Create a Static Website at Amazon AWS using Python, S3, and Route53

Benefits of Static Web Sites

The most important benefits of static web sites are speed and security.

Fully static web sites can be delivered via content delivery networks (CDN), making them load much faster to the end user. CDN benefits include caching for your site objects and edge locations (servers) that are geographically closer to your end users.

Static web sites are also generally more secure than dynamic sites. This is because there are significantly fewer attack vectors for flat html pages than with using an application server. Popular content management systems such as WordPress and Drupal have had exploits affecting millions of web sites. And new exploits for popular application servers and CMS software are routinely discovered.

In one example, a critical vulnerability in Drupal was announced impacting 12 million websites, and any web site not patched within 7 hours was considered compromised.

A critical vulnerability in WordPress could be considered even more serious as WordPress powers an estimated 25% of all websites globally.

Static vs Dynamic

A static web site is a website made up of “flat” or “stationary” files, that are delivered to the end user exactly as stored. Most commonly, static websites are a collection of plain .html files.

Dynamic web sites, on the other hand, are generated for the user on the fly by an application server. An example of a dynamic web site would be any WordPress site.

Setting up a Static Web Site at Amazon AWS with Python

To set up a static web site at AWS, we’ll use 2 of their services: S3 and Route53. S3 is an object storage service and this is where we’ll store the files that comprise our site. CloudFront is the AWS content delivery network (CDN) service, that has edge locations distributed throughout the world, to ensure your end users are able to load your site as fast as possible. Route53 is the domain name system (DNS) which lets you host your domain name with AWS.

I’ll be using Python to demonstrate creating the static site using AWS services. AWS provides a Getting Started: Static Website Hosting tutorial if you want to manually perform these steps.

Prerequisite: Install AWS Python SDK

The examples use the AWS python SDK to build the static site, so you’ll want to install it.

For most people, this will typically be:

pip install boto3 awscli

Once installed, we will create an AWS configuration file with credentials and default settings such as preferred region:

aws configure

Step 1: Create S3 Bucket for a static web site

Our new static web site will be stored in AWS S3 so we’ll need to create a new bucket for the website’s files.
Creating a S3 bucket with python is simple:


# Load aws boto3 module
import boto3

# Specify the region to create the AWS resources in
DEFAULT_REGION = "us-east-1"

# Create S3 resource
s3 = boto3.resource('s3')

# Set a bucket name which will be our domain name.
bucket_name = "demo123456.com"

# Create a new S3 bucket, using a demo bucket name
s3.create_bucket(Bucket=bucket_name)

# We need to set an S3 policy for our bucket to
# allow anyone read access to our bucket and files.
# If we do not set this policy, people will not be
# able to view our S3 static web site.
bucket_policy = s3.BucketPolicy(bucket_name)
policy_payload = {
  "Version": "2012-10-17",
  "Statement": [{
    "Sid": "Allow Public Access to All Objects",
    "Effect": "Allow",
    "Principal": "*",
    "Action": "s3:GetObject",
    "Resource": "arn:aws:s3:::%s/*" % (domain)
  }
  ]
}

# Add the policy to the bucket
response = bucket_policy.put(Policy=json.dumps(policy_payload))

# Next we'll set a basic configuration for the static
# website.
website_payload = {
    'ErrorDocument': {
        'Key': 'error.html'
    },
    'IndexDocument': {
        'Suffix': 'index.html'
    }
}

# Make our new S3 bucket a static website
bucket_website = s3.BucketWebsite(bucket_name)

# And configure the static website with our desired index.html
# and error.html configuration.
bucket_website.put(WebsiteConfiguration=website_payload)

Step 1.1: Create S3 Bucket for redirecting www.domain.com to root domain.com

I like to redirect “www” to the root domain, such that www.domain.com will redirect to domain.com for the user. For this to work in AWS, we’ll need to create a second bucket for the www hostname, and set the bucket to redirect.


# Load aws boto3 module
import boto3

# Specify the region to create the AWS resources in
DEFAULT_REGION = "us-east-1"

# Create S3 resource
s3 = boto3.resource('s3')

# Create a new S3 bucket, using the www demo bucket name
bucket_name = "demo123456.com"
redirect_bucket_name = "www.demo123456.com"

s3.create_bucket(Bucket=redirect_bucket_name)

# The S3 settings to redirect to the root domain,
# in this case the bucket_name variable from above.
redirect_payload = {
        'RedirectAllRequestsTo': {
            'HostName': '%s' % (bucket_name),
            'Protocol': 'http'
        }
}

# Make our redirect bucket a S3 website
bucket_website_redirect = s3.BucketWebsite(redirect_bucket_name)

# Set the new bucket to redirect to our root domain
# with the redirect payload above.
bucket_website_redirect.put(WebsiteConfiguration=redirect_payload)

Step 2: Create a Route53 Hosted zone for the domain

Now that we have created an S3 bucket and web site for our new domain, we need to add the new domain to Amazon AWS DNS service, called Route53.
In Route53, we will create a new hosted zone for our domain name and add DNS records for the root domain.com and the redirect www.domain.com to point to our corresponding S3 buckets.


