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Tell HN: Heroku alternatives with generous free tiers
103 points by Curiositry on Aug 25, 2022 | hide | past | favorite | 53 comments
Here are the three that I know of that are equivalent to what Heroku used to offer([1],[2]):

- https://fly.io/pricing (requires credit card)

- https://northflank.com/pricing

- https://www.koyeb.com/pricing

Runners up:

- https://render.com/pricing (sleeps after 15 minutes, 30s spin-up)

- https://qoddi.com/#pricing (no custom domains)

- https://railway.app/pricing (only runs 500hrs/month, but doesn't require credit card)

- https://appliku.com/#pricing (only Django, no custom domains)

Note: Fly.io is the only one of these I have actually used. I like it so far. I plan to migrate my Heroku apps to Fly. Edit: just tried their automatic migration tool ( https://fly.io/launch/heroku ) and it works like a charm!

[1]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=32594533

[2]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=32595589

The fact that we (Fly.io) require a credit card is evidence that we don't plan to take the free plan away any time soon. (The credit card requirement is purely an anti-fraud thing). :)

As I think a lot of people will point out: Heroku's DX is better than ours in a bunch of ways. Their superpower is DX, and our superpower is scaling apps out across the globe (our secondary superpower is running clusters of services). We're working hard on simplifying our Docker-based DX (our schtick is that we convert Docker/OCI images into VMs) --- we have a `flyctl launch` command that will automatically generate containers from standard framework repositories --- but Heroku has us solidly beat on that stuff.

Also, we're proudly CLI-first. If you're allergic to CLIs, we're not your best bet. We love our CLI very, very much.

I could say lots of nice things about us, but so can every hosting provider; the useful things to know are where you might be tripped up by us vs. Heroku. Also, I think Heroku is a pretty incredible accomplishment, and they've had 15+ years to work on it, so I wince at the idea that we're doing everything they do --- seems unlikely!

What's your approach towards hobbyist programmers under 18, people living in a country that doesn't commonly use the Visa/Mastercard duopoly, or otherwise unable to get a credit card for any reason?

I started learning to code as a teenager, with cash being my only way of spending money, so all services that either had a price or required CC verification were completely unavailable for me. Not being able to afford them wasn't the problem, not being able to pay was.

I really enjoyed Heroku for that reason, it was the only service that allowed me to put apps up on the internet that I could actually get access to. It's really sad that something like that is going away.

It's a good question, and we don't have a good answer for it yet. You're not wrong to be annoyed by this. It's a consequence of us being a young team with limited resources; if you do nothing to qualify free-tier users, then several people end up with the full-time job of tracking and shutting down abuse.

It won't make you feel much better, but this issue is very close to the top of our stack (we'd also convert visitors and window-shoppers better if they could boot something up without a credit card). The incentives are there for us to fix this; it's mostly a matter of time.

I'm glad you called it out.

Have you considered phone number verification? Both minors and people in non-western countries are a lot more likely to have a phone than a credit card. Not sure how easy it is for fraudsters to get their hands on large quantities of phone numbers though.

I wonder, because Github actions are a thing, Github is likely to be facing the same issue, and is likely to have implemented mitigations already. Maybe you could piggyback on that effort and require Github auth?

Free phone numbers to receive sms's are ubiquitous. Its trivial to bypass.

Github actions wears the cost as a huge multinational and has anti-abuse mechanisms in place for CI runners but not account signups which again are simple to automate if it means free compute.

None of these things are actual solutions, people abuse free tiers to run cryptominers and commit crime, they don't get dissuaded by that. A CC number is a much more serious threshold that solves nearly all of your problems in a day.

We're taking notes on all this stuff, for what it's worth.

Perhaps you can work with faculty or universities and verify students with email from that institution. You are also getting them while they are young for what it's worth.

JetBrains manages academic email domains list: https://github.com/JetBrains/swot

This assumes your school actually provides email addresses, which just isn't the case in certain countries, not outside of higher education.

Idea: give an option for developers to qualify by proving ownership of an active GitHub/GitLab/Sourcehut profile?

I like the idea but part of me worries that it’d just end up being the Hackoberfest nonsense again? Manual verification perhaps? Seems like a lot of work though…

To some degree that can be faked: https://github.com/artiebits/fake-git-history

Also if it requires internet points rather than self commit history, we'll see Hacktoberfest storm again.

I am going in on fly.io with my startup, so you guys better stay good :)

>we have a `flyctl launch` command that will automatically generate containers from standard framework repositories --- but Heroku has us solidly beat on that stuff.

I honestly think the fact that all it takes is a dockerfile for fly.io will help you shoot past heroku soon enough. I never understood how to make a buildpack, but many more people know how to write a dockerfile

I would love to see support for docker-compose to define clusters. I know you are getting a lot of these "I would love to see" messages lately. Good problem to have.

Are there any plans to make it easy for fly.io to be used in an educational environment without requiring every student to have a credit card? I was teaching a college course in the spring that would have greatly benefited from being able to deploy projects to fly.io. I did some cursory googling, but couldn't find an answer and didn't reach out on the community forums (so shame on me, too).

I am not an employee of fly, but I will go ahead and offer to shill. Fly.io has been fantastic for me, and I've hardly been billed to the point where it bothers me. It's worth giving a good shot. The developer experience is what I always wanted from a container host.

AWS Free Tier (e.g. 12 months of Amazon EC2 750 h/month, 5GB S3, Amazon RDS 750h/month, 1 million Lambda requests / month, 25GB Dynamo DB,...). This can get you pretty far in the first year of building, testing, and iterating.


