Self Hosting: How to Get Free and Cheap Linux Virtual Servers

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I try to avoid the cloud in favor of self-hosting the services I use. Then I know my information is private, and I can tailor them to suit my needs. I do run some services at home on my network, but my local internet service is pretty slow. So my solution is to run services like VPN, Owntracks Recorder, and this blog on a virtual private server.

Even if you don’t have any grand plans, you could host something simple like Pi Hole to block all ads on your devices – even your phone.

The same economies of scale that make cloud computing so ubiquitous and cheap also work in our favor if we are willing to administer a Linux server ourselves. Here are some cheap, and even free, ways to get your own server.

Google Cloud – Free


Google is nice enough to give away one ‘microtier’ instance free forever. To activate it, you go to, create an account, and enter a credit card to prove you’re a real person. Once in the console, you go to “Compute Engine”, select ‘micro’ from the options, and click create to launch your mini VPS.

When you create it, the estimate cost will say “$4.28” (or similar) but if you read the fine print, that cost is credited to you every month for your first ‘micro’ instance.

It’s like having a Raspberry Pi in the cloud! Perfect, for example, as an always online Mosquitto broker for your smart home.

Aruba Cloud1€/mo


Aruba is based in the Euro zone, which has much stronger data privacy protection laws than the United States. If you are concerned about keeping your web browsing private, the cheapest level of Aruba’s VPS offering is more than enough to host your own OpenVPN server affordably. The stats on this are a step up from Google’s micro tier if you are willing to pay for something a little more powerful.

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Digital Ocean – $5/mo


If you need something more robust and are willing to spend a few bucks, I highly recommend Digital Ocean. They have an incredible wiki of how to guides, so you can securely and quickly set up almost any service. They have pre-made “Droplets” to deploy anything you want, out of the box, so you can get to work on your blog or other project without having to bother with that at all. Automatic backups, reasonable prices, and quick customer support. For five bucks, this is a great deal for something you depend upon every day.

Amazon EC2 – Free (1 Year)

This one’s only good for a year, but you can get a EC2 micro instance with access to Amazon S3 storage and their API services for free for up to one year.

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