Considering using Amazon Lightsail hosting for your WordPress site (or other types of sites)?
If you’re not familiar with Amazon Lightsail, it offers one of the simplest ways to get started with cloud hosting from Amazon Web Services (AWS), the leader in the cloud infrastructure space.
You can get up and running with transparently priced VPS instances, along with a blueprint feature that makes it easy to preinstall WordPress and other content management tools. Or, you can just spin up cPanel or even a blank LAMP or Nginx stack.
In our hands-on Amazon Lightsail hosting review, we’ll take a detailed look at what Amazon Lightsail offers, including giving you a tour of the dashboard and showing you what it’s like to set up a WordPress install with Lightsail.
Let’s dig in!
Amazon Lightsail Hosting Review: What Does It Offer?
In a nutshell, Amazon Lightsail offers an easy way to get up and running with cloud VPS hosting.
While Amazon Web Services has other hosting products, such as Elastic Cloud Compute (Amazon EC2), some of the advantages of Lightsail are as follows:
- Flat, transparent monthly pricing. You get all of the resources that you need and there’s no need to mess around with pricing calculators or worry about what your bill will be.
- User-friendly dashboard. Lightsail has its own custom dashboard that’s a bit more user-friendly than some of the other AWS products. This makes it accessible even if you’re not an especially technical user.
- Pre-built blueprints. You can easily spin up an instance using pre-built blueprints. These let you set up a working WordPress site in just a few minutes. Or, you can install other CMS software, cPanel, or generic hosting stacks (LAMP or Nginx).
If you’re familiar with other cloud hosting options like DigitalOcean droplets, Vultr cloud compute, and Linode, Amazon Lightsail is kind of Amazon’s answer (and competitor) to those types of services.
Beyond the VPS hosting instances, Amazon Lightsail also offers the following services:
- Containers – easily create and run containerized apps.
- Object storage – affordably store files with transparent pricing.
- Managed databases – choose a standard plan or a high-availability plan for extra redundancy and failovers.
- Content delivery network (CDN) – distribute content from Amazon’s global network for a fixed monthly price.
- Load balancer – set up load balancers for a flat price per month.
- Block storage -set up affordable block storage with transparent pricing.
What Can You Create With Amazon Lightsail?
Since WP Mayor is a WordPress blog, the obvious use case for Amazon Lightsail is hosting WordPress sites.
With the blueprints feature that Amazon Lightsail offers, you can be up and running with a working WordPress website in minutes.
However, you can also host other types of applications.
There are also pre-made blueprints for popular CMS and eCommerce tools such as Drupal, Joomla, and Magento.
Finally, you can set up cPanel as a base. Or, you can just spin up a generic stack.
Here’s the full list of blueprints that Amazon Lightsail Hosting currently offers:
Exploring the Amazon Lightsail Dashboard
One of the nice things about Amazon Lightsail in comparison to some other AWS products is that Lightsail has its own custom dashboard experience that’s a lot easier for non-technical users to use.
Personally, I’m not a developer, so I can struggle using some parts of AWS (such as Amazon EC2). But even though I can’t code or use the command line, I still find it quite easy to work with Amazon Lightsail.
Again, this is why I say that Lightsail is the most accessible way for regular people to use and benefit from Amazon Web Services (though developers can certainly use it, as well).
The main Amazon Lightsail dashboard looks like this:
For comparison, here’s what the main Amazon EC2 dashboard looks like:
As you can see, Amazon EC2 has a lot more going on, whereas Lightsail’s dashboard is quite simple and straightforward.
It’s not that one approach is better than the other – I’m just using these screenshots to highlight how Amazon Lightsail offers a much simpler entrance into the AWS ecosystem.
Creating a New Instance
If you want to set up a new server and application, like a WordPress site, you’ll want to create an “instance”.
When you go to create a new instance, you have two options for setting it up:
- App + OS – install the operating system (Linux or Windows) along with the software that you need to create a site.
- OS Only – only install the bare operating system. You would then need to set up everything yourself.
For the App + OS blueprints, you can find blueprints for specific website-building tools including WordPress, Drupal, Ghost, Magento, and more.
Or, you can also just install Nginx or a LAMP stack. There’s even a cPanel / WHM option that lets you set up a new instance using cPanel, which you could then use to install software.
Further down the page, you can choose your instance plan, which controls the resources (and price) of this instance.
I’ll talk more about pricing later, but the prices are quite affordable and start at just $3.50 per month for 512 MB and 1 vCPU.
