Deploying Rails with Render

Heroku recieved some negative press for the removal of it’s free tier. Render is a cheaper alternative that boasts many benefits over Heroku. We believe Heroku is still the quickest way to spin up a Rails app but Render is close behind and less than half the price.

Web service

Now we’ll explain how to deploy a Rails app on Render. First you’ll need an account, head over to Render and create one. To run a Rails app, we need two things: A server and a database. We’ll focus on the server first. Hit the New button and select Web Service. On the next screen we can choose a GitHub repo, which is a nice way to quickly deploy an application.

Next, we need to complete some simple information about our app:

Next, hit Create Web Service. This will start the first build. The build wont pass yet but should at least clone the repo and run bundler.

Some versions of Rails require a SECRET_KEY_BASE environment variable. We can specify that under the Environment tab, in the app’s build screen. Render has a key generation tool, which works great for this purpose.


The next step is to setup a database. Render only supports a few database technologies: Postgres and Redis. We’ll use Postgres for this tutorial.

Hit, the New button and select a Postgres database. Choose a name, region and instance type (Free is fine for now). The name is not important but we advise matching the webservice and DB name.

Connect database to web service

We now have a webservice and database in the cloud but they’re not connected. To do that we need to add the database url to the webservice. Navigate to the database and scroll down on the Info page to copy the Internal Database URL.

Jump back to the webservice and find the Environment tab. Create a new environment variable DATABASE_URL using the value of Internal Database URL.

Lastly, find the Settings tab and update the Build Command to bundle install; bin/rails db:migrate so that migrations run with every deploy.


Next, we’ll cover cron jobs. Most Rails apps have some recurring tasks that are handled with cron. To create one in Render, click the New button and choose Cron Job. Because we’re new to Render, we need to provide our billing information at this point. That’s because this feature doesn’t have a free tier (don’t worry, they’re easy to control). Then we can select our repo, which will take us to the setup page.

We’ll need to complete the following information:

Hit Create Cron Job to complete setup. We can suspend the job to prevent it running until it’s ready. Lastly, we need to add SECRET_KEY_BASE and DATABASE_URL to the Environment settings of the Cron Job, just as we did for the webservice.

Custom domain

Lastly, we want a custom domain for our Rails app. Render makes this simple. Navigate to your Web Service, go to Settings and find the Custom Domains section. Add your domain and then add the required CNAME and ANAME record. Render provides instructions for various DNS providers.