What is Amazon AWS? The Ultimate Guide for Small Businesses

As an entrepreneurship consultant who has helped many small businesses adopt cloud technology, I‘m often asked – what is AWS and how can it help my company?

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is the world‘s most comprehensive and widely adopted cloud platform, offered by the e-commerce giant Amazon. With over 200 services available on-demand, AWS enables companies to run their entire IT infrastructure in the cloud and only pay for what they use.

The Benefits of AWS for Small Businesses

For startups and small companies, AWS offers game-changing benefits compared to traditional on-premises infrastructure:

  • Slash costs by up to 50% – Pay-as-you-go pricing means no wasted capacity or upfront costs. You can launch servers, storage, databases for cents per hour as per your usage.
  • Instantly scale up and down – Launch new resources within minutes to handle spikes in traffic or workload. This agility is invaluable.
  • Focus on innovation, not IT management – AWS handles all infrastructure, so you can dedicate resources to building your product.
  • Highly reliable and secure – AWS has far better uptime and security than what a small business can build themselves.
  • Get to market faster – Skip hardware procurement cycles and rapidly deploy ideas.

As per IDC, small/medium businesses can save an average of 50% in infrastructure costs by moving to the AWS cloud.

Overview of AWS Service Categories

AWS offers an exhaustive set of cloud computing services tailored to virtually every need. Some key categories include:


  • EC2 – Rent scalable computing capacity to run applications and servers
  • Lambda – Run code without managing servers with this serverless platform


  • S3 – Scalable object storage for data backup, archives and big data analytics
  • Glacier – Low-cost long term data archiving with retrieval times starting from minutes


  • RDS – Managed relational databases like MySQL, PostgreSQL, Oracle
  • DynamoDB – Fast, flexible NoSQL database to store and retrieve any amount of data

Networking & Content Delivery

  • VPC – Create an isolated network environment in the cloud
  • CloudFront – Fast content delivery network to distribute files globally


  • Athena – Query data directly in S3 using standard SQL without servers
  • EMR – Managed Hadoop clusters for big data processing and analysis

Machine Learning

  • SageMaker – Build, train and deploy ML models quickly
  • Rekognition – Add image and video analysis to applications

Management & Governance

  • CloudWatch – Monitoring dashboard to track resources and application performance
  • CloudTrail – Track user activity and API usage for auditing and compliance

And many more! AWS is constantly expanding its services to keep pace with the latest technologies.

Getting Started with AWS as a Small Business

As a small business owner looking to leverage the cloud, the most important steps are:

  • Sign up for an AWS account to access the free tier services for 12 months. This allows you to try services for free under usage limits.
  • Understand your needs – What resources do your apps require? Plan adoption in phases – migrate existing apps or build new ones on AWS.
  • Start small – Identify 1 or 2 focus areas like setting up a database or hosting your website. Learn through hands-on experience.
  • Monitor usage – Use tools like CloudWatch to track usage and spending. Get alerts if exceeding free tier limits.
  • Utilize training resources – Take advantage of AWS blogs, docs, and training videos to ramp up quickly.
  • Automate deployments – Use AWS CloudFormation to script and automate infrastructure deployments.
  • Optimize spending – Right size resources, purchase reserved capacity for steady-state usage, use auto-scaling and automation.

With its flexible pay-as-you-go model and nearly unlimited capacity, AWS empowers startups and small businesses to innovate faster and outpace larger competitors. The cloud removes barriers to launching new products and services. By following best practices around monitoring and optimization, you can ensure costs remain under control even as your cloud usage grows.