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Swizec Teller - a geek with a hatswizec.com

How a $12 AWS bill powers a $50k business

Friend, ever seen this meme about the bloat of VC-backed startups?

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It's a running joke in the industry. Startup gets funded, startup shovels money into the AWS furnace, Bezos gets rich.

Graybeard sysadmins chuckle.

"Lulz only five bazillion users?? I could run that from my PC in the basement. These people ... <eyeroll>"

We'll talk about that on Friday. Today I wanted to talk about my AWS bill. A whopping \$12 per month. ๐Ÿ˜›

Serverless cost optimization

Value your time

That's what an AWS billing expert had to say about optimizing for cost. If your bill is less than \$10k/mo, it's not worth optimizing.

๐Ÿคฏ

He's right. How much is your time worth? What about your focus?

Would you rather build your project, launch-and-forget, then get back to work ... ooooor spend 20 minutes every other week because your server's down again? I'm sure you like to fret every moment of every day about the alarm that says "Shit's on fire, user can't do the thing"

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these chapters gave me knowledge which is sufficient to build real products and the hand-drawn diagrams and high-leveled descriptions gave me the feeling that i don't have any critical "knowledge gaps"

Launching soon, be the first to know.

Join over 10,000 engineers just like you already improving their careers with my letters, workshops, courses, and talks. โœŒ๏ธ

That's advanced for a side-project. Usually it's a user that complains on twitter. You had no idea your app's been down for 3 days ๐Ÿ˜…

Problems ๐Ÿ‘‰ solved

I like the launch-and-forget approach.

yarn deploy, wait 3 minutes, โœ…

Here's what my \$12 AWS bill solves:

  • enabling purchases
  • layouting emails
  • reader feedback

Set them up, never thought about it again. It just works.

Gumroad hook

You can do a lot with Zapier integrations, a no-code glue platform, but you can't connect your payments provider to your custom platform.

For that you need the most impactful JavaScript function I ever wrote. It creates a new user for every purchase.

Sketch of how the Gumroad hook works
Sketch of how the Gumroad hook works

Here's what it does:

  1. User makes a purchase
  2. Gumroad sends POST request to a URL
  3. AWS Gateway routes the request
  4. AWS Lambda wakes up a new server
  5. Server runs 20 lines of JavaScript
  6. Calls API on Auth0
  7. Creates user, if needed
  8. Gives permission to access purchased course

Took 2 hours to build, never had an outage. Processed ~\$50k in revenue, touched only to add new products โœŒ๏ธ

Newsletter layouting

As impactful as that was, it's not my favorite. My favorite is the newsletter layouting tool that builds these emails.

I love markdown. Email software hates markdown. Email clients hate embeds.

What do you do? Hire an editor for $500/mo. $6000/year right there. For years.

I loved my editor and he hated this part of his gig.

Get a text file from Swiz, take a bunch of images, upload to Imgur, put into ConvertKit and into Wordpress. Hit 3 buttons. ๐Ÿคฎ

So I replaced him with a \$1/year piece of JavaScript and he got a more rewarding job at a big company.

TechLetter app being wonderful

A tool that eats Markdown, converts embeds into screenshots, uploads to S3, searches Giphy for gifs, creates HTML.

All powered by a screenshot lambda that admittedly took lots of tinkering and updates. It even creates thumbnails for my blog ๐Ÿ˜

But you can throw anything at it!

Up to 1000 embeds in parallel, all good. Embed breaks the code? No worries, running on a separate server from all others. Chrome hangs? Pfft, start a new one!

Resilience managed by AWS Lambda. I never need to think about it ๐Ÿ˜‡

Reader feedback

Spark Joy widgets
Spark Joy widgets

You'll see these under every email, article, and course chapter I create. There's a few variations and they all lead to the same place ๐Ÿ‘‰ a serverless GraphQL API.

The API wakes up a smol server, saves your feedback to a DynamoDB table, and says thanks.

Best thing I ever did for my business. So many thoughtful comments ๐Ÿ˜

One of these days I'll rebuild the frontend to look nicer, but the serverless backend is rock solid. Bit of Apollo, dash of custom code, and voila.

You can do this

Friend, my point is that running server code on the web has become ridiculously cheap and easy.

My $12 bill runs all of the above, the biggest cost is serving images from S3 โ€“ย $5 for hosting, \$3 for bandwidth. The smarts running on AWS Lambda are way below the free tier.

Lambda is free
Lambda is free

18,000 requests per month is pretty cool ๐Ÿš€

To be fair, I offload frontend web traffic to Netlify and Vercel. A whopping \$25/mo ...

What do you think, got a problem you could solve with a small JavaScript function running in the cloud? Hit reply

Cheers,
~Swizec

PS: yes you could run all this from your basement for free, but it's no worth your time ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Published on March 9th, 2021 in Serverless, Technical

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Serverless Handbook

Learn everything you need to dive into modern backend. Understand any backend

these chapters gave me knowledge which is sufficient to build real products and the hand-drawn diagrams and high-leveled descriptions gave me the feeling that i don't have any critical "knowledge gaps"

Launching soon, be the first to know.

Join over 10,000 engineers just like you already improving their careers with my letters, workshops, courses, and talks. โœŒ๏ธ

Have a burning question that you think I can answer?ย I don't have all of the answers, but I have some! Hit me up on twitter or book a 30min ama for in-depth help.

Ready to Stop copy pasting D3 examples and create data visualizations of your own? ย Learn how to build scalable dataviz components your whole team can understand with React for Data Visualization

Curious about Serverless and the modern backend? Check out Serverless Handbook, modern backend for the frontend engineer.

Ready to learn how it all fits together and build a modern webapp from scratch? Learn how to launch a webapp and make your first ๐Ÿ’ฐ on the side with ServerlessReact.Dev

Want to brush up on your modern JavaScript syntax?ย Check out my interactive cheatsheet: es6cheatsheet.com

By the way, just in case no one has told you it yet today: I love and appreciate you for who you areย โค๏ธ

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