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Netlify vs. Vercel: A Comparison

maxniederman profile image Max Niederman Updated on ・3 min read

Originally published here on my blog.

Netlify and Vercel are serverless deployment platforms for web applications, both designed to allow you to deploy as quickly and easily as possible. Both have very similar feature sets, so which one should you use? In this article, I'll be answering that question.

Build + Edge = 💕

The core feature set of both Netlify and Vercel is the build + Edge stack. Essentially, you trigger a build step either by using Git or uploading manually. Once built, your app is automatically deployed to Netlify or Vercel's Edge Network to ensure a fast UX. This makes it incredibly easy to steup a static site (e.g. a blog like this one), since all you have to do is push your code. They're fairly equal in this matter, so I wouldn't consider either to be better.

Serverless Functions

Static sites are all well and good, but most applications need a backend to function. For this purpose, both Netlify and Vercel offer serverless functions via AWS Lambda.

Netlify

For Netlify, you create a functions directory in your project folder. You can then add AWS Lambda handlers in JavaScript or Go. Routing is handled based on the directory structure. You can read more at the official documentation here.

Vercel

Vercel has a very similar interface, using an api directory in your project, but it pulls out ahead in the features department with its support for Python and Ruby as well as JavaScript and Go, and it also supports a custom Express.js-like (req, res) => {...} format for JavaScript functions, as well as optional Edge caching for responses.

Server Side Rendering

Server-Side rendering, or SSR, is a huge win for Vercel, as it's just not really feasible with Netlify. On Vercel, you can deploy a server-side rendered Next.js application within minutes.

Authentication

Netlify has a built-in authentication platform based on the GoTrue API which you can easily setup. With Vercel, you'll have to setup authentication some other way.

Backend for Static Sites

Netlify provides three features which make it trivially easy to add common functionality to your site:

  • Netlify Forms: Manage forms and submissions without setting up any backend
  • Netlify Analytics (Paid): Server-side analytics you can setup with no client-side code whatsoever
  • Split Testing: Netlify allows you to easily A/B test two deployments

Pricing

Both Netlify and Vercel have generous free plans. You can see the full pricing info here, here, and here, but here's a quick comparison:

Build

Vercel is ahead here, with a soft limit of 100 build hours / month for free and 400 with the Pro plan ($20/month per member) compared to Vercel's 300 build minutes / month free and then $7/500 minutes. Most projects won't need anywhere near this much time anyway, so it probably won't matter for you.

Edge

Both Netlify and Vercel give you 100GB of bandwidth free (although that's a soft limit for Vercel). Netlify sells additional bandwidth at $20/100 and Vercel gives you 1 TB with the Pro plan (also a soft limit).

Serverless Functions

Netlify bills based on the number of invocations, whereas Vercel bills based on GB-hours since you can customize your serveless function instances. Netlify gives you 125k invocations free, and then charges "$25+ when exceeded" (your guess is as good as mine). Vercel gives you 100GB-hours free, and 1000GB-hours with the Pro plan.

Netlify Forms, Identity, and Analytics

Forms get 100 free submissions, then cost "$19+ when exceeded." Identity gives you 1000 free monthly active users, then charges $99 when exceeded. Analytics costs a flat rate of $9/month.

Conclusion

We can see a clear divergence of interests between Netlify and Vercel, two extremely similar products at first glance. Netlify is focused on making it easy to create client-side, static applications, and delivers on that goal wonderfully. Vercel, on the other hand, focuses on making back-end work simple. If you're creating a static site, Netlify is the clear choice, but if you need more server-side functionality and you don't mind spending a little time, Vercel is the way to go.

Discussion

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tonyketcham profile image
Tony Ketcham (he/they)

It may be important to note the differences when it comes to eCommerce:

  • Vercel: It’s against Vercel’s TOS to run a commercial app on the free tier. Even though you technically could, they will shut down your site if caught in violation. So you need to go with the $20/mo Pro plan to do commerce on Vercel.

  • Netlify: Even though the free tier is labeled as “for hobby and experiments”, they allow commercial use of it, such as for eCommerce sites. The only restriction they impose in the TOS is that the content must not break US law.
    So it’s free to do commerce on Netlify.

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moovweb profile image
Moovweb

Hey Max, this was a good read. If you like Netlify and Vercel, you'll also enjoy Moovweb XDN.

It's a Jamstack platform for eCommerce websites, making sites faster for users and simpler for frontend developers. Some of the benefits include:

  • Jamstack for eCommerce via both pre and just-in-time rendering
  • Zero latency networking via prefetching of data from your product catalog APIs
  • An edge that can be configured natively in your app
  • Edge rules that can be run locally, in pre-prod and production environments
  • Automated, full-stacl preview URLs from GitHub, GitLab, or Bitbucket with every new branch and push
  • Performant split tests at the edge for A/B tests that do not slow down the site, canary deploys, and personalization
  • Serverless JavaScript that is much easier and more reliable than AWS Lambda

I invite you to check out the docs and let me know what you think!

developer.moovweb.com/

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dansvel profile image
dan

you forgot to mention Netlify CMS

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maxniederman profile image
Max Niederman Author

You can use Netlify CMS without Netlify