Many companies claim to offer free cloud hosting, yet few offer anything worth using. What good is a “free” service when what you get is a disappointing combo of unreliable and excruciatingly slow? The best free cloud hosting services let you actually try their platforms, without any trickery or false promises.
Are there limitations on free hosting? Well, of course. Each host takes a different approach to its free plan, and they all offer paid upgrades to more powerful services. I’ve tried them myself and detailed exactly what you’ll get with each cloud platform and how you can use each to build your website or app.
Before we continue, a word of advice. To get the most out of free cloud hosting, you’ll need to put in quite a bit of time and effort. If you’re willing to pay (a bit!) to make your life a whole lot easier, jump to the last service (#7) on the list.
Short on Time? These Are the Best Free Cloud Hosting Services:
- GearHost – An intuitive interface lets you quickly launch a free cloud instance
- Amazon Web Services (AWS) – A low-end cloud instance is available for free for 12 months
- Bonus: Cloudways – Excellent fully managed cloud services based on a supplier of your choice, for a low monthly cost (there’s also a 3-day free trial)
- See 4 more free cloud hosts
- Comparison table
What We Look For in the Best Free Cloud Hosting Services
- Reliability and uptime – It’s easy to give away cloud hosting like candy, but it takes the best, most cutting-edge infrastructure to make it really shine. These companies provide reliable, redundant servers, which translates to high uptime and blazing-fast speeds.
- Multiple deployment locations – The best clouds aren’t made of a few servers located in Bangladesh, but of thousands of servers, located all over the globe, working together. Almost all services on this list provide multiple deployment options, ensuring that you’ll always have a nearby location promptly serving your visitors.
- Access to resources – As I said before, free cloud hosting does come with limitations. What differentiates these guys from the rest is that the free tiers come with enough resources to actually test the service.
- Scalability – With sub-par hosting, success is actually your biggest fear. It’s hardly scalable, so once you get some traffic, your website is going to grind to a halt. With the companies on this list, you always have room to grow.
- Developer friendly – To develop the best apps in the least amount of time, you need a service that makes things easier. All the services on this list are developer-oriented, but a couple really go the extra mile in streamlining the process.
GearHost claims that it was “made with love in Arizona”. While I’m generally skeptical about things made with love in Arizona, I tried the service out and was really happy with what I saw. It took me minutes to get on-board and launch my free cloud instance, and the entire process was extremely well thought of.
The service has five different cloud plans, with the basic one being completely free to use, for life. After choosing the free plan, all it took to get started was a quick signup form and basic email verification. Some of the other services on this list require your credit card as an “insurance policy,” but GearHost didn’t ask for any payment details of any kind.
Keep in mind that there’s no root access available, so you’ll be relying solely on the interface for performing configurations. There are limitations to this approach. For example, you won’t be able to use development environments that aren’t .NET or PHP. Then again, it also simplifies the process of getting your cloud instance online, as you’ll never have to use the command line.
- Free CloudSite – CloudSites, as GearHost calls them, are the company’s cloud plans. Up to five free CloudSites can be launched, and each one includes 100MB of storage space, 1GB of bandwidth, one daily CPU hour, and 256MB of RAM.
- Immediate activation and domain connection – Thanks to the no-fuss, easy-to-use interface, it took me just a few minutes to get started, configure a domain, and connect it. I had a test WordPress website running shortly after.
- Usage and operation statistics – Each CloudSite offers detailed information on its operation. Use it to survey your CPU consumption, understand how visitors interact with your project, and diagnose potential issues.
- Advanced options available – Upgrading to a paid plan will give you access to a bigger pool of resources, full website availability, 64bit CPU technology, email services, and more.
Amazon’s premier cloud web service, AWS, is divided into three products: Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), Elastic Beanstalk, and Lightsail. The last two are designed as easy-to-use platforms that utilize the cloud computing resources that EC2 provides.
The best part? EC2 has a free tier that offers complete access to a limited set of resources, allowing you to familiarize yourself with AWS’ service and configure it to your exact needs. The AWS free tier includes 12 months of access, during which you’ll get 750 computing hours a month. Impressive, and our expert thought so too. Read all about it in our detailed review of AWS.
The micro instance that comes with the free tier can run either Linux or Windows and is fit for low to moderate performance needs. This won’t be enough for a production-ready site, but you’ll be able to install and test WordPress, as well as advanced frameworks like Django and Node.js.
- t2.micro instance – A general-purpose cloud instance. Has 1 vCPU and 1 GB of RAM, and provides bursts of extra CPU in addition to the baseline level.
