Vercel vs Netlify: Battle of the Jamstack giants
Jamstack is indeed popular, with the number of sites based on it has grown twofold since 2020. But its performance heavily depends on the deployment platform you choose. The reason is that Jamstack sites are tailored for a certain workflow: hosting HTML on a CDN, serverless functions on an Edge network, and code in Git. Such a deployment strategy makes your site fast as a sparrow.
On the contrary, a Jamstack site will be just another pile of HTML, only reachable by search engines with the right provider.
This is a helpful article if you plan on building a Jamstack website or migrating your WordPress site to Jamstack. But even if you’re just curious about the two deployment platforms, follow on, there’s probably something for you to learn here.
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Table of contents
A quick intro into Jamstack
Jamstack is an approach to web development that guarantees high speed and good security. It’s based on decoupled architecture, meaning that the front-end is completely independent of the content management system (CMS). Even more, these two are usually hosted in different places.
The core principle of Jamstack is that all the content is pre-rendered at build time, so you don’t have any expensive runtime calculations on the server for processing user requests. And, contrary to dynamic server-side rendering, you can deploy your static site on a content delivery network (CDN) for even faster loads.
You probably heard the buzzword “serverless platforms,” and that’s what a Jamstack site is. Of course, it doesn’t mean there are no servers involved. There should be some servers hosting your HTML. Otherwise, your website won’t be found on the web. And here’s where a Jamstack hosting platform comes in.
💡 We’ve written a comprehensive article about Jamstack. Follow the link if you’re interested to know more.
What is a Jamstack hosting platform?
Well, it seems quite obvious: a Jamstack hosting platform allows you to host your Jamstack website, doesn’t it? Yes, but its role isn’t limited to hosting!
In the past, hosting providers had a single focus — hosting. Development flow was out of their concern. Now things have changed: a Jamstack hosting provider hosts your site and takes care of deployment and other issues like running edge functions and authorizing users. It connects to your git repository, where your static site generator sits, automatically deploys any changes you push, and puts the generated HTML files on a CDN.
Yet another feature makes Jamstack SaaS platforms distinct from hosting providers of the past. Now hosting platforms don’t host websites within their own infrastructure but use some underlying services like Google Cloud or AWS. In turn, relying on such trusted cloud services makes your site inherently secure.
Then, why not host a website directly in an AWS elastic container?
Well, if you want to get your hands dirty with infrastructure, you can. But Jamstack providers manage infrastructure for you, thus saving you time and money.
There are many more things a SaaS hosting platform for Jamstack can do. Find them in the following paragraphs!
What to expect from a Jamstack hosting platform
Here, we curated a list of features a Jamstack hosting platform usually offers:
Automated builds: Let’s say you’ve pushed some changes to your git repository. Before getting the changes deployed, you need them to be built. A SaaS hosting platform fetches the new code and builds it upon each commit or pull request.
Continuous deployment: The code changes should be built and automatically deployed. That is, exposed to the users instantly. With continuous deployment and continuous delivery, no human intervention is needed; only a failed test will prevent the changes from being put into action.
Site previews: To increase the quality of the developer experience, a SaaS platform creates a unique URL to preview the changes for each new build. This way, your developer team can track any faulty changes.
Atomic deployments: A script continuously updates your website in the background while there’s zero downtime on your server. This way, your site stays up and running at all times.
Easy rollbacks: If a bug occurs, there is no need to make complicated reverts. To roll back, you can easily deploy any previous build to production. This is possible because each commit provides a snapshot of your site in time.
Notifications: For each CI/CD event, like a successful or failed build, you can set a notification to be sent to your email or Slack.
CDN: A copy of your website lives on a distributed server network. This way, your website stays close to user locations and thus is served fast. Really fast.
Now that we have explored a Jamstack provider's main responsibilities, we can dive into the Vercel vs Netlify comparison. But first, we’ll say some words about these two providers — who are they and what their goals are.
What is Netlify?
Netlify is one of the most prominent Jamstack cloud platforms for hosting, deploying, and automating modern web projects founded in 2014. Back then, git-centered workflows were rapidly gaining popularity. The company aimed to provide a convenient cloud build and deploy tool for static site generators hosted on git.
These days, Netlify offers a ton of functionalities and hosts more than 500k websites. This makes for 0.87% of all sites on the Internet. However, among the most popular 10k websites, this number is higher — 3.48% of the top sites chose Netlify as a hosting provider.
