Full guide: How to set up a (free) server on Amazon Web Services (AWS) – From scratch to working server

In this series of articles, you’ll learn how to set up a Free Tier server on AWS. In short, free for 1 year, very cheap after that (a few dollars/months; more details in a following article).

The purpose of these articles is to allow you to do everything without the need to comb through documentation or search the web to complete certain actions, or resolve issues that might arise.

I know how it is, because I’ve been there. The first time I had to set up a server on AWS, I ran into some issues, and also had to research quite a few things such as which control panel to install, how to use the command line to install server packages (something I had managed to avoid for 20+ years working in IT), or how to request permission to send mail from Amazon’s servers.

Bottom line, it took me days, a lot of head scratching and guesses to finally get my server completely functional.

Unfortunately, all of the tutorials I’ve seen on the subject leave me unimpressed and barely explain the easiest and most obvious aspects of AWS, conveniently leaving out the really tricky stuff, such as how to set up e-mails (fine if you’re happy with a Gmail or Hotmail account, but not at all if you want e-mail addresses with your domain name), or how to host multiple websites on a single server.

You probably don’t want to spend more time than strictly necessary to set up your free server, so follow my step-by-step instructions and you’ll get it done as quickly as possible, from setting up an AWS account (and why?) to having functional web and mail servers with a panel control.

Specifically, this tutorial explains how to:

  • Sign up for a Free Tier AWS account.
  • Set up a virtual server (EC2).
  • Install software for the web server, mail server and control panel.
  • Create a name server (DNS), configure domain name(s) and create SSL certificates.
  • Set up e-mail access.

All software used is open source.

By the end of this tutorial, you’ll have a fully functional server and will be ready to create your actual website, either adding custom pages, or installing WordPress or other blog platform.

Everything is explained as clearly as possible, with dozens of screenshots, so you don’t need deep knowledge to follow this tutorial, and it should take at most 2-3 hours to complete (including reading these articles), plus some waiting time (it’ll be explained when you get to that point).

Basically, if you can complete a task like installing a WordPress plugin, you should sail through this tutorial!

That said, if you’d like to have your server on AWS but are still not comfortable setting it up yourself, don’t hesitate to contact me. I could do it for you for a small fee.


1. Intro to the Amazon Web Services Free Tier and sign up


2. Setting up a virtual server and installing the software


3. Configuring DNS, SSL and e-mail

Additional info

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