How to Learn AWS: Exploring the Options cover image

It doesn’t really matter anymore what industry you work for: if it’s a modern company that uses innovative solutions on a daily basis, you’re more than likely to encounter cloud infrastructures and Amazon Web Services (AWS) in particular.

By providing ease of migration to the cloud and an incredible variety of services, AWS has earned the title of a global leader in cloud computing – thus, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that thousands of people worldwide are interested in how to learn AWS. Gaining these skills is a significant step forward in terms of finding a job and making sure you’re capable of performing well once you have your foot in the door. What is the best way to learn AWS, though? How to select the best AWS training technique? Let’s find out.

The Old-School Option: Hitting the Books

Why is this option so popular? Because it feels familiar – and it’s a lot easier to dive into completely new waters when you have something comforting with you. Having read and reread books in order to master various subjects at school, we’ve grown accustomed to seeing them as a learning tool, so it’s only natural you’d turn to them for learning AWS. Plus, books are easy to lend, borrow, and even copy in most libraries (for personal use only, of course) – which means you learn AWS free of charge... or at least for a comparatively small one.

Textbooks or Exam Guides?

Spend a few minutes browsing through the online catalogs (and we’d recommend starting there, as your local bookstores might not necessarily stock something as specific). You’ll see there’s a solid selection of AWS textbooks available. Some of them aim to serve as ultimate guides, and some focus on a specific AWS-related aspect (e.g., security or machine learning), but most have one thing in common: they are written by cloud specialists. These people use AWS on a daily basis, so they know the specific features from first-hand experience. Hence, there’s no need to worry about long theoretical ramblings that could waste your precious time: understanding perfectly how to learn AWS the right way, they go straight to the point.

Your choice is not limited to just textbooks, either. As you prepared for your final exams at school, you might have used special exam guides – and if so, you’re likely to look for one for learning AWS, too. An exam guide is a book that mainly aims to help you pass the certification exam instead of understanding the subject in-depth. It’s more about ‘how to learn AWS well enough to get certified’ and less about ‘how to learn AWS to be able to use it professionally in a work environment’. You can even see it from their titles: an exam book is focused on a particular certification exam, and not the system as a whole, so it’s often slapped on the cover proudly (e.g., here or here). The authors prepare the information according to that specific exam's structure and leave out the irrelevant topics.

The Issue With Paper

Are books the best way to learn AWS? Needless to say, a lot depends on the specific book you pick up – however, they all suffer from the same disadvantage. The processes of publication happen infinity times slower than technological upgrades – especially when we speak about a trailblazer like Amazon. In the time it takes to write, edit, print, and publish a book, a lot of changes and updates might be introduced – and unlike the information available online, a book can’t be updated once it’s printed and sold. Hence, technology-related books get outdated and irrelevant pretty quickly.

This is especially relevant if you're looking into libraries as a free AWS training option: unfortunately, while it takes months for a book to get published, it then takes just as long (if not longer) for it to appear on the shelves of public libraries. In this case, to AWS free of charge might be the same as not to learn it at all, as a lot of information is likely to have been updated since the time of publication.

Another reason you shouldn’t limit yourself to learning AWS from books is the lack of interaction. If any line of any section seems unclear to you, there’s no one to ask about it – no one to consult, and no one to explain the concept further. You’re on your own. Is AWS easy to learn this way? You tell us! And so, our search for the best options on how to learn AWS continues…

Saved by the Bell: the On-Campus Weeks

If you live in a pretty well-populated city, you might be able to find live AWS classes you could attend at a local tech school or community center. Normally, it would be one or two evening lectures every week, but you can also find intensive one-day training sessions or bootcamps that aim to provide you with professional-level expertise.

The Pros of Face-to-Face

Spending a few hours a week with a professional instructor and a bunch of ambitious individuals working towards the same goal is excellent for learning AWS: you can get clear demonstrations on how to use specific services, ask questions, get individual consultations, and even form long-lasting connections with specialists in the same field.

Attending live AWS classes can also be a great answer on how to learn AWS if you’re prone to procrastination and distractions – it is especially good for those with pretty weak learning skills (i.e., self-motivation, self-regulation, planning, and sticking to their plans). Having an exact schedule to follow and someone to report to (both the instructor and the community of learners) creates a stronger sense of responsibility and makes it easier to complete the steps required. By not having the power to postpone the lecture, you’re more likely to attend it on time.

It’s Not All Rainbows!

