How to get a free server in the cloud

jtw's photo
·Jul 25, 2021·

2 min read

You may know this already, but Google Cloud's free tier includes one cloud compute instance per month.

And no - I'm not a Google shill or even a fanboy (I have an iPhone, use AWS most of the time) I just found it useful and wanted to share!

What do I get?

Before you get too excited, you should keep a few things in mind:

  • The E2-micro is a low powered machine
  • Free instances are restricted to the following regions:
    • us-west1 (Oregon)
    • us-central1 (Iowa)
    • us-east1 (South Carolina)
  • 1GB network egress per month from NA -> Anywhere (excl China and Aus)
  • 30GB HDD
  • No external IP

Exact details are subject to change, but are currently listed here.

It should also be noted that this free compute is in hours and not instance count.

What can I do with it?

For students, I think this is a great opportunity to get experience managing remote servers and working with linux - maybe even hosting portfolio projects.

For more experienced developers, I think it could be useful as a small testing/sandbox environment, as a low powered remote cloud editor, or for task automation.

Okay, so how do I get it?

It is pretty straightforward to get your cloud instance up and running.

  1. Sign into your google account
  2. Head over to the Google Cloud Platform Console
  3. Click the Select a project drop-down menu Screen Shot 2021-07-25 at 9.12.22 AM.png
  4. Click New Project Screen Shot 2021-07-25 at 9.22.16 AM.png
  5. Enter a project name and click Create Screen Shot 2021-07-25 at 9.21.55 AM.png
  6. You should now be at the main console with a notification that your project has been created. Click Select Project. Screen Shot 2021-07-25 at 9.24.13 AM.png
  7. Expand the left hand menu, and navigate to Compute Engine -> VM Instances Screen Shot 2021-07-25 at 9.27.05 AM.png
  8. Enable the Compute Engine API for your project (this may take a bit) Screen Shot 2021-07-25 at 9.27.18 AM.png
  9. Select your VM Instance details (Remember to double-check the free tier instance type & region requirements) image.png
  10. Click Create! Screen Shot 2021-07-25 at 9.39.08 AM.png

And that's it! After a few moments, your new cloud instance should be created.

If you wish to connect to your instance, you can click on the instance name from the VM Instance page, and then select to connect via SSH in the browser. Screen Shot 2021-07-25 at 9.51.43 AM.png

Hopefully you find this helpful! Just remember to monitor your Instance and stay within the free tier (especially the network egress!!!) - surprise cloud bills are never fun...


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