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Heroku | How To use | Getting started with Heroku

Heroku is a cloud service platform whose popularity has grown in the recent years. Heroku is so easy to use that it’s a top choice for many development projects. Heroku is a cloud platform as a service (PaaS) supporting several programming languages. Heroku, one of the first cloud platforms, has been in development since June 2007, when it supported only the Ruby programming language, but now supports Java, Node.js, Scala, Clojure, Python, PHP, and Go.

Cloud computing is an information technology paradigm — a model for enabling ubiquitous access to shared pools of configurable resources, such as computer networks, servers, storage, applications, and services.

Cloud services can be rapidly provisioned with minimal management effort on the business’s part. While the cloud is an attractive option for businesses with a variety of needs, the particularities of the business model and project needs will determine which cloud service provider they end up using.

Heroku, and example of a Platform-as-as-Service solution, is generally considered to be easy-to-use. But it’s most beneficial to businesses in specific situations. Heroku has a free service model for small projects, but tiered service packages exist for cases where more complex business needs must be addressed.

What is Heroku Used For?

The Heroku cloud service platform is based on a managed container (called dynos within the Heroku paradigm) system with integrated data services and a powerful ecosystem for deploying and running modern applications.

Applications that are run on Heroku typically have unique domain names, which are used to route HTTP requests to the correct container. Applications as services use application containers. Containers are designed to package and run services. Each of the application containers is а smart container on a reliable, fully-managed runtime environment. Application containers — referred to as “dynos” in the context of the Heroku platform — are spread across a “dyno grid.” This consists of several servers. The Dyno manager maintains and operates the created dynos.

All this means is that since Heroku manages and runs applications, there’s no need to manage operating systems or other internal system configurations.


Built for developers, by developers.

  • Heroku Runtime

    Your apps run inside smart containers in a fully managed runtime environment, we handle everything critical for production — configuration, orchestration, load balancing, failovers, logging, security, and more.

  • Heroku Postgres (SQL)

    Reliable and secure PostgreSQL as a service with easy setup, encryption at rest, simple scaling, database forking, continuous protection, and more.

  • Heroku Redis

    The most popular in-memory, key-value datastore — delivered as a service. Heroku Redis provides powerful data types, great throughput, and built-in support for top languages.

  • Scale

    Heroku scales in an instant, both vertically and horizontally. You can elegantly run everything from tiny hobby projects to enterprise-grade e-commerce handling Black Friday surges.

  • Add-ons

    Extend, enhance, and manage your applications with pre-integrated services like New Relic, MongoDB, SendGrid, Searchify, Fastly, Papertrail, ClearDB MySQL, Treasure Data, and more.

  • Data Clips

    Data Clips make it easy to keep everyone in the loop with up-to-the-second data insights from your project by sharing query results via a simple and secure URL.

  • Code and data rollback

    Work fearlessly — Heroku’s build system and Postgres service let you roll back your code or your database to a previous state in an instant.

  • App metrics

    Always know what’s going on with your apps thanks to built-in monitoring of throughput, response times, memory, CPU load, and errors.

  • Continuous delivery

    Heroku Flow uses Heroku Pipelines, Review Apps and GitHub Integration to make building, iterating, staging, and shipping apps easy, visual, and efficient.

  • GitHub Integration

    Our seamless GitHub integration means every pull request spins up a disposable Review App for testing, and any repo can be set up to auto-deploy with every GitHub push to a branch of your choosing.

  • Extensibility

    Customize your stack with a Heroku innovation: Buildpacks. Build your own, or choose one from the hundreds built by the community to run Gradle, Meteor, NGINX — even Haskell.

  • Smart containers

    Your apps run in smart containers called dynos, where the system and language stacks are continually monitored, patched, and upgraded by our team.

Getting Started on Heroku with Node.js

The Heroku CLI requires Git, the popular version control system. If you don’t already have Git installed, complete the following before proceeding:

In this step you’ll install the Heroku Command Line Interface (CLI). You use the CLI to manage and scale your applications, provision add-ons, view your application logs, and run your application locally. This tutorial based on ubuntu 16+.

Run the following from your terminal:

sudo snap install heroku --classic

When installation completes, you can use the heroku command from your terminal.

Use the heroku login command to log in to the Heroku CLI:

heroku login
heroku: Press any key to open up the browser to login or q to exit
 ›   Warning: If browser does not open, visit
 ›   https://cli-auth.heroku.com/auth/browser/***
heroku: Waiting for login...
Logging in... done
Logged in as me@example.com

This command opens your web browser to the Heroku login page. If your browser is already logged in to Heroku, simply click the Log in button displayed on the page.

