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AWS Free Tier: What is it and who qualifies?
With AWS Free Tier, even the smallest businesses and developers can benefit from powerful cloud infrastructure.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a cloud platform that provides businesses with a wide range of powerful online tools. These include tools to increase security, backup data, handle machine learning tasks, synchronize accounts across numerous devices, and much more. In short, companies use AWS to provide services that they could not otherwise.
See also: What is AWS certification?
But here’s the good news: many of these services are free thanks to the “AWS free tier.”
In many cases, these services come with severe restrictions and/or time limits. But in some instances, services are genuinely free on a permanent basis. The tricky part? Discerning one from the other.
So, don’t assume that you can’t afford AWS products! Read on to find out just what you are eligible for and how to start using the services without incurring unexpected bills.
What does AWS Free Tier offer?
AWS Free Tier gives you access to over 85 products from Amazon. However, there is variation in how long they remain free and whether any restrictions are imposed.
For example, you can get up to 5GB of storage completely free, or 250 hours of Amazon SageMaker (for building, managing, and deploying machine learning models). Or how about 30 days of GuardDuty for intelligent threat detection? Amazon Comprehend offers powerful natural language processing up to 5 million characters per month, fully free for the first 12 months.
Meanwhile, services such as Amazon DynamoDB, a powerful and scalable NoSQL database, are available in the free tier with up to 25GB of storage and no time limit. Amazon Chime, on the other hand, is a video conferencing service that is permanently free with unlimited usage. You can find a full list of the AWS Free Tier products at aws.amazon.com.
Sounds great, right? Well, it is. But you also need to be careful as there are many clauses, caveats, and exceptions that are easy to miss.
See also: The best AWS courses for professionals
The issue revolves around the restrictions and caps. For example, should you exceed the character restrictions using Amazon Comprehend, you will no longer be eligible for the AWS Free Tier. That means you need to carefully monitor usage to avoid an unexpected charge.
In some cases, this can be extremely confusing as the metrics used to cap usage are varied and sometimes seemingly contradictory.
What happens when the free period runs out?
So, let’s say that you’ve discovered an amazing free AWS product that lets you scale your business or add additional services. What happens when the free period runs out? As you might expect, once the Free Tier period expires, you simply switch to a paid plan.
However, there is one very important catch to understand: AWS Free Tier Eligibility applies across the entire account. That is to say that if you exceed usage/time restrictions on just one of the products offered, this will end the Free Tier for your entire account. So, if you are using multiple Free Trials and one of them expires, the next month’s bill could be rather large.
While it’s possible to receive an alert when you begin to exceed your Free Tier allowance on certain products, these alerts are generally delayed by 24 hours – so it may be too late. The fact that there’s no option to simply freeze the service at this point, suggests that Amazon might be hoping that will be the case…
Who is eligible for AWS Free Tier?
Think that AWS could benefit your business? Fortunately, the AWS Free Tier comes into effect the moment you create an account. If you have never used an AWS product before, you are automatically eligible for Free Tier. That will be applied by default.
However, if you have used AWS in the past, eligibility depends on the previous usage. As long as none of the products you have trialed have exceeded the limitations of the Free Tier, and your account is under one year old, then you should still be able to make use of free trials.
Unsure of your standing? You can check manually by heading to the Billing and Cost Management console. If your account is still eligible for AWS Free Tier, you will see the following message:
Is AWS Free Tier worth it?
On paper, AWS Free Tier is an amazing resource for businesses that want to leverage the power of the cloud to scale up.
Unfortunately, the pricing system is anything but transparent. This is often cited as one of the major drawbacks of AWS when compared to competing packages such as Microsoft Azure or Google Cloud Platform. If you’re a developer just toying around with these services, it might be safer to choose one of those options. Both of them offer some form of a free trial.
See also: AWS vs Azure vs Google Cloud – Which certification is best for professionals?
Hopefully, this is something that Amazon will remedy if the competition applies enough pressure. For now, if you decide to take advantage of AWS Free Tier, just make sure to read the fine print!