Amazon Web Services or Heroku – Which is Best for Your Business?

In this blog you will find a brief outline of AWS and Heroku, namely:
  • Overview of Heroku (its benefits & main working principles)
  • Difference between AWS and Heroku
  • Pros & Cons of Heroku
  • Pros & Cons of AWS
This article will assist you in making an informed decision in favour of either AWS or Heroku.

You have a great idea for a new piece of software – may be a mobile app or some type of internal tool that will improve your business processes. And you want to deploy that app or program to the cloud. But you’ve got a ton of questions. What’s the best approach to managing infrastructure? And how will my company handle cloud security, monitoring, and networking issues? AWS vs Heroku?

If you are already an AWS user and you either have an in-house DevOps team or if you have contracted out with developers who know you and have met your AWS cloud needs well, then you will go to these experts with your new idea.

But then, someone mentions Heroku to you as a simpler method of development and deployment. You have no knowledge of or experience with Heroku, but maybe it’s time to give it further thought?  So, let’s do just that.

What follows is an overview of how AWS and Heroku stack against one another, what each does best so that you can make an informed decision about whether to opt for AWS or Heroku.

What is Heroku – a Basic Product Overview 

Heroku vs AWS

First and foremost, Heroku is a PaaS solution, sitting atop AWS. In short, it’s a handy cloud app development and deployment service.

As the chart above illustrates, the key element of Heroku is Dynos – proprietary lightweight Linux containers where all app processes run. You are charged based on the number and size of dynos you need. Obviously, the larger the app, the more dynos types you’ll need to use. You can choose among:

  • Web Dynos: for running web processes.
  • Worker Dynos: any types of processes you assign (e.g. background jobs).
  • One-off Dynos: for running one-off tasks, (e.g. database migrations).

While Heroku’s primary offering is for apps, you can also use Heroku website hosting to gen an Angular.js website on the Internet, for instance.

How Does Heroku Work?

Heroku makes the app development and deployment processes much more efficient. Once your developers are done with the app and send it off to the Heroku cloud, the tool does the rest. It automatically configures the infrastructure and resources provisioning on AWS (where the app is deployed).

An additional perk of Heroku is that developers can build their apps in any language they choose and select from a number of Heroku add-ons (some free, some fee-based) to speed up the development. The simplicity and the time-savings are big pluses.

To sum up, for now, anything built on Heroku is actually deployed to AWS, but still “run” by Heroku.  The question, then, is why use Heroku when a website, apps, and full infrastructure and management can be done through AWS?

The short answer probably lies in simplicity vs. complexity, but there is more to AWS vs Heroku than that.


Our Case Study: Migration from Heroku to AWS

scheme Migration from Heroku to AWS - Romexsoft

Romexsoft has wide professional experience in building, deploying and supporting customer solutions on AWS. Romexsoft mission is to provide extensive support to customer-centric companies to help them build and grow cloud-based businesses on AWS.
You can read more about our successful migration experience from Heroku to AWS in our Case Study

Case Study: Migration from Heroku to AWS

The Main Differences Between AWS and Heroku 

AWS is an IaaS solution. It’s a much robust, albeit complex offering that serves as a ‘launchpad’ for Heroku.
Thus, it’s not fully accurate to juxtapose AWS (an IaaS offering) vs Heroku (a PaaS product) as that may seem that we are comparing apples to oranges.

What is more reasonable to discuss is the difference between Elastic Beanstalk and EC2 from Amazon and Heroku. Here’s a quick refresher on these two AWS services:

  • AWS Elastic Beanstalk is the company’s proprietary web app deployment service. Similarly to Heroku, it automates your deployments and let’s auto-scale applications.
  • Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) is the flagship cloud-computing platform that lets anyone develop, host, deploy and run their applications on AWS.

Developers who are not familiar with Elastic Beanstalk, and who have only used EC2, have questions about the difference between EC2 and Beanstalk. Here are the answers:

  • EC2 is part of AWS IaaS. Beanstalk is a PaaS platform that enables developers to deploy apps on the cloud and then connect those apps with other AWS services, as they wish.
  • Beanstalk does bring together other AWS services like EC2.
  • While Beanstalk has great default settings, developers can manually manipulate management, such as bypassing, overwriting, and/or adjusting to meet customization needs and requirements.
  • Updates and patches occur automatically.