This authentication is required for both the heroku and git commands to work correctly.

If you’re behind a firewall that requires use of a proxy to connect with external HTTP/HTTPS services, you can set the HTTP_PROXY or HTTPS_PROXY environment variables in your local development environment before running the heroku command.

Before you continue, check that you have the prerequisites installed properly. Type each command below and make sure it displays the version you have installed. (Your versions might be different from the example.) If no version is returned, go back to the introduction of this tutorial and install the prerequisites.

All of the following local setup will be required to complete the “Declare app dependencies” and subsequent steps.

This tutorial will work for any version of Node greater than 8 – check that it’s there:

node --version

npm is installed with Node, so check that it’s there. If you don’t have it, install a more recent version of Node:

npm --version

Now check that you have git installed. If not, install it and test again.

git --version
git version 2.15.1

Prepare the app

To clone a local version of the sample application that you can then deploy to Heroku, execute the following commands in your local command shell or terminal:

git clone https://github.com/heroku/node-js-getting-started.git
cd node-js-getting-started

You now have a functioning Git repository that contains a simple application as well as a package.json file, which is used by Node’s dependency manager.

Deploy the app

In this step you will deploy the app to Heroku.

Create an app on Heroku, which prepares Heroku to receive your source code.

heroku create
Creating sharp-rain-871... done, stack is heroku-18
http://sharp-rain-871.herokuapp.com/ | https://git.heroku.com/sharp-rain-871.git
Git remote heroku added

When you create an app, a git remote (called heroku) is also created and associated with your local git repository.

Heroku generates a random name (in this case sharp-rain-871) for your app, or you can pass a parameter to specify your own app name.

Now deploy your code:

git push heroku master
Counting objects: 488, done.
Delta compression using up to 8 threads.
Compressing objects: 100% (367/367), done.
Writing objects: 100% (488/488), 231.85 KiB | 115.92 MiB/s, done.
Total 488 (delta 86), reused 488 (delta 86)
remote: Compressing source files... done.
remote: Building source:
remote: -----> Node.js app detected
remote: -----> Creating runtime environment
remote:        NPM_CONFIG_LOGLEVEL=error
remote:        NODE_VERBOSE=false
remote:        NODE_ENV=production
remote:        NODE_MODULES_CACHE=true
remote: -----> Installing binaries
remote:        engines.node (package.json):  10.13.0
remote:        engines.npm (package.json):   unspecified (use default)
remote:        Resolving node version 10.13.0...
remote:        Downloading and installing node 10.13.0...
remote:        Using default npm version: 6.4.1
remote: -----> Build succeeded!
remote: -----> Discovering process types
remote:        Procfile declares types -> web
remote: -----> Compressing...
remote:        Done: 19M
remote: -----> Launching...
remote:        Released v3
remote:        http://sharp-rain-871.herokuapp.com deployed to Heroku
remote: Verifying deploy... done.
To https://git.heroku.com/nameless-savannah-4829.git
 * [new branch]      master -> master

The application is now deployed. Ensure that at least one instance of the app is running:

heroku ps:scale web=1

Now visit the app at the URL generated by its app name. As a handy shortcut, you can open the website as follows:

heroku open

View logs

Heroku treats logs as streams of time-ordered events aggregated from the output streams of all your app and Heroku components, providing a single channel for all of the events.

View information about your running app using one of the logging commands, heroku logs --tail:

heroku logs --tail
2011-03-10T10:22:30-08:00 heroku[web.1]: State changed from created to starting
2011-03-10T10:22:32-08:00 heroku[web.1]: Running process with command: `node index.js`
2011-03-10T10:22:33-08:00 heroku[web.1]: Listening on 18320
2011-03-10T10:22:34-08:00 heroku[web.1]: State changed from starting to up

Visit your application in the browser again, and you’ll see another log message generated.

Press Control+C to stop streaming the logs.

Define a Procfile

Use a Procfile, a text file in the root directory of your application, to explicitly declare what command should be executed to start your app.

The Procfile in the example app you deployed looks like this:

web: node index.js

This declares a single process type, web, and the command needed to run it. The name web is important here. It declares that this process type will be attached to the HTTP routing stack of Heroku, and receive web traffic when deployed.

Procfiles can contain additional process types. For example, you might declare one for a background worker process that processes items off of a queue.

Scale the app

Right now, your app is running on a single web dyno. Think of a dyno as a lightweight container that runs the command specified in the Procfile.