It's worth noting that AWS's free tier has absolutely no safety net and you can easily end up with an unexpected bill, sometimes a very large one. The single best thing AWS could do to encourage people to learn about its services by trying them out would be to have a safe-by-default billing configuration. A user should have to flip a switch in their account to allow any usage over a given dollar amount, with services being halted in the event they would breach this limit without having flipped that switch.

You would be surprised how many users don't want that. Take e.g. a startup run by two people in Singapore that gets featured on HN unbeknownst to the founders as they are asleep. They experiences a ton of traffic, which makes them exceed the free tier limits. If you were one of these founders, what reality would you want to wake up to? That your web app was hugged to death and you lost out on a significant growth momentum or that your web app stayed up and now you have to pay a bill to AWS (but hopefully have made some revenue, too)?

I'd also say that in the year of our lord 2022 literally everyone has heard about unexpected cloud bills (yes, happens with GCP and Azure all the time as well) and hence should know that they have to set their account up properly - there is a ton of tutorials by AWS and others on how to set up your budgets and billing alerts.

> I'd also say that in the year of our lord 2022 literally everyone has heard about unexpected cloud bills (yes, happens with GCP and Azure all the time as well) and hence should know that they have to set their account up properly - there is a ton of tutorials by AWS and others on how to set up your budgets and billing alerts.

> Technical Product Management @ AWS

Thank you for your reply. However, I must respectfully disagree. Even in your hypothetical startup example, we should default to do not charge people until they flip a switch saying they are in production. I know it doesn't matter to you right now because AWS has so much demand but I think in terms of developer experience (DX), it would be really nice if we could rely on some kind of a sandbox. Even Microsoft Azure has Visual Studio subscription, which has a cap. Please consider adding this option.

"A list of PaaS offerings that have free tiers"


So, I tried Fly.io and they have this pricing like AWS, which is totally not intuitive, and this just makes me uncomfortable.

Heroku was much simpler and this is what their quality was from the start. It isn't just that there was a free tier, it was, when you have to pay, there was a limit and you could understand, I am paying $15 for instance, $7 for database, $5 for redis (I don't remember prices), sum is $27/mo, so you know roughly how much it would cost you.

I do wish that more services had simple prix fixe starter plans as an upgrade to the free plan. But fly.io is much simpler than AWS, you're basically only billed for three things: the VMs, permanent storage space, and outbound data.

If you're wanting pricing simplicity, cannot go much simpler than Digital Ocean: you pay monthly for a server. The end.

Vercel’s free Hobby tier is solid:


Do you have any high traffic site on Hobby plan? I see some people using vercel domain getting blowing up their posts on HN, can hobby plan afford that traffic?

That’s a good question. I don’t have any high traffic sites hosted with Vercel.

DigitalOcean's App Platform has a free tier for static websites:


Disclaimer: I work at DO.

I'm surprised so many people use Heroku, I remember using their free tier to accomplish anything to be so painful that I wrote off their entire platform.

Who wants to bring down their app just so they can connect to their database to make changes?

Heyo! Angelo, Support Engineer from Railway here. Just replying here to let ya know that if you attach a card/load credits into your account. You get an unrestricted $5 a month free for your projects.

Similar to what other HN commenters mentioned on this and other threads. Offering unrestricted compute online tends to be hard to manage from an abuse perspective.

Aside from that: just here to answer any questions about the product/roadmap. We want your workloads to be successful, on Railway or anywhere else. :)

Didn't understand please explain again. The site says $5 or 500 hours. Does this mean, 500 hoirs are free and if it exceeds then my CC will be charged $5?


Koyeb[1] looks interesting. I haven't tried myself, but looked similar.

[1] https://www.koyeb.com/pricing

Dokku on your own server

Big fan of Northflank. They do HTTP/2, container build caching, Cloud Native Buildpacks, managed databases on top of all the tablestakes features you’d expect.

But probably the number one reason why I like them is because of how snappy everything is. Frankly puts AWS/GCP/Azure to shame.

Is Elastic Beanstalk so far out of fashion now that people have forgotten about it?

Because the AWS console is where expert assassins go to hide the bodies.

Meaning you need a Phd just to navigate the thing.

The only time I saw someone use it in the wild, they put a database in it, so when it scaled there was inconsistent view of the truth and when it relaunched workers it deleted everything. The developer responsible absolutely could not be convinced that this was their fault, or that there were valid use cases (stateless services) for the product.

Hobbyists hosting on AWS is a fast track to personal bankruptcy. All it takes is one hug of death.

Adaptable.io has a free tier and includes a database (Postgres or MongoDB).

https://appliku.com seems to be just a deployment service, you provide your own AWS servers.

Platform.sh does not require a credit card for a free trial.


Alwaysdata has a free plan:


The major clouds all have generous free tiers as well. The developer experience varies but, they all seem to have their own ways of running containerised apps.

Apps on https://qoddi.com never sleeps and includes unlimited traffic

PythonAnywhere allows you to host always on or scheduled Python tasks on their free tier

I've been having good luck with CloudFlare as a minimal web stack.

Which of these can run Django and don’t have a steep learning curve?

Fly support Django with their launch command. Should just be a case of downloading their CLI, logging in, running `fly launch`. I haven't done it myself with Django though. https://fly.io/docs/speedrun/#deploy-your-app-in-three-steps

We have a bunch of users running Django apps here at Koyeb. They seems happy with the experience we provide

Appliku (not on list) (nor am I affiliated!)

Check pythonanywhere. They are good.

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