AWS, AZURE, GCP Virtual Machine Free Tier Comparison


There are big 3 cloud computing providers that are Amazon Web Services(AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform(GCP).

The focus of this posting is to explore the virtual machine free tier by each of the three companies to suit individual developers like myself. I hope that it would help readers will be able to select cloud computing providers.

What’s Free Tier?

It’s literally free. As you can see AWS is offering a lot of services when you sign in first. Some of these services are free for one year or always. Azure and GCP offer free services as well as AWS has, and also provides free credits to use powerful paid products.


Of course, there are a myriad of choices about what web applications to develop. For a wordpress blog service, a typical product to be covered in this posting is a virtual machine. Virtual machines are located at the top of the services offered by the three companies, and the other services can be regarded as an extension of this virtual machine.

Virtual machine performance comparison

Company Name Type vCPU RAM SSD/HDD* Limit
AWS EC2 t2.micro 1 1 SSD 30G 750hours
per month
for 1year
Azure Virtual
B1S 1 1 SSD 60G x 2 750hours
per month
for 1year
GCP Compute
f1-micro** 1 0.6 HDD 30G 1 instance
per month***

* Maximum capacity for free. Instance generates with a half or 1/3 of its capacity as a default.
** Only us-west1, us-central1, us-east1
*** In official site said, 744 instance hours of free usage for August.

AWS and Azure virtual machines are free if they do not exceed the total of 750 hours of running time, regardless of whether they are two or three. Although it was not running, they are going to charge immediately if you exceed the free storage limit. For example, in AWS, the storage is 8G, three suspended instances and one running instance have a total storage space of 32G, it is charged instantly for exceeding 2G.

On the other hand, GCP allows one virtual machine free. It’s just not free for one year, but also always free unless they change policies or Google closed. However, it offers lower performance than competitors and also supports HDD as a storage.

Free mounting image comparison

  • AWS: Amazon Linux, Ubuntu, Red Hat, SUSE, Windows[1]
  • Azure: Windows, Ubuntu, Debian, SUSE, CoreOS, Clear linux[2]
  • GCP: CentOS, ChromiumOS, CoreOS, Debian, Ubuntu[3]

The machine images supported by each company are the most common things listed above. Also, there are many customized images are available free, so you can check them by clicking the right links. In addition, the virtual machine itself is free, but licensed images going to charge you. Therefore, you need to check when you create the instance.

Pros and cons comparison

In AWS, you can avoid the non-free option by checking a box that only show the free tier options. However, because there is no free credit, if you choose the non-free option by mistake, it going to charge for usage of 1 hour even though just 1 second passed.

Azure provides ** the biggest storage space ** and covers on the widest area. Korea is available in central and southern regions. However, default value does not set with a free account option, and after confirming that the credits were spent, I was able to find a non-free option in setup page.

The GCP is low-performance, but it is lifetime free. Further, you can use $ 300 credit for one year. Instead, the service area is narrow and its description is poor to indicate that the amount is deducted as free.


The virtual machine itself is not the only one that works, but it has a lot of settings to follow, including operating system, storage space, security settings, static IP configuration.

As always, if you want to use any of the services for free, you need to read the resources and support carefully** on the official site.

Each services has advantages and disadvantages, you can choose according to the purpose of use. AWS is a leader, has the highest market share, and aims to be industry standard. Also, It has a good tutorial and resources for new user. If you use other cloud computing services after studying with AWS, you can use it without difficulty.

ps. Many of the tutorials on the Internet are outdated or misinformation, so it is important to always check them on the official site.