Amazon EC2 vs Lightsail. Which one is better?

In this article we are going to compare Amazon EC2 vs Lightsail in terms of their usage conditions, benefits and pricing model, so you could be able to choose the right option under the given circumstances.

First, let me go through a short introduction of each.

What is Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2)

Like any other cloud based computing platform, EC2 provides computing capability in one of world’s best cloud environment. It comprises of virtual servers, security groups, networking and storage.

What is Amazon Lightsail:

Amazon Lightsail is a pre configured environment, which provides everything needed to launch and deploy a project. In simple words, you can say that Lightsail is a subset of EC2 which offers a previously set options to choose, according to the project requirement, including SSD based storage, DNS management, static ip, computing environment and above all of these, a fixed price.

Here is a brief comparison of Amazon EC2 vs Lighsail.

It depends on the situation:

Use Lightsail if:

You are a startup

If you are a startup and new to web hosting and specially cloud computing, and want to run your blog or business website, aws lightsail service is ideal for you. You can choose pre configured infrastructures with popular frameworks and CMS like wordpress, joomla, node.js etc. Startup phase is like a struggling phase where you get limited resources, limited funds and limited experience. In this point diverging your focus to learn cloud methodologies, complex linux commands, getting help that which service is better and which is not. Rather than doing this, it is always a good idea to focus on your idea and give complete attention to it.

If you have a limited blog or site:

You are blogging for much time or have any other website but if it is on a small scale Lightsail is a good option for you. It is easy to setup and you don’t have to go from complex processes involved in setting up an EC2 instance like setting security groups or how much RAM or processor you required or setting up a cloudwatch or other stuff. Lightsail instances are pre configured for small to medium sites and even established sites and apps can get benefit from that. Just select your region and select package according to your bandwidth and that’s it.

If you like simplicity:

Simplicity doesn’t mean lack of knowledge or expertise. I define it as organizing the things in a most efficient and simple manner. If you are fond of simplicity, I will recommend Lightsail because it is simple, to the point and easy to use interface. In other words you can say that it is more user friendly than EC2.

You have come to aws from an old school shared hosting platform:

Cloud based systems, especially aas is a complete different and most advanced platform as compared to a normal shared platform that you have used before.

On a normal hosting or shared hosting more than one website is hosted on a single server which share common resources. On the other hand, in cloud based hosting the website is hosted on series of servers and in the instance an issue occurs, the site can easily be transferred to another server. Thus, on the cloud based platform you will get a low downtime.

Lightsail is a complete package comprising of a VPC, DNS management, a static IP, storage which is SSD based and data transfer (which is asked free, but not completely free) and you do not have to setup any security group. While in EC2 you have to set it up from scratch.

You don’t have a seasonal traffic.

If you have a steady traffic, then lightsail is a good option. Seasonal traffic is the traffic which gets increased or decreased according to a specific session of a year. In such a situation the potential resources required to run an app or website are unpredictable. They may require an upgrade or downgrade according to the situation. But if this is not the case, then lightsail is good otherwise don’t go for it.

You don’t have that much understanding of cloud based infrastructure yet.

Cloud based systems, especially aws have a unique infrastructure as compared to other deployment options. They have DNS, load balancers, lot of options for instances, images, snapshots, health monitors (not yours, but the system itself) and dozens of other options. Like security groups, etc. If you don’t have that much knowledge and you just want to give it a try, start from lightsail. Deploy your app there and then go for learning how aws offered services can help you reaching to the next level. Similarly Lightsail interface is also very simple and easy to use for a newcomer, but it is limited, as compared to EC2.

In the comparison of Amazon EC2 vs Lightsail,

Use EC2 if:

You need a specific distribution

If you are looking for a specific distribution and it is not available on lightsail, you can use EC2 for that purpose where you can find your ideal one. Just go to your EC2 console and click on the Create Instance button, as shown in the image below. Similarly, Lightsail also don’t offer you to change instance type.

You are coming to aws from a VPS or Dedicated server background.

VPS works like the cloud based system, but the only and the major difference between these two is, on a VPS, if the server destroys, the connection to the server will be lost and data could be wasted if not backed up properly. While on the other hand, in a cloud environment, your app is shared and hosted across multiple zones also called edges. So, if server on one edge fails web app is picked from another edge and then on the damaging end, the new server is deployed. So, if you are a user of a VPS or dedicated server before then you would be feeling comfortable with cloud based platform because you are already familiar with server setup from scratch, software installation, sftp etc.

Lightsail instances are created from t2 family of EC2 instances. But EC2 offers more than that which you can choose according to the need of project.

So, in terms of Amazon EC2 vs Lightsail, you should prefer EC2, if you are from a VPS background.

You have a seasonal traffic.

If you have a seasonal traffic and you need sometime more server resources and sometime less, then you can use EC2 where you can fine tune the resources easily, according to the requirements. While on lightsail resources limit is static.

You need special security groups settings.

If your app needs a special virtually existing firewall, you should probably use EC2. You can apply same configured group to different instances while can also create a unique group for each instance. So, there is a lot of flexibility in it and even you can assign a linux based security group to all instances. While there are some limitations to it in Lightsail environment. Along with this, you can allow ssh access to only your IP, while Lightsail do not provide this feature.

Size of the app is unexpected.

There is an expectancy of the growth in the number of files and file size in future. On lightsail you can also add more disks to increase storage volume, but adding other resources accordingly are not that much easy.

You need more firewall controls:

EC2 offers more firewall controls than Lightsail as you only have access to specific ports in it, but on the other hand, EC2 gives you a capability of white-listing IP ranges.

And finally, the price

The pricing model of EC2 is very flexible as compared to Lightsail. This is basically because of total control of adding and removing resources with great ease.

EC2 vs Amazon comparison and statistics.

Cost per month ($)

CPU Cores

Disk Space

Data Transfer (GB)



I hope, this article on Amazon EC2 vs Lightsail has given you much information regarding the both and when which one is best to use. Now a days a lot of websites, apps and businesses are moving to cloud servers as they provide better backup options, ideal environment for teams as collaboration is easy, flexible pricing model, assets can be controlled remotely and above all of this, are highly secured. My suggestion and conclusion of the above written article is, if you are new to amazon web services, try lightsail first and then keep exploring EC2. In last, best of luck from me to your journey with cloud based computing.

Further Resources:

I highly recommend to go through these valuable resources in order to build better foundation in AWS technology and learning more about EC2 and Lightsail.

AWS: The Complete Guide From Beginners To Advanced For Amazon Web Services

Programming Amazon EC2: Survive your Success

Amazon Virtual Private Cloud: User Guide



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My name is Nohman Habib and I am a web developer with over 10 years of experience, programming in Joomla, Wordpress, WHMCS, vTiger and Hybrid Apps. My plan to start is to share my experience and expertise with others. Here my basic area of focus is to post tutorials primarily on Joomla development, HTML5, CSS3 and PHP.

Nohman Habib


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