#3 Getting started with AWS

A couple of weeks ago I decided that I want to get a better understanding of AWS. The question was- what is the best way to do that? In my opinion, when you want to start learning about any of the public cloud providers there are three main points you should cover:

  • Basics of cloud computing
  • Services provided
  • Pricing

I saw that all of these are covered in the AWS Cloud Practitioner exam and decided to start preparing for CLF-C01. Preparing for the exam or just wanting to get a better understanding of how AWS works- I will share with you the resources that I used and my overall experience. 

Step One:

If you are preparing for AWS Cloud Practitioner I would suggest starting with the AWS website. You will find the Exam Guide and some resources that will be useful. According to the Exam Guide, the exam consists of four domains:

  • Cloud Concepts (26%)
  • Security and Compliance (25%)
  • Technology (33%)
  • Billing and Pricing (16%)

The “Prepare for the exam” section provides couple of things I would recommend. 

  1. The AWS Cloud Practitioner Essential training. Is it enough to prepare for the exam – in my opinion NO, but if you have absolutely no idea of cloud computing you can find it beneficial as it is super simplified and gives a good overall summary of what AWS is. 
  2. AWS White Papers. You have to read those. There you can find pretty much everything. However, I wouldn’t recommend starting your preparation for the exam with the whitepapers. I found it useful reading them a bit later in the learning process, hence later in this blog, we will come back to the whitepapers. 

Step Two

Choose the platform and the learning path that best fits your style. I have three suggestions.

  1. A cloud guru. This is a great learning platform – it is well structured and easy to understand and covers about 80% of what you will need to know for the exam. The course is about 14 hours, it has more than 70 lessons (in the form of short videos), 3 labs exercises and a practice exam at the end. In my opinion, the course covers enough to pass the exam, however, if you want to get the full picture of AWS services you have to combine it with some self-learning. The only minus that I would point for this course is that although they regularly update it, most of the content is recorded back in 2018 and even though the concept of AWS hasn’t drastically changed since then, some services have been added. A cloud guru is a paid platform – it costs £33 a month, but it has a 7 days free trial which is enough to cover the AWS Cloud Practitioner materials. 
  2. PluralSight. There is a great AWS Cloud Practitioner path on Pluralsight. The Pluralsight course is not as detailed as the one in a cloud guru, but they cover pretty much the same material. Again we have lessons in the form of videos- the whole path takes 8 hours to complete. No lab exercises, but there are great demos that you can follow along. Again I would say that this course covers enough for passing the exam, however, to fully understand AWS you have to combine it with self-learning. Plural sight is a paid platform as well, but you have a one-month free trial. 
  3. YouTube. You are looking for a free platform – there are many courses on YouTube. Like demos? Then I would recommend the video course by freeCodeCamp.org. This is a four hours video of demos of the most important services offered by AWS. 

Step Three:

Go and play with AWS. AWS offers the so-called Free tier that allows you to try some AWS services free of charge within certain usage limits. When you create an AWS account, you’re automatically signed up for the AWS Free Tier for 12 months. You can find more information about the free tier limits per service here and I strongly recommend to go and launch EC2, set up S3, create a bucket, you can even create a static website using S3 bucket and many more for free. 

Step Four: 

Read the whitepapers. Remember that I mentioned them back in Step One- now is the time to read and understand them. Whitepapers cover everything- they are the official AWS documentation. At the time when I am writing this blog, there are a couple of whitepapers that are recommended for the cloud practitioner exam – Overview of Amazon Web Services and How AWS Pricing Works

  1. When was the last time you solved a 1000 pieces puzzle? The feeling of reading and understanding this white paper is similar. AWS offers more than 160+ services and in this paper, you will read about all of them. I would say it takes some time to understand each service and put the picture together, but once you do you feel the satisfaction. You don’t need to know all of the services for the cloud practitioner exam, and I think it is impossible to become expert in all of them, however, if you are interested in AWS and are planning to use it I recommend getting the overall idea of all services (or at least as many as possible). 
  2. How AWS Pricing Works. In Step Four we discussed that you can use some AWS for free, however depending on your configuration or the services used AWS can be expensive as well- you should know your services and how pricing works! This whitepaper contains all the pricing information you need to know. It gives you an overview of the AWS Pricing model and then explains the pricing of each service individually. For the exam, you don’t need to know the pricing for each service, but you should make sure you cover at least the most important ones.

These were all of the resources that I used to broaden my understanding of AWS. And if you go through them you will have no problem passing the AWS Cloud Practitioner. It took me about 10 days, spending 3-4 hours a day studying. The exam itself is 90 minutes and has 65 questions. You get a pass or fail straight after the exam, within 5 business days you get your detailed report with your score and your certificate (in my case it was the day after the exam). Hope that this will be useful to anyone looking for AWS learning sources and if you have decided to take the exam- Good luck! 

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