May 15, 2019

Where do you host your app/product? Need some advice for limited budget.


Hi, I'm Anny. I'm new here. I'm getting lost on hosting bullying business. I'd been using Google Cloud one-year-free-trial with $300 credit, then one day, 2 days ago, I found out on my credit card bill that Google had automatically charged me. I reach out to them and told them that I did not get any notification in this regard. Long story short, I had to pay $200 for my own naivety. I had 2 instances running, one ios app and one landing page. Nothing fancy. Just an MVP. Me and my developer, testing back and forth, within a couple of months, here came the shameless bill. I decided to pull out everything and close out the GCP account. I try to look for some reasonable option that I can effort but the internet shout back at me with a bunch of advertisement. Here I am getting lost.

This is also my first product. I use my saving to make it happen. My resource is limited. I did some reading here in Indie Hackers and found something (Heroku) but I wanna hear your advice and experiences. Have you had a similar experience I had? Where do you host your first product? How much did you spend? How much do I have to slit my skin to sustain the product, say first year? What's the recommendation options? I'd greatly appreciate if you could share some insight.


  1. 10

    I think the answer depends on your knowledge of managing servers and how much effort you want to put forward in dealing with that management as well as how much you're willing to spend.

    If you aren't familiar with server management or just want something that takes care of it all for you, then I'd recommend Heroku. The tradeoff there is you might spend a little bit more money for the equivalent compute power compared to managing your own server once you start needing more resources.

    For a cloud VM company, I recommend Digital Ocean. I just recently migrated all of my projects from Google Cloud to Digital Ocean. Their prices are very fair and they have a lot of nice offerings overall.

    If all you have is a website with no database, you could get by with using Netlify which is free for something like that. You could even use Firebase for something similar.

    Regardless of what you choose, the tradeoff for you will always be time versus money and how much you want to spend from either.

    1. 1

      Thanks a lot for the recommendation and insight @alexgaribay. I almost went with Digital Ocean before I saw that flashy free trial of Google. I never heard of Netlify before though but I have database.... I will need to spread a paper to compare the options. I probably need something affordable to host and run an ios app and a landing page for now. Nothing complex, just a productivity app where salespeople can track on their closing deals, comment, like share, push noti and team collabs.

      Why did you migrate from GCP to Digital Ocean, may I ask?

      1. 1

        Sure. One reason was the credits originally. Second was that GCP offers managed Postgres. Now that Digital Ocean now offers managed Postgres and I wanted more vCPUs, it was time to move over. Deployment of my app is already scripted so the only time-consuming portion was setting up the new server. In the end, I get way more compute power for cheaper.

        1. 1

          Thanks for sharing! The credit thingy was really tricky wasn't it.. I'm glad that all works well on your migration. the "I get way more compute power for cheaper" gets me. haha :))

  2. 4

    You've probably used Google Compute Engine where your server instances are constantly running. You should have used Google App Engine instead, which is a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) similar to Heroku. It scales to zero, which means that your server instances automatically shut down when there's no traffic (usually overnight) and automatically start up when the first user visits your website. This way you save money.

    I'm running several websites on Google App Engine and so far (after 5 years) I haven't had to pay anything for it.

    Comparing Heroku and App Engine: The latter has a much bigger free quota.

    1. 1

      You're right. Exactly the standout balance was Compute Engine, but more than that was CloudSQL. It was the time when I was testing nights and days so... I think my mistake was I didn't know how to manage GCP, it was my first time so I paid the price and move on :|

      1. 1

        Oh, CloudSQL - now it makes more sense. I use Google's NoSQL database called Datastore/Firestore which is very cheap. But SQL databases can be pretty expensive, yes. The cloud can be tricky (anywhere, not just Google's). Hope you have more luck next time :) And check if you can set up daily/monthly spending limits so that you can avoid unexpected costs.

        1. 1

          I think the corporates have good objectives but tricky intention indeed;| Thank you for the insights tho. Good luck to you too!

  3. 4

    Welcome, Anny!

    I just migrated my app (static front end) and API (Node) from Heroku to Render. The entire process took less than a couple of hours and was seamless. But as sweet as the migration was, the cost savings was even sweeter! Down from $98 to $10 (I've actually suspended my staging app and API until I resume development.)

    And the customer service is exquisite.

    I can't speak to operational load as I'm brand new to Render, but the services seem as straightforward to manage, if not more straightforward, than Heroku!

    1. 2

      just wonder how you managed to pay so much if you have only static front end and backend API. Do you have really huge traffic or your app uses a lot of memory? I wonder because I thought heroku hobby ($7/month) is usually enough for not-too-big apps.

