As with most cloud hosts, Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) offers only Secure Shell (SSH) access by default to Linux cloud servers. But if you aren’t a command-line fan or your application requires a GUI, you can set up remote desktop access to most Linux cloud servers.
In this tutorial you’ll discover exactly how to launch Ubuntu 10.04 LTS in Amazon EC2, install the desktop environment and configure a VNC (Virtual Networking Computing) server. In the end you’ll have remote desktop access to Ubuntu, which will look and feel just like Ubuntu Desktop would on your PC.
Amazon offers what they call the Free Usage Tier, basically a limited year-long trial of Amazon Web Services, including EC2, for new AWS customers. Thus you can set up and run Ubuntu as this tutorial discusses for no charge under the Free Usage Tier.
If you don’t already have an Amazon Web Services account, you’ll first need to create one. Next, go to the EC2 page on the AWS Management Console and ensure you’re in the Region you desire (such as North California or Virginia) — perhaps the closest location to you and/or the users.
Starting the Ubuntu Instance
To get started, first click the Launch Instance button on the main EC2 page and then click Continue. Next, select the Ubuntu Server Cloud Guest version you prefer.
When configuring the instance settings, you can simply accept all the default settings or change them as you wish. You can change the Instance Type to increase the CPU and memory allocation for your virtual machine, but keep in mind the only Instance Type you can use under the Free Usage Tier is Micro (613 MB of memory).
When you get to the Instance Details page, consider enabling Termination Protection so you don’t accidently terminate the instance, which would delete your virtual machine and any data on it.
If you haven’t created a Key Pair yet for AWS (or for the particular Region you’re deploying this instance in), it will prompt you to do so. Just keep the .pem file it downloads in a safe and secure location, as it’s used to gain remote SSH access to your instance, and if you lose this file you may not be able to access the instance anymore.