AWS Free Tier

How you, a regular person, can understand and take advantage of Amazon Web Services without spending any money

  1. Intro and Quick Reference (this page)
  2. Usage Monitoring and Billing Alerts
  3. To do

AWS is a daunting collection of services, many of which seem like slightly different names for the same thing, with distinctions and features meaningful only to professional system administrators (sorry -- Cloud Operations Analysts) and all of which feature complex price structures and vague threats of billing pitfalls. Which ones are free and how do you know which one suits your purposes? How do you avoid exceeding the free tier limits, and how do you piece together the pricing structure to estimate how costly it will be if you do? What even are "GET requests" and "PUT requests" and how do you know how many you'll actually use? All this and more will be elucidated.

The best part for you is that I'm new to AWS and inexperienced with cloud computing in general. That means I don't already know what I'm doing, so there's no chance that I'll accidentally assume you already know anything about it. For the sake of expedience, I'll assume that you aren't a complete beginner, as applicable to each topic -- you're eyeballing S3, so you've already stored some backups or shared files on Google Drive or Dropbox, and you want to experiment with something more powerful; you're interested in EC2, so you already know what a VPS is and what you might like to do with one; you want to figure out CloudFront, so you've probably already hosted a website somewhere before.

People more familiar with AWS who find something too inaccurate to bear should feel free to provide feedback. I'll focus for now on the few services I'm familiar with so far, and add more as I learn.

AWS in Plain English

If the names of these services leave you confused, refer to AWS in Plain English for a list of what they are and what they should have been named.

Free Tier Quick Reference

Storage Services
Service Trial Period Storage Requests [?] Data Transfer / [Other]
Simple Storage Service
12 months 5 GB (S3 Standard storage class 20,000 GET requests
2,000 PUT/COPY/POST/LIST requests
15 GB 1
Elastic Block Store
12 months 30 GB 2,000,000 I/Os (with EBS Magnetic) [1 GB of snapshot storage]
Elastic File System
12 months 5 GB on EFS Standard
Glacier API
Long-term data archival
Forever 10 GB of storage retrievals 2
CloudFront 12 months 50 GB 2,000,000 HTTP or HTTPS requests
2,000,000 CloudFront function invocations
Service Trial Period Usage
EC2 12 months 750 hours of Linux and Windows 4 t2.micro instances (t3.micro for the regions in which t2.micro is unavailable)
Service Trial Period Usage Storage Backup
Relational Database Service
12 months 750 hours of db.t2.micro database usage 5 20 GB SSD database storage 20 GB storage for backups/snapshots
  1. 15 GB of data transfer out aggregated across all AWS services
  2. This covers only 10 GB worth of retrieval fees for Glacier API (not S3 Glacier). Fees for storage, retrieval requests, and data transfer still apply. See Glacier API Pricing and S3 Glacier vs. Glacier API.
  3. What it stands for: Content Delivery Network.
    What it means for you: A way to get over three times the amount of data out of AWS for free.
  4. A customer with access to the AWS Free Tier can use up to 750 instance hours each of t2.micro instances running Linux and Windows. Usage of the Linux and Windows t2.micro instances are counted independently. AWS Free Tier FAQs