Host Your PHP Application in AWS – The Complete Guide

Available Options to Host a PHP App in AWS

TLDR AWS PHP App Hosting Options

  • EC2: Using an EC2 instance for deployment comes with operational overhead.
  • Beanstalk: To avoid operational overhead, go with Amazon Beanstalk.
  • Fargate: Amazon Fargate with ECS and EKS is quite efficient for multiple applications like microservices.
  • Platform-as-a-Service: (PaaS) helps you deploy effortlessly by managing your hosting – similar to Beanstalk.

We recommend 3 options to host your PHP Application in AWS. You can set up an EC2 instance yourself, use Elastic Beanstalk, or use AWS Fargate.

This article explores options to host a PHP application in AWS. It features three options for hosting a PHP website on AWS, including EC2, Elastic Beanstalk, and Fargate. This article is an overview, and it doesn’t walk you through deploying applications – that’s something we will tackle in the upcoming articles.

This article is a foundation for the following articles. These articles will include a step-by-step walkthrough of these approaches. So, if you want to have solid ground, consider reading this article.

Ways to Host a PHP Application in AWS

Deploy PHP application on AWS EC2

Amazon Elastic Cloud Compute (EC2) is a virtual computing capacity in the cloud that is secure and scalable. Amazon offers immense leverage to choose the computing resource type, the operating system, and a configurable firewall (aka security groups). On top of that, Amazon’s Identity and Access Management (IAM) provides a layer of security and takes care of authentication and authorization so that your EC2 instances are always in safe hands.

Amazon EC2 Logo
Amazon EC2 Logo

You can also choose the pricing model that suits best to you – On-demand, Spot, Dedicated and Shared instances. There is also a free tier available.

Host a PHP App in AWS
AWS EC2 Dashboard

Using EC2 for hosting a PHP website on AWS means you have the compute resource. It is your job to configure it, install necessary packages, upload your application’s source code, and finally spin up the server. Besides, you will require to create a database and object storage too. 

Although AWS provides and maintains all the resources for you, it leaves some of the configuration and setup tasks for you. Depending on a case-to-case basis, having a clean slate to start with may be ideal, but some developers would need an abstraction over that too.

And that’s why we jump to the next section, where we see how Elastic Beanstalk goes a step further to make our deployment more effortless.

Pros

  • Complete freedom over your infrastructure.
  • Choose a platform of your choice.
  • Fine-grain control over network and security.
  • More flexibility and scalability.

Cons

  • operational overhead & server administration is involved.
  • Requires more expertise and experience.
  • Time-consuming to build the infrastructure.

When to host a PHP application in AWS using a standard EC2 deploy?

Recommended If

  • You want the freedom to control the lowermost infrastructure configurations.
  • You have SysOps and CloudOps experience and expertise.
  • You want to test your MVP and need minimal setup for that.
  • You want a highly flexible and scalable solution.

Not Recommended If

  • You want to minimalize operational overhead.
  • You lack experience and expertise in cloud computing.
  • You have a smaller team that lacks server management experience.

Host a PHP Application in AWS with Elastic Beanstalk

AWS Elastic Beanstalk is a platform-as-a-service, and contrary to infrastructure-as-a-service, it is more than just a compute resource in the cloud. It is a managed service that makes your deployments easier. You only need to upload your source code, and Beanstalk handles the rest.

Host a PHP Application in AWS
Amazon Elastic Beanstalk Logo

It automates the task of server configuration, scaling, and load balancing, which is otherwise your responsibility if you go with the former approach of using EC2 instances. There’s no additional cost to Beanstalk, and you only pay for the underlying resources.

Beanstalk supports famous languages and frameworks – PHP, Java, Node.js, Ruby, Python, .NET, Go, and Docker. You can deploy these on well-known servers like Nginx, Apache, Passenger, and IIS.

AWS Elastic Beanstalk Dashboard
AWS Elastic Beanstalk Dashboard

Another important takeaway is that it allows you to choose the type of resources and software before creating the deployment. It lets you monitor application health based on 40+ metrics and uses efficient monitoring and logging solutions.

So long story short, if you want to get over operational overhead and speed up deployments, Elastic Beanstalk is the way to go.

Pros

  • Easy-to-use service for deploying applications.
  • Requires less expertise and experience.
  • Easily integrate with CI/CD pipelines.
  • Time and cost-efficient.
  • It gives you the freedom to choose underlying resources.

Cons

  • Less control over the custom infrastructure.
  • Integrating third-party services can be daunting.
  • Orchestrating multiple applications can be challenging.
  • Custom configurations and complex extension files can affect its performance.

When to host a PHP application in AWS using Elastic Beanstalk?

