Many companies in the medical, security and financial fields have access to sensitive customer data that must be protected. Companies can sometimes be lax in their dealings with this data, and this attitude toward security is often the cause of large breaches. It can be difficult to find the perpetrators of these large breaches, especially if the company that was breached is not in the same country or under the same jurisdiction as the investigators. In an attempt to avoid allowing foreign nations to possess vulnerable information about citizens, many countries prohibit moving this information from its place of origin.

While this does increase security for an individual country, it also limits the customers that can be reached by one of these firms. Some nations, like the United States, have many powerful tech companies that other nations could benefit from — if their regulations didn’t prevent it. However, allowing data to leave a country can put the financial and physical security of the population at risk. This is an issue that the security world has been struggling with for a long time.

“AWS allows an individual or organization to put together a virtual machine that can receive commands and run code, which can then be deployed on Amazon’s servers in other parts of the world.”

In March 2011, Amazon unveiled a new program to the world: Amazon Web Services (AWS). Amazon Web Services allows an individual or organization to put together a virtual machine that can receive commands and run code, which can then be deployed on Amazon’s servers in other parts of the world. Using a system like this, data analytics companies can offer their services in areas with tough security requirements without having to have a physical location in the country.

Currently, there are 15 centers running AWS hosting services in 10 countries, six of which are within North America. Brazil, Ireland, Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan, India, Australia, Singapore and China all have one each. Of these, medical and personally identifiable data cannot leave the US, Canada, the UK, the European Union or Australia. However, because AWS centers exist in these countries, any company around the world can still do business within their the virtual spaces.

As for the business side of things, Amazon Web Services is incredibly popular and profitable. In 2017, they are expected to pull in over $16 billion in revenue. The taxes generated on this revenue go to the country that the program is running in. It makes sense for individual countries to offer credits and permits to Amazon because it will have an almost instant financial return.

To get started with the program, customers get in contact with AWS and receive tokens that represent them. A token contains information on who should be using it, what permissions it contains and what time period it is valid for. The customer then uses this token when they make requests, which allows Amazon to tell who is doing what and prevents customers from accessing data that does not belong to them. Previously, server time was rented out on an hourly basis to customers. On Sept. 18, 2017, Amazon Web Services announced that customers would be billed per second of used resources. This is actually good news for customers, as it will likely save them money and free up systems for use. Rather than pay for (and receive use for) the full hour, regardless of how much customers use, they can now rent servers by the second, paying and using just what they need.

diagram of the Cognito process
One of the many tools offered inside of AWS, Amazon Cognito allows you to add user sign-up, sign-in, and data sync to your apps in a matter of minutes. Source: Amazon Cognito

If you’d like to tinker with AWS, and the many affiliated services they offer, you can sign up for a free license. You will be given a year of free access to some of the most powerful tools it has to offer. Take the time to familiarize yourself with these tools, even if you don’t continue your subscription, as programs like this seem to be the future of hosting technology. AWS has also been known to grant large credits to promising startups or research companies. You can use the system as a VPN, as a photo backup, as a calculation machine for intensive research, or just to poke around. Amazon Web Services offers a wide variety of innovative tools for anyone interested in virtualization scaleable production.

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Editor’s Note: This article was originally written in November 2017, and this version has been published from archives.