Heroku is no more; long live the free substitutes.
Heroku recently found itself in hot water for one clear reason: it was switching from offering free hosting for small projects to just offering premium plans. For their tiny initiatives, the majority of developers had to hunt for an alternative location.
The news broke just as I was about to mount Larawiz, my online Laravel scaffolder, and start thinking about Heroku. Some Laravel projects may be in danger as a result of this, but fortunately, there are always alternatives that are not controlled by SalesForce and that can still function with some restrictions as long as you don’t seek excessive power.
After hearing this news, I made the decision to search the Internet for other hosting companies that offered decent free plans. Consider the word “fair” as a place to place your project without worrying that your credit card would be hit with an erroneous five figure bill.
This is my list, in no particular order.
Before we get started, if you’re intending to build a new Laravel application and you don’t want to spend hours generating models or migrations, you might want to check out Larawiz.
This platform functions quite similarly to a typical VPS, except Docker is used as its foundation. It’s both nice and horrible. Your programme will be uploaded to Fly.io from your computer or GitHub and built using a Docker image that you can modify. Anything is possible to construct (who said an S6 overlay running three processes?). This is really good.
The bad news is that you will become stranded in the ocean if you don’t dance the whale song. Although it’s not difficult to learn Docker, getting started without understanding how it operates will cause more problems than it will solve. For all Docker-based platforms, this will apply.
The flyctl tool’s documentation, which is necessary to connect with Fly.io, is acceptable. Additionally, a variety of data centre locations are supported. The catch is that Fly.io operates tiny VMs but uses Docker. Additionally, it is scalable-friendly.
Two tiny apps can be run on the free tier, or three if a credit card is used. If you go over your free quota, you may always check your dashboard to be sure you didn’t mean to.
Since Vercel is a platform that only supports server operations, PHP is not natively supported by it. However, Caleb Porzio wrote an article on how to run PHP applications on Vercel, including Laravel, using a unique Vercel PHP Runner.
The positive Vercel functions somewhat similarly to Laravel Vapor, therefore it’s suitable for tiny applications that don’t include databases or storage. AWS serves as Vercel’s backend.
a negative Your app will be transient, therefore you’ll need to complement it with services like Uploadcare, PlanetScale, Transloadit, and Filestack, among others. Imagine a small virtual machine image that is asleep but is woken up by the server when a request comes in and returns to the void after a brief period of inactivity.
The free tier is quite alluring, and provided your application doesn’t stall on external APIs, you won’t likely ever reach the constraints. For apps with JS-driven frontends, it works wonderfully, but whenever you need databases, storage, caches, and other features, you should seek elsewhere.
Because it uses Docker to containerize your application, Render functions similarly to Fly.io. For all operating services, the free limit is 720 hours, so you don’t need to worry about running only one app all month.
What’s good? Redis is offered without persistence for free with 25MB of RAM, allowing you to cache data more quickly than with the disc or a database.
The bad? There are numerous catches and restrictions with the free plan, most notably:
There are no storage fees.
Only 90 days of free SQL database usage.
no access to shell
If no requests are handled for 15 minutes, the app “sleeps,” and it could take up to 30 seconds for it to awaken. No Scheduler or Queue Worker will function properly as a result.
For the occasional prototype or proof of concept, Render.com might be adequate. You can utilise Render.com to supplement another service, such as their free Redis instance.
Similar to how Fly.io and Render.com operate, Railway also uses a usage cap of 500 hours, or $5 in credits, which is where the catch lies. Compared to Render.com, there are fewer surprises, but their stricter limits will compel you to make at least a partial payment before the month is through.
The removal of execution limits by adding a credit card is fantastic, but since you still have USD$ 5 in credits, there is no way to avoid payments even if your project isn’t visited throughout the entire month. As a result, you’re forced to pause your app for a few days or a week to stay under the quota.
The Big G service is, quite honestly, simpler to run than The Church of Bezos service while offering a similar Free Forever Tiers structure in comparison to AWS.
While a single Laravel application may be able to run on an App Engine running “28 hours a day,” you will still need additional products to support them, such as Cloud Storage, a single Compute Engine for a SQL Database, or you could even just make your app run on the transient Cloud Run.
The positive a great deal of versatility and self-explanatory free levels that are far simpler to understand than AWS.
a negative Although GCP is not frequently used for Laravel, it is still possible to install Laravel there with the help of some tutorials and documentation.
Amazon Web Services
AWS is the room’s major talking point. Only 750 hours of their primary compute service, AWS EC2, are free each month for the first year. Alternately, AWS Lambda is “always free” and has enough seconds available to run numerous instances of ephemeral apps for an entire month. You can host an ephemeral Laravel app, even with the help of the instruction offered by AWS.
AWS CloudFront is free for 1 TB if you’re concerned about assets, but their AWS S3 and EFS storage levels are also free for 12 months for 5GB. If you want storage that resembles S3, you might wish to combine it with other services.
he positive Because it’s AWS, there are a tonne of free resources and resource tiers available to install Laravel on AWS.
a negative Because they are only free for a year, S3 and RDS could prove fatal for initiatives that last longer.
A similar service to Fly.io and Render.com, Koyeb makes use of Docker and offers a quicker deployment process.
Without digressing, there is no charge for using a credit card. Up to 2 programmes, 2 services per app, and 512MB of RAM at most make up the simple offering.
The pricing seems to be fairly straightforward, but given that the free plan only provides USD$ 5 in free credits, you’ll have to pay a few cents for a single Micro instance or two Nano instances unless you only want to use a Nano instance or manually pause it for a few days to make sure you don’t go over your allotted credits. To house many services inside an instance, you might want to use S6.
The positive The free tier seems to be somewhat better than Fly.io and marginally worse than any other option provided by competing platforms.
a negative The pricing is designed to be extremely affordable, which may be sufficient for some but problematic for others, especially if you don’t have a credit card. Furthermore, there are no automated scale-to-zero features, so be ready to halt your app if you anticipate running out of free credits at the end of the month. Also keep in mind how few data centre locations there are.
Which should you employ?
In the end, I choose to utilise Fly.io to host Larawiz for two main reasons: I can do so while still utilising the free tier and I can host two small apps using Docker. The first uses Soketi entirely, whereas the second uses PHP, a Queue Worker, and a small SQLite database.
It should be noted that anyone can combine different free services and have them interact with one another as well as the latency between datacenters, but doing so would put an extreme strain on the budget. Imagine calling the backend on Vercel, connecting to the database in PlanetScale, and calling the frontend on Render.
Yes, you can go insane trying to get free work for non-profit endeavours.