- Complete control – EC2’s instances are completely customizable, which puts a lot of responsibility on you. The interface isn’t the prettiest, either, so prepare to work overtime to get everything perfectly configured.
- Additional services available for free or for trial – Options include GuardDuty for intelligent threat detection, RDS (Relational Database Service) for relational managed databases, and SNS (Simple Notification Service) for push messaging services.
- Easily scalable into high-performance machines – Once you have an account active with AWS, you can always add more computing instances. Just pick an instance size and location and deploy it within minutes.
Of all the companies on this list, none provide a service as streamlined and easy to use as Heroku’s. There are far fewer options and features to concern yourself with: Dynos make the building blocks of their service. In Heroku’s own words, “Dynos are isolated, virtualized Linux containers”. They’re designed to execute code based on a user-specified command, and here there are only six types are available. The first one is completely free to use.
It’s through this combination of zero cost and ease of use that Heroku becomes such a great option for students and developers. Once you sign up and get your dyno going, you can immediately get a runtime environment up. Multiple languages and frameworks, such as Python, Node.js, and Ruby, are available for deployment without any extra configurations.
The free dyno will net you 512 MB of RAM and 2 process types (equal to 1 vCPU), making it a great platform for school projects and general experimentation. You’ll be able to run WordPress and similar platforms on a PHP environment, but you’ll find Heroku’s cloud instance to be slightly weaker than its competitors. See the results of our performance tests here.
- Free dyno – The free cloud instance is not always on, and you’ll have to turn it back on after 30 minutes of inactivity. This limits its functionality to situations like code and app presentations, as its availability can’t be counted on.
- Easy to use – Using Heroku’s sleek user interface, dynos and any other extras can be easily and immediately added. Heroku lets you focus on the actual development, taking most of the infrastructure responsibility off your back.
- Buildpacks – Heroku lets you immediately deploy development environments for PHP, Node.js, Python, and many other languages, pre-configured with all necessary settings and dependencies.
- Add-ons – Many add-ons are available to install on your cloud account, some for free and others for a low monthly cost. Add-ons like Heroku Redis, Timber.io, and Mailgun all offer a free plan.
Google’s cloud service, GCP, offers a ton of products – but it can get very confusing. The sheer number of options is sure to send novice developers back to the cozy arms of regular providers, so take a moment to decide if you’re ready to get your hands dirty.
Compute Engine instances are going to be your best buddies for building a WordPress website, and the free tier is always free. You’ll get one f1-micro instance per month on the free tier, and it offers a surprising amount of storage space to play with. See what users think here.
Google’s free GCP tier is an excellent option if you’re looking for free cloud hosting for developers, but you’ll need to be in the United States to get the most out of it. You’ll only get US-based cloud instances, and your bandwidth won’t be available to destinations such as China or Australia.
- F1-micro instance – The instance includes 1 vCPU, 0.6 GB of RAM, 30 GB of storage space, 5 GB of snapshot storage, and 1 GB of bandwidth.
- Trial with $300 of credit – If you’re looking to test GCP’s other services, you can get $300 of credit for the first year of use. All you need to do is open an account and provide identity verification and credit card details. You will not be charged.
- Free access to Google’s advanced technologies – Google is an industry leader in quickly evolving fields such as speech recognition, artificial intelligence, and diagnostics. Free trials or limited free plans are available for each of them.
- Integration with Google products – If you’re using G Suite, Docs, Ads, or the many other online products Google offers, it only makes sense to keep everything in one place and under the same account.
Azure offers a free product system very similar to AWS’: Some are free for 12 months, others for life, and some are available for trial through the use of credit. Among the cloud resources that are free for 12 months, you’ll find Linux virtual machines, storage space, databases, and bandwidth.
Azure’s generous free resources allotment, specifically the bandwidth, make it a great place for projects aiming for production-readiness. The resources you’ll get for free (1 vCPU, 1 GB RAM, 5 GB space) are actually more than what a lot of shared hosting providers offer on their intermediate to advanced plans!
What’s the catch? No catch really, except the one that affects all of these cloud providers – these platforms were not built for the novice user. It takes expertise, knowledge, and a lot of time to get everything working together nicely – read about our expert’s experiences in the full review.
- B1S virtual machine – 1 vCPU and 1 GB of RAM memory. The free storage space includes 5 GB.
- Trial with $200 of credit – Use the credit to purchase any of the trial products and try them out for 30 days.
- Linux or Windows – Surprising no one, Microsoft’s Azure offers the most comprehensive support for Microsoft’s own Windows operating system. Linux machines are also available, and both are offered as part of the free tier.
- Extremely high uptime guarantees – The basic single instance virtual machines come with a 99.9% uptime guarantee, and a whopping 99.99% guarantee is available if you choose to upgrade and add redundant instances.
