Heroku vs. Vercel: A Deep Dive into Deployment Platforms


heroku vs vercel logo mashup

When it comes to choosing a platform for deploying, running, and managing applications, the tech landscape offers a plethora of choices. Two of the most prominent players in the field are Heroku and Vercel. Both are popular for different reasons, catering to varying use cases. In this article, we'll delve into each platform, comparing their features, and showcasing example use cases. Let's get started!

Defining the Players

1. Heroku

Heroku is a cloud platform that offers a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) environment. It abstracts away infrastructure management and allows developers to simply deploy code, which Heroku then runs in the cloud.

Key features of Heroku:

  • Dyno System: Heroku uses containers called dynos to run applications.
  • Add-ons: Offers a marketplace with numerous plugins and integrations.
  • Language Agnostic: Supports multiple programming languages including Python, Ruby, Java, and Node.js.

2. Vercel

Vercel, formerly known as Zeit, primarily focuses on the deployment of frontend projects. It's tailored to suit the needs of modern frontend frameworks like Next.js, React, and Angular.

Key attributes of Vercel:

  • Serverless Functions: Facilitates easy backend logic alongside frontend deployment.
  • Real-time Feedback: Provides instant feedback and live URLs for every commit.
  • Optimized for Performance: Automatic optimizations for frontend projects.

Comparing Heroku and Vercel

Use Cases

1. Backend API Deployment:

  • Heroku: Ideal for deploying backend applications. For instance, deploying a Flask API is as simple as:

    from flask import Flask
    app = Flask(__name__)
    def hello():
        return "Hello World!"

    Combined with a Procfile:

    web: gunicorn app:app

    Deployment is just a push away with the Heroku CLI.

  • Vercel: While Vercel can handle serverless functions, it's not the best fit for a traditional backend API.

2. Frontend Project Deployment:

  • Heroku: Can serve frontend applications, but it's often overkill for static sites.

  • Vercel: Tailored for this purpose. Deploying a React app, for example:

    function App() {
      return <h1>Hello from Vercel!</h1>;
    export default App;

    With Vercel's CLI, the deployment process is incredibly smooth.

Pros and Cons

  • Heroku

    • Pros:
      1. Quick setup and deployment.
      2. Vast array of add-ons and integrations.
      3. Good for both frontend and backend apps.
    • Cons:
      1. Free tier apps sleep after 30 minutes of inactivity.
      2. Can become expensive at scale.
      3. Limited to the provided infrastructure.
  • Vercel

    • Pros:
      1. Perfect for modern frontend projects.
      2. Built-in CDN for blazing-fast site performance.
      3. Intuitive serverless functions.
    • Cons:
      1. Less suited for traditional backend apps.
      2. Some limitations on the free tier, like bandwidth.
      3. Serverless architecture may not suit all projects.

Common Applications

  • Heroku:

    • Web applications (both frontend and backend).
    • RESTful APIs.
    • Small to medium-sized databases using Heroku Postgres.
  • Vercel:

    • SPA (Single Page Applications) and static sites.
    • Jamstack applications.
    • Frontend projects with light backend needs using serverless functions.

Valuable Web Experiences

  • Heroku: Websites like Sentry and Bitly started on or have leveraged Heroku in their tech stacks.
  • Vercel: Websites built with Next.js or frontend frameworks like React and Angular have harnessed the power of Vercel for optimal performance.


While both Heroku and Vercel offer robust solutions for deploying applications, your specific project needs dictate the best fit. If you're focusing on a backend project or full-fledged web application, Heroku might be your go-to. On the other hand, if you're developing a frontend project, especially with modern frameworks, Vercel could be the perfect fit.

Whatever your choice, remember that both platforms have stood the test of time, proving their worth in the developer ecosystem. Happy coding!