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Is AWS free tier really free?

Answer

The AWS free tier provides customers the ability to try out AWS services under pre-set limits. The Free Tier includes 12 month access for selected services, a trial period and an always available offer.

If you have been using AWS cloud for sometime, you may be wondering if the free tier really is free. The answer to this is Yes and No. Amazon Web Services Free Tier is a solution that allows new users to experience AWS without paying a cent at the cost of limiting your usage within each service during the initial period.

But with great power comes great responsibility, If you wish to use more than what’s available in the free tier on any given month, there will be charges added directly to your AWS account. You can also upgrade or downgrade your plans anytime as long as it falls within its respective yearly commitment periods (12 months).

For example, if I want to host my blog site on EC2 server instances which runs Linux, I can use the aws free tier to host my blog for 12 months at no charge. However in some cases where there are overages on your account, you have the option upgrade to avoid getting charged as long as you commit to the same period and plan type that you started with.

Note: Amazon reserves the right to change their terms at any given time (and it has happened before) without further notice

How do I know when my free tier runs out?

This is not an easy thing to determine if you don’t know what to look for. If your AWS account was created after 1st of January 2015 then there’s a clear indicator that will let you know when your free tier expires. When signing in to your AWS account, you will be greeted by a message like the image shown below which clearly indicates that you only have X months left before your free tier expires.

However if your account was created well before 2015, then the notification on how many months remain until it expires won’t be so clear. The best way to determine this is to log into the Amazon Web Services Management Console and click on billing from the top navigation bar On next page, click on “Monthly Usage Report”. This will display a report containing all of your cost details that includes running services and costs for each service used during the last month (Note: You can click on any given service to see more information).

Here’s an example of my monthly usage report

The above example shows that I used RDS to host my blog site. Since the free tier is still available on this server, this means that it will be free for the next 12 months. However if you notice there are some services where AWS has attached a $0.00 usage fee instead of stating 0 months left in Free Tier, then it’s possible that you have exceeded your monthly allowance for those service and has incurred additional charges on your account. You will need to keep track of these costs using either an excel sheet or a tool such as Cloudlytics which allows you to do active audit of your AWS expenditures by generating usage reports each month (currently only supports billing data from US region).

Other than running services, another way to incur charges on your AWS account is if you are using more than 750 hours of Amazon EC2 time which again is included in the free tier. There’s no way you could tell when this limit has been reached other than signing into the AWS management console and clicking on “EC2 Dashboard” from the top navigation bar. Surprisingly enough, this page will also display a warning message letting you know that your Free Tier usage hours are almost up.

What happens after my free tier expires?

After it expires, any automatic charges that was added to your AWS account will be removed as long as you don’t exceed overages on those services (if applicable). It is then up to you to pay for each service consumed on your account starting from the first day of that month. Also if you have services on your account where AWS has attached a $0.00 usage fee instead of stating 0 months left in Free Tier then any additional charges incurred after the first day of that month will still be removed and it’s not included in the billable amount at all.

For example, if your monthly bill is $50 for RDS and $25 for EC2 usage fees then you can safely pay only $50 to keep those services running for another month without worrying about getting charged extra when your free tier expires again (unless you consume overages on those particular services). However if you want to continue using EC2 service on your new billing cycle, then you will need to pay another $25 on top of your normal monthly bill.

How much does it cost?

If you are going to use the AWS free tier, make sure you understand how much each service will cost because most likely they might exceed your expectations depending on your usage patterns. Some services such as S3 and RDS for example don’t really have any overages that you can incur if not careful enough but others such as EC2 (hosting) may go beyond the 750 hours per month cap allocated in the free tier. For more details on prices of all Amazon Web Services checkout this nicely done table from Cloud Academy website or their overview page here . I also found a good comparison tool at Cloudlytics which compares pricing across most major cloud providers which you can find here .

What if I have extra charges at the end of my billing cycle?

If, by some chance you exceeded your monthly bill on any given service that’s still under free tier then Amazon will send a notification to your e-mail letting you know how much additional charge was added to your account. It is up to you to pay for these services unless they are more than $50 per month (in which case you need to contact AWS support team). This is due to the fact that Amazon doesn’t just want people who signed up for the free tier and never intended paying anything in return. Instead they want users of their platform to try out all different services and products so that they can become familiar with the AWS management console.

This is a good thing because if you are really going to use the AWS platform then it’s best for you to test out services and products that are offered there first before paying for them so you don’t end up wasting money on something like S3 only to find out that it’s not suitable for your needs at all. Once you’ve grown accustomed to using the Amazon Web Services, therefore making sure each service on its own merits, then eventually (depending on business needs) you might consider moving some portions of your infrastructure or applications onto their cloud . This will most likely involve having more than 1 account in order to get better price discounts which we will go into detail next section below.

If you are not interested in maintaining a growing AWS account with more services added over time then it’s best for you to use the free tier as part of your development and testing cycles and once you are done move everything back on-premise if possible. This is starting to become available now thanks to GCP (Google Cloud Platform) which offers migration tools that will allow such moves in an easy fashion without much disruption or data loss .

Amazon has now released a migration tool called Cloud Migration Service ! If you have been using their platform for some time now then it might be worth checking out this service moving forward!

Do I need multiple accounts?

You might have noticed from the AWS console that prices tend to differ between different regions (see screenshot below) so if you wanted to get the best deals out of Amazon Web Services then it might be worth considering having multiple accounts. Each account will need to have its own unique DNS name which can be achieved by pointing each domain name towards their appropriate IP address assigned from Amazon Web Services via their console interface.

If you are unsure on how to do this, checkout Cloud Academy’s course on Networking Fundamentals where they go into very good detail explaining all of these concepts further . It is always a good idea to combine price discounts with free tier in order to take advantage of overall lower pricing when possible (see guide here ). Keep in mind that even though there has been an increase on cost for some services such as EC2 but the overall price increase isn’t that significant to get too worried .

Can I setup free tier with multiple accounts?

You can set up a completely separate account for your personal or business needs as long as it has its own unique name and DNS address. You need to ensure this by going into the console and finding each service which should have a “create another” link in order to create additional services. In addition once you’ve created an account then make sure that it has permissions (completely empty) so that you don’t end up locking yourself out of your own AWS account ! You probably wouldn’t be able to recover access without reaching out towards AWS support team first.

We will now go through some of the most popular services that can be created and used in order to get a better handle on their pricing.

 EC2 instances

This is probably the most popular service offered by Amazon Web Services, allowing you to run virtual machines of different types based on Linux or Windows operating systems including security features such as firewalls, access lists, VPN connections etc. These instances have been setup ready for you to use and will ultimately depend on your needs but they are ideal for testing purposes prior to moving any applications onto AWS platform . They have what’s called an elastic nature where you only pay for what you need at any given time but if you do want a little more power available all the time then it might make sense to rent out a larger instance.

Is AWS free tier really free?

The AWS free tier provides customers the ability to try out AWS services under pre-set limits. The Free Tier includes 12 month access for selected services, a trial period and an always available offer.

Is AWS free tier free forever?

Always Free: AWS offers free tier usage for new users. It does not expire after the first 12 months. Might also be rewritten as: AWS provides a free tier service that is activated at signup and doesn’t have to rely on buying compute hours or anything like that.

Does AWS free tier charge?

The AWS Free Tier makes certain amounts and types of resources available for new accounts free of charge for the first year. After a year, any amount that is not covered by the Free Tier will incur standard rates which can be monitored with Budgets. Include what are covered in buckets under AWS Free Tier

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