Finding inexpensive hosting solutions for your small projects and applications can be both very hard, and very easy. If you’re a mobile app developer and don’t yet know of all the developer-friendly hosting platforms out there, it is time to learn about them, and perhaps even migrate over from the hosting solution you’re using right now.

Now, what is a small application, or a small project? I guess it’s something that we’re building for test purposes only, and don’t really intend to have a massive amount of people using the damn thing. But, occasionally – we’d love to be able to open the doors up to a few hundred people, let’s just say; for stress testing.

In that case, we need to look for companies that think alike, and offer variety of plans to meet our expectations and needs. I wrote an extensive review of DigitalOcean and their hosting platform, it definitely is one of the cheaper alternatives out there, but it hasn’t been built with small apps or projects in mind.

Server Rack HD

As a busy developer, the last thing you want to do is to setup a new server. Its not hard, but it definitely isn’t a very time effective process, and can take up hours before everything’s installed and upgraded to the appropriate versions. I’m going to be focusing on hosting companies and platforms that provide easy access to the tools you need, when you need them.

I wrote a similar post a couple of months ago, in which I covered the best hosting solutions for those who’re working with the Python framework Django. If you’re looking to host your small Python app or project for a reasonably cheap price, see my post for the best Django hosting solutions. I hope it helps.

1. OpenShift

OpenShift by Red Hat
For as little as $30/month, you can get a custom-built server that will allow you to receive up to 200,000 unique visitors a month, and nearly 50 concurrent connections every second. But, that’s just to tease you of the quality of the service – as OpenShift does offer a free hosting plan for those who need it.

The free plan will allow for as many as 50,000 monthly visitors, and you can work with many programming languages and frameworks, like; PHP, Ruby, Node.js, Python, etc,. etc,. It is a platform built for the purpose of enabling the developer to deploy quickly, so a lot of things that you’d usually do manually have already been built-in.

I also enjoy the automatic scaling feature that OpenShift provides, whenever your website is going to exceed a certain limit (according to the number of ‘Gears’ that you use), an additional power source will be provided to your server and things will even themselves out. Anyway, see the types of applications that this platform has enabled people to build.

2. AppFog

AppFog Platform as a Service for public clouds
Yeah, so, I would settle for AppFog if my application that I am working on was about to reach a stage where it is ready to be showed to the public. AppFog has a lot of experience in scaling, managing, and launching thousands of applications on their servers, so it instantly becomes very appealing to both beginners and experts.

AppFog (formerly PHP Fog) provides instant installation and N-tier scalable cloud deployment for PHP and other applications. AppFog allows one click installations of popular tools like Drupal and WordPress, and extend this with super simple scaling tools. In the past, deploying PHP and similar apps was as painful as configuring Windows 95 network settings. AppFog makes cloud deployment, scaling and running apps as simple as installing an iPhone app.

It currently offers a free 30-day trial, after which you can select the next cheapest plan – 20$/month. The good news, AppFog does support majority of the languages and frameworks that you might be working with.

3. Heroku
Heroku Cloud Application Platform
Heroku has been around for a while now, and while it is not the best solution when it comes to hosting your WordPress blog; small apps and display pages are very popular among those who use their free hosting service. Technically, it is a ‘pay as you grow’ service, so you’ll be paying for the resources you use – very minimal for small projects and apps.

Why Heroku? Well, I guess because of the extensive and beautiful Add-ons directory that it has. If you become a Heroku customer, deploying and installing things like cache servers, monitoring tools, or utilities is going to become a thing of the past – Heroku makes it incredibly easy to install and modify software and 3rd party applications.

4. Apprenda

Free Enterprise PaaS Cloud for .NET and Java Applications Apprenda
Apprenda is the leading enterprise Platform as a Service (PaaS) powering the next generation of enterprise software development in public, private and hybrid clouds. It is a platform that is oriented around the enterprise sector, focusing on delivering a very high-quality service to companies based on .NET and Java infrastructure.

It is very difficult to talk about this platform without going into a deep analysis of how it works and what it does, so I’m giving you a link to the product page instead, developers at Apprenda have built an amazing introduction to the service, and you’re going to learn a lot more about the PaaS market as well.

5. Cloud 66

Cloud 66 Deploy and manage Ruby apps on any cloud
Fortunately, Cloud 66 is currently available only for Ruby developers, the fact of the matter is that building a large company like OpenShift or Heroku requires a lot of resources and manpower, so services like Cloud 66 are focusing on one particular category, and excelling in that.

Cloud 66 is a management and provision service for your Ruby applications. You can easily build a PaaS from the ground-up, with the choice of building it on any public, private, or your own infrastructure. Development servers are free, and will definitely allow you to learn more about PaaS and your apps in general.

Free Hosting for Small Applications & Projects

As it turns out, there is demand for such services (because, who doesn’t love free stuff) and luckily there are companies (especially the first three in our list) taking the initiative, and working hard to help developers, and inexperienced webmasters to make the next best steps.

I dedicated the last two hosting solutions to a more specific market, so do keep them in mind. I also encourage you to list your own favorite companies that could be added to this list, but I’m mostly looking for those that offer some type of a free plan, or at least a plan that falls under $10/month.