Amazon Lightsail vs EC2: Which is the right service for you?
Amazon EC2 and Lightsail are two services provided by AWS that are similar to each other. EC2 and Lightsail are used to create virtual servers in the cloud to run web applications.
Choosing the right service for hosting your application can be difficult due to the wide range of features.
In this article, we will look into both of these services in detail to better understand which service is better suited for your use case.
Table of contents
- Amazon EC2
- Amazon Lightsail
- Comparing Amazon EC2 and Lightsail
Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud or EC2 is a service that allows users to create virtual servers in the cloud. More simply, you can create your machine with an operating system and hardware components of your choice. This machine is completely virtualized and referred to as an instance in EC2 terminology.
These instances are created using Amazon Machine Images (AMIs), preconfigured templates that specify the operating system.
Benefits of EC2
Pay as you go
You don’t need any upfront investment to create an EC2 instance. You only pay for the resources you use.
Amazon provides a lot of different EC2 instance types. You can start from small instances with 512 MB of memory and 1 vCPU to large instances with 384 GB of memory and 96 vCPUs.
You have the flexibility to choose the instance type that best matches your workload.
With EC2, you can start with a small number of instances and scale up or down based on the load on your application. This feature helps keep your application reliable and saves a lot of money.
Amazon Lightsail is an entry-level AWS service built for developers who are new to AWS. Lightsail includes everything you need to launch your application quickly in one interface.
Benefits of Lightsail
Lightsail is optimized for simplicity so that developers can launch their applications as quickly as possible. Compute, storage, load balancers, databases, and DNS management are all tightly integrated and are manageable from the Lightsail UI.
Lightsail is affordable, and its pricing is predictable. Resources like memory, vCPU, and storage are bundled into one plan.
The cheapest plan is $3.50/mo making it affordable to start.
Comparing Amazon EC2 and Lightsail
In this section, we will compare these services across a few dimensions and discuss the differences between the two services.
Ease of Use
The learning curve for Lightsail is minimal. Lightsail is designed with simplicity in mind.
It provides a unified console experience. You can manage your instances, load balancing, databases, DNS, and containers from the same interface with only a few clicks.
EC2, on the other hand, provides a lot of flexibility, quickly leading to a lot of complexity. You need to learn about AWS networking and security best practices.
Lightsail offers a simple and predictable pricing model. Lightsail offers seven different plans that start from $3.50 per month to $160 per month for Linux servers.
Lightsail instances also come with outbound costs included in the monthly price. For example, the cheapest instance includes 1 TB of inbound and outbound transfer, whereas the most expensive instance includes 7 TB of inbound and outbound transfer.
Flexibility / Customization
One of the advantages of using EC2 is the amount of flexibility it provides. You can choose from 250+ instance types based on your workload. You can choose from a wide selection of AMIs or create your own.
Lightsail, however, is less customizable compared to EC2. This decision is intentional because they want to keep the platform easy to use.
Services like CDN, DNS, Databases, and Load Balancers are already built into Lightsail. The tight integration of these services makes it straightforward to deploy a web application onto Lightsail.
However, there are some shortcomings associated with these services, as listed below:
Lightsail load balancers cannot handle more than 5 GB/hour of data or consistently have many connections (>400k new connections/hour, >15k active, concurrent connections).
It is recommended to use EC2 Load Balancers if your application falls under this category.
Even though Lightsail instances use EC2 under the hood, these instances don’t appear in the EC2 section of the AWS console.
Lightsail’s instance monitoring is minimal and restricted to a few parameters. EC2, on the hand, offers a wide variety of metrics and options for monitoring.
Lightsail comes with a managed database that supports MySQL & Postgres. Lightsail can also be integrated with other databases like RDS, Aurora, and DynamoDB once VPC Peering has been set up.
Lightsail doesn’t support autoscaling. Scale-ups are manual.
EC2 is a highly scalable service.
AutoScaling groups can scale your EC2 instances horizontally based on certain thresholds.
Lightsail provides a simple interface to deploy containers. Developers upload their Docker image, and Lightsail automatically containerizes it. Lightsail also provides an HTTPS endpoint ready to serve the application running in the container.
To deploy containers with EC2, you would need to use either ECS or EKS. These services provide much more flexibility and control than Lightsail but also have a much higher learning curve.
When to use Lightsail?
Lightsail might be the right choice for you if:
- You are new to AWS and need a simple and easy-to-use service
- You want to host a simple web application or WordPress blog.
- You are setting up a dev or test environment
- You don’t need autoscaling, granular metrics, or flexibility.
When to use EC2?
EC2 might be the right choice for you if:
- You are familiar with AWS and don’t mind getting your hands dirty
- You are running a complex application like a SaaS application
- You handle high volumes of traffic and need auto-scaling
- You need better observability and granular metrics
- You need more control over networking and security
Amazon Lightsail and EC2 are two of the most popular AWS services. However, both of these services target different customers and use cases.
Lightsail is designed with simplicity and is excellent if you are new to AWS. Lightsail is also a great choice for hosting a simple web application.
EC2, on the other hand, is a lot more powerful and versatile. However, it is also a lot more complex and has a higher learning curve.
If you are unsure which service to start with, I recommend looking at Lightsail to familiarize yourself with AWS. If your application starts to grow, Lightsail also allows you to upgrade to EC2.