If you’re still new to cloud technology, but interested in seeing what it’s all about, there’s no better way to learn than taking some of the cloud services for a spin. Fortunately, you can get a pretty good demo for free before you go all-in. Sample these ten tasty IaaS treats for free. You give these cloud providers some details and they give you free stuff.

Gain admittance to the free buffet.

You have to sign up to get at the goods, and each provider treats the sign-up process in their own special way. Some providers – like Microsoft – have a completely automated sign-up process. Others – like GoGrid – steer you to their customer support team.

If you are ready to tell a cloud provider who you are, how they can get hold of you, and how you will pay if you decide to use their premium services, then start the sign-up process. Fire up your web browser, navigate to one of the URLs below, sign up, and get started.

Each of these cloud providers provide a free self-service buffet of cloud resources, so grab your virtual plate and head on over. Eat the free stuff, don’t pick up the tab, and then decide whether you will become a paying customer.

But it’s not an all-you-can-eat buffet.

If you don’t want to pay for a cloud service, remember to cancel it. These cloud providers are commercial companies. They want to demonstrate the value of their vast computing resources and win your business. These companies could be flattened by over-use of free resources, so they place limits on the free buffet.

All these providers place limits on how many resources you can consume for free. Usually they give you a lot more than just a small virtual machine, such as data transfer, storage, and DNS. If you don’t want to spend money, know the resource limits and stay within them.

You don’t get to eat free forever. Cloud providers place limits on how long you can consume the free stuff. Whether it’s a month or a year, these are time-limited offers.

All these providers take your credit card details when you sign up and store them, ready to start taking your money when you transition from freeloader to regular customer.

1. AWS Free Tier

Sign up for the big daddy of cloud with the big free offer. Amazon Web Services offer a wide range of infrastructure services and many of them include a free usage offer. These are all bundled together to provide the AWS “free tier”.

2. GoGrid’s Cloud Hosting

Get to know GoGrid. Rather than give you free snacks, they give you $100 credit. Applications for GoGrid’s free offers are handled by support people, not by support software.

3. HP public cloud test flight

Set up an HP account and check out this big player. The enterprise-class OpenCloud is a key component in HP’s infrastructure.

4. Microsoft’s Windows Azure 

Microsoft give you $200 credit and a month to burn through it. And no, they don’t just do Windows Server virtual machines.

5. Take Joyent For a Spin

Grab $125 worth of free Joyent resources. Interact with SmartOS, a rare descendant of the extinct SunOS operating system, in its natural habitat.

6. ProfitBricks Cloud Computing 2.0

Sign up for ProfitBricks and play with their drag-and-drop data center designer.

ProfitBricks and CloudSigma are the left-handers of this list. Both have a presence in the US but are European, neither require a credit card for the free trial, and neither are on Gartner’s 2013 “Magic Quadrant for Cloud Infrastructure as a Service” diagram (although both got a favourable mention in the report).

7. SoftLayer’s CloudLayer trial

SoftLayer specialize in bare metal IaaS, but this free trial covers a virtual machine from its CloudLayer service. IBM stopped offering free trials of its own SmartCloud after it bought SoftLayer.

8. A week with CloudSigma’s most advanced cloud ever

Have a look at your fund balance in the rather beautiful CloudSigma web interface. Your balance of 0.00 CHF tells you were this company’s from – Switzerland.

9. Dimension Data’s limited offer

Not all cloud providers offer permanent free stuff. Even if they don’t, you may find a limited time offer. Dimension Data are offering – for a while – a $200 promotional discount. Dimension Data built their IaaS on VMware.

10. Elastichosts free 5 day trial

While elastichosts offers the shortest free trial on this list, you do get instant access to a full account and you don’t need a credit card.

What do you get from these taster sessions?

These free trials are a little short for some evaluations. It’s not enough time for a developer to get to grips with the API, for instance. But these trials are good enough to answer a few questions. Which companies offer SSDs? How easy is it to use each web-based control panel? Is there any human contact? Where is my nearest data center?

Go ahead. Get stuck in.