6. Red Hat OpenShift – Most Powerful Cloud Instance Available – But It’s No Longer Free
Red Hat, known for the popular Red Hat Linux distribution, used to have an always free starter plan for its reliable cloud platform. The starter plan is no longer available, but there is a 30-day free trial of OpenShift Online Pro, so Red Hat OpenShift still makes it onto the list – if only because it’s one of the most powerful cloud instances available.
It’s quite a formidable setup, but your machine will go into hibernation after 30 minutes of inactivity. After your 30-day trial, your subscription will automatically renew – but if you cancel before the end of the trial period, you still get the full 30 days to evaluate Red Hat OpenShift.
The discontinuation of the free plan is a disadvantage, but it doesn’t stop OpenShift from being the best cloud hosting for students available today. The platform is geared toward rapid development (not as much as Heroku, but much more than AWS, Google Cloud, and Azure), and can ably run almost any test project or school app you can conjure. You can use it with AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud, too – and Red Hat and AWS have announced a partnership that will more closely integrate OpenShift with AWS.
- 30-day free trial – Includes a US-based cloud instance with 4 vCPUs, 2 GB of RAM, and 2 GB of storage space.
- Customized management console – Your cloud hosting can be managed and configured using either the command line or a customized console developed by OpenShift.
- Development support – OpenShift’s platform makes it easy to quickly install frameworks and languages through the use of preconfigured containers.
- Git functionality – Use OpenShift’s interface to push code updates and changes into a base image. Allows for easy team collaborations.
Alright. Cloudways isn’t free, nor does it have a free plan, but while the free cloud hosting services are super tempting, you have to ask yourself if you’re ready for the level of commitment and responsibility they entail. On the bright side, there is a 3-day free trial.
If you’re newer to the cloud hosting world and not quite ready for the commitment that some services require, it’s better to look for low-cost, high-value cloud hosting. Cloudways is my personal recommendation, thanks to its dedicated support team, excellent performance, and low prices.
Cloudways works by using existing cloud infrastructure: Choose between a number of different cloud services, and Cloudways takes care of deployment, configuration, setup, security, and updates. All that’s left for you is to enjoy your new cloud hosting.
- Your choice of cloud service – Cloudways offers plans based on cloud services by DigitalOcean, Linode, Vultr, AWS, and GCP.
- 24/7 support – Available with none of the free cloud hosting services. Cloudways’ support agents will be there around the clock to help you out with any issue affecting your hosting.
- Free migration – Cloudways’ experts will take care of a complete migration for you. If you find yourself wanting to switch to cloud hosting from your current provider, Cloudways can make the process seamless.
- Managed backups – The company will take care of backing up your entire hosting container, making it easily available for you to restore.
Cloudways Cloud Hosting
You Can Find Fantastic Free Cloud Hosting, but It’s Easier to Pay a Little
If you’re just looking to experiment, or you’re developing projects for your school or for yourself, there’s really no need to pay. The free plans are powerful enough to handle most of what you can throw at them, and you’ll learn a lot by using them. Red Hat OpenShift and Heroku are my personal favorites.
On the other hand, if you’re looking to get a production-ready cloud environment going, the free cloud hosting providers will probably not be enough. Their bandwidth is limited, some are prone to hibernation after inactivity, and you’ll have the engineer’s job of making sure everything clicks together.
If you need a little more help along the way, I suggest you give Cloudways a shot. By letting real, talented professionals take care of your cloud hosting, you can focus on what’s most important – your project.
|Basic Instance Specifications||Deployment Locations||Support and Managed Services||Free Tier|
|GearHost||1 vCPU, 256 MB RAM, 100 MB storage||US, UK||Ticket support and documentation||Always free|
|AWS||1 vCPU, 1 GB RAM, Amazon Block Storage||Global||Documentation only||12 months|
|Google Cloud||1 vCPU, 0.6 GB RAM, 30 GB storage||US-wide (global in paid plans)||Documentation only||Always free|
|Heroku||1 vCPU, 512 MB RAM, storage through add-ons||Global||Documentation, some environments are preconfigured||Always free|
|Microsoft Azure||1 vCPU, 1 GB RAM, 5 GB storage||Global||Documentation only||12 months|
|Red Hat OpenShift||4 vCPU, 2 GB RAM, 2 GB storage||North Virginia and Oregon, US||Documentation, some environments are preconfigured||30-day free trial|
|Cloudways||Depending on the chosen cloud provider||Depending on the chosen cloud provider||Documentation, 24/7 personal support, all services are fully managed||Three-day free trial|