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Build your own Linux server on the cloud

In one hour, you can set up your own Linux server on Amazon's cloud. No kidding. It really is that easy. Here's how.

By Steven J. Vaughan-nichols,
July 05, 2012 04:15 PM ET - There are all kinds of Linux servers. The most complicated of these require you to be a Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE). Many of them require you to do more than download a distro, burn a CD, and install and boot up your new bare-bones servers. But, say you have a particular job for a server and the boss wants it done yesterday, what do you then? Well, one excellent choice is TurnKey Linux.

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With TurnKey Linux the only hardware you need is any device that can support a Web browser and a credit card. That's because, while you can run TurnKey Linux on an ordinary server or on VMWare, OpenStack, or OpenVZ, the mindlessly simple and fast way to do it is to spin up your own server on the Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2).

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Here's how it works.

TurnKey Linux, until recently, was built on Ubuntu Linux 10.04. Now, the core TurnKey Linux is in the process of being migrated to old, but rock solid Debian Squeeze (6.0.4) Linux distribution. But, you as someone who just needs a server Right Now don't need to worry about what's happening in the background. No, all you have to do is pick the appropriate TurnKey Linux server.

You see, TurnKey offers over 45 different, ready-to-run servers. These include a basic Linux Apache; MySQL, PHP/Python/Perl (LAMP) stack; multiple content management systems, such as Drupal, Joomla, and WordPress; communication systems, including Zimbra e-mail and ejabberd instant messaging; programming platforms; and basic office servers such as a file server and a primary domain controller for Windows networks. In short, no matter what you need a server for, TurnKey probably has one ready to go.

To get one of your own, here's how you go about doing it.

First, you need to register for an account. You can either do this manually or login using OpenID.

In either case, you'll next be moved to a display that will let you set up the resources on EC2 for your server. To do this you need to have an Amazon Web Services (AWS) account.

Setting up an AWS account is about as easy as setting up an Amazon account to buy books, In fact, if you have an Amazon account, you're already half way to getting an AWS account. Once you have an AWS account you have to sign up for EC2 itself.

You will be asked to provide a payment method for Amazon EC2 services. These are charged on an hourly basis (e.g., 9 cents per hour for a small cloud server).

Once that's done you'll need to get your AWS access credentials.

Once you have both your Access Key ID and your Secret Access Key, you're ready to move on to setting up your server on EC2. You simply cut and paste these alphanumeric keys into the field and then...

You pick out which level of service you want. Let's say you're just exploring. In that case you'll want either the Hobby option or try out micro servers. TurnKey Linux won't charge you a thing for its hobby option, but Amazon will if you don't use a micro-instance. If you want to pay the absolute minimum, go for the micro-server option. With it, Amazon won't charge you for your first year of use of micro-servers.

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