📖 Read more: What is Netlify?
What is Vercel?
Vercel is a cloud platform that enables developers to deliver web projects quickly and efficiently. Just like Netlify, it provides a suite of build and deployment tools.
The company was founded in 2015 by the same folks who worked on the React-based development framework called Next.js. This is why a lot of Vercel’s serverless deployment tools are optimized to work with Next.js.
📖 Read more: What is Vercel?
Here's how we can help you
decide between Vercel and Netlify
Digital strategy consulting: Implement the best tech stack.
Serverless implementation: Quickly build and deploy new features and functionalities with a certified partner.
Headless CMS consulting: Ikius helps companies choose and integrate the best Headless CMS.
Netlify vs Vercel: The lowdown
The platforms are very similar in functionality, but sometimes, one wins over the other. Let’s look at the common points first and proceed to the differences after that.
Firstly, both Netlify and Vercel provide all the features a serverless Jamstack hosting provider has to offer, which we described earlier.
Both platforms use git to fetch your project and support GitHub, GitLab, and Bitbucket version control providers. By default, your code is retrieved from the main branch, but you can also set the platforms to deploy the code from other branches, for instance, to have a staging environment for testing new features.
Other features that are equally good in both platforms are:
Dashboard design and visual tooling
Documentation and support services
Domain and SSL certificate management
Security means (both offer two-factor authentication)
In addition, both comply with SOC2 and GDPR legislation, making your site compliant by default.
When it comes to differences, one of the key ones is that Vercel is created by the company that also authored Next.js. And this framework supports not only static sites but also server-side rendering (SSR), so Vercel also hosts SSR-based websites.
Other differences include the number of add-ons, extensions, and integrations the platforms offer. And here, Netlify is a clear winner as it offers more of such things. What’s better, most of them are available on the free tier.
Vercel’s clients can integrate third-party services via APIs to replace the missing functionality. While it’s doable, it’s still handier to operate the features native to your deployment pipeline.
Now let’s proceed to the feature-by-feature comparison.
Netlify’s sign-up process is straightforward. In fact, you can set up a basic website infrastructure just in one hour. There’s no playing around with CDNs or SSL certificates — the service does everything for you.
But the process is even easier for Vercel: you can put your site online and set up domain configuration in ten minutes, even from your phone! All you have to do is link your GitHub project to Vercel and specify which build commands to run.
Serverless functions serve as a backend for your website. But with one major difference: scaling, security, and monitoring is none of your concern. In fact, serverless functions are HTTP API endpoints that are represented by separate functions, not a whole backend project.
Serverless functions are placed in a specific folder in the same repo where your front-end lives. The hosting platform automatically detects and deploys them. Both Netlify and Vercel use AWS Lambda in the background for a serverless function.
But actually, Jamstack sites don’t need any backend most of the time: everything is static, and all the data is retrieved at build time from a CMS. However, in some cases, you may still require custom server data processing: for instance, to avoid exposing sensitive API keys to the public when using Stripe API (they should be communicated via an API backend call).
The core differences in approach to serverless functions between Netlify and Vercel involve
Asynchronous execution: Vercel serverless functions are synchronous by nature. Netlify offers “background functions,” which can run for up to 15 minutes asynchronously. You can use them for batch processing or web scraping.
Edge caching: With Vercel's Edge caching, you don’t run the same function again and again — the results of the first function run will be cached periodically and retrieved from the cache on the consequent calls. This will come in handy if you’re regularly fetching something, say, current cryptocurrency prices. Plus, the feature is available on the free tier. Netlify offers “Edge handlers” with similar functionality, but the feature is still in the trial stage.
Both providers set the maximum function execution time to 10 seconds on the free tier and 60 seconds on the pro plan.
Feature available in free-tier (both providers): yes
Netlify Analytics is an easy-to-use, server-side solution for tracking your website’s visitors and performance. It allows you to gain insights into your audience without any performance drop and is fully compliant with GDPR. You can monitor page views, unique visitors, bandwidth used, top sources, and resources not found.
The key difference here is that Netlify’s analytics is purely server-side, so it doesn’t slow down your site.
Feature available in free-tier (both providers): no
Netlify price: $9
Vercel price: $10
Netlify Forms make it easy to receive form submissions on your static site. You just need to enable the feature in the parameters of your form. This way, the form will be automatically detected and set up to receive submissions during deployment. The submitted data will be available in the Netlify dashboard. Additionally, you can export submissions as a CSV file.
