A Few Heroku Alternatives

Heroku's been taking it on the chin lately for their response to what looks to be a pretty-damn-serious security incident—and for good reason, because their communication about the whole event has been abysmal.

Personally, this is a pretty big letdown, because I've been riding the Heroku train for quite some time. As a software developer with a history of working for teeny-tiny startups (in addition to a fair amount of freelancing), Heroku's platform-as-a-service solution—PaaS for all the cool kids out there—has been a lifesaver.

When you're crunched for time and resources, offloading things like server maintenance, security, database management, and all the other tasks that accompany running a software company is incredibly valuable; and Heroku's add-on marketplace is just icing on the cake.

Trust me, there's nothing more satisfying than spinning up all the internal and external resources you need within a single-pane of glass. As a freelancer, this sort of organization makes billing clients (and eventually transferring application ownership) a snap.

Heroku Alternatives

Buut... all of that is gone now. It has been outweighed by a complete and total lack of trust in a company that I've historically put a lot of trust in. As a result, I've been exploring a few Heroku alternatives that are all relatively new to the PaaS space (or, at least, relatively new to me).

To be clear, I'm skipping the most well-known solutions like DigitalOcean's App Platform and Google Cloud's App Engine, because I think most people are already aware of them, so flogging that particular horse is probably just a waste of bits and bytes.

That said, I've stumbled across a handful of awesome solutions that are both unique and pretty "indie" feeling—a great combination in the "tools by developers, for developers" category, if you ask me.


I've heard of Fly.io a few times over the years, but it wasn't until just the last few days that I've really taken the opportunity to try it out; and, I've got to say, it's pretty damn awesome.

While not nearly as "feature robust" as Heroku (read: no "marketplace"), it is a Docker-driven solution with an incredibly generous free tier, and one of the most impressive commitments to technical writing I've ever seen (which, if I'm being honest, is only outshone by DigitalOcean's approach).

As the founder of The MUD Coders Guild, I personally own and manage any of the integrations and websites that we rely on, and have chosen Fly.io as our new destination. The transition from Heroku to Fly.io was about as painless as you could imagine, and the terminal-driven management has been a great experience.

If you are on the fence and don't have a huge application footprint, you definitely can't go wrong with Fly.


Render is a new solution for me, but it most closely resembles Heroku as far as features and functionality goes (although that isn't to imply that it is no better than Heroku). A winner in the 2019 TechCrunch Startup Battlefield (an event I will forever associate with Pied Piper and Middle-Out Encryption thanks to HBO's Silicon Valley), Render offers all the bells-and-whistles that we've come to expect in a PaaS platorm:

  • Autoscaling
  • Managed databases
  • Preview environments
  • Docker deployments
  • And actual cron support

I have yet to dig too deeply into it, but will likely be moving some of my more complicated freelance projects over to Render when the opportunity presents itself (and, just as an aside, their free tier is about as generous as you can ask for).


I've examined Porter in the past as a part of an Open Source PaaS roundup for TechTarget and really liked what I saw.

What sets porter apart from the other solutions on this list is that it is an open source and self-hosted option. While they do offer a managed cloud solution that relies on your own backend infrastructure, the self-hosted option is super compelling as it gives you total control over your infrastructure.

While I am personally not in the "manage all my things" game, this is an excellent solution for people that are looking to make the leap from hosted PaaS to managing their own infrastructure.


Obviously, there are a hell of a lot more platform-as-a-service providers out there than just these three. From big to small, proprietary to open source, it's a pretty big space. That said, these three are the more compelling ones in my mind, and I will be watching them as they continue to grow.

If these don't quite fit with your needs and are looking for more options to try, take a look at this Awesome-PaaS list. There are some great solutions available.


This is post 006 of #100DaysToOffload


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