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How to Use Alibaba Cloud Starter Package

One of the greatest benefits of cloud computing is that you can be up and running very quickly. In this tutorial, we’ll show you how to get started with Alibaba Cloud by using some of the options for creating Elastic Compute Service (ECS) instances from our ready-made templates that require no additional configuration.

You can find out more about the options available at www.alibabacloud.com/starter-packages/general.

You’ll need an Alibaba Cloud account set up with a valid payment method in place, to make full use of this tutorial. If you don’t already have one, set one up before continuing. As a new account holder, you will also get USD $300 of free credit, although this credit can’t be used to pay for the special low-priced starter packages discussed below. But as they start from around $1 per week for a full server instance with root access, this hopefully won’t be a problem

Choose Your Starting Point

To get started, head to www.alibabacloud.com/starter-packages/general in your browser of choice. As you can see, there’s a full range of server sizes available with a single click.

Start with the hosting location. Leave this at the default setting unless you particularly want to specify either mainland China or Hong Kong. If your server is mainly to be used for serving content to people in mainland China then it makes sense to choose this location, but be aware that you will need to apply for an Internet Content Provider (ICP) license in this case. If you choose to host in Hong Kong then you won’t need an ICP license, but this isn’t recommended for high-traffic sites that are primarily designed to serve the Chinese market.

It’s important to make this choice correctly, as you can’t change it after setting up a server instance. Although if you’re merely creating some temporary test instances right now in order to explore the service, making the correct choice isn’t so important.

If you do need an ICP license, Alibaba Cloud offers free assistance in helping you to assemble all the necessary documentation and make your application. You’ll find details in a separate video and tutorial.

You can choose between a Linux and Windows operating system for your server. Windows instances are slightly more expensive as they include a full Windows Server license, with server prices from $9 to $99 per month. Linux servers range from as little as $4.50 a month to $79.

Let’s Get Started!

Click on the Get Started button under the description of the $4.50 server package and log into your Alibaba Cloud account.

You’ll now see further details of the packages available. Click on some of the options that interest you, and observe the “package cost” at the bottom of the screen that will show you the total monthly cost for your choice.

To choose your operating system, scroll down the screen to see the options available.

There are nine configurations that provide just a base system environment, ready for you to install the software of your choice. The Marketplace Image tab shows many more images, such as ones with WordPress on LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP) already installed. But for this tutorial we’ll stick with a simple base image in order to get up and running with minimal additional configuration.

Choose one of the nine operating system options, and check the Package Cost indication one more time to ensure that you’re happy with your choice.

Most options can be changed later via the Management Console, so don’t worry too much right now. However, as mentioned earlier, the datacenter region and zone can’t be changed after a server instance is created.

You’ll notice that the basic version of Server Guard is selected. There is no charge for this. It provides Trojan detection and abnormal login warnings, as well as blocking brute-force password cracking attempts. So, unless you specifically don’t want this extra level of built-in security, leave the option selected.

The Pricing Model allows selection of the auto-renew option. By default, auto-renew is selected so your ECS instance will be automatically renewed until you cancel it. Deselecting this will terminate the service at the end of the chosen period.

If you know that this server is purely for a short-term test, you might want to de-select the auto-renew option. Otherwise, leave it enabled to ensure that you don’t inconvenience users or testers of your server if it were to be deleted.

Related Products

Look back at the top of the screen and you’ll see the Related Products option. If you wish, you can add additional services to your ECS instance. Server Load Balancer lets you spread the processing load of a heavily-used website across multiple servers so that your users always experience top-class performance. ApsaraDB is a managed relational database service, available for MySQL, SQL Server and PostgreSQL, that frees you from having to manage, patch and back up your own database server.

Object Storage Service (OSS) is an easy-to-use encrypted-by-default service that enables you to store, backup and archive large amounts of data in the cloud. ApsaraDB for Memcache improves the response of dynamic websites or applications by relieving the load on the backend database, as data is cached in RAM.

Check the final price once more, then click Buy Now.

The upper section of the screen shows you your chosen ECS configuration, plus data transfer.

Before you place the order, click on the blue links to read the End User Licensing Agreement, the Terms of Service and the General Terms (they will each open in a new tab or window so you won’t lose your order).

Once everything is to your liking, click on Place Order.

Review your choices on the final screen and then press Pay to formally place your order.

You have now set up a simple, pre-configured ECS server instance on Alibaba Cloud.

