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6 Ngrok Alternatives & Competitors for App Tunneling, Free & Paid

6 Ngrok Alternatives & Competitors for App Tunneling, Free & Paid

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Written by Basile
Tuesday, May 3rd 2022

As a web developer, you probably have dozens of projects sitting on your machine. The faster you can make them available online, the faster you can verify they work as intended, deploy to production, and actually show them to potential users. But setting up web servers has a cost: you need to buy them, secure their ports from intruders, and monitor their status to make sure they are running. This is where Ngrok comes in.

What’s Ngrok

Ngrok is a reverse proxy service that securely redirects incoming HTTP requests to your web server―whether it’s in a cloud or your own machine.

For example, let’s say you have a web project on your machine written in Python using the Django framework. Your local server will probably run on an URL like http://localhost:8000 ― which is only accessible on your local machine. With a service like Ngrok, you can configure a public URL like https://myapp.ngrok.io in a single command line and have all the traffic from this URL redirected to your local server―also known as an app tunnel.

App tunneling is super useful to perform integration tests with third-party APIs or to simulate staging environments you can show to customers, among other use cases. If you develop a webhook on an external API like Stripe, for example, you’ll need a publicly accessible URL to test your integration. App tunnels make it easy to do that without having to set up a whole web server yourself.

Ngrok provides additional features to scale, monitor, and secure your web traffic:

  • Automated HTTPS (TLS certificate management)
  • Traffic log analytics
  • Authentication & authorization
  • Load balancing thanks to ngrok’s globally distributed infrastructure to handle traffic surges
  • HTTP API for automation

Is Ngrok the best solution out there, however? In the following article, you’ll find a detailed comparison of 7 Ngrok alternatives as app tunneling tools.

Why Ngrok Alternatives

App tunneling solutions make software development lifecycles smoother by reducing the time it takes to test code in different environments. Tunnels are incredibly useful as continuous deployment tools: you can just browse the public URL on any device and see how your web service performs. But as an app tunnel service, Ngrok presents several cons.


The main inconvenience: Ngrok is only free for non-commercial uses. If you want to build a startup and don’t have much cash to get started, you might want to look for a free or cheaper alternative.

Another reason to look for Ngrok alternatives is the software distribution model. Ngrok is a closed source, which can be a problem for security and privacy if you need transparent code to comply with legal regulations.


We are considering a few criteria to evaluate the worth of an alternative to Ngrok:

  • Pricing - How much does it cost?
  • Pricing limitations - What are the limits on the pricing plan?
  • Free trial - Can I try the tool for free?
  • Data security - How secure is my HTTP traffic? Automatic HTTPS is a must and bonus point for end-to-end encryption.
  • Distribution model - Is the tool open source or closed source? Is there a self-hosting option?
  • Efficient user interface - How easy is it to use and get results?
  • Feature-completeness - What can I do with the tool that Ngrok can as well? What’s extra?

The rest of the article lists down app tunneling competitors and alternatives that are better than Ngrok in one criteria or another.

Best Ngrok Competitors

Here is a summary list of 6 tools offering a viable alternative to Ngrok:

  1. Pick Localtunnel if you need the most lightweight solution possible for a dev environment.
  2. Choose frp for a feature-rich self-hosted solution.
  3. Loophole for a 100% free managed option.
  4. Cloudflare Tunnel for medium to large businesses requiring a larger scale.
  5. Settle for Tailscale if you want point-to-point connections with E2E encryption.
  6. Opt for Packetriot if you prefer paying per tunnel rather than per user (cheaper for large teams).

3 Free Ngrok Alternatives



Localtunnel is a NodeJS package that allows you to easily share a web service on your local development machine without setting up a web server yourself. To start a webserver:

lt --port 8000

Best for - Localtunnel is the most lightweight solution possible for a development environment.


  • HTTPS tunnels with simple CLI
  • Custom subdomain
  • HTTP REST API, Javascript SDK

Pricing - Free


  • Free
  • Open-source
  • Custom TLS certificates
  • Possibility to host your own tunnel server
  • Ideal for NodeJS projects


  • Not suitable for production - no load balancing and requires NodeJS
  • Limited features



frp is a self-hosted reverse proxy server and client you can install from a simple binary executable compiled from Go, making it fast to load and run.

Best for - frp is a feature-rich self-hosted solution that comes packaged with an admin dashboard.


  • HTTP tunnels with custom subdomains
  • TLS, encryption, and compression
  • Configuration file for customized setups
  • Load balancing
  • Client authentication
  • Traffic monitoring
  • Admin dashboard

Pricing - Free


  • Free, open-source, and actively maintained
  • Ready-to-use admin dashboard
  • Fast, written in Go


  • More complex to set up and maintain than managed alternatives
  • Still in beta and likely to undergo code refactoring so best for the development environment only



The loophole is a managed reverse proxy client packaged as a free binary file. You can create HTTPS tunnels in a single line:

loophole http 8000

Best for - Loophole is great if you’re looking for a 100% free managed option that’s simple to use.


  • Automatic HTTPS
  • Custom subdomain
  • Basic Auth

Pricing - Free


  • Easy to get started
  • Ran by a small indie team
  • Available as Linux, Windows, or Mac binaries


  • Servers only in Europe
  • No custom domain
  • Few features, no application monitoring
  • Closed source and no documentation on security practices

3 Paid Ngrok Alternatives

Cloudflare Tunnel


Cloudflare Tunnel is a tunneling software that lets you quickly secure and encrypt application traffic to any type of infrastructure, so you can hide your web server IP addresses, block direct attacks, and focus on development.

Best for - Medium to large businesses requiring scale.


  • DDoS protection with load balancing
  • Rotating IP addresses
  • Access control lists
  • Global, distributed reverse proxy
  • Application logging

Pricing - $0 per user up to 50 users, then $7 per user per month


  • Encrypted tunnels with TLS
  • CLI
  • Emphasis on security
  • Cloudflare brand, the largest CDN provider out there


  • Limited to 24 hours of activity logging on the free plan
  • Closed source
  • No E2E Encryption



Tailscale allows you to create a secure virtual private network between your servers, computers, and cloud instances using the WireGuard protocol from a binary executable.

Best for - Point-to-point connections with E2E encryption.


  • Point-to-point connection - no traffic redirection from Tailscale’s servers
  • Access control
  • Monitoring dashboard

Pricing - Free for one user, then $5 per user per month


  • Open source, built on top of the WireGuard protocol
  • E2E encryption
  • Data ownership
  • Rich and well-documented features and use cases


  • Not as straightforward to use as other tunneling solutions for basic HTTPS sharing
  • Partially closed source



Packetriot is a managed solution to create secure tunnels from a binary package:

pktriot http 3000 --webroot ./assets --exec "npm run"

Best for - Per-tunnel pricing rather than per-user (cheaper for large teams)


  • HTTPS tunnels
  • On-premise hosting
  • Server API
  • Auth
  • Application monitoring

Pricing - Free for one tunnel, then plans start at $5 per month with a 14-day trial



  • Self-hosted option
  • Web-based dashboard
  • Cheap for large businesses & enterprises
  • Nice documentation


  • The self-hosted option isn’t free, you need to pay for a license
  • Closed source

Create App Tunnels With Onboardbase


You can find dozens of managed or self-hosted tunneling solutions out there, but none with Onboardbase’s built-in security features and ease of use. Onboardbase will make sure your team adopts security best practices to develop reliable software thanks to the combination of its CLI to inject app secrets at runtime and its dashboard to share encrypted sensitive information. The best part? It’s free and you can get started in a minute.

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