Heroku or Amazon Web Services – Which is Best for Your Startup?


Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Heroku are two commonly used cloud services that allow us to deploy, monitor, and scale web and mobile apps.

Both services provide us with cloud computing resources and are great for hosting applications.

But if you’re building your first mobile or web application, how can you decide which of these options – AWS or Heroku – is best for your application?

Choosing a hosting service becomes even harder when we take a glimpse at the number of products Amazon Web Services offer. It’s easy to get lost.

AWS and Heroku both provide a wide variety of products, making it difficult to quickly choose the right solution for your needs. How can we possibly choose between them?

To learn more about their features and what they have to offer, let's take a moment to examine some of their key solutions.

AWS vs Heroku for Startups

If we search for a comparison of hosting providers, let’s compare which one stands out where. As with any product comparison, you have to identify how they are similar and how they differ; if their goals are different. We're able to come to decisions about whether one product is the best option over the other, or perhaps whether it’s time to give that competitor chance.

What are Heroku and AWS?

AWS Elastic Compute Cloud

Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) is a product that provides infrastructure as a service to individuals, organizations, and companies that allow users to quickly create a scalable IT infrastructure. Before we're able to deploy an application on Elastic Compute Cloud, there are a few things we need to take care of first in order to make sure the servers we'll be using will be able to handle the needs of our application from day one.

But what does that mean? The project team has to create virtual machines (also known as VMs) that run the app. They'll need to choose and install an operating system; configure a database, which can be tricky; and set up a load balancer, which is like an advanced router. The whole thing will grind to a halt if one VM goes down. Next, they install backup servers and hook them up to the main servers.

Elastic Compute Cloud does not require much in terms of preparation in order to be used. You can simply make use of the web services online without any installation. However, the choice is an important part of any service and when it comes to using AWS one may quickly realize that you have a plethora of different tools at your disposal. This makes it all the more important to know what you are doing or at least have someone who knows how these building blocks should interact with each other - much like an architect who designs how these building blocks should come together to build a functional house!


Now that we know what Heroku is, let’s look more into the specific benefits it has to offer for startups compared with traditional EC2. The first thing you might find interesting is that Heroku only supports Ruby. However, the second thing you should take notice of is that Heroku doesn’t use the traditional On-Demand method, but instead uses a utility called ‘Pre-Prod Mode’.

Heroku is way less complex to get started with than AWS Elastic Compute Cloud. It might be a bit simple. Though the reason for this simplicity is because Heroku equips developers with a ready runtime environment and application servers, seamless integration with multiple development services, a pre-installed operating system and redundant servers.

So we don’t need to do any of the heavy lifting of managing our infrastructure, unlike on AWS EC2. We just need to pick a plan and change it when necessary.

This is how a conversation with Heroku might go:

– Hey, we need to rapidly send a lot of cached data to our users!

– Here you go: Redis is ready!

– Hey, we need more dynos to handle HTTP traffic!

– Yeah, just run the following command in CLI and specify the number of instances, e.g. three web dynos: $ heroku ps:scale web=3

– And what about a PostgreSQL instance?

– You need one and I’d like it to be hobby-dev; run this command in CLI: $ heroku addons:create heroku-postgresql:hobby-dev

– Thanks!

– We need to restart our dynos! A new app version is coming!

– Just deploy your updated app, I’ll handle this.

As we can see, Heroku conveniently takes care of the details. Similarly, there are third-party solutions that help when it comes to deployment tasks. All you need to do is use Git and not worry about using the command line interface when deploying your code to an Openshift account .

Comparing AWS Elastic Compute Cloud to Heroku is like comparing a microwave to a toaster. Both devices are used for heating food, but they work differently. Keep in mind that although AWS's EC2 and Heroku products do have features in common, they fundamentally serve different purposes.

In addition, AWS offers another platform as a service product called Elastic Beanstalk which provides an environment for deploying and maintaining applications built with languages such as PHP and NodeJS.

AWS Elastic Beanstalk

In short, Heroku vs AWS is like Heroku vs Elastic Beanstalk. AWS offers Elastic Beanstalk to simplify the deployment of applications onto the platform.

To deploy an application using AWS Elastic Beanstalk, you can either run CLI (command line interface) on your operating system or use their web console. Once the application has been deployed on Elastic Beanstalk, it manages cloud infrastructure automatically, which you can't control manually.

We don’t generally set up things like load balancing and scalability – we’ve still got access to infrastructure making beanstalk great for rarely-used servers. It also saves us multiple configuration options for our application as the service uses AWS EC2 instances to run your app; if we wanted to migrate from the beanstalk, it would be easy as development environments are set up using the same private key as your production environment.


When choosing between AWS and Heroku, you need to determine whether the build-out of your infrastructure will cost you more than just hire cloud services. As the saying goes, time is money, so if working with an established platform means that you can stop "creating" your application in favour of actually "discovering" what customers want in this space then it makes sense to do so!

In summary, you should consider using AWS Elastic Compute Cloud when:

  • You want to be able to deploy your app quickly.
  • You have a developer or a team of developers who can take the time to curate your infrastructure.
  • You’re looking to keep pace with technological trends and can afford to pay for updated hardware.
  • You need access to the latest cloud-based technologies.

Check out PaaS solutions if:

  • You need to deploy and test a Minimum Viable Product
  • Your application needs to be enhanced quickly after feedback from your target audience (for example you might need more scalable backend processing power or you may want to increase the size of your developer team).
  • You can’t afford a DevOps engineer (or engineers).
  • Provisioning and maintenance of systems and code are very time-consuming for you.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is becoming increasingly popular in the world of web app technology, so much so that many are making the switch to this cloud-based platform. When choosing your provider, you have to ensure they have experience managing AWS! There are plenty of hosting plans out there for any budget, so if you’re not sure where to start do some research but remember to choose the right service right away.