Once you’ve made your choices, you can give your instance a name and then click the Create Instance button to finish the setup.
After a short wait, you’ll see your instance show up in the Amazon Lightsail dashboard.
Managing Your Instance
Once you’ve created an instance, it will get its own special dashboard that gives you access to important information, along with usage metrics.
You can also attach other services to your instance to add new functionality. Here are some of the most notable ones:
- Attach a static IP address so that your instance is always available at the same IP – this is required if you want to use your own domain name (but it’s free).
- Set up manual or automatic snapshots to create a backup of your instance.
- Attach more storage space if your site needs more storage than your plan allows.
- Register domain names to use with this instance (or, you can just point your domain name to the instance).
AWS Lightsail also does a good job of providing you with helpful information.
For example, if you created a WordPress instance, you’ll see a link to the WordPress getting started guide.
The Metrics tab lets you see a good amount of data for CPU usage, network traffic, status checks, and more.
You can access different graphs by clicking the drop-down:
If you want to create backups, the Snapshots tab makes it easy to manually create a snapshot or set up automatic snapshots of your instance:
Setting Up WordPress
At this point, you already have a working WordPress site if you used the WordPress blueprint, which you can access by visiting your instance’s public IP address:
However, to finish the process of setting up WordPress, you would need to do a few things:
- Attach a static IP address to your instance. Otherwise, the IP address will change when you reboot your instance, which means your domain name would stop working.
- Point your domain name to your instance’s static IP address.
- Run a simple command in the in-dashboard terminal interface to access your WordPress account username and password.
- Run a few simple commands to install a free SSL certificate from Let’s Encrypt using the pre-installed bncert tool.
If you want to see this process in more detail, we’ll be publishing a step-by-step guide on how to install WordPress on Amazon Lightsail shortly.
Amazon Lightsail Hosting Performance Tests
To get an idea of the performance of Amazon Lightsail hosting, I set up a full WordPress site using one of the demo sites from the popular Kadence theme.
Beyond importing the full demo site, I didn’t make any other changes or performance tweaks. That is, my site does not have caching enabled or any other performance improvements.
Then, I ran it through WebPageTest with the following configuration:
- Use a throttled FIOS connection – 20/5 Mbps
- Test from Salt Lake City, Utah (my Amazon Lightsail hosting data center is in Virginia)
- Run nine separate tests and take the median value
Even without any caching, Amazon Lightsail hosting did quite well, with a Largest Contentful Paint time of around one second for my full demo site:
Amazon Lightsail Pricing
As I mentioned earlier, one of the advantages of Amazon Lightsail over other AWS offerings is that it has very clear pricing.
There’s no need to use a pricing calculator or anything, you can just look at the pricing table and pick the VPS instance that works best for your needs.
Another advantage is that Amazon Lightsail has some of the cheapest prices in the cloud VPS space.
Amazon Lightsail VPS plans start at just $3.50 per month for a Linux server with 512 MB of memory and 1 vCPU.
With that being said, if you’re hosting a WordPress site, I recommend going with at least 1 GB of RAM and 1 vCPU, which will run you $5 per month.
Prices go up from there based on the resources allotted to your site. But in general, Amazon Lightstail hosting is priced quite competitively, and it’s either cheaper than or similar to much of the competition.
Here’s the full price list for virtual servers:
If you haven’t tried Amazon Lightsail hosting yet, you can also test it out for free with a three-month free trial.
Pricing for Other Amazon Lightsail Services
As I mentioned earlier, Amazon Lightsail also offers other services beyond virtual servers.
The prices will depend on the service that you’re looking at. However, one consistent detail is that all of the prices use flat, transparent billing.
Again, this type of billing is one thing that differentiates Amazon Lightsail from other AWS services.
For example, here are the prices for the Amazon Lightsail managed databases:
For comparison, here’s the pricing for Amazon Aurora:
You can see why I say that Amazon Lightsail’s pricing is a lot easier to understand!
Final Thoughts on Amazon Lightsail
Overall, Amazon Lightsail offers a very easy way to get started with AWS.
If you’re a WordPress user, Amazon Lightsail’s built-in blueprints make it very easy to set up your server for WordPress and install the WordPress software.
You can be up and running with a working WordPress site in just a few minutes.
Or, if you’re not using WordPress, you can also easily spin up other platforms, cPanel, or just generic LAMP or Nginx stacks.
If you want to give it a try, you can spin up a new instance and use it for free for three full months to experience the platform.
Once the free trial expires, the paid plans are still quite affordable for the space.
You can use the button below to get started: