Many cloud server providers operate at economies of scale so large that they offer small instances for free, just to entice you to use their platform. You can take advantage of this to run a small Linux box for development.
Google Cloud Platform
Google’s cloud platform provides the only VPS on this list that is truly free forever. Their f1-micro is always free, all the time.
On top of that, they also have a great free trial: when you sign up for a new account, you will receive a $ 300 credit to use on any GCP service. The credit expires after one year.
You’ll need to link your card to your account to take advantage, but don’t worry, you won’t be charged for letting a server run after the free trial. You will need to manually upgrade your account to a paid account once the trial period is over.
To get started, create an account and go to Google Cloud Platform console. You will need to create a new “project”, which is like a container for all of your services. Under Compute Engine> VM Instances, you can create a new instance:
You will need to edit the instance details to add or access your SSH keys via a web terminal.
The f1-micro is free forever and has 0.2 virtual processor and 600MB of RAM. Not the best VPS in the world, but good enough to run Linux and a few simple applications. Although with the free credit of $ 300, you can run an n1-standard-1 instance with 1 vCPU and 3.5 GB of RAM (about $ 25 per month) for the full 12 months before the credit ends.
Amazon Web Services
AWS provides a free tier for almost all of their services for one year after you sign up. This includes a free general purpose t2.micro instance with 1 virtual processor and 1 GB of RAM.
You’ll need to link your card to verify your account, and you should definitely set a reminder on your calendar 11 months in the future – AWS will charge you once your free tier becomes available, and they don’t do a great job of advertising that it’s a free trial and not exactly a free level. One thing that always has a free level is Lambda; if you want to run cloud functions without a server, you can do it completely for free.
AWS does not grant promotional credit during registration, but if you are a student with a .edu email, you can get free credit via AWS Educate. If your school is a partner, you will get $ 100, and if not, you will get $ 40.
To get started, create an AWS account and go to AWS Management Console. From here, select Services> EC2. In the Instances tab, click on “Launch the instance”:
The t2.micro instance should be highlighted. You will need to select an operating system; Windows costs more on most instances, but is free for your free t2.micro instance.
You will be asked to download a PEM file; this is your private key for the instance. You will want to use ssh -i keyfile.pem to connect to it.
Azure has a free level which includes a B1S instance with 1 virtual processor and 1 GB of RAM. You’ll also get $ 200 free credit, but you only have a month to use it. The free level, however, lasts an entire year, after which the only services with free levels are Azure functions and other APIs.
The 12 month free tier includes 250 GB of SQL storage, so you can set up a large database for free. You also have 64 GB of free bulk storage for your virtual machine, as well as 5 GB of shared file storage.
Unlike AWS, you will not be billed once your free level is completed. You will need to manually upgrade to a PAYG account to activate billing.
To get started, go to Azure portal and select “Virtual Machines” in the sidebar. From this tab, you can add a new instance:
Be sure to select the free BS1 instance for 12 months, as the default menu is a much more expensive instance at $ 70 per month. You won’t be charged if you leave it running, but you can’t run this instance for more than a month without switching to a paid account.
You will be asked to provide an administrative account name and SSH public keys during creation, so that you can access them from the start.