Choosing between services on the comprehensive AWS platform can take a toll on users. This article will help you make an informed decision about which cloud server, the AWS EC2 or the AWS Lightsail, is better for you.

AWS LightSail and AWS EC2 are similar services that provide you with virtual cloud servers. Although the function of these services sounds pretty much the same, both the services are designed for different use cases.

AWS EC2

AWS EC2 is a core cloud service offered by AWS that allows us to provision virtual cloud servers. The instances provisioned from EC2 are like a blank slate. These servers are highly customizable and can be configured and used in any way the user wants. EC2 can theoretically serve an unlimited set of Virtual machines.

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Amazon also provides a lot of choices when choosing the instance types for your EC2 virtual machines. You can choose between CPU, memory, storage, GPU, and networking optimized instances as per your use case.

EC2 is one of the most widely used services in AWS. It integrates with most of the other AWS services on the platform and is highly customizable to support any kind of use case.

AWS LightSail

AWS Lighsail is a cloud service offered by AWS. The Lighsail service allows users to provision pre-configured cloud servers like LAMP, WordPress, Node.js, or Magento to quickly set up the application architecture without having to install the software manually. For a detailed overview of Lightsail, visit the article Amazon Lightsail: Everything You Need to Know.

AWS has designed Lightsail to make it simple to understand and easy to use for even the absolute beginners.

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Both Lightsail and EC2 are powerful services used to provision virtual cloud servers. Now let us look at the difference between these services.

AWS Lightsail vs. EC2

Usage

Lightsail is an easy-to-use service that is designed for simple web applications and websites. It is specifically designed for beginners or non-technical users who can use this service in a few clicks and set up their websites easily. It is recommended not to use LightSail for highly complex applications and stick to workloads ranging from small to medium.

EC2 is a bigger and more complicated service. It is used for all kinds of applications that can vary from small web applications (these can also work in Lightsail) to Big Data and machine learning applications. EC2 and can be possibly configured to host any application. It can serve even the most complex architectures.

Ease of use

As I mentioned before, LightSail is an easy-to-use service designed specifically for beginners. The entire process of starting a Lightsail server and deploying the application to the server can be done with a few clicks. It provides an all-in-one experience for creating virtual servers and deploying applications.

EC2, on the other hand, needs a lot more manual configuration and possibly other services like AWS CodeDeploy and CodePipeline to streamline the application deployment workflow.

All the resources related to your Lightsail instance are managed in the same dashboard. In contrast, each resource in an EC2 (like Static IPs, Security Groups, EBS volumes, and more) has its own dashboard and options.

So if you are simply starting with AWS and want to run small-scale applications, using Lightsail is your best bet. You won’t need a lot of technical AWS knowledge for starting applications on Lightsail.

Network

The network for your Lightsail machines is managed by AWS. As a user, you can only add rules to the Lightsail firewall. The network for EC2 instances is managed by the users using the VPCs, Security Groups, and Subnets.

Subnets

AWS Lightsail has no native support for subnets. In AWS, you can create public and private subnets based on the use case of the application. Since Lightsail is only meant for websites, there is no support for hosting these servers in a private subnet. EC2 instances, on the other hand, can be deployed in any subnets, public or private.

So, if your use case demands that you deploy a web or any other application in a private subnet, you can only do that in AWS EC2.

Scalability

Lightsail instances cannot be scaled at all, at least not automatically. Further, Lightsail instances cannot be modified after launch. So, if you want to change the instance type, you must launch a new instance and change your plan.

EC2 is a highly scalable service. You can use AutoScaling Groups in the EC2 dashboard to scale your EC2 instances horizontally, i.e., increase or decrease the number of instances serving the application. EC2 instances can also be modified to a new instance type after launch.

EBS Volumes

EBS is a block storage service that can be integrated with EC2 machines for storage purposes. EBS volumes are separate network drives that can be attached/detached from the EC2 instances.

Lighsail does not support EBS Volumes.

Pricing

AWS Lightsail has a fixed “per-month” pricing table that varies from 3.5$ pm to 160$ pm based on the type and specifications of the Lighsatil instance. The service also offers a 3 months free tier usage from the day of the signup.

AWS EC2 has multiple pricing models. You can use on-demand instances for a fixed pay-as-you-go price. Or you can reserve an instance for a period of time for a discounted price. Free tier usage for EC2 is available for 12 months from the day of the signup.

Load Balancing

Load balancing is a native feature of Lightsail, and the LightSail load balancer can be easily used with the Lightsail instances.

EC2 has four different types of load balancers, each with its own specifications and use cases that can be integrated with the EC2 instances.

Monitoring

Monitoring the Lightsail instance is possible, but it is restricted to a few parameters. EC2 offers a wide variety of metrics and options for monitoring.

Encryption

Encryption in Lightsail is managed by AWS, and it is enabled by default. When using EC2 instances, users can choose to enable or disable encryption.

Use Cases Lightsail

  • Lightsail is suitable for dev/test environment setups as it is cheap and easy to configure.
  • Very useful for beginners looking to explore AWS and run applications with limited cloud knowledge.
  • For use cases where predictable monthly costs are necessary.
  • All in one console for load balancers, networking, and databases.

Use Cases EC2

  • EC2 offers multiple pricing models and ways to utilize the discount options for better pricing.
  • They are used for complex applications.
  • For applications in private subnets.
  • For automatic scalability.
  • For complete control and flexibility over the instance.
  • Optimized instance types for specific use cases like using CPU-optimized instances for machine learning jobs and so on.

Conclusion

Both Lightsail and EC2 are mature tools targeting different customers and use cases. EC2, frankly, is a way more powerful service than Lightsail. It can do everything that the Lightsail instance can do and much more. But with power comes a lot of complexity, a lot of options, and possibly confusion. So, if you are a beginner at AWS, jumping straight to the EC2 console might not be the right choice for you.

Lightsail is more suited for new AWS users who do not want to go through the hassle of configuring virtual servers and want a ready-to-use infrastructure. It is also specifically meant for small to medium scale and simple web applications. Lightsail instances can be upgraded to EC2 instances easily, so you can always set up a primary application on Lightsail before slowly upgrading to EC2.

I hope this article helps you make the right decision between the two services.