You can check how many dynos are running using the ps command:

heroku ps
=== web (Free): `node index.js`
web.1: up 2014/04/25 16:26:38 (~ 1s ago)

By default, your app is deployed on a free dyno. Free dynos will sleep after a half hour of inactivity (if they don’t receive any traffic). This causes a delay of a few seconds for the first request upon waking. Subsequent requests will perform normally. Free dynos also consume from a monthly, account-level quota of free dyno hours – as long as the quota is not exhausted, all free apps can continue to run.

To avoid dyno sleeping, you can upgrade to a hobby or professional dyno type as described in the Dyno Types article. For example, if you migrate your app to a professional dyno, you can easily scale it by running a command telling Heroku to execute a specific number of dynos, each running your web process type.

Scaling an application on Heroku is equivalent to changing the number of dynos that are running. Scale the number of web dynos to zero:

heroku ps:scale web=0

Access the app again by hitting refresh on the web tab, or heroku open to open it in a web tab. You will get an error message because you no longer have any web dynos available to serve requests.

Scale it up again:

heroku ps:scale web=1

For abuse prevention, scaling a non-free application to more than one dyno requires account verification.

Declare app dependencies

Heroku recognizes an app as Node.js by the existence of a package.json file in the root directory. For your own apps, you can create one by running npm init --yes.

The demo app you deployed already has a package.json, and it looks something like this:

  "name": "node-js-getting-started",
  "version": "0.3.0",
  "engines": {
    "node": "8.11.1"
  "dependencies": {
    "ejs": "^2.5.6",
    "express": "^4.15.2"

The package.json file determines both the version of Node.js that will be used to run your application on Heroku, as well as the dependencies that should be installed with your application. When an app is deployed, Heroku reads this file and installs the appropriate node version together with the dependencies using the npm install command.

Run this command in your local directory to install the dependencies, preparing your system for running the app locally:

npm install
added 132 packages in 3.368s

Once dependencies are installed, you will be ready to run your app locally.

Run the app locally

Now start your application locally using the heroku local command, which was installed as part of the Heroku CLI:

heroku local web
[OKAY] Loaded ENV .env File as KEY=VALUE Format
1:23:15 PM web.1 |  Node app is running on port 5000

Just like Heroku, heroku local examines the Procfile to determine what to run.

Open http://localhost:5000 with your web browser. You should see your app running locally.

To stop the app from running locally, in the CLI, press Ctrl+C to exit.

Push local changes

In this step you’ll learn how to propagate a local change to the application through to Heroku. As an example, you’ll modify the application to add an additional dependency and the code to use it.

Begin by adding a dependency for cool-ascii-faces in package.json. Run the following command to do this:

npm install cool-ascii-faces
+ cool-ascii-faces@1.3.4
added 9 packages in 2.027s

Modify index.js so that it requires this module at the start. Also add a new route (/cool) that uses it. Your final code should look like this:

const cool = require('cool-ascii-faces')
const express = require('express')
const path = require('path')
const PORT = process.env.PORT || 5000

  .use(express.static(path.join(__dirname, 'public')))
  .set('views', path.join(__dirname, 'views'))
  .set('view engine', 'ejs')
  .get('/', (req, res) => res.render('pages/index'))
  .get('/cool', (req, res) => res.send(cool()))
  .listen(PORT, () => console.log(`Listening on ${ PORT }`))

Now test locally:

npm install
heroku local

Visiting your application at http://localhost:5000/cool, you should see cute faces displayed on each refresh: ( ⚆ _ ⚆ ).

Now deploy. Almost every deploy to Heroku follows this same pattern. First, add the modified files to the local git repository:

git add .

Now commit the changes to the repository:

git commit -m "Add cool face API"

Now deploy, just as you did previously:

git push heroku master

Finally, check that everything is working:

heroku open cool

You should see another face.

Provision add-ons

Add-ons are third-party cloud services that provide out-of-the-box additional services for your application, from persistence through logging to monitoring and more.

By default, Heroku stores 1500 lines of logs from your application. However, it makes the full log stream available as a service – and several add-on providers have written logging services that provide things such as log persistence, search, and email and SMS alerts.

In this step you will provision one of these logging add-ons, Papertrail.

Provision the papertrail logging add-on:

heroku addons:create papertrail
Adding papertrail on sharp-rain-871... done, v4 (free)
Welcome to Papertrail. Questions and ideas are welcome (support@papertrailapp.com). Happy logging!
Use `heroku addons:docs papertrail` to view documentation.

To help with abuse prevention, provisioning an add-on requires account verification. If your account has not been verified, you will be directed to visit the verification site.

