Free cloud instances

Started by Megan Brown, Aug 20, 2022, 02:06 AM

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Megan BrownTopic starter

They say that free cheese is only found in a mousetrap. The situation is similar with cloud services. Surely, you can get something for free or at a big discount. The company has a budget to attract customers. But then she expects to recoup everything in full.

As a result, a game of cat and mouse begins around free assistances. Users in the role of a mouse are trying to steal the "cheese". And the cloud provider uses all sorts of tricks to write off money from the "freeloaders" and slam the liveliest ones.
Let's see what the clouds have to offer.


Almost all AWS services have some level of free usage, bounding perpetual usage, right after you sign up for an account.
For instance, 770 hours of EC2 CPU time on t2.micro or t3.micro micro instances, 5 GB of storage on S3, one million AWS Lambda requests per month, and so on are available for free.

AWS expects the customer to take the bait that you can set up a free server and use it for 12 months.

Google Cloud

Google is offering over 22 free products and $300 free towards other services for 90 days.

The Google Cloud Free Tier program includes monthly free tiers. For instance, 9 hours per day of running B instances, 0.5 GB of disk space, and so on. For exceeding the limit, funds will be withdrawn from the card entered during registration at standard rates with per-second billing.

Microsoft Azure

Azure has a standard scheme where the main assistances are free for 12 months, and the auxiliary ones forever, plus $210 credits for paid services (here we mean bonus $210 that can be spent on paid services within 30 days after registration). Here's the full list, including:

    Linux and Windows virtual machines (760 hours per month, 12 months)
    Databases SQL, MySQL, PostgreSQL (760 hours per month, 12 months)
    Archive storage. 10 GB locally redundant (LRS) or geo-redundant (GRS) plus 100 reads (12 months)

As usual, a bank card is required to connect free assistances.

Oracle Cloud

Under the Oracle Cloud Free Tier program, some services are free "forever", and some - for 30 days.

Free "forever"

    Two AMD-based compute VMs with 1/8 OCPU and 1 GB of memory each
    Four Ampere A1 cores and 24 GB of ARM-based memory used as one virtual machine or up to 4 virtual machines
    Two block storage volumes, total 200 GB
    Object storage: 10 GB
    Archive storage: 10 GB
    Resource Manager: Managed Terraform Solution
    Five OCI Bastions Services

Alternatively, you can set up a free personal VPN on such an "eternal" instance.

Free for 30 days

The Free Trial assistances can be used until the $300 bonuses are used up or until their 30 day expiration date (whichever comes first):

    Many Oracle Cloud services, bounding DBMS, Analytics, Compute and Container Engine for Kubernetes
    Up to 8 instances of all available assistances
    Up to 5 TB of available storage

Beware: Oracle sometimes deletes created resources without warning. There is an assumption that the company periodically "pings" a bank card with transactions of 1 euro. If the card stops working, then the resources can be deleted.

Yes, and "eternal" instances will not live long, it's obvious. It's just that the word "forever" looks beautiful in an ad to lure the audience.

Divorce for money. How it's done

Cloud services use a few typical tricks to gently and discreetly swindle a free instance owner into paid services. Some of these techniques are used by other e-commerce companies as well. Others are unique specifically to cloud services.

Let's take a look at typical methods.

First step. Link card

When subscribing to a free instance, the service asks you to enter your bank card details. The question is, why enter payment details if the instance is completely free? Usually, the company misleads the user and explains that this data is supposedly needed to verify the identity.

This is not entirely true. In fact, payment details are taken in order to withdraw funds for paid services that will appear in the future. Sometimes it is imperceptible for the client. This is the key stage of registration. Without entering payment details, the user will never be registered, no matter what documents he provides to confirm his identity. The firm does not need any proof of identity, it needs money.

There are traps at each level of "free rates". Even a few months after the removal of a free instance from the card, funds can be charged for paid services.

Free service becomes paid

The legality of the "divorce" is provided by the text of the contract, which is signed by the user upon registration. The terms normally indicate that the user agrees to the provision of paid assistances to him at the end of the free demo period.

Here, the calculation is based on the fact that the user will not study the terms of the contract in detail and will ignore this fact.

And if he pays attention to it, then after some time he will forget to terminate the contract before the end of the free period. Companies are well aware of this user forgetfulness. Therefore, some of them do not hesitate to talk honestly about the mechanics of a paid subscription and warn that you need to terminate the subscription in a month if you do not want to switch to a paid plan. Anyway, in a month some of the customers will forget to do it.

