Building an app is a great way to improve your customer experience, whether it’s a web app or a mobile app. However, whereas a mobile app can be downloaded from an app store, a web app is designed to run on web browsers, such as Safari or Chrome. This means that if you build a web app, it will need a web address, storage space for its code, and data and background support (so it doesn’t go offline because of traffic surges). This can all be done by hosting your app in the cloud through the use of the Heroku platform.
If you’re curious about the name “Heroku,” it doesn’t actually mean anything. It’s a portmanteau, combining the words “hero” and “haiku.” The naming of the service was done mostly as a homage to the Japanese inventor of the popular Ruby programming language.
Founded in 2007, Heroku is a service that lets you deploy your apps from the cloud. Heroku allows you to store your app online, and once stored on Heroku’s cloud server, you can deploy your Heroku app so that users can find it and load it into their web browsers. There are plenty of other places where your apps can live, including Amazon Web Services and Appfog, to name a few. However, Heroku is one of the oldest and most popular online app hosting services.
Heroku is designed to be easy to use by just about anybody. Their clients vary from large companies to independent developers. You could attempt to host your apps on your own networked server, but it’s challenging. It can take days to build your own infrastructure around an app, however Heroku allows you to deploy your app quickly. With Heroku, your project manager and developers won’t have to worry about hardware and server maintenance either. They can just focus on improving the app instead.
When building an app on Heroku, it will be deployed to the Cedar Stack, which is an online runtime environment that will officially support the following languages:
However, your developers can still build your apps in whatever programming language they are most familiar with, even if it’s not officially supported, through the use of custom buildpacks.
Buildpacks are groups of open source scripts used to assemble apps. The way buildpacks work is relatively simple. A buildpack collects your deployed code and turns it into a slug, which is a compressed version of your app. A slug is then carried out onto a dyno, which allows Heroku to support your app’s language or customizations. It means that your team will be able to code in the languages and frameworks that they prefer.
One thing to note, a more complicated app might be running several programming languages. If this is the case, then you can use multiple buildpacks. And if you’re using a language that is officially supported by the Heroku platform, then the buildpacks that your app require will be automatically determined for you .
Although Heroku has buildpacks available for all of the languages that are officially supported, you can create custom buildpacks to support any language or framework not supported by Heroku. There are also thousands of third-party buildpacks available to choose from in the Elements Marketplace. You will need to install a custom buildpack if the language or framework isn’t officially supported by Heroku before you initialize deployment.
Dynos are what Heroku calls “instances”, which is the large number of virtual computers found on the Heroku server. These instances are basically lightweight containers that run commands for your app that can be powered up and down. For example, a beginner might build an app that only performs one action. In this case, the app would only have one dyno since every dyno, or instance, runs a single command.
Because many apps require the same actions, Heroku has an add-on store from which you can assign existing actions to dynos, saving you time from having to develop them yourself. Some actions are available for free, such as the Heroku Scheduler, while others are available for a small fee.
Heroku is a cloud-based platform on which you can configure, deploy, run, and scale your web apps in a user-friendly manner. The way you go about doing this is by sending your app’s source code to Heroku using Git, GitHub, or with the use of an API. Git is the primary way that Heroku users deploy their apps. Essentially, deploying the app you’ve developed is a process that involves moving the app from your local system to Heroku, which is easy to do.
To ensure that your app can handle an influx of users and traffic, you’ll want to be able to scale your app accordingly. You can do this by running your Heroku app on multiple dynos at once (although this feature is not available on Free or Hobby dynos).
One option for scaling your apps is by using a continuous integration approach. You can do this by configuring GitHub integration on the Heroku dashboard. You can then set up automatic deploys for the Github branch. Then Heroku will build and deploy all pushes to that Github branch.
If you are paying for the Performance tier service, you can configure Heroku Autoscaling. Autoscaling will increase the number of web dynos automatically based on the number of people attempting to use your app.
While the basics of using Heroku to deploy your apps may seem relatively simple at first glance, it can still present a challenge to those unfamiliar with Heroku. Fortunately, Heroku provides users with some excellent resources to learn more about their platform via the Heroku Dev Center. Here you can read through step-by-step guides on how to deploy apps using your preferred programming language and how to master the basics of Heroku.
Now that you have a pretty good idea of what Heroku is and how you can use it, here is how you can get started. Fortunately, it’s not that difficult. There are only three basic steps to take to begin hosting apps in the cloud using Heroku.
The very first thing you’ll need to do is to create a Heroku account. Once you’ve created an account, you can test out how easy it is to create and deploy an app through the Heroku dashboard.
To deploy your apps directly from your desktop instead of building them through Heroku, you will need to install the Heroku Toolbelt. The Heroku Toolbelt consists of three different tools:
These three tools allow you to create, manage, test, and deploy apps with ease from your own computer.
Here are the steps that you’ll need to take to actually make your app available online:
The flexibility and ease of use of the Heroku platform makes it one of the most popular options for developers. If you’re planning on building your own web apps, we strongly recommend deploying them through Heroku. If you’re building smaller web apps, then Heroku is a no-brainer considering the fact that they have several tiers, one of them being free.