Ryan Wood

Product Builder, Rubyist, Entrepreneur of sorts
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15 Jan 2010
Why I Left Heroku

I love Heroku, I really do. They have eliminated nearly all of the hassle surrounding deployment and server management in the Ruby/Rails world. Here’s the rub…

They are simply not affordable for the little guy.

“But Ryan”, you say, “what about the free plan?” The Blossom-1 plan is great and you do get a lot of value (including some really great free add ons). The problem come when the site starts to grow.

The free plan is basically loss leader – “a product sold at a low price (at cost or below cost) to stimulate other, profitable sales.” It is how they draw you in, and draw you in they do. It is an awesome service.

As soon as you need to grow the site just a bit, the price jumps significantly. It’s a great value at the entry level and, as best I can tell, for larger scale sites as well. It’s the smaller site with little to no revenue that feels the punch.

Let’s get specific. I’m starting a new project and my choice was Heroku at $0/mo or Slicehost (who completely rocks as well) at $20/mo for 256MB VPS. A no-brainer. I chose Heroku. It was easier, simpler, and far less work.

A couple weeks later, I have some beta users and want to roll out a new notification feature that will require some background processing. To get 2 application processes (dynos) and run a background job, the price jumps from $0 to ~$72/mo (2 dynos + 1 worker = Blossom-3). If the database grow beyond 5MB, the I would need to move to Koi-3 at ~$87/mo.

Pretty soon I need to send more than 200 emails per month so I need to add the SendGrid Premium add-on for $20/mo bringing the total up to ~$107/mo. On the Slicehost side, I have to do all the work of setting up, configuring, and maintaning the server, BUT I am still paying $20/mo. I may need to ramp up to the the 512MB slice but I’m still at only $38/mo.

That’s an estimated ~$69/mo savings. When you are bootstrapping a small project, that it significant.

Let me reiterate, I love heroku. I wish there was a plan that was more reasonable at the lower end. Since there is no comparable path on the Heroku side, I’ve decided to migrate the project back to Slicehost.

Stay tuned for my notes on building an Ubuntu slice. I’m going to document it this time. Really. I will.

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