What's the best place to put your hobby web projects(the web app itself, not the code) ? Typically, the projects are such that:

a) I just want to test out an interesting idea without exploring the business angle to it, just to see how people take it.

b) I don't expect a lot of traffic

c) I don't want to scale immediately

d) I don't want to be tied down to one technology(I want to do different projects to get familiar with various web stacks, langs and libs)

Google app engine seems very restrictive for such exploratory stuff ... Restrictions like no outbound request can go beyond 10 seconds and every request has to return with 30 seconds, etc. piss me off, I know they are needed for scale, but I would like them to be optional.

Amazon EC2 micro nodes are free for a year. But they ask for credit card information which I am not sure if I want to give away when I'm not paying initially.

What other free/cheap alternatives do I have?

13 Answers 13


I'd just get a cheap VPS at any reputable provider. This gives you full control over the server / language stack, allows you to work with any kind of storage or DB and can easily be re-loaded if you want to completely switch technologies to work on something else (for instance, going from Linux to Windows or back).

Something in the range of $15 could satisfy the needs of multiple hobby projects .. and I think most people would have no problem spending that on a hobby that they found enjoyable and worth while.

This also ensures that you have full control of your data, as well as support if you need it.

  • 1
    which VPS service provider would you recommend ?
    – letronje
    Commented Nov 28, 2010 at 6:34
  • 3
    Tim seems too honest to suggest his company, Enzu, enzu.com. Never tried, but judging by Tim's answers, it must be great. I personally use Gandi: gandi.net
    – user2567
    Commented Nov 28, 2010 at 10:54
  • @Pierre I go through great lengths to ensure that my answers are not self promotional. While the rules say that we need only to provide a suitable disclosure statement (which the US FCC also wants), I tend to eschew self promotion. A link to my company is in my profile, anyone curious can follow it. I appreciate your confidence, but mostly due to the compliment you gave on my answers. @letronje A bit of search-fu will help. Find the one who is in the range of what you want to pay.. then work backwards.
    – user131
    Commented Nov 28, 2010 at 19:58
  • 1
    @letronje check lowendbox.com. They have reviews of cheap and best VPS hosting and good promotions. I use 2host and is costing only less than $5 a month (got through a promotion at lowendbox) Commented Nov 29, 2010 at 8:27
  • Note: @Pierre 303 - I no longer work at Enzu.
    – user131
    Commented Jun 27, 2011 at 8:46

Heroku is a good alternative for Ruby on Rails projects.

a cloud platform as a service (PaaS) supporting several programming languages. Heroku was acquired by Salesforce.com in 2010. Heroku, one of the first cloud platforms, has been in development since June 2007, when it supported only the Ruby programming language, but has since added support for Java, Node.js, Scala, Clojure and Python and (undocumented) PHP and Perl. The base operating system is Debian or, in the newest stack, the Debian-based Ubuntu...

You can push to Heroku straight from Github, which makes deployment ridiculously easy.

  • 1
    It's hardly cheap.
    – Henry
    Commented Nov 28, 2010 at 8:32
  • 5
    @Henry There's a free tier that may be suitable for a hobby project, depending on the project.
    – Adam Lear
    Commented Nov 28, 2010 at 20:58
  • Heroku now supports a lot more than just Ruby on Rails: Java, Python and Node.js all work just fine. Commented Sep 11, 2013 at 8:55

What I did a while back was buy an linode. For $20/month they give you a basic VPS with a fairly wide choice of distributions(I prefer x86-64 Arch Linux). You get root access to it, so you can basically use one linode for most any project. The specs are pretty decent as well, 384M of memory and 16G of diskspace. Also, their servers aren't lacking in CPU power. I've never had any noticeable CPU lag. They also give you a wide choice of locations, so you can choose a datacenter that is near you. This may not seem like a big deal, but I have super low latency of 15ms ping times. This can be very handy with certain things(such as VNC/X forwarding)

You will have to manage installing stacks and such yourself, but usually it's not too hard to do, depending on the distribution you choose.