Now in this context, let’s compare the two offerings.

Pros of Heroku

Heroku is a far less complex tool than AWS Elastic Compute (EC2). Here’s why:

  • This platform equips developers with a fully ready environment and app servers.
  • Heroku seamlessly integrates with existing development tools and a pre-existing operating system
  • Infrastructure management isn’t necessarily the way it is with AWS EC2. Businesses need to choose a subscription plan, with the option to change that plan as needed.
  • Management occurs through a CLI on the simple dashboard.
  • Heroku seems like a great solution for startups and MVP’s until enough feedback is garnered to develop the full app.
  • Users do not have to be concerned about infrastructure, because it is built into the software itself.
  • There are quite a few supportive tools

Pros of AWS

Admittedly, AWS solutions are more complex and require more orchestration and maintenance than Heroku. So, who uses AWS and why? In general, it is the better solutions when an organization has a DevOps team, either in-house or contracted out, that can handle the more complex management functions.

  • When you compare AWS Elastic Beanstalk vs Heroku, the app deployment process is as easy.
  • AWS EC2 is a better choice for high-load applications, requiring a lot of computer power.
  • Many functions are automated (e.g. scaling, configuration, etc.)
  • Fast deployments are a big plus, and capacity can easily be added or removed.
  • AWS offers hybrid solutions
  • It is a better solution for post-startup businesses, because of the sheer amount of services and functions that are available

Cons of Heroku

  • Sometimes, users report that their dynos cannot be reached, and that creates problems.
  • Latency (wait time) can be longer than you can afford.
  • Network performance can be lagging.
  • If you want to buy more dynos or dynos workers, the price is $35 per month. It can be pretty pricey for large apps with a lot of traffic.
  • Thus, Heroku is not ideal for complex projects requiring a lot of cloud resources.

Cons of AWS

  • There can be unreliable deployment, and no error descriptions may be provided
  • Deployments are not as simple as in Heroku and can take a while, even in the case with simple instances.
  • Deploying several app instances at once will require an experienced team.
  • Users must take charge of many management functions themselves, although AWS is continually automating many of these.

In short, AWS requires much more tech expertise; yet it offers far more in the way of functions than Heroku.

Heroku vs AWS – a Comparison Table 

This table highlights the major differences between Heroku and AWS (Heroku pricing vs AWS, program languages, management tools, and others)

Heroku AWS
Owner Salesforce Amazon
Host AWS EC Instances
Pricing Set at $0.05/hour Starts at $0.013/hour
Service Type PaaS IaaS
Program Languages Java, Ruby, Python, Scala, Go, PHP, and others Ruby, NodeJS, Go, PHP, Docker, Python, and others
Complexity Simple, great for non-techies Complex, requires DevOps, Pros
Business Use Startups, Small Businesses Organizations of all Sizes
Computational Skills Low High
Deployment Rapid, Ready-to-Use More Difficult and Complex
Geographic Locale Europe, U.S., Japan, Australia, and More U.S. S. America, Europe, Asia/Pacific, China, & more
Management Tools Heroku CLI, App Metrics, Heroku Connect, Heroku Status AWS CLI, Management Console
Key Features Smart Containers (dynos), Horizontal and Vertical ScalingScaling up/down as needed,
Flexibility within the software
Multiple deployment options, App monitoring, and tracking, Flexibility to add/edit any, service as needed

More read: AWS vs Google Cloud vs Azure

Comparison of Security Features

While both Heroku and AWS offer robust security measures to protect your applications and data, it’s worth taking a closer look to understand the nuances. AWS, being a product of Amazon, has a vast array of security features that are continuously updated and expanded. These include advanced features such as AWS Shield for DDoS mitigation, AWS Macie for data privacy, and AWS Inspector for automated security assessment, to name a few.

Heroku, on the other hand, while offering a secure environment, relies on AWS for its underlying infrastructure and thus, its security features are somewhat reflective of what AWS provides. However, it’s important to note that some advanced security features available in AWS might not be directly accessible or manageable in Heroku.

