Heroku vs. AWS: How Do They Compare?

heroku vs aws

Heroku vs. AWS: How Do They Compare?

Today’s IT infrastructure increasingly relies on cloud computing. In the past, if you wanted commercial infrastructure to host your web application, you had to buy physical servers. In today’s world, cloud computing allows people to rent IT infrastructure instead of buying it.

Amazon Web Services and Heroku are two of the most popular cloud computing providers. Both offer a wide range of services, such as infrastructure-on-demand, machine learning models, and distributed processing. In this article, we’ll explore how Heroku vs. AWS differ to help you decide which one is right for you.

Heroku vs. AWS: Side-by-Side Comparison

Developed bySalesforceAmazon
Pricing structurePay per hourPay per hour
Release date20072006
Cloud typePlatform as a ServiceInfrastructure as a Service
Best forPersonal users and startupsMedium to larger businesses

Heroku vs. AWS: Overview

Businesses are increasingly using Infrastructure-as-a-Service and Platform-as-a-Service models as cloud computing becomes more popular. Businesses can spend less on IT equipment and only purchase what they need. Clearly, the cost savings alone provide a significant incentive for more businesses to move to the cloud.

Heroku and AWS are two of the world’s largest cloud service providers, and you may be considering either one for your IT infrastructure. But to better understand the similarities and differences between them, we’ll have to explore each one in more detail.

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What Is Heroku?

heroku vs aws
Heroku has been in development since June 2007.

Heroku is a PaaS or “platform as a service” product owned and developed by Salesforce, a CRM company, and hosted on Amazon web servers. It is arguably much simpler to use, especially for beginners. Heroku’s platform is more straightforward than Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud, although it is hosted entirely on AWS.

Initially launched in 2007, Heroku has grown to become a massively popular platform known for its ease of use. Everyone from amateur web developers to multistage startups relies on Heroku to deploy and scale their web applications.

Heroku’s business model is simple. They offer a generous free tier which is enough for a small developer to get started and higher cost tiers for more demanding functions. Throughout Heroku’s offerings, you’ll find a toolbox full of valuable add-ons like multiple language support, databases, and monitoring tools.

What Is AWS?

Jeff Bezos founded the company as an electronic bookstore but quickly branched out into various services. Continuous infrastructure upgrades caused bottlenecks as Amazon grew. Developing its own cloud platform was the only way for Amazon to take advantage of the shift to cloud computing.

Founded in 2006, AWS stands for Amazon Web Services. With a significantly higher market share, AWS has been a significant player in cloud computing for over a decade. Currently, AWS has a market share of 32%. AWS’s vast collection of cloud services contributes to a positive user experience and explains this popularity.

Customers continue to benefit from adding new features, tools, and services Amazon offers. Throughout the company’s growth, customer requests were quickly added to Amazon’s offering if they were received. This attention to detail has made Amazon stand out from the rest of the cloud computing competition. AWS has become the number one cloud computing provider because it focuses on customer needs.

Heroku vs. AWS: What’s the Difference?

Firstly, Heroku and AWS are technically different things. While AWS offers infrastructure as a service (IaaS), Heroku offers a platform as a service (PaaS). The difference boils down to a few key components. An IaaS provides you with everything you need to build things on top of it, while a PaaS provides you with an environment. This environment lets you push code and base configurations to get a running system. 

If you’re looking to spin up a web application with minimum hassle quickly, you’ll probably lean towards a PaaS. You could go with an IaaS if you require the increased power and flexibility, but you’ll need to build and maintain more aspects of the system yourself.

Deployment and Configuration

For deployment purposes, Heroku is far superior. While Heroku provides you with a limited range of language support, you can still work with the most widely used databases and environments like Linux, Node.Js, Clojure, Scala, Ruby, Java, and PHP. Thanks to its horizontal scaling, Heroku is especially favored for running Ruby on Rails applications.

With Heroku, the foundation for creating complex web apps is already there. Everything is in place for you as soon as you boot up, and as a result, many developers praise Heroku for its easy-to-deploy and configure style.

Heroku doesn’t force you to mess around with the underlying servers and waste time with complex tasks like scheduling and load balancing. AWS, on the other hand, is a different story.

Many developers equate using AWS to having all of the materials to build a house, but none of the work is done for you. Unlike Heroku, you’ll need to build and configure everything from the ground up. As a result, AWS is often reserved for more advanced users.

On the plus side, you do get support for many platforms, languages, and databases. You’ll easily be able to spin up a Linux and Apache server with MySQL as the database or a Unix server with an Oracle database.

