As one of the first Platform as a Service providers, Heroku historically offered a free tier that allowed hobbyists to get their projects online for free. After the sale of Heroku to Salesforce, however, the free tier has come to an end.

The decision to end Heroku's free tier was met with mixed reactions from the developer community. While some users understood the need for the company to maintain sustainability and improve the quality of its services, others were concerned about the impact on small-scale projects, startups, and individual learners for whom the free tier had been a crucial stepping stone.

In its place, Heroku introduced a new lowest-tiered pricing plan called the Eco plan, which starts at $5 per month and provides 1000 hours of compute. As part of the Eco plan, inactive Dynos are shut down after 30 minutes of inactivity.

While the $5 per month price point of the Heroku Eco plan may not seem excessive, its introduction is a departure from the ease of entry previously enjoyed by hobbyists, students, and learners. The free tier provided an invaluable sandbox for experimentation, innovation, and learning - a place where individuals could freely play with code, bring ideas to life, and get multiple projects online easily. Crucially, they could do so without worrying about running up bills.

Learners and hobbyists, in particular, could feel the pinch as they now need to worry about the costs of running multiple applications.

Why Search for Free Heroku Alternatives?

Heroku Pricing

Heroku's pricing structure has traditionally been designed to cater to a wide range of users, from hobbyists and students to large-scale businesses, offering flexibility in terms of both cost and resources. However, this has seen significant changes in recent years.

Historically, Heroku offered a free tier that allowed hobbyists and learners to host and deploy their projects at no cost, albeit with certain limitations such as the app sleeping after 30 minutes of inactivity and having a limited number of dyno hours. This feature has since been phased out, and the platform's pricing model has shifted.

As of now, Heroku's most affordable plan is the 'Eco' plan, which starts at $5 per month. This plan includes benefits such as 24/7 availability of your application, additional dyno hours, and more resources compared to the previous free tier.

In most cases, however, you'll need at least the Mini PostgreSQL database plan, which is an additional $5 monthly. Be aware, though, that the Mini DB only supports 7,000 rows. Beyond that, and you'll need to upgrade to the Basic DB plan that costs $9 per month.

Security Breaches

The timeline of a significant security breach at Heroku raised serious concerns about its security protocols and transparency. The breach initially occurred on April 7th of 2022, but it was not until April 13th, prompted by an alert from GitHub about suspicious activity, that Heroku became aware of the issue. A two-day delay followed before they publicly acknowledged the breach on April 15th, revealing that OAuth tokens connecting to GitHub had been compromised.

While Heroku took action to mitigate the situation by revoking the compromised tokens on April 16th, this action was almost four days after the breach was discovered. This delay, during which the attacker could still access the system, alarmed many users.

Further fueling concerns, it was not until May 5th, almost a month after the breach first occurred, that Heroku informed users that their source code and databases were also compromised, leading to the release of hashed and salted passwords. Consequently, Heroku was forced to reset all users' passwords.

This sequence of events generated criticism about Heroku's response speed and transparency. The delay in detecting the breach, the time taken to respond, and the gaps in communication left many users in the dark.

Long-Term Survival of Heroku

Recent developments have brought the long-term survival of Heroku into question, stemming from concerns about its parent company, Salesforce. The underperforming tech giant has come under fire from several activist investors, including Elliott Management, Starboard Value, and Inclusive Capital.

To counteract this underperformance and improve profitability, Salesforce may be driven to adopt drastic measures. It has already taken significant steps in this direction by announcing a 10% reduction in headcount in January of 2023.

Some industry insiders speculate that further measures may include the sale of assets not central to Salesforce's core operations. Interestingly, these assets might include companies Salesforce has recently acquired, including Heroku. If this were to happen, it could significantly influence the direction and support Heroku receives for its services.

The potential sale of these non-core assets introduces an element of uncertainty regarding Heroku's future. The question becomes whether Heroku will continue to receive the support and investment it needs to maintain its platform and develop its services. This potential instability could cause concern for users relying on Heroku for long-term application deployment.

Feature Development Stagnation

A significant concern for users of Heroku, especially in the context of its competitors, is the seeming slowdown in the pace of feature development. A look at the Heroku product blog or its changelog offers clear evidence of this trend. Looking through the product blog, the last new feature was delivered in November of 2022, with the release of the Data Labs CLI.

It's noticeable that the majority of Heroku's product updates are centered around upgrading buildpacks and keeping language versions current. While these updates are important, they don't provide the kind of innovation that could enhance the platform's overall capabilities or user experience.

This stagnation in the introduction of new features is particularly concerning when viewed against the backdrop of aggressive innovation by competing platforms like and Render. These competitors are consistently pushing the boundaries and offering new, user-centric features to their platforms.

Runaway Costs for Larger Deployments

One aspect of Heroku that might not be immediately apparent, especially for new users, is how rapidly costs can add up as your project scales. Heroku's pricing model, while straightforward at first glance, can lead to a sudden increase in costs when you need to grow your applications beyond the capabilities of the basic plans.

Heroku's simplicity and ease of deployment make it an attractive option for developers starting out or working on small-scale projects. However, as your application grows in complexity and user base, so too does the need for more resources. This can mean upgrading to higher-tier plans or adding more dynos, both of which come with an increase in price.

