Developers almost always first look for free tiers, particularly in the cloud, to test new ideas. Heroku had always been that cloud provider which would offer one-click app deployments that too on a generous free tier.
Heroku’s free tier gave wings to many new ideas which later became successful businesses. All developers needed to do was push the code on a Github repo, connect Heroku with Github and voila, their code would be deployed instantly on the cloud.
Heroku has always offered an extremely generous free tier and a simple upgrade to commercial plans when you require additional CPU, RAM, redundancy, and bandwidth. It also offered free database services like Postgres, Redis etc.
After Salesforce acquired Heroku in December 2020, developers were skeptical about this acquisition. Soon enough, Heroku announced removal of free dynos, hobby-dev Heroku Postgres and hobby-dev Heroku Data for Redis plans starting November 28, 2022 and inactive account deletion starting October 26, 2022.
After the announcement, a major part of the developer community was disappointed, as they should be.
Now the question is: are there any viable Heroku alternatives with free tiers?
The answer is: yes. There are alternatives similar to Heroku. In fact, some cloud providers are better than Heroku in some aspects.
Where to deploy your new MVP other than Heroku for free?
With this question in mind, we have researched in depth and come up with some solutions for replacing Heroku. Here are some tried and trusted suggestions that are free of cost and you can rely upon for your projects.
Fly.io: It allows you to run full-stack apps and development for your projects. Docker images can be deployed via Fly.io, which also offers the free setup of a PostgreSQL database. It offers 256MB RAM and 3GB persistent storage with no sleeping dynos. Although you’ll probably need a Dockerfile, creating one is not difficult, and becoming familiar with Docker will be helpful for your future projects. Both their CLI and web-based tools are easy to use. However, we believe that 256MB of RAM is not enough even for medium sized projects, but hey, we are not complaining either.
Vercel and Netlify: Both provide serverless backend services, where Netlify is better for commercial websites and Vercel is mostly used to deploy frontend Single Page Apps based on React, Vue etc. If you’re starting and want to serve a commercial site while saving some money (thanks to edge functions), consider using Netlify.
Render: Render looks like a real alternative to Heroku in the sense that it provides true push-to-deploy. Free tier of Render supports static sites, hosting web services, postgresql, redis and cronjobs. Each service comes with certain limitations. For example, Web Services on the free instance type are automatically spun down after 15 minutes of inactivity. When a new request for a free service comes in, Render spins it up again so it can process the request.
GitHub Pages and Actions are also good options for static sites.
Heroku free-tier offered a free hosted PostgreSQL service with a 10000 row limit. So what do these alternatives have to offer?
Fly.io: Like any other service, Fly.io allows you to operate a maximum of 1GB PostgreSQL database, and their CLI even offers to build a database when you create a new application. Nicely done! Daily backups of the database volume (disc), which are kept for a week, are sufficient for side projects.
Render: A PostgreSQL database with a 1GB capacity limit and daily backups is provided by Render for free for the first 90 days. After 90 days over, you have to pay $7/month to keep the database active.
You can also use a free tier on several database-as-service products. Here are a few tried-and-trusted options for well-known databases.
ElephantSQL: Known as PostgreSQL as a Service. It provides a browser tool to create, update, read, and delete data directly from the browser. Free tier includes 20MB of data and 5 concurrent connections.
Superbase: It is an open-source Firebase alternative offering all the backend features you need to build an MVP. The feature set is similar to Firebase except that it does on many open source technologies like PostgreSQL, NodeJS etc.
PlanetScale: It’s based on Vitess, a database based on MySQL and developed by YouTube. It provides 1000s of connections which means that you can easily use it for microservices environments.
MongoDB Atlas: Its one of the recent offerings from MongoDB which provides hosted MongoDB databases. You can use it to host MongoDB transparently on AWS, GCP and Azure. Free tier includes 512 MB to 5GB of storage and shared RAM. It also offers a serverless database which has 1 million reads free per month.
Insights & Trends
The demand and usage of apps have changed significantly since Heroku’s launch. The diversity of hosting possibilities has also grown, and each one brings a unique set of presumptions. We noticed a few similarities and wanted to specify which category each choice fit into:
Builders of static websites that incorporate functions as a service, like AWS Lambda, to provide some computing
- Cloudflare Pages
- Github Pages
Container hosting services that demand you dockerize your application. These choices appear to have materialized due to the growth of container isolation initiatives like gVisor and Firecracker.
- Google Cloud Run
- Amazon AppRunner
Similar to Heroku yet distinct. These are the ones that come closest to becoming a drop-in replacement.
Self-hosted open-source alternatives. These enable you to provide your team with “your own Heroku.”
Heroku has been a great platform for indie and serious app developers alike. Students and budding software developers have used Heroku’s free-tier without getting involved in complex cloud deployment cycles.
With Heroku’s free-tier gone, there’s a huge gap to be filled. As we saw in the post above, many services are ready to fill it.
At CitrusLeaf, we almost always try to keep deployment costs down. In fact, we actively work with our startup clients during MVP development and make them understand various costs associated with cloud deployment.
If you are looking for an affordable MVP development team, do reach out to us at email@example.com