    2. 1

      Hi Harlem, congrats on the migration! $98 to $10 is insanely attractive!
      I finally decided to experiment with Digital Ocean and will see how it go :))

  4. 3

    I personally use Digital Ocean for my apps. The one click droplets save a lot of time. You can get a droplet for $5 a month. Downside is that you have to manage the server yourself but the online guides DO have are fantastic and thorough.

    1. 1

      A lot of my tech friends recommend Digital Ocean as well. I think the challenge I have is to learn how to manage it which doesn't seem too complicate for me. Thanks for sharing!

  5. 2

    I have found Heroku to be super easy to manage and have a couple low-use API's running on there for about $25/month. I also run a few low-use (for now) services on AWS lambda that are very cheap and very easy to deploy/manage. I've had one of those spike once when it was under pretty heavy usage for about a month and it got up to about $75. I've had very good luck with Zeit (excellent developer experience) but that has been specifically just with next.js apps. Also Netlify has been good for some static sites. Cheap-ish and easy.

    1. 1

      I have about $10 per month for now. haha. Was indecisive between aws and digital ocean but decided to go indie with digital ocean. I think the poor ability to manage server is my big setback. You guys here have been giving me a lot of point of views to think about and I'm really thankful.

  6. 2

    Heroku, $7 / month for one app.

  7. 2

    We host our website on S3 as a static site, and our backend is all supported with aws lambda. Costs are almost negligible. I would definitely suggest starting with a serverless solution like this at first. You definitely shouldn't need an instance for a landing page. S3 static sites basically scale infinitely for almost no cost at all

    1. 1

      may I ask you what is your stack on lambda, and if you use some kind of user authentication?

    2. 1

      S3 and Amplify look like something I need. You ever have any bad experience with aws billing? I never play with aws before so I fear that I'd screw up like with the Google.

    3. 1

      I would also suggest looking into AWS Amplify. On Twitter @dabit3 does a hell of a job explaining Amplify (with tutorials using Gatsby, React, Vue, and React Native). I think Amplify could be a game-changer for indie devs.

      1. 1

        " I think Amplify could be a game-changer for indie devs." gets me. I'll dig on Amplify. Thanks for the heads up!

        1. 2

          +1 For Amplify, the front end framework is still developing but is great at handling your basics (Auth, Storage, Hosting). The best part for me is the github integration for deployment (look for the "Amplify Console" in your AWS account). They use docker under the hood so you can "undo" a deployment to a previous version with a couple of clicks

  8. 1

    Hi Anny, usually companies like google or amazon can refund services if they see it was not used, they dont want you to be caught, did you try to ask for a refund ?

    Im using google firebase it is an easy service to build apps without backend server and also hosting, free of charge for a small apps.

    1. 1

      Yes, I second this. I'm not sure about Google specifically, but I know friends have gotten a surprise bill from AWS by mistake (leaked API keys on github) and AWS has waived the bill.

      It's really a good idea to at at least explain your situation because stories like this scare future customers from trying their service, bad for business. If you didn't get value out of it nobody wins and they are playing the long game.

    2. 1

      Hi Juan, I think my mistake was that I must have turned on something and it started to eat up my credit card without telling me so the billing support couldn't help with anything. I'm gonna be using firebase with Digital Ocean, will see how it go.

  9. 1

    If you can manage servers yourself, I recommend Digital Ocean or Linode. Both are great and are essentially the same price. Google Cloud Platform and AWS are probably too expensive for what you need.

    1. 1

      Hi Sam, thank you so much for your advice. I think I'm going with DO. Have second doubt with AWS, but will get to it when things settle a bit more.

  10. 1

    Hi Anny, like many others I'd suggest Digitalocean (DO) for hosting any VPS, the pricing is very clear and the value is great. I use it for the projects that I want to run in the cloud.

    If you're hosting just static websites, someone else suggested using AWS S3 and that is probably the best and cheapest solution. I would definitely go with that. If you need help with it just ask the community for the steps involved.

    Good luck!

    1. 1

      Hi Jab, thank you so much for recs! I just created an account with DO and will play with it a little bit. My challenge for now is firebase and database but here seems to be a lot of docs out there to help. Will see!

      1. 1

        You don't necessarily need to create a virtual machine (or droplet in the case of DO) for all the pieces of your application, like one each. You can do it all on one VM. If you're using Firebase, you don't really host it, you just make calls to their service.

        If you need more than one VM, or if someone is telling you that I'd probably ask some follow up questions.

        I use Maria for my database, plus Nginx (web server) and my custom web application, and all my backend programs, on one VM on Digitalocean and its $20/month.

        Good luck!

        1. 1

          yeah, I saw an instruction on how to make a call to firebase, really helpful. Now I can breathe a little bit. $20 is a great price! Thanks for your ideas and advice and all the best to you too :)

  11. 1

    I have a digital ocean droplet. I have no idea what I'm doing, but their doc files are really useful. No apps yet, just analytics.

