

AWS Polly is a service from Amazon that turns text into speech.  Its very simple to use and produces high quality audio files very quickly.  Building voice enabled applications is now really easy and simple.  Its great for all types of applications such as games, chatbots and learning. At Easyblog.org we use it for converting comments and other text into audio files for children to listen to.  This type of accessibility feature can really help young children, especially those with learning or other challenges in their life.

Lets take a quick look into how you can integrate AWS Polly into a website.  We will store the mp3 file in S3 and retrieve it for playback on a website.

We will then take this a step further and integrate it into an html webpage that submits the text to polly via JQuery Ajax and plays the result.

Continue reading “An Introduction to AWS Polly, S3 and PHP.”

The Case for migrating school IT infrastructure to AWS

Technology in Schools is developing at an amazing pace.  Gone are the days of computer labs serving the whole school, now students have their own laptops and even children as young as 4 or 5 are given tablets or Chrome books.  With this advance came a change in the technology infrastructure required by Schools.  We now need web servers, databases, security, monitoring, backup and other infrastructure to support daily learning and management of the school.  We also needed space to host this equipment, air conditioning to cool it and electricity to power it.  This has resulted in increased costs, staffing and space required by the IT department. Now we see schools adopting various SaaS solutions and migrating email, document storage and other services into the cloud. With this reliance on the cloud for school management why not look to take further advantage of cloud services and migrate other infrastructure into the cloud. Services like AWS provide a unique opportunity to schools to provide much greater flexibility, higher performance, cost reductions and security over traditional infrastructure where budgets, scale and expertise have constrained what is possible. We already see Universities and EdTech start-ups adopting the cloud and AWS in large numbers for their infrastructure, so why not schools in general.

Let’s take a look at some of the key benefits of cloud computing for schools, focusing on AWS and Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).

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Useful Resources for people new to AWS

Starting out with AWS or any cloud service for that matter can be a bit daunting.  There is a lot to learn and inevitability you will make a lot of mistakes.  In this post you will find a list of online resources I found useful when starting out.  I won’t cover any online training sites, just free to access resources that provide training, guides, tips or general information.

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