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In my area PHP is very widespread, so is .NET. Ruby not so much; most places have never heard of it. For some personal things I am "forced" to choose Rails because I want to take advantage of Heroku - the ability to deploy and scale on the cloud very easily is the main reason. Also, they offer a small FREE plan, with no ads or strings attached, that I can use for demo sites or, in this case, for my business' static page; as a totally bootstrapped startup I have maybe $50 or so in initial capital and cannot afford to pay monthly fees while I'm getting started.

Are there any similar offerings for other languages? Specifically, I really like the small, 5MB site for free that Heroku offers - is there anything like that for PHP and/or .NET? I'm not even that concerned about the "cloud" part, but that would be a nice bonus. If there is, I might be able to kill two birds with one stone and pick up a useful skill as I'm doing my own thing instead of using something that nobody else knows or cares about.

I should add I'm specifically interested in something that offers a free plan. As I said, Heroku has a 5mb plan that you can have as many as you want for free; I have yet to find anything similar for any other platform (most of the "free" sites require you to have ugly banners on your page, or don't allow you to use your own domain name), and to be honest I'm not too thrilled about using Ruby on Rails for everything simply to take advantage of this.

I'm asking this here because I already asked it on StackOverflow and someone suggested it would be better suited here.

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6 Answers

You might want to check out cloudControl - they offer a Platform-as-a-Service Solution for PHP, with a free offering of a developer account with a 5 MB database: http://cloudcontrol.com

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At AppHarbor we're building Heroku for .NET (although we sometimes use the tagline "Azure done right").

We're running a free invitation-only beta right now. We definitely expect to offer a limited free plan (like Heroku) once we launch proper.

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I run two (expensive) dedicated Windows servers for all my projects, but I fear the day I'll have to scale for millions of visitors. Please let us know when you have more pricing plans, so I can just use AppHarbor for everything. –  pate Apr 11 '11 at 21:20
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Heroku can only afford to offer that because of the barrier to entry, namely, "be a ruby programmer". A "free" php host without major caveat like that would get such an inrush of customers their signup system would crash before they even got to the part where all their hosting webservers crashed (see: dreamhost).

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Why the downvotes? He's right: a free php host is going to get inundated with requests. –  Citizen May 6 '10 at 14:38
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PHP Fog - http://phpfog.com/

You can get started and have an app launched in no time, so it's much easier just to sign-up and take it for a spin.

At PHP Fog we've built a platform for hosting PHP applications an a scalable platform. You can create your first app for free on a shared environment with a custom domain, 20MB DB, 100MB storage, and shared SSL support. You can start with any one of the applications (e.g. WordPress, SugarCRM, Drupal), or a framework (e.g. CodeIgniter, Zend Framework, CakePHP). This also comes with git repository for your code and deploying your application is done simply by using 'git push'.

Once you are on the free plan you can migrate to dedicated servers when you need to grow your business. I've talked to a number of people in your shoes and the story is pretty common: it is easy to outgrow a hosting service but it is very difficult to migrate to a better one. So it is good that you are considering this from the start.

If you have been using traditional (shared or dedicated) hosting in the past you should check out the "Why PHP Fog" and "Platform" page to get a better sense how PHP Fog differs from traditional hosting and how your workflow will improve.

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For asp.net, look into Brinkster.com. For php, look into Kodingen. They allow you to setup a basic app on PHP (or several other languages..including RoR) for cloud based development. While neither of these site are as coo as Heroku (..admission: I am a Rails developer) they should give you most of what you need.

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vps.net is a great solution for cloud hosting. Although git repo deployments to Heroku work well sometimes I miss the ability to directly connect to the datbase. I'll probably move my sites over to something like vps.net instead.

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