# Load the AWS boto3 module
import boto3
# We'll want to generate a unique UUID later
import uuid

# Specify the region to create the AWS resources in
DEFAULT_REGION = "us-east-1"

# A mapping of hosted zone IDs to AWS regions.
# Apparently this data is not accessible via API
# http://docs.aws.amazon.com/general/latest/gr/rande.html#s3_region
# https://forums.aws.amazon.com/thread.jspa?threadID=116724
S3_HOSTED_ZONE_IDS = {
    'us-east-1': 'Z3AQBSTGFYJSTF',
    'us-west-1': 'Z2F56UZL2M1ACD',
    'us-west-2': 'Z3BJ6K6RIION7M',
    'ap-south-1': 'Z11RGJOFQNVJUP',
    'ap-northeast-1': 'Z2M4EHUR26P7ZW',
    'ap-northeast-2': 'Z3W03O7B5YMIYP',
    'ap-southeast-1': 'Z3O0J2DXBE1FTB',
    'ap-southeast-2': 'Z1WCIGYICN2BYD',
    'eu-central-1': 'Z21DNDUVLTQW6Q',
    'eu-west-1': 'Z1BKCTXD74EZPE',
    'sa-east-1': 'Z7KQH4QJS55SO',
    'us-gov-west-1': 'Z31GFT0UA1I2HV',
}

# Load Route53 module
route53 = boto3.client('route53')

# Define the domain name we want to add in Route53
domain = "demo123456.com"
www_redirect = "www.demo123456.com"

# We need to create a unique string to identify the request.
# A UUID4 string is an easy to use unique identifier.
caller_reference_uuid = "%s" % (uuid.uuid4())

# Create the new hosted zone in Route53
response = route53.create_hosted_zone(
    Name=domain,
    CallerReference=caller_reference_uuid,
    HostedZoneConfig={'Comment': domain, 'PrivateZone': False})

# Get the newly created hosted zone id, used for
# adding our DNS records pointing to our S3 buckets
hosted_zone_id = response['HostedZone']['Id']

# Add DNS records for domain.com and www.domain.com
website_dns_name = "s3-website-%s.amazonaws.com" % (DEFAULT_REGION)
redirect_dns_name = "s3-website-%s.amazonaws.com" % (DEFAULT_REGION)

# Here is the payload we will send to Route53
# We are creating two DNS records:
# one for domain.com to point to our S3 bucket,
# and a second for www.domain.com to point to our
# S3 redirect bucket, to redirect to domain.com
change_batch_payload = {
    'Changes': [
        {
            'Action': 'UPSERT',
            'ResourceRecordSet': {
                'Name': domain,
                'Type': 'A',
                'AliasTarget': {
                    'HostedZoneId': S3_HOSTED_ZONE_IDS[DEFAULT_REGION],
                    'DNSName': website_dns_name,
                    'EvaluateTargetHealth': False
                }
            }
        },
        {
            'Action': 'UPSERT',
            'ResourceRecordSet': {
                'Name': www_redirect,
                'Type': 'A',
                'AliasTarget': {
                    'HostedZoneId': S3_HOSTED_ZONE_IDS[DEFAULT_REGION],
                    'DNSName': redirect_dns_name,
                    'EvaluateTargetHealth': False
                }
            }
        }
    ]
}

# Create the DNS records payload in Route53
response = route53.change_resource_record_sets(
    HostedZoneId=hosted_zone_id, ChangeBatch=change_batch_payload)


Add Content to S3 Bucket

After creating our S3 buckets and added our domain name to Route53, we have a few remaining tasks in order to make our new static web site live.
First, we need to add an html page to our S3 bucket for our visitors to see.
We can do this with python or we can use a static site generator site as Jekyll to build our static site.
Here’s an example using python:


# Load the AWS boto3 module
import boto3

# Set our domain name and bucket name
# I use the domain as the bucket name,
# such that they are the same
domain = "demo123456.com"

s3 = boto3.resource('s3')

# Very simple, basic HTML code for our landing page
payload = ("<html><head><title>%s</title></head>"
           "<body><h1>%s</h1></body></html>"
           % (domain, domain))

# Create the index.html page in S3
s3.Object(domain, 'index.html').put(Body=payload, ContentType='text/html')

Change nameservers at your domain registrar to point to AWS Route53

If we are using Route53 for our DNS services, we will need to update our nameservers at our domain name registrar to use Route53.
This step will vary from registrar to registrar and will most likely be a manual process because most registrars do not offer API access.
On the AWS Route53 side, you’ll need to get your name servers for your new hosted zone, then you’ll go to your registrar, such as Namecheap, GoDaddy, etc. and update your name server records there. Your registrar will have documentation on how to perform the necessary updates in their dashboards.