Furthermore, Heroku's add-on services, which provide functionality like database management, email sending, caching, and more, each come with their own costs. While these services provide valuable functionality and can save development time, they can also significantly add to the total cost of running your application on Heroku.

If you're running a large application or multiple applications, costs can balloon quickly. When compared to other hosting solutions, the cost of running a large-scale application on Heroku can often be significantly higher.

For instance, if you have an application that requires multiple dynos for redundancy and scale, a database with high storage capacity, and several add-on services for additional functionality, the monthly costs could run into hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Just as an example, if you had a web dyno and a worker dyno with both having 1GB of memory, that can already add up to $100 per month. Adding on a basic database would bring the total to $150 per month.

What are the Free Alternatives for Django Hosting?

Now we'll dig into the free alternatives for Django hosting that exist in 2023.

Digital Ocean App Platform

The app platform was first introduced in October of 2020 and expanded what DigitalOcean has to offer from pure compute to PaaS. As both a cloud provider and a PaaS, Digital Ocean claims an ability to control costs and keep prices low as one their greatest advantages.

The platform offers many of the features you'd expect in a PaaS, such as continuous deployment through GitHub, custom domains, automatic SSL, and scalability. Some features, however, are restricted to higher tier plans. The ability to scale an application across multiple instances, for example, is limited to the Professional plan.

Digital Ocean offers some nice Django specific touches, such as a DJANGO_ALLOWED_HOSTS environment variable that makes it easier to get up and running with Django hosting on the app platform.


  • Continuous deployment through GitHub
  • Custom domains
  • Automatic SSL
  • Managed Database
  • Zero-downtime Deployment
  • Vertical Scalability (Note: Available on the Basic Plan)
  • Horizontal Scalability (Note: Available on the Professional Plan)


  • Free tier with Starter plan (Note: Only supports static site hosting)
  • Basic plan offers 512MB RAM / 1 Shared CPU at $5 per month
  • PostgreSQL with 512MB RAM at $7 per month


The Render platform was launched in 2019 and quickly started to siphon market share from Heroku. Render is known for its impressive user experience and expansive feature-set.

Render offers both public and private services for hosting web applications, static websites, background workers, and cron jobs, all under one unified platform.

Additionally, Render provides automatic HTTPS on every service, custom domains, pull request previews, zero-downtime deployments, and horizontal and vertical auto-scaling. Render also offers managed PostgreSQL and MySQL services, along with private networking and automatic failovers to ensure reliability and performance.

The free tier is generous, but the PostgreSQL database included with the free tier expires after 90 days.


  • Continuous deployment through GitHub
  • Custom domains
  • Automatic SSL
  • Manual scaling configuration
  • Automatic scaling (Note: Available starting on the Team tier)
  • Managed Database with Point-in-Time Recovery
  • Preview environments (Note: Available starting on the Team tier)
  • Persistent disks


  • Free tier with Individual plan (Note: Includes compute but with cold start)
  • PostgreSQL included with free plan (Note: Free DB expires after 90 days)
  • Starter plan offers 512 MB RAM / 1 Shared CPU at $7 per month
  • Starter DB plan offers 256 MB RAM for PostgreSQL at $7 per month was first established in 2017 and began life as an edge computing platform. The company boasts a global infrastructure, with a heavy focus on delivering content as quickly possible to anywhere in the world. began to pivot into a more general PaaS focused mission with the exodus of users from Heroku.

Unlike other providers listed so far, has usage based pricing. There are fixed rate plans, but the tiers differ in terms of support SLAs and not available features.

You'll need to find a separate database provider if you want a managed solution. offers PostgreSQL as what they call an App, but it isn't truly managed, as fail-over and database upgrades are the responsibility of the customer.


  • Continuous deployment with GitHub Actions
  • Custom domains
  • Automatic SSL
  • Manual scaling configuration
  • Automatic scaling


  • No free tier per se, but there is a $5 usage allowance per month
  • Two 256 MB RAM machines would fit under the $5 free usage allowance


Railway, launched in 2020, brought an innovative and fresh approach to app deployment. Designed to offer a seamless and intuitive deployment experience, Railway provides an infinite canvas interface, allowing users to visually map out and represent their deployed architecture. This visual-centric approach not only aids in easier comprehension but also makes managing complex architectures easier.

The Railway platform is also focused on speed of deployment, with new resources such as databases spinning up very quickly.


  • Continuous deployment through GitHub
  • Custom domains
  • Automatic SSL
  • Automatic scaling
  • Managed Database


  • Free tier at 512MB RAM with up to $5 of usage-based allowance
  • PostgreSQL included in free tier as long as usage is within allowance

While the end of Heroku's free tier did disappoint many developers, there is no dearth of alternatives in the market. Platforms like Digital Ocean App Platform, Render,, and Railway have risen to prominence, offering a blend of generous free tiers and powerful features. Depending on your needs, budget, and desired features, there are a plethora of options to explore. It's essential to research, understand the pros and cons of each, and make an informed decision based on your project's requirements.