Learn Cloud Computing To Accelerate Your Research

Posted July 18, 2019, by Matthew Rich

There is a huge and ever-growing range of cloud services that can be used by researchers and students, from low-level building blocks like virtual servers and hard drives, to higher-level services that can be used for automated analysis pipelines. Staying up to date with these offerings is a challenge, but learning the basic concepts is straightforward and there are plenty of ways to get started for free.

General Cloud Computing

Northwestern students, faculty, and staff have access to two excellent online learning platforms, O’Reilly (formerly Safari Books Online) and lynda.com.


To access O’Reilly, visit https://www.oreilly.com/library/view/temporary-access/ and sign up with your @northwestern.edu email address. Once you have access, there are hundreds of books and videos to choose from. The Cloud Resource Center is a great place to get started, with videos selected by O’Reilly staff.


Sign in to Lynda.com via the northwestern.edu organization portal, and you will be able to access hundreds of courses across a variety of topics, including over 200 related to cloud services. Two excellent courses to start with are Learning Cloud Computing: Core Concepts and AWS for Data Science.


Qwiklabs is a wonderful resource for hands-on practice with both AWS and Google Cloud Platform, offering pre-configured, hands-on labs that allow you to work directly with real tools to build real solutions. Northwestern students and staff can apply for 200 free Qwiklabs credits, and faculty planning to use Qwiklabs in their courses can apply for up to 5000 credits to distribute to their students. To apply for Qwiklabs credits, visit https://edu.google.com/programs/credits/.

Finally, be sure to visit cloud.northwestern.edu, especially the Resources page, to learn about on-campus and online workshops, meetups, and other opportunities, including access to solutions architects from AWS and Microsoft Azure.

Amazon Web Services

AWS Documentation

Amazon provides in-depth documentation for all of its services, but it can be overwhelming and difficult to know where to start. To that end, the AWS Getting Started Resource Center offers quick overviews of services, short training modules, and links to more in-depth training.

Open Guide for AWS

There are multiple community-maintained resources for AWS, but this Open Guide is particularly in-depth and covers dozens of services. It should probably not be your first stop, but you will want to consult it before using these services in production.

Re:Invent Videos

The recordings of sessions from Amazon’s annual Re:Invent conference offer beginner, intermediate, and advanced discussions of the services AWS offers. If you are considering using a particular service from Amazon, such as S3 for storage or RDS for relational databases, watching a Re:Invent video or two on that service will be time well spent.

AWS Educate

Sign up for AWS Educate to get free credits for use in AWS and access to training labs.

Google Cloud Platform

GCP Onboarding Hub

Google has provided Northwestern with an “onboarding hub” with links to videos, tips, and other resources to help you get started using GCP.

GCP Codelabs

Codelabs provide a guided, hands-on coding experience. They are more in-depth than Qwiklabs labs and generally include writing code to build an application or solution on GCP. Highly recommended.

Google Tech Dev Guide

While not Google Cloud Platform-specific, the Tech Dev guide does cover cloud-related topics while providing resources for building your coding and overall technical skills.

GCP on YouTube

Watch sessions from past Google Cloud conferences and events, as well as How-to videos on topics such as AI and Deep Learning.

GCP Research Credits

Faculty can apply for grants of up to $5000 to use Google Cloud Platform services for their research projects. If you think you have a project which can use Google Cloud resources, please contact us, as we may be able to work directly with Google to support you and provide additional funding!