Can I use EC2 as a random Unix shell?

Mark asked:

I have a small, low-cost, VPS that I use for some “grey-beared-Unix-guy shell stuff”: basically, hosting a Debian running a XMPP bot, keeping long lived shell sessions with tmux under intermittent connections, reading feeds with newsbeuter (so I can keep my reading synchronized between home and work machines without resorting to Google Reader, etc.), some random note-taking with vim, and tunnelling out some connections over SSH (I have sshd running on port 443 for this).

Since my subscription is about to expire, I’m thinking about migration this server to Amazon EC2 (as they have a free-tier now and I think I fit them).


  • I have zero experience with Amazon services or EC2; Never used any of them.
  • Can I run this environment on the VMs they provide?
  • The “micro” instance seems to fit my needs, running full time and still in the free tier for a year. It this ok?
  • Is there any hidden cost I failed to notice?
  • Is there someone using this approach?

My answer:

You can easily fit all that into a “micro” EC2 instance. I recommend against Amazon Linux, though; it often has bizarre problems caused by a lack of quality control in packaging. Choose something more stable, such as CentOS, Debian, Fedora or Ubuntu, depending on your specific needs.

Also keep in mind that it’s only free for a year. After that, you’ll be paying around $17-$20 per month, give or take, depending on how much bandwidth you consume. (And remember they charge per gigabyte, so you could pay a lot more…) When your time is up, you may want to go shopping elsewhere. One of my favorite places is Low End Box.

View the full question and answer on Server Fault.

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