Performance and Usability

Largest data center companies
AWS is a collection of web services that make up a cloud computing platform.

Both Heroku and AWS are extremely stable platforms. Since most of the internet runs on AWS, any major outages are quickly noticed and repaired. On the other hand, Heroku is a smaller player on the internet stage. Not as many large companies deploy their apps with Heroku, making it a less significant event when outages occur.

For smaller applications, Heroku is a winner. With Git integrations and snappy project deployment, Heroku is ideal for small developers and startups. Additional features like code rollback, allowing you to revert your system to a previous point easily, make Heroku even more beginner-friendly.

AWS and Heroku are both performant options for building and deploying web applications, but you may want to side with AWS for extremely large and complex deployments. The AWS interface is relatively easy to use with its GUI management console and CLI for advanced configuration. Considering Amazon’s size, both corporate and community support are excellent.

Databases and Storage

One essential benchmark in cloud services is database offerings and storage options. When discussing Heroku vs. AWS, there are a few key differences. While you can set up a database with relative ease on either platform, the way it is handled on the backend is what sets each of them apart.

All of the most popular databases like PostgreSQL, MongoDB, MySQL, and Redis are supported. With Heroku, your data storage is configured for you from the beginning based on your initial setup selections. There are limited options by default, but you can easily add many other technologies through vendor add-ons.

Conversely, AWS provides more flexibility and an extensive ecosystem of specialized services. Depending on your data and storage needs, you can configure a basic system or a highly advanced setup. If you can deal with a slight learning curve, AWS is superior to Heroku when it comes to databases and storage.

Pricing and Support

It’s not easy to make a direct comparison regarding pricing. Amazon, Google, and Microsoft have all announced price reductions over the years, and cloud services have only become more affordable. Prices for Heroku are typically measured in “Dyno hours.” Dyno hours cost around $0.05/hr, while AWS micro instances and small instances are often $0.025/hr and $0.09/hr each. 

Both Heroku and AWS are available in multiple pricing tiers. If you’re a hobbyist or just starting with web development, you can turn to Heroku instead of traditional hosting. Heroku’s free tier is fast enough to hold a few low-traffic websites and projects. But more serious businesses can opt for the standard, performance, or private tiers.

The performance tier comprises features like dedicated resources, autoscaling, app metrics, and simple horizontal scalability. AWS has a similar pricing structure. With a pay-as-you-go model, volume-based discounts, and AWS Compute and Machine Learning, AWS is ideal for larger business ventures. If your budget allows for some of AWS’ more advanced features, you can power a high-traffic internet empire.

Heroku vs. AWS: 5 Must-Know Facts

  1. AWS is an Infrastructure as a Service or IaaS, while Heroku is a platform as a service or PaaS.
  2. Both AWS and Heroku allow you to deploy complex web applications.
  3. AWS and Heroku use Amazon web servers for hosting, making their performance similar.
  4. Both Heroku and AWS offer highly scalable pay-as-you-go pricing models.
  5. Heroku is ideal for small developers and startups, whereas AWS is perfect for medium to large businesses.

Heroku vs. AWS: Which One Is Better? Which One Should You Use?

With Heroku’s ease of use and built-in features, it is seriously better for a beginner. If you’re just dipping your toes in the waters of web apps and cloud services, Heroku offers a friendly start. You don’t need to commit anything with a free tier to get started. Additionally, it’s relatively easy to spin up a server and launch your web app.

On the other hand, medium to larger businesses might outgrow Heroku. Even though Heroku has some high-performance tiers, there is no arguing with AWS’s extensive feature set and performance. With a vast library of features and service offerings, AWS makes the ideal cloud services provider for high-traffic and mission-critical applications. Even giants like Netflix are famed for using AWS.


Frequently Asked Questions

Which is better, Heroku or AWS?

Heroku is better for small developers and startups, while AWS is better for medium and larger businesses.

Does Heroku run on top of AWS?

The Heroku Platform as a Service (PaaS) is actually built on top of AWS. In Heroku, services and capabilities from AWS are compiled into a user-friendly application development platform.

What is an alternative to Heroku? 

Some popular alternatives to Heroku include Back4app, Elastic Beanstalk, Google App Engine, Firebase, and Netlify.

Which is cheaper, AWS or Heroku? 

AWS is a little cheaper than Heroku, with 750 free hours of computing capacity per month. However, Heroku has a free tier if you only need a basic setup.

Is Heroku like Kubernetes? 

The technologies are completely different, and they target completely different audiences. Both use two different approaches to code development: one is for quick release of code, and the other is for long-term development.

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