Feature available in free-tier (Netlify): Yes, 100 form submissions per month.
To restrict access to certain content, you can add user authentication to your static website with Netlify Identity. Users can create an account and get registered without having a Netlify account. You can allow any visitor to get registered or switch to an invite-only mode.
Feature available in free-tier (Netlify): Yes, maximum of 1,000 active users.
Netlify lets you create A/B testing campaigns to optimize your site easily. It simply splits the traffic between the two branches you want to juxtapose. This way, you can compare performance metrics, i.e., conversion rate, between different feature implementations or client groups. What's more, there's no performance penalty, unlike popular alternatives such as Google Optimize.
Vercel also offers an A/B testing feature that compares click-through and bounce rates and user conversion and engagement.
Feature available in free-tier (both providers): yes
Netlify Large Media is a great way to manage large files like videos and images in your Git repository. This feature is especially useful if you don't have a CMS that handles your image hosting or an image CDN.
Vercel doesn’t offer anything like this.
Feature available in free-tier (Netlify): yes
As an addition to an online dashboard, both platforms feature CLIs. So, developers can accomplish most of the tasks directly in their terminal. One thing to mention is that Vercel CLI works exceptionally well with Next.js projects.
Feature available in free-tier (both providers): yes
|Static site generation||Yes||Yes|
|Deployment options||Git, CLI, Vercel for GitHub||Git, CLI, Continuous Deployment, Netlify Drop|
|Pricing plans||Free, Pro, Business, Enterprise||Free, Pro, Business, Enterprise|
Keep in mind, though that the performance of both Vercel and Netlify can vary depending on a variety of factors, such as the complexity of the site, the size of the assets, the location of the user, and more.
Test both platforms with your specific requirements to determine which one performs better for your needs.
|Git repositories||Yes (GitHub, GitLab, Bitbucket)||Yes (GitHub, GitLab, Bitbucket)|
|Form handling||Yes (via third-party services)||Yes (built-in and via third-party services)|
|Analytics||Yes (via third-party services)||Yes (built-in and via third-party services)|
|Headless CMS||Yes (via third-party services)||Yes (via third-party services)|
|Static site generators||Yes (Next.js, Gatsby, Hugo, and more)||Yes (Hugo, Jekyll, Middleman, and more)|
Both Vercel and Netlify offer integrations with popular Git repositories like GitHub, GitLab, and Bitbucket, as well as continuous integration and delivery. They also support serverless functions, custom domains, SSL certificates, CDN, form handling, and analytics.
When it comes to headless CMSs, both platforms offer integrations with third-party services. Vercel supports Sanity.io, Contentful, and Strapi, while Netlify supports Contentful, Sanity.io, DatoCMS, and more.
Vercel also supports static site generators like Next.js, Gatsby, Hugo, and more, while Netlify supports Hugo, Jekyll, Middleman, and more.
Both platforms offer robust integrations and add-ons, but it's up to you to choose the one you like best and that fits your specific style.
|File Size Limit||100MB||100MB (Larger files can be uploaded via Git LFS)|
|Build Time Limit||15 minutes||30 minutes (for Premium and Enterprise plans)|
|Deployment Limit||Unlimited||Dependent on plan; 5 or 20 sites for free plans, unlimited for paid plans|
|Storage Limit||1GB||Dependent on plan; 100GB to 1TB|
|Serverless Limits||Dependent on plan; 10 to 5000 serverless functions per project||Dependent on plan; 125K to 2M serverless function invocations per month|
|Custom Domains||1 domain per project on free plan; unlimited on paid plans||Dependent on plan; 1 or more custom domains per site|
|Forms||Third-party integration required; free up to 100 submissions/mo||Built-in form handling with Netlify Forms; 100 submissions/mo on free plan|
Pricing and plans
Now that we’re done with the feature-by-feature comparison, let’s look at pricing. Spoiler: the number of features offered within specific plans may vary, but the cost differences aren’t quite significant.
A major thing to know is that, unlike Vercel, Netlify allows you to deploy commercial projects within the free tier. While Vercel doesn’t really prevent you from misusing their free tier, they may block you from further platform use if they find out.
