It’s no secret that we are proper geeks. Cloud geeks specifically, but we do just love any good tech. Serverless technology is a good example of tech we think is cool, but serverless is often difficult to set up. Not so with serverless websites; serverless websites are awesome!
What Is A Serverless Website?
We spoke about serverless technologies in general last week, so go check that out for context. But essentially, serverless anything is just where someone else manages that thing for you. So with a serverless website, you get a website, but someone else does the hard work of running the web-servery-bit.
In this case, we’re talking about using Amazon’s Simple Storage Service, or S3, to host our website. When a user browses to your website, it is S3 that sends a copy of your site over to the client, which is then drawn on their screen. That’s the same as any web server really. When you visit any website with any web browser, you’re downloading a copy of that website, and your browsers puts it all together on your device so you can see it.
Being able to do all of this and not have a server to manage sounds great, doesn’t it! No more web hardening. Nothing to patch. Your website isn’t going to break next time the wind changes direction. Sounds too good to be true doesn’t it.
What’s The Catch?
Yeah okay, there is a catch, and it’s the reason that beatyconsultancy.co.uk doesn’t use serverless web hosting. You can’t use it for complex websites. And by complex, I basically mean you can’t have a database behind your website. And that means you can’t use WordPress.
According to s3techs.com, that rules out 37.8% of all the websites on the whole internet. That’s the percentage of websites online today (August 2020) which run on WordPress. None of them can exclusively use S3 serverless website hosting. And that’s just WordPress – there are tonnes of other content management systems out there, and none of those would work either.
So it’s useless then? Well no, not at all.
Who Is It Useful For?
My in-laws run a chip shop in Hawkshead in the Lake District in Cumbria. They’ve been in the catering business for decades in one form or another, so they’re used to early starts, and hard work. If I were to ask them to do anything vaguely technical with their website, they’d just offer me delicious food, and have me do it. This always works.
But the point is, they want nothing to do with running a website, and I don’t have time to manage one for them either. But they do want a presence online, so that when someone searches for The Village Chippy, Hawkshead, they control the content the user lands on. They just need a page there, with opening times, a menu and maybe directions. Nothing fancy, and that information isn’t going to change.
A static webpage with nothing fancy is ideal for them. And that’s just what they have.
How Much Does It Cost?
Pennies! Honestly, it costs next to nothing. Web pages are, by design, very small. They need to be small so they can shoot across the internet very quickly. Big websites are slow. A side benefit of this is that you need next to no storage to keep the website in an AWS S3 bucket.
Other pieces of a good serverless S3 website are encryption certificates. This means that the website runs on HTTPS, not HTTP. You’d be right in thinking it doesn’t really matter if their website is encrypted or not. Nobody can log into anything, or do anything else which might need to be private, so why HTTPS? Well the internet is moving to HTTPS as standard, and that’s a good thing. It means people can safely assume their connection to anything online is safe. Search engines are rewarding website owners for using HTTPS instead of unencrypted HTTP, by showing HTTPS sites further up the search results page.
Again, we use a serverless technology to get certificates for the website. We use AWS Certificate Manager and move on with our lives. Oh, and best of all, it’s free to use!
You Get What You Pay For
Not in this case. This is why serverless websites are awesome; you get all the benefits of economies of scale. You pay pennies for your tiny slice of the absolutely gigantic AWS pie. So yes, it’s very cheap, but you genuinely do get top drawer service.
We even use AWS CloudFront as a Content Delivery Network, or CDN. A CDN keeps copies of websites, and can send them to the person requesting the site super quickly, because their network is spread out all over the world. For example, someone in Melbourne, Australia, might be planning a trip to the Lake District in the UK, and might want to visit the Village Chippy. When they request the website, their computer doesn’t have to connect to a server in the UK. Nope, they connect to a CloudFront server in Melbourne, so they receive the site on their screen super-quickly.
See, I told you, serverless websites are awesome!!!