When we were looking at a cloud service provider for The AIRIX.NET we compared AWS Amazon Lightsail and Alibaba Cloud. Find below a summary of our findings.

This experience report is from January 2018 and offerings may have changed now.

AWS Amazon Lightsail is an entry-level offering from Amazon Web Services for virtual private servers. Alibaba is a Chinese company who also provides cloud services and virtual servers. This is a short report about our personal experience with both cloud offerings.

With AWS Lightsail I started with the US$ 5.00 per month package*, which provides:

  • Linux based server
  • 1 Core Processor
  • 512 MB Memory
  • 20 GB Disk Space
  • 1 TB data transfer

On the Alibaba Cloud Website I found the offer for a SSD Cloud Server, priced at US$ 4.50 per month*.

  • Linux based server
  • 1 Core CPU
  • 1 GB Memory
  • 40 GB SSD Cloud Disk
  • 1 TB data transfer

AWS Lightsail comes with a first month free offer, Alibaba Cloud does not. But still, with having double memory and double disk space for a smaller price, we tried this offer to find out if that will be a suitable alternative.

So I signed up Alibaba for the US$ 4.50 starting offer. Data Center locations are very strong in the Asia Pacific region (mainly China), but more limited in US and Europe. At the point in time of my test (January 2018), there was only one European Data Center (located in Frankfurt). I decided to go for the European Data Center for my Virtual Private Server instance.

Sign Up Process

Firstly the registration seemed to be similar as with Amazon Lightsail.

But where you only needed a Credit Card with Amazon, Alibaba Cloud does need a verification of e-mail address (confirm a link) and phone number (they send a text or call you), before you can sign up. That felt a little bit cumbersome to me.

User Interface on the Web

Amazon offers a streamlined and focused Lightsail interface to start with (you can still select the full AWS interface, if you want to get access to additional services).

On Alibaba there is no streamlined interface, you get into the full Alibaba Cloud interface, which was rather confusing to me. You do not really know what services are part of the "entry" package and what the service really means (wording and explanation was not always clear to me).

Offering and Flexibility

My first impression was, that this US$ 4.50 offering of Alibaba Cloud is very similar to the US$ 3.50 AWS offering, providing even additional memory and disk space. But now, after a more detailed test, it seems that these offerings are very different.

With Amazon you buy the Lightsail Package and you have quite a flexibility on instances with a pro-rata billing, whereas with Alibaba it seems that you buy a single instance upfront for US$ 4.50.

When I wanted to create a new instance, I was asked for an additional US$ 4.50. And I did not even find the option to deleted or exchange the instance I had initially created (I am not sure if that is possible or not, but I could not find it in the user interface nor in the documentation).

What I also noticed with Alibaba Cloud vs. AWS Lightsail:

  • I started with Chrome browser, but I was not able to log-in (i.e. the Alibaba Cloud web site was not displayed). It was ok, with Microsoft Edge browser.
  • Although I had selected the Data Center in Frankfurt for my instance, the system time was on time zone Shanghai
  • The web user interface of Alibaba Cloud offering bothers me with frequent log-outs; so you have to log-in over and over again.
  • I personally even found the documentation and examples very confusing and not very helpful


I could not get it running. I started to replicate the same installation I had done before on my AWS Lightsail, but it did not work. I wasted a couple of hours and could not even start from scratch (without buying another instance, see above). Documentation did not help me either. I also expected upcoming additional problems, so does Alibaba block by default port 25.

Then I gave up and decided to stay with Amazon Lightsail to run the AIRIX.NET cloud server project.

It seems that at the time of my tests (January 2018), Alibaba Cloud is still ways behind for these kind of entry offerings and AWS Lightsail offering is better for my needs. 

*The information provided is based on personal experience and current at the time, when I tested it (January 2018). Surely the services can change or improve meanwhile. 


  • Originally published January 2018
  • 27.11.2018
    • Smoothed the text a bit, updated hints to Amazon's price reduction
  • 30.12.2019
    • Small text updates
  • 04.09.2020/30.12.2020
    • Small text updates