Also, they don't provide you with a domain/subdomain name. You have to supply your own. To get a free one, just go to http://afraid.org . I prefer the .biz.tm subdomain space


Let me get this straight

  • You want ultimate control
  • You're not expecting traffic
  • You're not worried about scaling
  • You want as much fiddlin' room as you can get when the muse hits

Sounds pretty obvious - do it yourself.

  1. Get free hosting
  2. Most hosts allow forwarding (doteasy does)
  3. Work on your own server (spare machine that you have kicking around - generally not an issue if you've ever upgraded)
  4. Have your host forward to your own server

Doesn't cost a dime and you can do whatever you want.

  • This is what I do
    – Matt Ellen
    Commented Apr 18, 2011 at 13:07
  • I got my internet blocked for a day doing this. So the OP needs to be aware of the repercussions of running a home server that is publicly accessible. Commented Jul 3, 2012 at 18:37

I would also recommend Akshell, but then I'm biased and essentially advertising.

Our plan is to eventually start charging a fee based on traffic volume for closed source projects, but keep hosting of open source projects free. You will get to keep the data that the open source projects generate, but this way others could learn from your code. We are also open sourcing our server, so you will be able to self host. So, we do encourage you to host your business-critical stuff with us, as others are already doing.

In addition to the GitHub-like revenue model, we are also working on a number of value added services, which we will charge a premium for.

  • 2
    when recommending own company, please be extremely specific that you are essentially advertising.
    – user1249
    Commented Apr 17, 2011 at 15:11

If you are a student, professor or researcher at a university, look at Amazon's AWS in Education page. I recently attended a talk about it, and Amazon's speaker seemed to imply that they are willing to give students grants to pursue random projects using various Amazon services. I was under the impression that these grants did not come with conditions--he repeatedly suggested using them for creating companies!

This won't work for everybody, but for students (who tend to be short on money) this could be perfect. It has certainly interested me...

That said, I haven't tried this, and cannot really vouch for it completely, although the terms look completely reasonable to a quick skim.


This really depends on what this is. Is it a web app? Is it a server app? How many people do you need to serve initially?

If its a web app then just find a good free web host. Any will do, and most have more than enough bandwidth and disk space for beta testing of an app.

If its a server app, why not host it yourself or on a friends server? This way its something you can control, your have practically no limits on what you can do (scalability comes later), and its (mostly) free.

You can simply try this on your/someone elses server and see if people like it. Then once you get the ball rolling, you can start thinking about getting a real server somewhere


Go for a normal webfaction shared server. Things are just too easy to setup and things just work!


There's Akshell which is simply awesome. It is completely free, and they say they intend to keep it that way, no matter how many visitors you get or how much traffic you use.

You get the ability to do outgoing requests, an integrated database, Git, proper development/release environments from scratch. And most importantly, you just write the code in your browser. That's right, no setting it up on localhost and no uploading of everything (though if you want to you could; it's open-source).

Not sure if it's a great idea to host business-critical stuff with them, though, because they are only a startup and with that kind of business model you have to wonder where the money comes from.


I've been using Nodester for hosting apps (for free so far!). They've been sending out a ton of invites to join the server late and deploying with git right out of the box is great.


There are various free shell account providers that you can find with a simple google search. Most provide very limited environments for simple static hosting but if you ask nicely most of the admins are willing to help out and set up various stacks for development. I mostly code my prototypes with ruby and sqlite and usually make it accessible with simple cgi. It works out pretty well for small projects but I'm not sure how well it would work out for something larger.


you can get a VPS for $3 a month 256MB box from 123systems.net and you can run debian among others. You get root, they do nothing for you.

You can get the $10/yr 128MB server too. It's cheaper than a .com domain name!

No relation, just happy customer.


DotCloud is a new service running on Amazon EC2. Currently invitation only and provides free hosting. I guess they will continue providing free hosting for small projects. The best part is - you can host any PHP, Java, Rails, Python projects

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