You will use the Management Console to manage all of your Alibaba Cloud server instances and other products, including this one, so let’s take a look at the console now.

Introducing the Management Console

On the screen pictured below, you can access the console by clicking the Console button at the top.

In the future, you access the console by logging into your Alibaba Cloud account at www.alibabacloud.com and then clicking the Console link in the dropdown menu at the top right hand side of the screen.

The Console home screen has four main areas. At the top is the message center and billing management. If new messages are indicated it’s a good idea to read them, as they may be important.

The left hand side of the console shows new products and services that you may wish to explore.

The right hand side of the console shows news and promotions from Alibaba Cloud.

The center area of the console is used to initialize, configure and manage your services. In this instance, we have just purchased an ECS base configuration and we need to manage it. So, under the Elastic Computing section, click Elastic Compute Service.

For each of the Alibaba Cloud hosting regions, you can see how many instances you currently have running. This is a good opportunity to check that your instance is running in the correct region. Remember that web servers hosted in mainland China will require your company to obtain an ICP license.

Click on the Running link:

This will open up the instance list for the region:

The first thing you’ll probably want to do is rename your instance to something more relevant than the default name which it was assigned when it was created. As you move your cursor near the name, a clickable Edit icon will appear.

The screen also shows other basic information about the instance, including the hosting region and zone, status, configuration, and network type. There are also two IP addresses listed – the internal and external ones. There are also details of the billing method and, if you didn’t opt for auto-renewal, there may be a notification that your instance will expire soon.

On the right hand side are options to Manage, Connect, Change Configuration, Renew, Stop and Start your instance, and some others too. The Manage option presents a helpful dashboard on the selected instance, covering detailed performance, disk performance, snapshots and security groups. Security groups are sets of firewall rules that allow access to your server. Without any security groups in place, no one except you will be able to access your instance.

You will probably now want to connect to your instance, so click on the Connect link. Make sure you have a pen and paper handy because the first time you click this link you’ll be shown the VNC password for connecting to the instance. This password will only be shown to you once, so it’s vital that you make a note of it somewhere safe.

Once you’ve done this, click on the Connect link again and enter the VNC password which you noted earlier.

You should find that you now have a terminal command prompt, which indicates that your server is up and running correctly.

You don’t have any user accounts yet so you won’t be able to log in. Use the Disconnect option from the left hand side of the screen. In a subsequent tutorial, you’ll learn how to create user accounts, configure your server, and set up security groups (firewall rules) to allow access to your server via its external IP address.

An RDS Instance

Back at the main console page, the options for ApsaraDB and the Object Storage Service are clear to see, located in the middle of the screen.

If you want to set up an ApsaraDB instance, click on the ApsaraDB for RDS option. Then click on the Create Instance button at the top of the screen.

This shows the familiar collection of options we saw earlier when creating our ECS instance. You can choose Subscription or Pay-As-You-Go billing. You can also choose a datacenter region and zone, and your required database engine (MySQL, Microsoft SQL Server or PostgreSQL).

You also need to choose an instance type and an amount of storage.

As you can see, the instance types available range from very small (single CPU core, 1GB) to very large indeed (60 cores and 470GB). The prices vary accordingly, which you can see by clicking on one of the options and looking at the Instance Cost at the bottom of the screen.

For now, you probably don’t need a separate database instance so you can simply close the screen and return to the console. If you do want to try creating a database instance, you’ll need to know which database engine you require. And to avoid unnecessary expense, choose the smallest instance and storage size that will suffice for now – you can always change them later.

It makes sense to choose the same hosting location and zone for your database as for your other ECS instance, if they will be used as part of the same system. This ensures that communication between them will be as fast as possible.

Get to Know Your Console

The Management Console is your central portal for all of your activity on Alibaba Cloud and you’ll find yourself spending a lot of time there. It allows you to track usage and costs, monitor performance, create and delete instances, buy new services, configure new products and upgrade existing ones. The messages section, and the news bulletins area on the right hand side, are your link to ensuring that you don’t miss key announcements, alerts, updates, warnings and offers.

We recommend that you visit the console regularly, and especially at the start and end of every login session, to ensure that you continually get the best from your Alibaba Cloud investment.

That’s the end of this tutorial. Be sure to check online for new ones. Now, to get started with your first ECS instance, just head to www.alibabacloud.com/starter-packages/general in order to work through this tutorial if you haven’t done so already.