What is Amazon AWS

What is Amazon AWS

A while ago, I was sitting in a meeting when a colleague suggested that we move to Amazon AWS. As he said this he looked directly at me since I was the only analyst in the room, and soon everyone was waiting for my response. The truth was, I had no idea was Amazon AWS was! In that moment I had 2 choices:

  1. Fake it – Pretend I knew what he’s talking about and say something like we should explore his idea.
  2. Tell the truth – Admit to everyone that I had no clue what Amazon AWS was.

Normally I don’t shy away from admitting when I don’t know something as I am very confident in my skills. I’m not sure why, but in that specific moment I chose to fake it.

Immediately after the meeting I went online to research Amazon AWS and see what it was all about. The first thing I learned is that it was not called Amazon AWS, but simply AWS, since it stands for Amazon Web Services.

I will explain in simple terms what AWS is and what it can be used for.

What is AWS?

Think about all the hardware that it takes to run the software a company needs.

Let’s take SQL Server for example, it requires a couple of servers and dedicated IT/BI resources. Maintenance is time-consuming as well as expensive.

The company could decide to move their SQL Server to the cloud (to AWS), which means Amazon will take care of the hardware and the maintenance. The company can now focus on their business instead of wasting resources on maintaining servers.

That’s one of the services AWS offers but they offer way more than that.

Another popular use is for computing. Sometimes Data Scientists are working on machine learning models that are resource-intensive. Deploying these models to production and maintaining them is not an easy task. With AWS the computing power can be increased substantially by using slave computers.

Another added benefit is that they have servers all over the world. For example, you could use this to increase your site speed by running different instances in different countries. For a company to do this on its own is extremely resource-intensive.

A Concrete Example

I’m personally using AWS for my online course Job-Ready SQL Server. In the course students can connect to a SQL Server instance and run queries.

You guessed it, SQL Server is running in the cloud with AWS. The only other viable solution was to use an old PC, install windows server, and take care of all the maintenance myself. No thank you!

I’m currently using AWS EC2 which was simple to set up and reasonably priced. to get started I used this tutorial on setting up SQL Server which was very helpful.


Amazon is not alone in this space, there are competitors such as Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure.

I personally haven’t tried these other products so I won’t review them, but I have heard from colleagues that Azure tend to be a bit more expensive.

If your company is using Power BI though there might be a cost and compatibility benefits in using Azure.

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What you need to remember is that AWS is a cloud services platform. They offer services that include computing, storage, data management, networking, development tools, all without using local resources. It’s a great solution to help businesses that want to focus on their core competencies rather than IT.

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