    1. 1

      I have no idea what I'm doing is me in every situation. haha. I think I can take the time to get to know DO. Just created an account :))

  12. 1

    I switched to Digital Ocean as well. Fair prices through pay per usage.

    It also depends on server management. It took me a fair bit of time to learn how to manage the droplets but I say it's worth it. No downtimes, no crashes, and extremely fast loading speed for my website

    1. 1

      I think Digital Ocean would be something I can rely on to be honest. A lot of my tech friends also recommend them.

  13. 1

    I am going to come with a more exotic/original option: if you have a limited budget and the needed knowledge (or are willing to learn on the way) can go self-hosted.

    Just need a decent internet connection and an old laptop / desktop. I calculated our hosting costs for an infrastructure worth about 80$/m and our bill is about 3$/m of electricity taking into account that I am using my home internet connection.

    I have written a post about how to do this, maybe you find it interesting:

    Other cloud based option I can recommend is Amazon Web Services Lightsail ( as it has a good pricing and some things that will make your life easier (easy backups, database service, etc.).

    1. 1

      That is such a thoroughly written instruction. I always thought self-hosting is even more expensive than the cloud these days? Unfortunately I don't know the capability to take care of it... Lightsail looks like what I need :))

      1. 2


        In case you need to buy something (server, router, etc.) it can become more expensive. The worst part is having to worry about everything working properly at home. When you are starting and have a few users it seems ok.

        Lightsail is a good choice, used their 5$ tier extensively for many side projects and never had a problem. Easy to setup and performant. Needed to scale and just made an image and copied to a more powerful tier.

  14. 1

    DigitalOcean, Vultr, Scaleway, Hetzner. Alernatively you can go for Netlify (+ Firebase), if your backend is minimal and rather generic. AWS with their free one year offering could be a decent option, too. I think Azure also offers it.

    1. 2

      anything free scared me at the moment. haha. Digital Ocean is high on my list though. Also there's an idea that I could go with cheaper hosting while I dev and then move to the more fancy one when I need to scale.

      1. 1

        That's a smart and sensible approach. DigitalOcean is good. Wherever you migrate later on and whatever you pick now, avoid anything that gets you into a vendor log in. As of Google Cloud, I had a major financial disaster back in the day of Google AppEngine. Avoiding it since.

        1. 1

          to make you feel better, I also had a fincial disaster with GCP, had to pay for my innocent.

          1. 1

            I know. That's why I mentioned it. Mine was an order of magnitude worse, as it screwed the entire business model.

            1. 1

              I'm so sorry this happened to us... I tried to tell myself that you know shit happened and lesson learned but your one seems like big devastation.

              1. 1

                Yup. And we all rely way too much on corporations that can hold us hostages in exchange for comfort and ease. Anyway, go for DigitalOcean. Takes more to set it up and manage, but is well worth it. At least you can easily walk away and migrate your app.

                1. 1

                  Yes, I just created an account today and prepare for the migration to DO. Thank you so so much for your advice. And I wish you all the best!

                  1. 2

                    Likewise! Hit me up if you need a hand.

  15. 1

    Hi Anny.
    I have been using a Linux VPS from

    as a development server, this was recommended by someone who uses a windows VPS from a few years.

    I have yet to experience a down time, and the person who recommended this to me said that he rarely experienced any downtime and the support is well responsive and helpful.

    This is quiet cost effective as compared to the clouds, when your need is a server for development.

    1. 1

      Hi Hussain, Thank you for sharing. Their price list looks really simple. Roughly say, it's half the price of Digital Ocean. I can use it to work on with the MVP for a few months actually.

      1. 2

        Yes that's right.
        A hint, do chat with their customer care before buying a VPS, there is a possibility of 10% discount for new users, if you ask for it.

        1. 1

          Thanks for the trick! such a gem!

  16. 1

    I host on via Carrd (simple website designer, something like $9 annual), and Namecheap (webhosting, something like $5 monthly). I use AWS for all my backend services: database, storage, API. AWS is free up to a certain amount of usage, and I got a huge amount of AWS credits from doing YC's startup school (thousands of dollars in AWS credit, but with an expiration date).

    1. 2

      I'm justtttt about to buy namecheap for my side project. never heard of stowbots before tho. I'm scared of anything free now. haha. Lucky you on the aws credit! Is it a I never knew about that.

      1. 1

        Yep, that's the one! Stowbots is only free for now while it's beta. I haven't really "launched" it yet so I'm not surprised you haven't heard of it :P The AWS credits are super nice but to be honest I've only used like $20 of it because I haven't needed to go past the free tier on pretty much any service yet.

        1. 1

          Ha! that makes sense! :) YC School sounds like fun tho! I wish you all the best!

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