How I Get Free AWS

How indeed?

By simply attending Amazon Web Services (AWS) events.

That’s it?

Yes! No hacks. No scams. Nothing shady. 100% legit. Once I completed the event and a few requirements, AWS gave me credits. These AWS Credits can then be redeemed and used for their products and services. For my needs it pretty much takes my costs down to zero for a period of time.

How much is it worth?

I suppose it depends on the event. So far I’ve gotten USD $25 to $50 worth of credits. Not bad. For someone else that is peanuts. Right? For me it helps a lot.

I did mention requirements. Don’t worry. Most of the time it is easy peasy based on my experiences. Requirements like completing at least one session in the event. A session can be made up of a series of 20 minutes, or longer, presentations at scheduled intervals. An AWS event can span half a day or more, and there are several presenters covering different topics all broken down into different sessions. The other requirement is usually answering a survey. Very short ones.

When this all started

It all started when I was in Singapore. I somehow stumbled upon this AWS workshop they were offering that time. Open to anyone. No registration fee involved. Just bring yourself and optionally a laptop. I cannot remember how exactly I learned about it. It was a multi-hour event during a weekday, so I asked my boss if I could go attend it without having to take a leave. They let me. So off I went to said event at some Singapore university. Of course I didn’t go there for the credits. I didn’t even know about it that time. I was there to learn something new. Also, I’ve always wanted to go to such tech gatherings. Maybe gain some new acquaintances in the process.

That affair was many things, but as I recall, one of the technologies discussed heavily was Node.js and how one can leverage it on AWS cloud. They had several speakers talk about AWS features and Node.js. Then there were fellow developers to walk the attendees through the basics, with demos and hands-on lab exercises that one can participate in.

It was optional to participate, because the exercises had to be done on your own AWS account and the steps involved were not free. But they promised they’ll give away AWS credits to cover it all. True to their promise, at the end of the workshop they gave me a promotion code that I was able to redeem for credits on my personal AWS account. The AWS services that needed to be used in the exercises didn’t cost much at all. I mean come on. Maybe an hour or two worth of lab exercises would not cost that much on AWS. The value they gave in return was worth so much more.

Does it have to be all in-person events and lab exercises?

No. I’ve joined online events too. Also for free. Mainly due to the pandemic, everything has to be done online (For now. Which I hope will change soon and get back to normal). In these online events I’ve attended, it was mostly just listening to speakers, watching as people present their stuff, and learning from their implementations and demos. Most of the participation was in Q and A after or during the presentation.

Every now and then AWS would send out invites by email to one of their events. And there are many in a year. Things like conferences, tech talks or workshops. Just about anything AWS-related. Their products and services being showcased – introduced and demoed – and maybe something more advanced. Other times they invite companies from different industries to talk about how they leveraged AWS to create applications that run their IT needs.

So I am in the tech industry. I choose the events that I can get the most out of, considering these events do take up time. Most of the AWS events I’ve joined are, of course, about the Cloud and tech-related.

That’s the caveat. The currency you have to be willing to give. Time.

The other thing with these online events is that I didn’t get the AWS credits straight away. It takes about a month or so. For the in-person events I attended in Singapore, they gave it immediately at the end of the occasion. I don’t mind the waiting. Beggars can’t be choosers. 😅 Then again I’m not in this just to beg and ask for scraps. Honestly attending said events to learn something, probably to get updated on what is going on with the tech industry right now, or what crazy stuff they’re doing out there in the Cloud. And, well, these credits have been there for the taking. Then why not?

Can I use it for anything on AWS?

It does have limitations. First is that it can only be used for a specific list of products and services. The last time I checked that list came down to about 170 (Right now AWS has well over 200 products + services). If you’re mainly using EC2, RDS, or ELB you’re covered. I know EBS and volume Snapshots are included too. I regularly maintain weekly snapshots. My bank got billed USD $0.00 for periods when I have AWS Credits. Some sub-types of a product may not. For example, Amazon S3 has many storage classes but only Amazon S3 Glacier Deep Archive is in the list. I’ve included the list below in a text file.

Secondly, the cap is in the value of the credits. Obviously. As long as there are still credits to cover the bills then I am good. Whatever credit is left unused in one month will then be used the next month.

Is there an expiration?

Yes it does expire. Expiry dates may vary. The latest I got expires well over a year. About 15 months if my maths is correct.

Is this part of the Free Tier?

The AWS Free Tier offering that a NEW account is eligible for when signing up to AWS for the first time is different. That is automatically applied to new AWS accounts. The cost-free usage expires 1 year after the initial account creation regardless of whether included products and services have been used or not.

This one also is a little bit more restricted though. For one I think it only allows up to 60 AWS products and services. There are other restrictions. An example is say they limit EC2 and RDS hours to only 700-ish per month. Anything above that will be billed to you. Stay within and you’ll be fine. Any unused hours will not be carried over to the next month. It’s not cumulative. That always resets every month.

AWS has a built-in billing alarm functionality that can be configured to send alerts specific to the Free Tier usage. Make use of it. That should give you enough time to decide to throttle back, or push through with the chance of getting billed for anything over the free tier limit.

Conclusion

This is a good way to save money if you are using AWS for personal reasons. Attending 1 or 2 events in a year can net me a few months of zero charges to my bank. My usage is quite low, only a few dollars a month. But translated to Philippine Peso, that currency conversion adds up. Unfortunately, AWS does not have PHP currency supported last I checked. Maybe I should recheck that just to be sure.

If I really want to save, I need to learn more about AWS Reserved Instances soon. I’ve heard about that for a long time but never bothered about it. I am an AWS user for several years now. Continuously. No breaks. All this time I’ve only paid for On-Demand Instances. That is very wrong. If I haven’t made use of those cost saving features that AWS has been offering for so long, I’ve practically just been throwing away my money all these years. The savings is said to be huge. Now I need to get in there and read up the fine print so I can decide whether Reserved Instances is the correct approach, or something else. AWS offers other ways to help cut down costs.

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