I know a lot of my readers are fans of, or at least more familiar with, relational databases. They are very common in the financial world, and even with certain open source tech stacks. However, their operating model makes it trickier to find usage-based pricing or even free tiers, but it is possible. I’ve been sitting on this issue for a while in hopes that the hosted database scene would change, but it hasn’t so we need to accept that.
As I mentioned, the options here are limited. Data persistence is one of those areas that is difficult to find free options for, and you may want to invest in this area if you need anything beyond experimentation. You can run MySQL and PostgreSQL on AWS, but it is not a simple process. Storage rates, reserved instances, transfer costs and more await down that road. AWS Aurora has compatible versions of those databases that are simpler to set up, but still $35/month at least. If you want a dedicated managed instance on your own VM for about as cheap as you can, you can try Digital Ocean. I use them for virtual servers and have for years and they are very developer-friendly. You can get a database for $15/month.
Heroku is a platform as a service (PaaS) that enables developers to build, run, and operate applications entirely in the cloud. You can have a PostgreSQL database for free as long as you are ok being limited to 10,000 rows. That isn’t too bad if all you want is to play around. Of course, Heroku does more than the database, it is a full platform as a service, so you can host your app here too if you wish. I think you can get a bit of free Redis as well, so if you are interested in exploring that, this could be a one-stop-shop. And they have been around a while so you can probably rely on that continuing.
ElephantSQL - PostgreSQL as a Service. The most advanced open-source database, hosted in the cloud. They have a “Tiny Turtle” plan for free which gives you 20MB of storage. That isn’t a whole lot, but for most hobby projects or for learning purposes, it should be fine. And it more than Heroku if your rows aren’t very big. Not only that, but the pricing scales pretty well if you do need more down the road.
Clever Cloud provides an IT Automation Platform for developers with bulletproof infrastructure, auto-scaling, fair pricing, and awesome support. These guys offer app hosting with database addons. I’m not sure if you can access the database remotely or only via their app containers. Either way, if I understand the site correctly, you get the first 20€ for free, which should get you a decent database instance of MySQL or PostgreSQL among other non-relational options.
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