Acquia Unveils Free Version of Acquia Cloud

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Acquia Unveils Free Version of Acquia Cloud
Acquia will now provide a free version of its cloud based content management system Acquia Cloud, and Drupal developers can now develop and stage content there to test out their websites.

Free Developer Sandbox

Aqcuia Cloud Free is a bit different from the free Acquia Cloud versions that had previously been in place. This version doesn't require a credit card to set up, and there is no expiration date on the account. The catch is, it's not for production sites, as enticing as that would obviously be.

Instead, Acquia Cloud Free is a place for developers to try out workflow tools and deploy code between development and staging environments, Dries Buytaert, Drupal founder and Acquia CTO wrote in a blog post.

"It's a stress free environment to test out features and build skills," Jess Iandiorio, senior director of Cloud product marketing at Acquia said in an interview.

"What people can do with this is use it as a sandbox, and it's the best place for devs to learn."

For those who want to start off with the free version and then transfer that content to a live site, it is possible to then upgrade to a paid version starting at US$ 99 per month. With the old freemium version, the main barrier was having to input a credit card to sign up, Iandiorio said. Now developers, and especially agencies, can begin building a website with no risk, and then when it is ready, go ahead and launch it without having to worry about getting it ready in just 30 days.

On launch day, there were 600 people that signed up for Acquia Cloud Free, Iandiorio said, a big number, and many of them were from agencies.

"They can pitch their customers a website idea, and begin building it right away for no cost, and they can preview what it will look like before spending anything," she said.

There isn't much storage included in the free version, only 500 megabytes each for the code base, database and file system, but it does offer Git and Drush integration for using and reusing code. That storage limit won't be a problem, though Iandiorio said.

Learning Opportunities

"We've been beta testing all year and haven't had anyone complain it wasn't enough," she said.

Search, Support + Security Included

Development and staging sites in the Acquia Cloud Free environment are tested every 30 minutes by a product called Acquia Insight, and it analyzes code and gives fix recommendations. Email alerts can also be set on performance, security and SEO alerts should any problems arise.

Acquia Unveils Free Version of Acquia Cloud
Acquia Insight give tips on how to maximize a Drupal site's performance.

Site search within development and staging sites is provided by Apache Solr, and once connected can be customized for helping serve up the most relevant content. It provides faceted searches, content recommendations and the ability to display content across all Web properties such as the content of files attached to a site.

Searches can be filtered by the time an article was published, for example, bust just as with storage, the number of searches allowed is limited. 2,000 queries/5,000 documents indexed per month are allowed with the free account. Support is also limited for free accounts, and it can be found in online forums, but not via Web tickets or phone and email.

It seems Acquia Cloud is rapidly gaining in popularity, and that was one of the reasons for the switch to this totally free version, Buytaert wrote in his blog post announcing the product. Acquia Cloud has grown from about 5 billion total requests in March 2012 to nearly 20 billion in May 2013, and since the start of this year that growth seems to have slightly accelerated.

However fast Acquia Cloud continues to grow, both the paid and free versions will continue to be updated with future changes, Iandiorio said. At the end of October is large Drupal conference in Prague, and product road maps will be discussed there in a bit more detail, she said.