Oracle free tier services: free trial or free trap?

A lot of services come with their own free trial period (such as Oracle free tier services). It’s often 30 days of use without spending a penny. It’s a way of trying on the product, to see if it’s a decent fit.

But a free trial period, whatever it’s for, is something to keep an eye on. It can lure you in with tantalising deals and upgraded services, but potentially leave you with unexpected expenses.

Oracle has introduced two new promotions: “Always Free” online Cloud resources, intended to help build and test new applications, and a 30 day free trial, to try its services on for size.

Sounds amazing, no? Well, don’t go rushing in just yet.

What are my free Cloud options?

Below is an overview comparison between Oracle “Always Free”, and the sample services available from Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure. If you were considering switching vendors or want to try out what other providers can offer you, this table can be very useful.

Oracle Cloud Amazon AWS Microsoft Azure
Resource 30 days free Always free 12 months free Always free 12 Months free Always free
Compute N/A 2 VMs 750 hours EC2 N/A 750 hours B1S N/A
Volume storage N/A 100gb 30gb N/A 2 x 64gb SSD N/A
Archive storage N/A 10gb 5gb S3 10gb Glacier 5gb N/A
CPU N/A 1/8+ OCPU 1 vCPU N/A 1 N/A
Memory N/A 1gb per vm 1gb N/A 1gb N/A
Bandwidth N/A 10 mbps Low to moderate N/A 10 mbps N/A
Load balancer 1 1 750 hours N/A 1 1

Immediately you’ll notice that, unlike its competitors, Oracle hasn’t opted for a 12 month free trial. It instead has a selection of “Always Free” services and a 30 day free trial.

So, this is Oracle’s unique approach to the Free Tier market. It may be free, but is it worth it?

Oracle’s “Always Free” Cloud

With these services, the clue is in the name. Oracle has chosen a small sample of Cloud-based resources that are free to use for an unlimited time.

What Oracle is offering as “Always Free” is tiny, especially compared to the usual requirement of ERP solutions. It’s almost certain that you’ll exceed its offering. Oracle’s solution only provides 1/8th of an OCPU; 1/8th of a virtual processor isn’t much of a deal.

Space to move around (and not much else)

These caps won’t provide you with much usage, other than to try out the Cloud for free, run a demo, or test a prototype. What Oracle is offering certainly isn’t big enough to run any enterprise grade products on it, so you can’t use it to move your estate over, or really get to grips with what a full Cloud service would look like for your use case.

Plus, Oracle doesn’t make it easy for you to play trial and error.

Say for example you’ve chosen one of its resources marked as Always Free but then you want to try another one. Once you’ve chosen an Always Free resource, you can’t transfer the Always Free status to another resource you like the look of. Oracle will permit you to delete an existing Always Free resource, in order to create a new one instead.

You can use the Always Free services for as long as you want and then move on, but that is essentially what Oracle is offering. It’s a sample (arguably) large enough to taste, but not sustain you.

Oracle’s 30 day free Cloud trial

The trial period is the next level of Oracle’s free tier. This gives you $300 of Cloud credits, to spend on any eligible Oracle Cloud service, and 30 days to spend them.

This free trial allows a little more access, compared to the Always Free services. The $300 credits mean you’ll have more storage, and eight instances available for you to try.

But while there’s more to try out, compared to the Always Free resources, does that make the free trial better?

Is 30 days enough time?

Oracle’s trial period gives you 30 days to access a range of its services. This is, put simply, not enough time to fully trial and test these services.

In addition, if you decide that you want to trial multiple services from Oracle, the maximum capacity per service you choose can be reduced. Basically, during the trial period you’re never going to truly experience a fully integrated system, if every time you spend credits on a new service, another one is then lessened to make space for the newer one.

You’ve got just 30 days to truly trial and test, with resources not functioning at their full capacity. This is a stark contrast to other providers that offer 12 months – a much more reasonable amount of time to test this type of product.

And don’t think you can try another free trial a year later. Only those who have not previously signed up for Oracle Cloud Free Tier or Free Trial are eligible. You get one go. 30 days. And that’s it.

Don’t let Oracle catch you out

Don’t get trapped in an upsell.

As with any free trial, you need to be wary when the closing date comes around. Especially if you were asked to input payment details before the trial could begin.

After your trial with Oracle ends your account remains active, so be careful you’re not caught out paying for something you don’t need/want anymore.

Also, bear in mind that the services bought with credits have upper limits on capacity. There is every possibility that exceeding the limit could result in a fine. So be especially careful if, as outlined above, the limits have been lowered due to trialling multiple services.

In short, don’t let the trial become a trap.

Once it’s gone, it’s gone

When the trial period is over, any additional resources paid for by your credits are reclaimed by Oracle. They are reclaimed and permanently deleted, never to be recovered.

Oracle gives you a few days leeway, though. Your existing, chosen resources will continue to run a short while longer. Don’t be fooled though. This isn’t a grace period; it’s meant to give you an extra chance to upgrade your account. All you have left to keep are the Always Free resources.

The bottom line, is this a good idea?

Across both its “Always Free” resources and 30 day free trial, Oracle has created services that are limited in both size, users, and time. You certainly wouldn’t be able to run your entire enterprise on either solution, nor trial and test them properly.

All combined, free though it may be, this deal doesn’t offer much of a chance to see if Oracle is right for your business.

So why has Oracle launched this?

ERP providers like Oracle and SAP are always pushing customers to get on the Cloud, particularly their SaaS platforms that allow them to control upgrades, security, and prices at their discretion.

Cynically, we wonder if Oracle has launched these products as another way of artificially enhancing its figures of Cloud adoption (which is at least more ethical than how it has been doing this to date). But it could also be that a 30 day free trial is its way of showing you that its Cloud-based products aren’t too bad and have the functionality that you need.

Just remember that if you want to keep it, you’ll have to pay for it.

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