The add-on is now deployed and configured for your application. You can list add-ons for your app like so:

heroku addons

To see this particular add-on in action, visit your application’s Heroku URL a few times. Each visit will generate more log messages, which should now get routed to the papertrail add-on. Visit the papertrail console to see the log messages:

heroku addons:open papertrail

Your browser will open up a Papertrail web console, showing the latest log events. The interface lets you search and set up alerts:

Screenshot of console

Start a console

To get a real feel for how dynos work, you can create another one-off dyno and run the bash command, which opens up a shell on that dyno. You can then execute commands there. Each dyno has its own ephemeral filespace, populated with your app and its dependencies – once the command completes (in this case, bash), the dyno is removed.

heroku run bash
Running `bash` attached to terminal... up, run.3052
~ $ ls
Procfile  README.md  composer.json  composer.lock  vendor  views  web
~ $ exit

If you receive an error, Error connecting to process, then you may need to configure your firewall.

Don’t forget to type exit to exit the shell and terminate the dyno.

Define config vars

Heroku lets you externalise configuration – storing data such as encryption keys or external resource addresses in config vars.

At runtime, config vars are exposed as environment variables to the application. For example, modify index.js so that it introduces a new route, /times, that repeats an action depending on the value of the TIMES environment variable. Under the existing get() call, add another:

.get('/times', (req, res) => res.send(showTimes()))

At the end of the file, add the following definition for the new function, showTimes():

showTimes = () => {
  let result = ''
  const times = process.env.TIMES || 5
  for (i = 0; i < times; i++) {
    result += i + ' '
  return result;

heroku local will automatically set up the environment based on the contents of the .env file in your local directory. In the top-level directory of your project there is already a .env file that has the following contents:


If you run the app with heroku local, you’ll see two numbers will be generated every time.

To set the config var on Heroku, execute the following:

heroku config:set TIMES=2

View the config vars that are set using heroku config:

heroku config
== sharp-rain-871 Config Vars

Deploy your changed application to Heroku and then visit it by running heroku open times.

Provision a database

The add-on marketplace has a large number of data stores, from Redis and MongoDB providers, to Postgres and MySQL. In this step you will add a free Heroku Postgres Starter Tier dev database to your app.

Add the database:

heroku addons:create heroku-postgresql:hobby-dev
Adding heroku-postgresql:hobby-dev... done, v3 (free)

This creates a database, and sets a DATABASE_URL environment variable (you can check by running heroku config).

Use npm to install the pg module to your dependencies:

npm install pg
+ pg@7.4.3
added 14 packages in 2.108s
  "dependencies": {
    "cool-ascii-faces": "^1.3.4",
    "ejs": "^2.5.6",
    "express": "^4.15.2",
    "pg": "^7.4.3"

Now edit your index.js file to use this module to connect to the database specified in your DATABASE_URL environment variable. Add this near the top:

const { Pool } = require('pg');
const pool = new Pool({
  connectionString: process.env.DATABASE_URL,
  ssl: true

Now add another route, /db, by adding the following just after the existing .get('/', ...):

.get('/db', async (req, res) => {
    try {
      const client = await pool.connect()
      const result = await client.query('SELECT * FROM test_table');
      const results = { 'results': (result) ? result.rows : null};
      res.render('pages/db', results );
    } catch (err) {
      res.send("Error " + err);

This ensures that when you access your app using the /db route, it will return all rows in the test_table table.

Deploy this to Heroku. If you access /db you will receive an error as there is no table in the database. Assuming that you have Postgres installed locally, use the heroku pg:psql command to connect to the remote database, create a table and insert a row:

heroku pg:psql
psql (9.5.2, server 9.6.2)
SSL connection (cipher: DHE-RSA-AES256-SHA, bits: 256)
Type "help" for help.
=> create table test_table (id integer, name text);
=> insert into test_table values (1, 'hello database');
=> \q

Now when you access your app’s /db route, you will see something like this:

Database results are 1 hello database

Read more about Heroku PostgreSQL.

A similar technique can be used to install MongoDB or Redis add-ons.

I hope you like this post. Do you have any questions? Leave a comment down below!Thanks for reading. If you like this post probably you might like my next ones, so please support me by subscribing my blog.

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Harshvardhan Mishra

Hi, I'm Harshvardhan Mishra. Tech enthusiast and IT professional with a B.Tech in IT, PG Diploma in IoT from CDAC, and 6 years of industry experience. Founder of HVM Smart Solutions, blending technology for real-world solutions. As a passionate technical author, I simplify complex concepts for diverse audiences. Let's connect and explore the tech world together! If you want to help support me on my journey, consider sharing my articles, or Buy me a Coffee! Thank you for reading my blog! Happy learning! Linkedin

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