If you aren’t familiar, Amazon Workspaces provides an acceptable Windows PC “in the cloud” (desktop as a service), accessible from your laptop or even iPad, for as little $10 per month (plus an hourly charge).
I live the life of my dreams by working remotely, traveling, and still can earn a decent income. My biggest challenge is that I must have a fast internet connection, especially now that I am beginning to create more videos.
The essential advantage of an Amazon Workspaces PC is that it lives in the cloud, giving the machine access to the full bandwidth of Amazon Web Services. All I need to do is interact with the virtual screen, requiring far less bandwidth than downloading a large video (for example).
Having the Amazon Workspaces PC in the cloud means that once I have large files on the machine, passing them around to other cloud-based application is amazingly fast. The connection doesn’t require much bandwidth from my local setup, i.e., when I’m using my cellular connection (even using my iPad).
Here’s what I do after setting up the Amazon WorkSpaces machine:
- Install the Chrome Browser – I use Chrome for all my development and connect it to my Google account. My plugins, bookmarks, and saved passwords are then automagically synced with the workstation.
- Install Dropbox, allowing me to have access to all my working files
- Other tools I find useful include the Adobe Creative Suite
That’s pretty much it! We’re ready to rock.
Amazon Workspaces Workflow
Here’s an example workflow: using Vidnami, I create a video. Downloading the video to the Amazon Workspaces machine takes seconds. At that point, I can upload it to Amazon S3, Youtube, Wistia, my website, Vimeo, Facebook – wherever it needs to be – and the transfer is blazingly fast. Even video editing on the remote machine can work (albeit mileage varies).
My team can use this workflow for all kinds of files – not just video – and the machine is lightning fast because the files, once on the Amazon Workspaces machine, never needs to leave the cloud. All transfers are lightning fast!
For example, downloading a 58MB (relatively small) video edit was taking 20 minutes over the Internet at one of the AirBnB’s I was in (p.a.i.n.f.u.l.). However, it took seconds to download to the Amazon Workspaces machine, which I could access from my iPad (no laptop required!).
Bonus Workspaces Features
As a bonus, the rare software package that only works on Windows (I’m a Mac user) now lives on my Amazon Workspaces account, freeing up the bloat of having to run Windows on my Mac (either as a dual boot or virtual machine). I’ve been able to build complete mobile apps using Embarcadero (previously Borland) Delphi and C++ builder without springing for a PC.
And it gives me the full power of a desktop machine from my iPad, which is super cool.
One downside: while I’ve been able to play video from the Amazon Workspaces machine, most video games don’t work very well (or at all) due to the lack of a high-end graphics card and slow framerate. That said, for work-related activities done as a digital nomad … it’s a fantastic setup.
Shared Data & Software – Time Slicing the Workspace
One other benefit with Amazon Workspaces: if you work with a small team that needs access to more robust machines for some tasks, the team can choose to “time slice” the computer resources. For example, during the morning in California, I may do my video editing while a team member then does all the publication from the same machine later that evening – where the data and tools already live. Having such a shared workspace can work well on some types of projects. Just be careful not to have multiple people try to log in simultaneously (a shared Google calendar works well for managing such resources).
Amazon Workspaces Pricing
At the time of this writing, I’m using a mid-sized Performance Windows machine that costs about $19.00 per month to keep running, plus under 50 cents per hour to operate. With my team’s light usage, that’s running us a total of under $30/month.
The performance machine includes a 100 Gb SSD data disk (of which I currently have well over 70% free), two virtual CPUs, and about eight gigs of RAM. A pretty decent machine, overall. Since I only use the PC a few hours a month, I’m considering splurging on the Power or PowerPro models, which each give a bit more memory and power. You can find out more about the current Amazon Workspaces pricing on their page.