Recommended If

  • You want effortless deployment without having to worry about operational overhead.
  • You don’t want to spend on IT and Cloud training and onboarding.
  • You have a relatively simple application: a blog site, an API, or a front-end application.

Not Recommended If

  • If your application uses complex task and messaging queues.
  • Your application relies heavily on third-party integrations.
  • You have microservices or distributed applications.

Continue Reading: Articles on Deploying PHP Apps into AWS Elastic Beanstalk

Interested in reading more about AWS Elastic Beanstalk for your PHP app? We’ve written additional articles specific to managing, hosting & deploying PHP Apps into Beanstalk. Click on the following links to dig deeper into maximizing Beanstalk for your application.

Host a Dockerized PHP Application in AWS Fargate

AWS Fargate is a serverless computing service that lets you upload dockerized PHP applications using Amazon Elastic Container Service (ECS) and Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS). Though container and container orchestration is yet another complex topic, we will tackle it in future articles. This approach is helpful if you want to deploy multiple applications, such as microservices.

AWS Fargate Logo
AWS Fargate Logo

Another buzzword is serverless, and the name speaks for itself. You don’t have to worry about provisioning, monitoring, and scaling your servers, but all you need is to deploy the containers on Fargate, and the rest is not your headache.

Host a PHP App in AWS
AWS ECS Cluster with Fargate

Pros

  • Serverless architecture.
  • Creates infrastructure using docker templates.
  • Easy to deploy and migrate.
  • Ideal for multiple and distributed applications.

Cons

  • Must have a containerized app
  • Shouldn’t use standard PHP sessions in containers
  • Knowledge of serverless and containers are expected

When to host a PHP application in AWS using Fargate?

Recommended If

  • You have distributed applications with orchestration requirements.
  • You have experience and expertise in Serverless, cloud-native and similar technologies.
  • You want serverless architecture for your application.

Not Recommended If

  • You’re an early-stage startup trying to validate your product.
  • You want fine-grained control over the infrastructure resources.
  • Legacy systems with heavy usage of PHP sessions
  • Legacy apps that aren’t containerized

Host a PHP Application in AWS using Platform-as-a-Service

There are a bunch of platform-as-a-service options available that help you deploy effortlessly. They use the computing resources of the popular platforms but provide a layer of abstraction. With PaaS, you don’t have to worry about server configuration, monitoring, management, and scaling because they are already managed for you – much similar to Elastic Beanstalk.

To name a few – Cloudways, Heroku, Laravel Forge, and Kinsta.

We have already seen the upsides, downsides, and use cases for Elastic Beanstalk, which is PaaS, so consider reading that.

But What is Cloud Hosting?

Cloud hosting is all about virtually using a third party’s computing resources. You don’t have to worry about procuring and managing those resources. These third-party vendors provide Infrastructure-as-Service (IaaS), meaning you can use their resources on-demand and pay as you go.

Think of it as renting a resource without worrying about physically placing it in your space and doing all the hard stuff yourself, like adding up more storage or processors or setting up complicated software like operating systems and firewalls from scratch.

So, cloud hosting takes alot of heavy load, potentially saving you time and money. The following section overviews the advantages of cloud hosting.

The Top Three Cloud Hosting Platforms

The Cloud computing industry is hot these days as many companies and startups are migrating to the cloud, but the top three that stand out are

  1. Amazon Web Services (AWS)
  2. Microsoft Azure
  3. Google Cloud

The list is not sorted randomly but in order of the market shares by Q4 of 2021, as the following bar chart suggests.

Host a PHP App in AWS
Courtesy: Financial Mirror

As the bar chart shows, there are other cloud platforms besides the major players, but we will be focus on AWS. However, you can do your research and pick the one that best suits your needs. We chose AWS because of the trust factor and reliability since it is the oldest cloud provider and has already accumulated a huge customer base.

Cost is one of the primary concerns, and you should always be aware of the costs, and honestly speaking, AWS is expensive but definitely worth it – not advertising it but sharing experience as a customer using it for a long time now.

Alternatives to Cloud Hosting

There’s a spectrum of hosting options where shared hosting falls on one extreme and dedicated hosting falls on the other. In the middle, we see VPS and Cloud Hosting. I love the analogies made in the image below.

Types of web hosting
Courtesy: DoubleMesh

VPS could be an alternative to cloud hosting, but yet again, there are many factors to consider before choosing either. So what is VPS, and what are the best use cases?

What is Virtual Private Server (VPS)?

A Virtual Private Server (VPS) is a server instance, like AWS EC2. VPS providers use virtualization software that logically divides one physical server into different logical server instances that customers can purchase. You apparently get dedicated resources, which obviously opens doors for high customization and control of the computing resources.

