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A Really Big Byte

ElephantI launched off into exploring the “cloud” as well as trying to understand a new piece of software and discover how it needed to be set up. What I really did was take a very big byte (bite) of new learning experience.

I have been running a crash course on how to set up a web server in the Amazon Web Service (AWS) cloud. First let me say I picked AWS from several good options as frankly, they provide a years’ free access for their smallest server. Plus I get to play with all the “big boy” toys that go along with AWS.

I am but a little drip in a huge ocean but I am having a great learning experience of where the “state of the art” is with cloud servers and a really big provider like AWS.

I need almost none of the expensive add-ins that a real major web application requires, like say registration for Obama Care.  AWS has the tools to manage and prevent that initial registration fiasco if the government wanted to pay for them. I think they asked a high school kid with a server in his basement to create their first site. Sorry – I got off topic…

The way the AWS system works is you can build whatever you need with “modules” and you pay for their use by how long you use them. What’s amazing is you can automatically resize your hardware depending on use, either up or down, and you get billed for only how long you use it. It is a bit more complicated as you can buy ahead and reserve capacity and a lot of other options far beyond anything I will ever need.

I figure after my free year I can run for about double the cost what I am paying for my shared server Internet access. The shared server is a humungous advantage for the very small user. Its only real drawback is it is not suitable for really big interactive applications.

Honestly, AWS is far more than I need but amazingly it does scale down for a very small user like me. The advantage is that I have total control of the server and I can start and stop or reboot anytime I want. I can even change the operating system. I can’t hurt anyone else with what I do. The drawback is I have to do all that stuff for myself. The cloud is not for everyone. Only seriously knowledgeable hardware and system control people should attempt what I am doing.

Now on top of wandering around in a big cloud, I also chose to initiate an entirely new ecommerce website software package named Magento.  It is designed by EBay as a commercial product but there is a free version that I am trying to master.

I am not going into the details but I will say there is a LOT of setup between gearing up a bare bones web site server and to configuring a commercial grade ecommerce site. It took me many days just to get the SSL secure website (HTTPS://) working the way it should. I can’t run a store without a secure connection.

The good news is that I am getting there. I made a lot of progress last weekend. The big chore is getting the entire inventory listed and making sure the email links all work like they should. I also set up a new PayPal account for use by the Ramblin’ Dan’s Store. I need to run some tests on it but the Magento/PayPal interface should run clean as the program was written by EBay folks. Still, it needs to be fully tested!

I am of course using a Linux operating system and using Apache on my web site server. There are many other choices, none are bad choices. I am familiar with Linux and am enjoying using my Linux computer at home for my communication to the cloud server. Everything could also be done just with Windows.

I use my windows computer to view the Mangento user’s “front end” and work the GUI-type admin access within the back end (of Magento). That’s how I get inventory descriptions into the store as well as adjust all the Magento operational settings. I do cut and paste catalog transfer between the old “The Hobbyist Machine Store and the “Ramblin’ Dan’s Store”.

My Linux box then handles all the SSH command line interface with the cloud server and a FileZilla SFTP-SSH to the raw file storage. (That is a little geek-speak to make me sound knowledgeable.) AWS also has its own GUI controls for everything needed to manage AWS and all their services. Managing AWS is a huge task too.

Overall, it is a very big bite of the elephant to make this store change. I don’t think the elephant has felt a thing or even noticed my presence.

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