Welcome! This is the start of a series of posts where I am going to document (and probably update) my personal AWS setup. I spun up my first Amazon EC2 instance back in 2010, and, since then, grown my setup to use 8 different AWS accounts, mostly automated with Terraform. This series will cover all choices & tradeoffs I made, and also document the Terraform code I use to set it all up. So grab a beverage of your choice while I turn coffee into code.


Below is the list of content pieces of the series that I think I will end up needing to cover it all, but it will likely change over time. I’ll add an updates section at the bottom of this one to cover any decision / plan changes as we go along. Here’s what I think it will look like:

  1. Multiple AWS accounts - why you would need them, how to use and set up AWS IAM access between them, and the Terraform code to create and manage them.
  2. CI/CD pipeline for Terraform - I try to manage everything possible with Terraform, so I usually need to set up a CI/CD pipeline as one of the first steps. This will include accessing the different accounts
  3. Securing an AWS account - the steps I take for any new AWS account I set up, IAM roles to access it, and then any billing / monitoring I add.
  4. Managing my DNS - I have too many domains, and spent a chunk of time to move them all to AWS in Route53 so I can centrally manage the yearly renewals, SOA entries, and also then automate the Route53 Zones I use for my DNS records.
  5. Figure out email - Since I have so many domains, I haven’t spent enough time setting up and managing my email for them. Used to have Google Apps accounts for each when it was still free, but since that fell away, I haven’t set up a solution.

High-level overview

So why would you need multiple AWS accounts you ask? Well, I like playing and learning with different AWS services, but I also have some systems / applications running that I don’t want to break. If you’ve ever used AWS Nuke, you probably know the stress right after you press enter to have it tear down everything. Using AWS Organizations, it is easy to create and access additional accounts.

I split my accounts for security and purpose, so I have the following set up currently:

├── billing
└── root (node)
    ├── blue-battleship
    ├── demo (node)
    │   ├── dev
    │   ├── main
    │   └── prod
    ├── dns (node)
    │   ├── name-servers
    │   └── registrar
    └── personal

This a text representation of my AWS Organizations setup, with the lines marked with (node) being logical groups, not accounts. I’ll cover what each is for, why, and how I set them up in the first post of this series.

Managing access

You may be wondering if it isn’t a nightmare to access so many different AWS accounts. For my day-to-day, it is fairly simple, I have a single IAM user in the demo-main account that I log in with, and then switch roles into each of the other accounts. I use the AWS Extend Switch Roles Chrome extension. You can use the drop-down at the top-right in the AWS Console once you are logged in as well, but as it uses cookies on your local machine, it will not persist the configuration for you. I started with it, but as I started working on both my desktop at home, and my laptop while I was at clients while consulting, it became too much work to keep it updated. I tried storing a text file with the details in my cloud document solution, but even with that, it would take me about 5 - 10mins to set it up again if I needed to. Then I discovered the AWS Extend Switch Roles extension a few years back, and have been using it since. The short version is that you have a configuration you add, and this is sync’ed if you are signed into Chrome. I also keep a text copy of this in 1Password just in case something goes wrong. To configure it, you provide the different accounts, and how to access them, here is my setup:

[profile Registrar]
role_arn = arn:aws:iam::111111111111:role/administrator
color = 000000

[profile DNS_Email]
role_arn = arn:aws:iam::222222222222:role/administrator
color = FF3232

[profile BlueBattleship]
role_arn = arn:aws:iam::333333333333:role/administrator
color = ffaaee

[profile DemoRoot]
role_arn = arn:aws:iam::444444444444:role/administrator
color = FF3232

[profile DemoDevelopment]
role_arn = arn:aws:iam::5555555555555:role/administrator
color = 23B223

[profile DemoProduction]
role_arn = arn:aws:iam::666666666666:role/administrator
color = E46317

[profile Personal]
role_arn = arn:aws:iam::777777777777:role/administrator
color = E46317

When I click on the extension, I see the following if I’m logged into my AWS account:

AWS Extend Switch Role Chrome extension showing my configuration

Switching into any of the child accounts is now simply a single click after I’ve logged in. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have the root user credentials for each account though, I’ll cover that in a short post later - after I moved to Seattle at the end of 2021, I had to update the billing information for each one. This took quite a bit of time as I only did the cleanup in April 2024, and my South African phone number had issues, so I couldn’t do phone verification.

So, what do I run in my accounts

My main use-case is for domain registration, DNS, and testing out ideas. In the past, I used Amazon EC2 Anywhere to manage containers running on my home server, but broke it when I migrated to Proxmox and moving my containers to a dedicated VM. I have been working on moving my blog to Amplify instead of GitHub Pages, but that is still a work in progress. Once I have the current setup documented here, I will be working through a list of use-cases I’ve come across over the years.

And that’s it for now, wanted to keep this nice and short so I can start on doing the actual work of each piece.

Content pieces in the series

I’ll update the list below as I publish the pieces to make them easier to find. Also have a look at /aws-services if you are interested to see examples of using AWS services.

  1. Nothing to see here yet

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