However rosy this option might seem, it comes with its own disadvantages, and you could have guessed the first one as soon as you started this section: ‘If you live in a pretty well-populated city…’. Accessibility is often an issue with live classes.

If you come from a smaller town that doesn’t have a strong technology infrastructure, it might be impossible to find courses you could physically attend – and even if you manage to, they might be in an inconvenient location or happen at inconvenient times. Many of those who are looking at how to learn AWS already have full-time jobs or are busy with their college studies, which means they can’t afford the flexibility of attending every class they find useful despite their schedule.

Another issue with live AWS classes is their price. Let’s not gloss this over: if you're looking for free AWS training, this is certainly not the place for that. The salary of a professional instructor, the hardware and software needed for your practice, the maintenance of the premises, the complimentary coffee and cookies – the course provider needs to cover all of those and still get a profit to make it worth their while. The prices are pretty astonishing: it’s not uncommon for a one-day class to cost over $500! Moreover, a lot of providers don’t even list the exact prices on their websites unless you fill in your contact details. What are they hiding? Definitely not incredible deals!

How to Learn AWS With Utmost Efficiency

Chances are, you belong to the modern generation – one that believes everything can be done better and quicker online. In this case, they’re not wrong: if you ask cloud computing experts how to learn AWS, most of them will point to online resources. Why? Because they’re quick and easy to access, free or modestly priced, and there’s no better place to find a community of like-minded individuals than the Internet. Most importantly, information can be edited and updated a lot easier online, so it’s a lot easier to find relevant and up-to-date learning materials.

A Virtual Sea of Options

Of course, the Internet offers more than one answer to how to learn AWS. You can simply read articles and guides, watch videos on YouTube, sign up for comprehensive online courses, or just dive into the deep end and try to master the AWS Cloud by practice. Which of these is the best way to learn AWS?

Let’s start by saying that trying to gather all the required information yourself by browsing thousands of tutorials, step-by-step guides, practice quizzes, YouTube videos, and other stand-alone pieces is not a technique we would advise. Sure, it’s possible to assemble a very solid body of learning materials this way, and even do it completely free of charge – but a) think of all the time you’re going to waste going through various and often worthless pieces just to find (or not!) a rare gem in a pile of trash; and b) there can never be any guarantees you’ll be able to cover all the ground you need to actually learn AWS. And is AWS easy to learn without having the full set of resources from the get-go? Not exactly – but you already knew that, too.

Online Courses Explained

If you’re serious about learning AWS, a comprehensive, all-encompassing online course is your best bet. If you choose a well-made course, you’ll get all the learning materials and practice exercises you need in one place, thus saving heaps of your valuable time. Yes, it probably won’t be free, but it will definitely be a lot less pricey than its on-campus counterpart: the provider doesn’t need to worry about the cost of hardware and premises, and the number of students they can train at the same time is practically unlimited. However, this doesn’t mean the instructor won’t be there for you: depending on the provider and the plans they provide, you might even be eligible for individual consultations or one-on-one training sessions.

Another reason to choose online is flexibility: you don’t need to adapt to the strict schedule of lectures and spend time in traffic just so you could reach the class on time. You can choose to study at any convenient time, repeat or skip specific lectures if you feel the need to, and learn at your own pace, stress-free. This is also a life-saver for those who aren’t able to find live classes in their location – online classes know no borders, as long as you have a stable Internet connection.

However, there is one disadvantage of this option, and that’s the self-reliance of online learning. You and you alone are responsible for achieving your goals, and if you’re not a highly disciplined and motivated individual, the enticement of ‘learning anytime’ can quickly turn to procrastination of ‘learning sometime tomorrow’. How to learn AWS online if you don’t have the strongest learning skills? We’d advise you to look into options that offer something for motivation as well as actual training. It might be a determined community of learners (e.g., in forums), a system of constant constructive feedback, or even principles of spirit-lifting gamification.

Choosing Is the First Step

So – how to learn AWS the best way? Naturally, the answer depends on your personal qualities, circumstances, and professional objectives. The same obstacle can be a dealbreaker to some and a minor inconvenience to others, so there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. However, from what we’ve discussed, choosing a well-made online course seems to be ticking all the boxes: it’s accessible, affordable, convenient, and sports a minimal risk of being outdated.

Is AWS easy to learn? No, it’s not – but you can make it easier by exploring your options and making the right decision on how to learn AWS. It’s all up to you!

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Vaida Jėčienė