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Cheap (or Free) CF hosting in the cloud

by Mike on December 2, 2011

Amazon recently released updated pricing on reserved ec2 instances. If you’ve been left high and dry by Go Daddy, or are simply looking for a cheaper alternative for hosting cfml applications it might be a good time to take a look at Amazon Web Services.

For a little more than a year, I have been running a number of personal sites on an ec2 micro instance. It is a linux based instance running railo/mysql/apache. I currently run 2 Mura sites, an instance of Mango Blog, 2 wordpress sites, and various low traffic bespoke cfml applications. I’ve been averaging around 1500 cfml requests/day, and at the end of a 2 year period my average monthly hosting cost will be approximately $4.50/month.

At the entry level, Amazon offers dedicated virtual servers (Micro Instances) that come with 613MB of memory and are burstable up to 2 EC2 Compute Units (One EC2 Compute Unit provides the equivalent CPU capacity of a 1.0-1.2 GHz 2007 Opteron or 2007 Xeon processor). The downside of using this type of instance is that you can be severely throttled for short amounts of time if you have sustained periods of high CPU utilization. (I hope to write about this more in depth in an upcoming post). This is an extremely cost effective option for non mission critical applications (personal sites, blogs, testing environments, etc.).

Amazon offers a full 12 months of hosting on a single micro instance for FREE. After that you are looking at between $14.60-$18.25/month to run a spot instance on demand. Prices vary based on the region you are running your instance in. Now back to reserved pricing… If you are planning to run your instance for at least 12 months, you can pay an up front fee of $62 that cuts your hourly pricing by 75% effectively dropping your monthly fee to $8.80. Throw in your free year and you’re down to $4.40 over a 2 year span. Other costs you might incur are minimal bandwidth charges, and $.10/GB/Mo for disk usage as Micro instances don’t include dedicated disk space. Prices for windows instances are higher, but still reasonable.

Overall, I’ve been extremely happy with my experience so far, the management tools that amazon provides are unmatched, and you have the ability to scale up almost infinitely if the need arises (for a price). If you are looking for a cost effective CF host, it’s definitely worth taking a look at.

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  1. Interesting post Mike – I’m currently reading up on using Amazon for hosting. I’m interested in how you deploy to EC2; do you just create a WAR file with everything in it, or do you upload files via SSH? I’ve been looking at Jelastic recently as an great and easy way to deploy to cloud and sace horizonally on demand.

    • Mike permalink

      I generally transfer files via ssh using scp, or I use a client that supports SFTP. Using a ftp client that supports sftp is probably the easiest way to get up and running if you’re used to deploying via ftp. Amazon also offers their “AWS Elastic Beanstalk” product which is their PAAS product and sounds like it’s similar to Jelastic, might be worth evaluating if you’re headed down that path.

      • Thanks Mike, I have deploying using file transfer over ssh quite slow and sometimes it even fails when transfering lots of files, so I’m a bit wary of that approach. I’m definately going to have to have a play with the free usage tier. Thanks.

  2. Any explanation about how to install CFML projects into amazon cloud?

  3. Raj permalink

    Thank you for sharing this. I am currently using the micro instance as well and I am little worried about the 600 MB (not sure of the exact number) of memory. Did you face any memory issue. I don’t expect a lot of traffic, but during testing when I did ps -aux and free -m I see almost 90% of the memory is used. I am very new to this, so if you have any experience please share.

    Also did you get any attacks (specifically W00T attacks)?. I just launched my site a week back and I am already getting hit, making my bandwidth go up and causing more money for the put and get request. Also if you have Any Railo specific security handling tips please share.


    • Mike permalink

      Memory can definitely be a limiting factor when using a micro instance. Keep in mind that the memory usage you’re seeing is most likely the total heap, and not the actual memory being used by Railo. Railo 3.3 has some nice visualizations built into the administrator that should show you the percentage of the heap actively being used.

      In terms of attacks, I’d suggest following general best practices and security precautions. I’d imagine you’d face the same sorts of attacks regardless of where you are hosting, although a single micro instance might be more vulnerable to DDOS attacks because of the way it throttles CPU. In any case, this probably isn’t the best forum to discuss it.

  4. Hi Mike,

    Did you ever try running Mura/Railo using Amazon Elastic Beanstalk with micro instances? I’m trying to get it running, but Mura keeps hanging. Railo seems to be fine. I can hit non Mura pages while everything hangs. Using Tomcat 7 64-bit. Mura keeps timing out inside a lock somewhere.

    Had no problem getting things running on a micro windows EC2 instance.

    Any ideas?


    • Mike permalink


      I haven’t tried deploying with Elastic Beanstalk yet. I’ve directly installed railo onto amazon linux or ubuntu instances. I haven’t had any problems running mura on a micro linux instance, in fact I regularly deploy mura on micro instances for testing.

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