In essence, if your business has specific or advanced security requirements, AWS might offer a more comprehensive and granular control over security configurations. This is not to say that Heroku is not secure, but AWS provides a wider range of options that can be tailored to meet specific security needs.

Integration Capabilities: How do they differ?

In today’s interconnected digital landscape, the ability to integrate with other services and tools is crucial. Both Heroku and AWS offer a range of integration options. Heroku’s elements marketplace offers a host of add-ons for databases, messaging, logging, and more.

However, AWS, with its extensive suite of services, stands out in this aspect. AWS services are designed to work seamlessly with each other, providing an integrated environment that can be highly advantageous for complex applications. For instance, AWS’s analytics services like Amazon Redshift or Amazon Athena can be easily integrated with your AWS-hosted application for real-time analytics.

Moreover, AWS also offers AWS Direct Connect, a service that provides a dedicated network connection from your premises to AWS, which can be beneficial for businesses with substantial data transfer needs.

While Heroku’s simplicity and straightforward integrations can be advantageous for smaller applications or startups, AWS’s extensive integration capabilities might be more suited for larger or more complex applications that require a wider range of services and tools.

So, What’s the Verdict – Heroku vs AWS?

The short answer is, it depends. In looking at who uses Amazon Web Services (AWS), it can be said that organizations of all sizes have found what they need due to the sheer volume of choice. AWS has a mature ecosystem of services, tools, and apps for businesses to use.
However, other than the Beanstalk platform, the use of AWS can be complex and requires an expert DevOps team, either in-house or contracted. In comparison, Heroku is less ‘intimidating’ and is a great one-function product.

It does the job of streamlining app deployments and it does it well. For startups and for those who plan to dispatch smaller apps to the cloud without lots of technical expertise, Heroku can be a good option. The choice between these two fully depends on what your organizational needs are right now!

How Romexsoft Can Help 

Romexsoft has established strong technical excellence in AWS, backed by our status as a certified partner. We are eager to guide you through your options and help you devise the optimal tech stack tailored to your specific business needs. Romexsoft offers DevOps Consulting Services to automate app deployments and streamline new product development. Contact us today to discover how we can assist you.


    AWS vs Heroku FAQ

    Why might a developer choose Heroku over AWS, given that Heroku is built on top of AWS?

    Heroku offers a simplified development and deployment process. It provides a ready-to-use environment, integrates seamlessly with existing development tools, and manages infrastructure automatically. This makes it especially appealing for startups, MVPs, or businesses without a dedicated DevOps team. While anything built on Heroku is deployed to AWS, the management and operation are handled by Heroku, offering a balance between simplicity and capability.

    How do AWS Elastic Beanstalk and Amazon EC2 differ in terms of their offerings compared to Heroku?

    AWS Elastic Beanstalk is similar to Heroku in that it automates deployments and allows for auto-scaling of applications. Amazon EC2, on the other hand, is a more robust cloud-computing platform that provides greater flexibility and control over the development, hosting, and deployment of applications. While EC2 is part of AWS's IaaS offering, Beanstalk is a PaaS platform, much like Heroku. Beanstalk integrates other AWS services, including EC2, and offers more customization options.

    What are the security implications when choosing between Heroku and AWS?

    Both Heroku and AWS prioritize security. AWS, being a larger product suite, offers a vast array of advanced security features, such as AWS Shield for DDoS mitigation and AWS Inspector for automated security assessments. Heroku, while secure, relies on AWS for its underlying infrastructure. This means that while Heroku benefits from AWS's security features, some advanced options available in AWS might not be directly accessible in Heroku. Businesses with specific or advanced security requirements might find AWS offers more granular control over security configurations.

    How do integration capabilities differ between Heroku and AWS?

    Heroku's elements marketplace offers various add-ons for databases, messaging, logging, and more, providing straightforward integrations for smaller applications or startups. In contrast, AWS, with its extensive suite of services, offers more comprehensive integration options. AWS services are designed to work seamlessly with each other, providing an integrated environment beneficial for complex applications. AWS also offers services like AWS Direct Connect for dedicated network connections, making it more suited for larger applications requiring a broader range of services and tools.

    Ivan Shulak
    Ivan Shulak Delivery Manager, Romexsoft
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