Both Netlify and Vercel offer 100 GB bandwidth on the free tier and up to 1 TB on the Pro plan. While Vercel features 6000 build minutes per month, Netlify provides only 300, but it’s still enough for most cases. And you can purchase some extra 500 build minutes for $7.
Netlify Pro costs $19 per month, and Vercel Pro costs $20 per month. Netlify also gives you a business offer for $99 per month with unlimited form submissions, identity users, large media transformations, and analytics.
Here are the plan information tables so that you can compare the plans yourself.
|Netlify||Bandwidth||Build minutes||Serverless functions||Number of users|
|Free tier||100 GB||300 mins||125k executions||1k (+$99 for more)|
|Pro||1 TB||25k mins||125k executions||1k (+$99 for more)|
|Vercel||Bandwidth||Build minutes||Serverless functions||Number of users|
|Free tier||100 GB||6k minutes||100 GB/hours||—|
|Pro||1 TB||24k minutes||1k GB/hours||—|
Pros and Cons
|Free tier||Free tier|
|Extra features (forms and build plugins)||Simplicity|
|Full DNS Management (Netlify has its name servers)||Domain management (unlimited sites and domains)|
|Free SSL and automated configuration||Free SSL|
|Identity management||Deployments aren’t based on minutes, but on how many of them you can do per day (100 for free tier)|
|Other services available to purchase||Great documentation|
|Allows you to run multiple sites||Each build has a unique URL to test out changes|
|A lot of thresholds per tier (bandwidth and deployments minutes)||Deployments and builds are a bit limited, but you can extend the functionality with GitHub actions|
|Additional fees if you exceed bandwidth or deployment times||No extra features|
|Serverless functions have a 10 seconds execution limit||No identity integration|
Vercel and Netlify are both great Jamstack hosting platforms. To choose between them, you have to define the scope of your project. Say, if you’re developing a small-to-midsize website, you should opt for the provider with the free tier features fulfilling your goals.
I would say go with Netlify if you are creating a small project like a blog. Plenty of services come out of the box, and Netlify’s free tier allows commercial use.
However, bigger projects may have more specific requirements, so you may opt for Vercel combined with third-party services for authentication, forms, and other needs.
Also, if you’re developing your project with Next.js, Vercel is a great option because all the tools, like CLI, are tailored to work seamlessly with Next.js.
One last thing to consider is serverless functions: Vercel features Edge caching, while Netlify Edge offers asynchronous procedures. So if you’re planning to execute the same Edge function repeatedly, Vercel should be your choice. Alternatively, if you need background processing, go with Netlify.
Whatever you choose, try to get the most out of your Jamstack hosting platform.
Frequently asked questions about Vercel vs Netlify?
Vercel works great with frontend frameworks like Next.js, serving as a solid, flexible hosting platform.
You can use Netlify to host and power all kinds of digital experiences and eCommerce storefronts.
Yes, Netlify has a free tier, but it's often used for small companies or proofs of concept.
It depends on your specific use case. Both Netlify and Vercel are popular and offer similar features such as custom domains, HTTPS, and continuous deployment from Git repositories. However, they have slight differences:
- Ease of Use: Netlify is often regarded as more beginner-friendly with a more intuitive dashboard.
- Build Performance: Vercel might have faster build times in some cases.
- Functions: Netlify Functions can be easier to set up, while Vercel’s serverless functions may offer more flexibility.
- Pricing: The pricing structure differs. Depending on your usage, one may be more cost-effective than the other.
Vercel is developed by the same team that created Next.js, so it's often considered to be the optimal choice for hosting Next.js applications. It’s likely to have better support and integration with Next.js features. However, Netlify also supports Next.js and might be preferable based on other factors such as pricing, familiarity, or additional features that Netlify provides.
There are several alternatives to Vercel and Netlify for hosting web applications:
- Firebase Hosting: Firebase is a Google product that offers hosting along with a suite of other services like real-time databases, authentication, and cloud functions.
- AWS Amplify: Amplify is Amazon’s equivalent offering. It integrates well with the AWS ecosystem and offers hosting and other features like authentication, APIs, and serverless functions.
- GitHub Pages: For static websites, GitHub Pages is a simple option that offers hosting directly from a GitHub repository.
- Heroku: Heroku is a cloud platform that supports several programming languages and is known for its simplicity in deploying web applications.
- Render: Render is a lesser-known but strong competitor with a simple platform for hosting web apps, APIs, databases, and cron jobs.
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