Cognitive Distortions

Then something strange happens. Forgetting to terminate the subscription and faced with an irreversible loss of money, some customers make a voluntary decision to use the company's services.

This, at first glance, paradoxical phenomenon is explained by the fact that it is unpleasant for people to admit their mistakes and it is pointless to lose funds due to forgetfulness. Switching to a voluntary subscription eliminates discomfort and changes the assessment of what happened. A mistake ceases to look like a mistake in the eyes of a person, and a miscalculation magically turns into a "good investment" or "lucky set of circumstances."
This is likely due to the cognitive distortion known as belief in a just world. In a nutshell, this distortion makes you find meaning in the most random phenomena and actions, miscalculations. With the help of creative self-deception (reconfiguration of the context), people try to turn defeat into victory - and use the prevailing circumstances to their advantage.

The more the client uses the cloud service, the more confident he is in the correctness of the choice made, due to the tendency to confirm the choice made and the standard embellishment of the past.

Whatever happens in the minds of deceived customers, but the business uses it. Some people really do not leave after "fraud", but turn into customers. They are sincerely glad that at one time they forgot to terminate the contract before the end of the free period.

This scheme is used by many paid services with a free trial period, such as Internet cinemas.

Going beyond the quota

Subscribing to a paid service is the most important step in launching a pipeline of financial flows from a client to a cloud service.

Further, this conveyor works like clockwork. To get users hooked on new services and assistances, he is offered bonuses and "free quotas".

The billing of cloud services is correctly calculated so that when using one free service, another service goes beyond the quota and is charged to the maximum.

Get into debt

The described cloud services declare: the client "pays only for what he really uses", nothing more. In reality, their business model is based on the opposite thesis. To maximize profitability, the service must squeeze out the maximum amount of funds. bounding through inadequate scaling, that is, for paying for assistances that the user does not need.

To this end, systems like automatic scaling are being introduced, which, at the slightest trigger or due to a configuration error, easily drive the client into debt.

Another way is to charge not for the used, but simply for the ordered service, even if it was not actually used. In any case, the client pays for what he does not need.

If you do not carefully monitor the tariffs and bills from such cloud providers, then these bills will grow and grow. It happens that due to unexpected changes in billing, the monthly bill grows by an order of magnitude.


In general, free cheese is really only in a mousetrap. In the cloud, it is suitable to experiment with different memory and CPU configurations, and moving to the clouds will help reduce the cost of the IT department for some companies.

The cloud is well suited for some specific tasks, examples of which we will discuss in other materials. Nobody bothers to play for free, but it is better to use paid variations with a guarantee and without deceptive maneuvers with a dishonest price or lure. We suggested using only a proven service with transparent assistances, where you will not be scammed into incomprehensible additional services so that you cannot escape anywhere.


Of all that clouds, Google Colab is the most surprising. It does not require any card binding, and it is by no means microservices that are spinning in that cloud, consuming 64MB of memory and 0.001% of processor time. No, neurons are considered there, which will not be launched on any modern desktop due to lack of resources. Only video memory (VRAM) it eats up from 16 GB per instance, and often more. Both the CPU and GPU operate in full, 100%, for hours on end.

Google must be losing billions by giving away such a monstrous amount of resources for free. Therefore, I honestly wonder why such a service even exists. Which could be the benefit here?


Some times I came across the fact that Amazon support makes refunds / canceled the charge on new accounts when people forgot about their free tier.
The topic itself is strange. Of course, a free tier on any service is needed, among other things, in order to familiarize the client and offer him paid services in the future. Just read the terms and conditions.


You can write a lot of bad things about Oracle Cloud, but the fact is that without explicitly enabling subscriptions, it is impossible to accidentally spend money there (unlike the same AWS).
Yes, your free instance can be rebooted after the first month of the trial, but then they don't touch it anymore. I've been using a 48 GB RAM machine for half a year and I don't pay a penny, it's cool.

When I studied AWS, I tied a personal card and used it to prepare for certifications and all sorts of labs. If you do everything consciously and do not leave hellish instances and huge EMR clusters raised, then more than 3-10 bucks per month is unlikely to run up. In light of the salaries of cloud specialists, this is generally ridiculous to discuss.