Some well-known VPS providers are Hostinger, GoDaddy, BlueHost, A2 Hosting, InMotion, HostGator, and many others, infact.

Recommended If

  • You want to have fine-grained control like an on-premise physical server.
  • You have expertise in IT and DevOps.
  • You have steady bandwidth requirements.
  • You can find cost-effective plans cheaper than cloud hosting.

Not Recommended If

  • You have customer-centric or time-critical applications.
  • You want immense scalability and uptimes.
  • Your application has heavy network traffic.
  • You have experience and expertise in cloud computing.

Benefits of Cloud Hosting

Speed and Scalability

Speed is crucial, especially for startups where you must take your MVP to the market before your competition. If you wait for weeks and months just to set up initial infrastructure and then spend another few weeks scaling it up, you may need to re-evaluate your strategy and think about cloud hosting.

Setting up all you need and making your product go live takes no more than minutes. Apart from that, most cloud hosting platforms use intelligent software to scale your computing resources and meet the changing demands without affecting up-times.

Efficiency

Time and tide wait for none, but you can turn the odds in your favor using your money and time efficiently. Cloud hosting platforms let you purchase resources on-demand with an opportunity to scale anytime. So, you need not invest heavily in the early stages and scale up as efficiently as possible.

Besides, cloud platforms look after the IT and security-related complexities for you, so you don’t have to worry about it nor have to spend on hiring IT and security resources to look after the on-premise resources otherwise.

Safety & Recovery

Cloud vendors like AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google, and other popular platforms have data centers across the regions, so you’re not confined to a single server or data center. So, providing backups and substitutes is yet another win of cloud hosting. Consequently, your infrastructure and data are always immune to any mishap. 

Focus on your Product

Cloud hosting takes away alot of hard work and lets you focus on your product. These cloud hosting platforms are at your disposal to support operational excellence, efficiency, security, cost optimization, and reliability. With all these aspects taken care of, you have an opportunity to focus entirely on your business.

Cloud Hosting vs On-Premise – Who’s the Winner?

On-premise hosting is when you deploy your organization’s infrastructure in-house. Though after all the benefits of cloud hosting, this may sound odd as to why an organization would opt for in-house. Some businesses in highly regulated industries where data privacy is critical may consider on-premise—for instance – government agencies and educational institutes.

For businesses and startups, I think on-premise is overkill. That’s why some really popular startups and enterprises use cloud solutions – Examples are Airbnb, Uber, Reddit, Heroku, and many others – check out Amazon’s startup wall.

Host a PHP Application in AWS
Amazon Startup Wall

PHP in 2022 – Is PHP Outdated?

“Change is the new constant,” and it has never been so accurate, especially when it comes to software development. Every time you see a new programming language or a shiny new framework that beats the benchmarks of the already popular player in the industry, you feel as if it was worth the effort and time you spent learning a framework just to see it kneeling to the latest cool in the market.

The ever-changing software development landscape can be overwhelming sometimes, and it is often challenging to catch up with the change. The best you can do is to explore what problems a tool tries to solve and what are the use cases because there is no silver bullet. 

Similarly, there are many tools and frameworks out there for web development, each with its upsides and downsides. PHP is one of the mature languages for web development, but its reputation has always been heavily opinionated and usually looked down upon because it doesn’t sound as cool as the new leads in the industry – though the latter may be better in some aspects that doesn’t mean PHP is dead.

FuelingPHP features an article that shares some insights and reasons why PHP is still relevant in 2022. One statistic reveals that 77.4% use PHP on the server side. Besides, PHP’s Laravel is also popular and has a fair share in the figure mentioned. On top of that, we have content management systems like WordPress and E-commerce plugins powered by PHP.

Host a PHP Application in AWS
Courtesy: WebJuggle

So, it is highly likely that you have made a wonderful application using PHP, and you’re all set for deployment but wondering what options are available to host a PHP application in the cloud. We hope much has been clear by now, and you will be able to choose what’s right for your product and business.

Conclusion – Host a PHP Application in AWS

Thus far, we have learned about cloud hosting, its benefits, and why it is a win over in-house infrastructure. We have seen three different options to host  PHP applications in AWS. The first option is using EC2 instances, which incurs alot of operational overhead. To avoid that, we can resort to Amazon Elastic Beanstalk and other PaaS options, which are easy-to-use services for deploying various applications.

Finally, we see the option for deploying containerized PHP applications and going serverless with AWS Fargate. Though this article doesn’t include any walkthroughs, it is an introductory overview and builds up the momentum for the upcoming articles.

Liked this article. Stay tuned for more at FuelingPHP.

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