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 disappointingly unreliable and excruciatingly slow? The best free cloud hosting services actually let you try their platforms, without any trickery or false promises.
That’s why we tested the biggest free cloud platforms thoroughly, cutting them down to the top six. I’ve detailed exactly what you’ll get with each platform and how you can maximize its potential. Take a look below for all the details.
Keep in mind, though, that every free cloud hosting platform has limitations. You’ll likely be working with a tiny amount of resources, and you can’t expect any reasonable level of customer support. For serious projects, I’d recommend a paid option. It is possible to pay budget prices and still get the full power of the cloud – keep reading to learn how.
Short on time? These are the best free cloud hosting services in 2022:
- Kamatera – Budget prices for highly reliable and customizable servers, plus a 30-day free trial
- GearHost – An intuitive interface lets you quickly launch a cloud instance.
- Amazon Web Services – A low-end cloud instance is available for free for 12 months
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.
Despite the lack of a forever free plan, Kamatera offers the best overall value. For just a couple of dollars per month, you can get a fully customizable cloud instance without any limitations – and great performance to back it up.
Like many cloud hosts, Kamatera charges by the hour. This gives you full control over your server’s overall pricing – you can quickly scale your server up or down to meet your exact needs and budget. You can try this out for yourself with Kamatera’s free 30-day trial, supported by a dedicated account manager who can answer any queries.
Additionally, the performance tests in our Kamatera review revealed loading times of a single second, along with perfect uptime. Kamatera is among our top-rated cloud hosts for 2022 for a reason: it offers lower prices than much of the competition, along with comparable, if not faster, performance.
- Rapid setup – It takes less than a minute to set up a new cloud instance, allowing you to start development almost immediately.
- Global cloud network – Kamatera offers 13 data centers across the globe, covering all major continents. The network is highly redundant and provides some incredibly fast speeds.
- Free static IP – Every server comes with a free public static IP, adding to the overall value.
- Cheap automatic backup solution – For a small added fee, your server’s storage will be automatically backed up every day. This is stored in an offsite storage array to further protect against data loss.
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. Read our expert GearHost review for more details.
- 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.
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.
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.
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 as a hobby, there’s really no need to commit to a paid plan. These 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. Your resources will be heavily limited, you won’t be getting much support, and some services are prone to hibernation after a period of inactivity.
For such cases, I’d highly recommend at least trying out Kamatera’s free trial. You’ll get 30 days to try out a powerful cloud instance that can be scaled as you please. I’d consider setting up the server you’ll need, and see how much this would cost outside the trial. For entry-level servers, you can enjoy some very low prices.
Still stuck? Here’s a nifty table to help you out.
|Basic Instance Specifications||Deployment Locations||Support and Managed Services||Free Tier|
|Kamatera||1 vCPU, 1GB RAM, 20GB SSD storage||The US, Canada, the UK, Netherlands, Germany, Israel, Hong Kong||24/7 technical support via email and phone||30 days|
|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|
|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|
|Microsoft Azure||1 vCPU, 1 GB RAM, 5 GB storage||Global||Documentation only||12 months|
Why should you pay for cloud hosting?Free cloud platforms typically have heavy limitations on resources, along with a lack of support and reliability issues. If you’re looking to run anything other than a few simple prototypes, a paid solution is likely the better option. You can get cloud hosting for cheap, especially if you take advantage of the latest deals for June 2022 on our coupon page.Is cloud hosting faster than shared hosting?In most cases, yes. Most cloud hosts offer you dedicated resources that do not need to be shared, allowing them to offer faster and more reliable performance. That said, shared hosting offers generally lower prices along with more user-friendly platforms. Check out our list of the best web hosting services for our top picks.