Whether you’re new to public cloud altogether or already use one provider and are interested in trying another, you may be interested in a comparison of the AWS vs Azure vs Google free tier. The big three cloud providers – AWS, Azure and Google Cloud – each have a free tier available that’s designed to give users the cloud experience without all the costs. They include free trial versions of numerous services so users can test out different products and learn how they work before they make a huge commitment. While they may only cover a small environment, it’s a good way to learn more about each cloud provider. For all of the cloud providers, the free trials are available to only new users.
AWS Free Tier Offerings
AWS free tier includes more than 60 products. There are two different types of free options that are available depending on the product used: always free and 12 months free. To help customers get started on AWS, the services that fall under the free 12-months are for new trial customers and give customers the ability to use the products for free (up to a specific level of usage) for one year from the date the account was created. Keep in mind that once the free 12 months are up, your services will start to be charged at the normal rate. Be prepared and review this checklist of things to do when you outgrow the AWS free tier.
Azure Free Tier Offerings
The Azure equivalent of a free tier is referred to as a free account. As a new user in Azure, you’re given a $200 credit that has to be used in the first 30 days after activating your account. When you’ve used up the credit or 30 days have expired, you’ll have to upgrade to a paid account if you wish to continue using certain products. Ensure that you have a plan to reduce Azure costs in place. If you don’t need the paid products, there’s also the always free option.
Some of the ways people choose to use their free account are to gain insights from their data, test and deploy enterprise apps, create custom mobile experiences and more.
Google Cloud Free Tier Offerings
The Google Cloud Free Tier is essentially an extended free trial that gives you access to free cloud resources so you can learn about Google Cloud services by trying them on your own.
The Google Cloud Free Tier has two parts – a 90 day free trial with a $300 credit to use with any Google Cloud services and always free, which provides limited access to many common Google Cloud resources, free of charge. Google Cloud gives you a little more time with your credit than Azure, you get the full 90 days of the free trial to use your credit. Unlike free trials from the other cloud providers, Google does not automatically charge you once the trial ends – this way you’re guaranteed that the free tier is actually 100% free. Keep in mind that your trial ends after 90 days or once you’ve exhausted the $300 credit. Any usage beyond the free monthly usage limits are covered by the $300 free credit – you must upgrade to a paid account to continue using Google Cloud.
Free Tier Limitations
It’s important to note that the always-free services vary widely between the cloud providers and there are usage limitations. Keep in mind the cloud providers’ motivations: they want you to get attached to the services so you start paying for them. So, be aware of the limits before you spin up any resources, and don’t be surprised by any charges.
In AWS, when your free tier expires or if your application use exceeds the free tier limits, you pay standard, pay-as-you-go service rates. Azure and Google both offer credits for new users that start a free trial, which are a handy way to set a spending limit. However, costs can get a little tricky if you aren’t paying attention. Once the credits have been used you’ll have to upgrade your account if you wish to continue using the products. Essentially, the credit that was acting as a spending limit is automatically removed so whatever you use beyond the free amounts, you will now have to pay for. In Google Cloud, there is a cap on the number of virtual CPUs you can use at once – and you can’t add GPUs or use Windows Server instances.
For 12 months after you upgrade your account, certain amounts of popular products are free. After 12 months, unless decommissioned, any products you may be using will continue to run, and you’ll be billed at the standard pay-as-you-go rates.
Another limitation is that commercial software and operating system licenses typically aren’t available under the free tiers.
These offerings are “use it or lose it” – if you don’t use all your credits or utilize all your usage, there will be no rollover into future months.
Popular Services, Products, and Tools to Check Out for Free
AWS has 33 products that fall under the one-year free tier – here are some of the most popular:
- Amazon EC2 Compute: 750 hours per month of compute time, per month of Linux, RHEL, SLES t2.micro or t3.micro instance and Windows t2.micro or t3.micro instance dependent on region.
- Amazon S3 Storage: 5GB of standard storage
- Amazon RDS Database: 750 hours per month of db.t2.micro database usage using MySQL, PostgreSQL, MariaDB, Oracle BYOL, or SQL Server, 20 GB of General Purpose (SSD) database storage and 20 GB of storage for database backups and DB Snapshots.
For the always-free option, you’ll find a number of products as well, some of these include:
- AWS Lambda: 1 million free compute requests per month and up to 3.2 million seconds of compute time per month.
- Amazon DynamoDB: 25 GB of database storage per month, enough to handle up to 200M requests per month.
- Amazon CloudWatch: 10 custom metrics and alarms per month, 1,000,000 API requests, 5GB of Log Data Ingestion and Log Data Archive and 3 Dashboards with up to 50 metrics.
Azure has 19 products that are free each month for 12 months – here are some of the most popular:
- Linux and Windows virtual machines: 750 hours (using B1S VM) of compute time
- Managed Disk Storage: 64 GB x 2 (P6 SSD)
- Blob Storage: 5GB (LRS hot block)
- File Storage: 5GB (LRS File Storage)
- SQL databases: 250 GB
For their always free offerings, you’ll find even more popular products – here are a few:
- Azure Kubernetes Service: no charge for cluster management, you only pay for the virtual machines and the associated storage and networking resources consumed.
- Azure DevOps: 5 users for open source projects and small projects (with unlimited private Git repos). For larger teams, the cost ranges from $6-$90 per month.
- Azure Cosmos DB (400 RU/s provisioned throughput)
Unlike AWS and Azure, Google Cloud does not have a 12 months free offerings. However, Google Cloud does still have a free tier with a wide range of always free services – some of the most popular ones include:
- Google BigQuery: 1 TB of queries and 10 GB of storage per month.
- Kubernetes Engine: One zonal cluster per month
- Google Compute Engine: 1 f1-micro instance per month only in U.S. regions. 30 GB-months HDD, 5 GB-months snapshot in certain regions and 1 GB of outbound network data from North America to all region destinations per month.
- Google Cloud Storage: 5 GB of regional storage per month, only in the US. 5,000 Class A, and 50,000 Class B operations, and 1 GB of outbound network data from North America to all region destinations per month.
Check out these blog posts on free credits for each cloud provider to see how you can start saving: