Understanding Heroku’s HIPAA Compliance

Is Heroku HIPAA Compliant

When dealing with healthcare data, compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is crucial. But how does this translate when it comes to using cloud platforms like Heroku? Is Heroku HIPAA compliant? Let’s delve into this.

What is Heroku & How Does It Work?

What is Heroku and How Does It WorkHeroku, a renowned cloud platform, empowers companies to build, deliver, monitor, and scale applications effectively. Renowned for its flexibility and ease of use, Heroku is the go-to choice for many developers who want to concentrate on the core aspect of application development, leaving infrastructure management behind.

But, how does Heroku work?

Essentially functioning as a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), Heroku takes on the role of providing the necessary infrastructure for hosting and deploying applications. Developers simply need to push their code onto the platform, and from there, Heroku takes the helm, ensuring that the rest of the processes flow seamlessly. This smooth operation is what makes Heroku a popular choice among developers aiming for efficient application management.

Is Heroku HIPAA Compliant? 

When we talk about data, especially healthcare data, the first aspect that comes to mind is compliance and security. This is where the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), a U.S. legislation designed to protect patient’s medical information, comes into play. A question often raised in this context is, “Is Heroku HIPAA compliant?”

Well, when discussing HIPAA compliance in the context of Heroku, we are greeted with a mix of good and bad news. In the simplest terms, yes, Heroku can be configured to be HIPAA compliant. It has the necessary security features and controls that can support the stringent requirements of HIPAA, which is a positive aspect for any entity handling sensitive healthcare data.

However, the flip side of the coin brings us to the not-so-good news: Heroku only signs a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) – a crucial requirement for HIPAA compliance – if your company opts for Heroku Shield Private Spaces. These are premium, high-security runtime environments that offer additional compliance features.

How Heroku Supports HIPAA Compliance

How Heroku Supports HIPAA ComplianceHeroku brings a number of robust features to the table that can help support HIPAA compliance. The platform is built with a focus on security, providing users with a range of tools and controls to maintain the privacy and integrity of data.

One of the primary ways Heroku supports HIPAA compliance is through data encryption. It offers encryption both at rest and in transit. Encryption at rest safeguards your stored data, while encryption in transit protects it when it’s being transferred over networks. This dual-layer encryption is a key component of HIPAA’s security requirements.

Access control is another area where Heroku shines. It allows users to define and manage who has access to what information. This is done through role-based access control (RBAC), which ensures that every user has the minimum level of access required to perform their job functions, thereby reducing the risk of unauthorized access.

Additionally, Heroku provides detailed activity logs. These logs record user activities within the platform, enabling you to monitor and track actions that can impact data security. This feature is important for HIPAA compliance as it helps in identifying and responding to potential security incidents.

Furthermore, for those willing to make a more significant investment, Heroku Shield Private Spaces offer advanced security, compliance controls, and features. This premium solution is built to fulfill the most stringent regulatory and compliance standards, including HIPAA.

It is important to note, however, that while Heroku provides the tools and features for HIPAA compliance, it is the user’s obligation to execute them effectively. Proper configuration, regular audits, and a well-trained team are crucial in ensuring that your application on Heroku remains HIPAA compliant.

Price & Packages Of Heroku

Heroku offers a range of pricing tiers to cater to different hosting needs. The cost of Heroku hosting depends largely on the scale of your application and the specific features you require.

For beginners or those wanting to try out Heroku, there’s a free tier available. This free tier is suitable for small projects or applications in the development stage, offering a taste of what Heroku can do. However, it does come with limitations, such as limited hours of activity.

For more extensive needs, here’s a break down of the the Heroku hosting costs:

PlanPricingKey Features
Free and HobbyFree to $7/month per dynoSuitable for small projects, limited hours of activity, sleep after 30 minutes of inactivity
Standard 1x/2x$25-$50/month per dynoMore professional features, application metrics, horizontal scalability
Performance$250-$500/month per dynoIncreased resources, better performance, and isolation from other applications
Private SpacesStarts from $1000/monthAdditional security and network features, ideal for enterprise-grade applications

What Are The Limitations Of Heroku?

While Heroku is a powerful Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) with many benefits, like any platform, it also has its limitations. Understanding these can help you make an informed decision about whether it’s the right choice for your needs.

  • Cost: Heroku can become expensive as your application grows. The basic services are affordable, but costs can escalate quickly as you scale up and add more dynos, or use more advanced features like Heroku Shield Private Spaces.
  • Sleeping Apps in Free Tier: Applications hosted on the free tier go to sleep after 30 minutes of inactivity. This can lead to slower response times as the app needs to wake up upon the next request.
  • Limited Customization: As a fully managed platform, Heroku simplifies many aspects of deploying and managing applications. However, this comes at the cost of limited control over the underlying infrastructure. For users seeking deep customization or specific configurations, this can be a limitation.
  • Data Transfer Costs: While Heroku itself does not charge for data transfer, if you use Heroku with other services like Amazon S3 for file storage, you may incur additional data transfer costs.
  • Database Size Limitations: The database size on Heroku’s Postgres service is limited based on the plan. For larger databases, this can be a limitation, and it might be more cost-effective to manage your own database.
  • Dependent on Third-Party Services: Heroku is built on top of AWS, which means that if AWS experiences downtime, Heroku will too. Also, certain features might be limited by what AWS offers.


In the end, whether Heroku is the right choice for your HIPAA-compliant application depends on your specific needs, resources, and expertise. It’s essential to evaluate these factors carefully and consider the help of experts to ensure your application is compliant and secure.

If you are looking to implement any of the Infosec compliance frameworks such as SOC 2 compliance, HIPAA, ISO 27001, and GDPR compliance, Impanix can help. We have the expertise to guide you through the complexities of these compliance frameworks, ensuring your application meets all necessary standards. Book a Free consultation call with our experts or email us at [email protected] for inquiries. Your path to a secure and compliant application could be just a phone call or email away.