How to Host a Static Website

Hosting a website on AWS using Cloudfront, S3 and Route53 is a popular solution for Amazon web hosting. It typically costs $3 a month outside the generous free tier and $0.50 within the free tier. Terraform can automate the deployment of this finicky architecture, making it much easier to deploy, manage and automatically upload website content. We will use an open-source Terraform module to deploy a secure, scalable, and performant website on AWS based on Route 53, CloudFront, and S3.

Architecture

The vast majority of Terraform tutorials I see covering similar topics all focus on recreating an identical architecture from stack utilizing resources which is simply a waste of time and effort. Existing tutorials and modules generally follow the architecture shown below, which is based on the AWS tutorials. Configuring a static website on Amazon S3 and Speeding up your website with Amazon CloudFront. Since they are based on tutorials, the following flaws remain:


The architecture that most tutorials and guides follow

  • Two buckets are created when only one is really required.
  • The root bucket is publicly exposed. Public S3 buckets have been at the center of serve high-profile file data leaks. Due to this, it is becoming corporate policy to completely disallow public S3 buckets.
  • The users still can access the bucket objects directly from the s3 website endpoint. This circumvents the CloudFront distribution and can nullify CloudFront features like geographic restrictions.
  • A manual activity remains to upload the website content onto the S3 bucket.
The architecture of what will be improved in this guide

The architecture of what will be improved in this guide

My module s3-cloudfront-static-website uses the architecture shown above, which represents a much simpler, secure, and straightforward architecture.

  • This only uses one bucket for both the root and www. domains.
  • The bucket is private and CloudFront accesses the website content utilizing an Origin Access Identity with IAM permissions to the S3 Bucket.
  • Users can only access the website through CloudFront.
  • Website content can be automatically uploaded during Terraform deployment (uses AWS CLI).

Pre-Requisites

If you require assistance with the pre-requisites, review the following subsections.

Domain Name

To use a domain name, you must purchase the domain from a registrar like Google, Go, Daddy, 123-Reg, names.co.uk, or AWS Route 53. Using AWS Route 53 is easiest since AWS will automatically create a hosted zone for the domain, assign four name servers to the hosted zone, and then update the domain registration to use those name servers. However, it is normally the most expensive option for a domain. I browse for the best price for my desired main domain and find names.co.uk is a great site for free domains for testing or development. Beware of the higher prices after the first year. I also turn off auto-renewal — especially for free domains.

Route 53 Hosted Zone as DNS Service for the Domain

If you bought your domain through AWS Route 53, you can skip this section. If you bought the domain from another website, you need to create a route 53 hosted zone and make Route 53 the DNS service for your domain. Put simply, the Domain Name Service (DNS) is the phonebook of the internet, when a user inputs your domain name, DNS will return the correct IP address to access your site. Name servers are underlying servers that contain and return the information of which IP addresses correspond to which services on your domain. To make Route 53 the hosted zone for your domain, you must change the name servers from your registrar’s to your Route 53 hosted zone.

How to Create a Route 53 Hosted Zone

1. Sign in to the AWS Management Console and open the Route 53 console.
2. If you’re new to Route 53, choose to Get started under DNS management.
If you’re already using Route 53, choose Hosted zones in the navigation pane.
3. Choose Create hosted zone.
4. In the Create Hosted Zone pane, enter the name of the domain that you want to route traffic to. You can also optionally enter a comment. The domain name for this website is interweave.cloud — you do not need to include ‘www.’ or ‘https://’.
5. For Typeaccept the default value of Public Hosted Zone.
6. Choose Create.

Update the Name Servers for the Domain

1. Open the Route 53 console at https://console.aws.amazon.com/route53/
2. In the navigation pane, choose Hosted zones.
3. On the Hosted zones page, choose the radio button (not the name) for the hosted zone, then choose View details.
4. On the details page for the hosted zone, choose Hosted zone details.
5. Make note of the four servers listed for Name servers.
6. Use the method provided by the registrar for the domain to change the name servers for the domain to use the four Route 53 name servers you got from step 5. NOTE: it can take up to 3 days for the change to become effective.

AWS CLI

To upload your files to the s3 bucket automatically, the AWS CLI tool is used. Therefore, it is required for the AWS CLI to be installed on your local machine — instructions can be found here. You also need to configure a local named profile using the `aws configure — profile NAME` command. Using named profiles is generally better than static credentials within Terraform.

Terraform Code

The terraform module is available on the Terraform Registry, with the source code available on GitHub with examples shown. We would like to deploy a static website with the files automatically synced and a custom domain name.

Providers.tf

terraform {
  required_providers {
  aws = {
  source = “hashicorp/aws”
  version = “4.10.0”
  }
  }
}

# Default provider for resource creation
provider “aws” {
  region = “”
  profile = “”
}

# Provider required in useast1 for CloudFront, SSL Certificate
provider “aws” {
  alias = “useast1”
  region = “us-east-1”
  profile = “”
}

In providers.tf, you will have two providers:

  • Default provider for the region where your main infrastructure will be.
  • ‘useast1’ provider for CloudFront and the SSL certificates. These sit in the us-east-1 region because they are global services.

main.tf

 
module “s3-cloudfront-static-website_example” {
  source = “InterweaveCloud/s3-cloudfront-static-website/aws”
  version = “0.0.1”

  resource_uid = “DevOpsNavy” 
  domain_name = “XXX” 
  hosted_zone_id = “XXX” 
  profile = “XXX”

  sync_directories = [{
    local_source_directory = “./website_content”
    s3_target_directory = “”
    }]

  providers = {
    aws.useast1 = aws.useast1
    }
}

Following the normal terraform init, terraform plan and terraform apply workflow will deploy the infrastructure, and your site will be up and running! If you update your website content, you can rerun Terraform apply, and a change will be detected and the content re-synced.

What Next?

Automated Deployment Through GitHub Actions

We are currently developing an associated GitHubActions pipeline which will automate the Terraform deployment and the build of the source code.

Monitoring and Budgeting Alarms

We are looking into creating a monitoring dashboard and budgeting alarms.

General Quality of Life Updates

We are making general QoL updates, such as making the domain name initially in case this is not readily available at the start.

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