DigitalOcean In 2018: VPS Hosting Reviewed By Developers
DigitalOcean specializes in cloud hosting for developers. They provide a scalable infrastructure for developers to build websites and applications with fast deployment times.
Based in New York City, DigitalOcean was founded in 2011 by Ben and Moisey Uretsky.
In 2013, Netcraft recognized it as one of the fastest-growing cloud hosting services, beating out Amazon Web Services, and in 2014 recognized DigitalOcean as the 3rd largest hosting company in the world.
DigitalOcean is backed by funding from Andreessen Horowitz, IA Ventures, Techstars, and Crunchfund.
DigitalOcean’s services are created specifically for developers of all scales, from individual to enterprise.
They offer several levels of cloud-based hosting depending on your storage and volume needs, billed on a monthly or hourly basis.
The level you choose will determine the amount of memory, core processors, disk space, and transfer limit included in your plan.
Screencapture by DigitalOcean
Developers can use DigitalOcean to create virtual servers, or “droplets,” in under a minute. With each droplet, you get full root access, including the ability to customize your server setup and choose your operating system.
All of DigitalOcean’s plans also include:
- Solid state drives (SSD)
- DNS management
- Simple account control panel
- Global image transfer (ability to spin droplets in different datacenter regions from snapshots taken in a different region)
- Private networking (your separate droplets in the same datacenter can communicate with each other without counting against your bandwidth limits)
- Choice of several Linux distributions, as well as FreeBSD
- Pre-built app images
- Automated backups
- Cloud firewalls
DigitalOcean does not provide any managed hosting plans, shared, or dedicated hosting.
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DigitalOcean calls its virtual machines “droplets.” They have two flavors of droplets: Standard and CPU Optimized. The latter is exactly what it says on the tin: virtual machines with beefier CPUs for computation-intensive jobs.
The advantage of using droplets is that you can spin up new machines quickly if you suddenly get a lot of demand. When you no longer have any need for them, you can just delete them.
What’s in a Droplet?
You have a choice of operating systems for your droplets. There are the usual suspects of Linux distros, Ubuntu, CentOS, Debian, Fedora, and CoreOS. If you really hate the GPL, FreeBSD is available.
These are all pre-built images, so you don’t have to waste time installing the OS. You can get started deploying your awesome web app right out of the gate.
Screencapture by DigitalOcean
If that wasn’t good enough, DigitalOcean also offers one-click apps for your droplets, so you can save even more time.
These apps include:
- LAMP stack
- Ruby On Rails
- Machine Learning
They have pretty much every web development buzzword you’ve ever seen on Hacker News.
You only pay for the machines you use, which can help you control costs. It’s no accident that cloud computing providers like Amazon and DigitalOcean are popular with startups.
Mix and Match
You can mix and match between the two types of droplets.
You could have standard droplets as front-end web servers providing the interface while CPU Optimized servers crunch data on the back end.
You can also load balance your droplets to keep your web app available.
While you can spin up and delete your droplets, what about the data that they process? You’ll need to keep that around.
Digital Ocean has thought of this. They offer two types of storage: block storage and object storage.
Block storage works just like a hard drive on your computer. Block storage ranges in size from 1 GB to 16 TB. You can combine blocks just like a RAID system.
The data in the blocks is replicated across several server racks for redundancy. It’s also encrypted to keep prying eyes from seeing your sensitive information.
You can rescale the blocks in real time and move them to different droplets.
Blocks can be automatically formatted and attached to Ubuntu, Fedora, Debian, CoreOS, and Fedora Atomic droplets.
For sudden, heavy workloads, blocks are also burstable for an extra speed boost.
All of the blocks run on SSDs, so they’re pretty fast already.
DigitalOcean also offers object storage, which it calls Spaces. Spaces are best suited for storing large amounts of unstructured data like video.
Object storage works differently from block storage. The data is unstructured, with no specific format, unlike the file structures on block storage.
Think of the data as being stored in a big “blob.” The device it’s stored on doesn’t matter. You just put data into the blob and get it back out again when you need it. You access the data through HTTP requests.
Data in Spaces can be accessed publicly without the need for a web server dedicated to serving up files to users. The fewer servers you need, the less complexity for your site and the less money you have to spend building it.
The company has also made it easy for teams to collaborate in building DigitalOcean-enabled apps.
They can work together, being billed on one invoice and not having to share credentials, which can compromise security.
For more reliability, the company offers “Floating IPs,” where IP addresses can be quickly redefined.
If a droplet fails, its IP can be reassigned to a standby droplet to keep the app running.
cPanel may rule the web hosting industry, but DigitalOcean is not like a typical web hosting provider.
Digital Ocean Is for Developers
Their offerings are clearly by developers, for developers. They’re much less interested in holding your hand than other providers.
Since they’re geared more toward people building custom web apps, they don’t offer many things that may seem normal. For example, they don’t offer any kind of shared or VPS web hosting.
Install cPanel Yourself
If you want cPanel, you’ll have to purchase and install it yourself. It’s not available on the one-click deployments.
DigitalOcean is geared toward the kind of people who have a favorite Unix shell, and who wouldn’t need to be pampered with a graphical control panel. Their target market is the hard-core developer who lives inside a text editor and an SSH window, so the lack of cPanel is not a major loss.
The DigitalOcean Interface
The good news is that DigitalOcean already has a well-designed interface for deploying and monitoring your droplets.
DigitalOcean has datacenters in San Francisco, London, Singapore, Bangalore, and three each in New York and Amsterdam.
The Singapore datacenter supports IPv6, and DigitalOcean plans to roll out support to their other datacenters in the near future.
DigitalOcean built their own custom back-end software. Cloud servers are built using KVM Virtualization on Intel’s Hex-Core CPUs with dedicated ECC Ram and RAID SSD storage.
You can use DigitalOcean’s control panel, or use DigitalOcean’s name-spaced API to design your own.
DigitalOcean offers support via a ticket system. Issues can be marked as critical for immediate attention. They do not offer live chat or phone support.
DigitalOcean aims to equip their users with the knowledge they need for complete self-sufficiency, so they place more of a priority on documentation and community support than on direct, one-on-one customer service.
Screencapture by DigitalOcean
DigitalOcean has extensive documentation on their website, including a “getting started” guide, knowledgebase, and FAQ.
DigitalOcean also encourages user support via the DigitalOcean Community.
The DigitalOcean Community is a platform created and maintained by the company for users to interact and provide support to each other.
Users can create their own profiles and upvote and subscribe to topics; read, comment on, request, and submit tutorials; ask and answers questions in the Q&A section; and share API projects. The community is moderated by DigitalOcean staff, who answer questions in the Q&A section.
DigitalOcean offers backups and snapshots that can be used to save, restore, or duplicate your droplets.
Backups vs Snapshot
Users can manually create snapshots on their own at any time, while backups are automatically run on a regular schedule.
DigitalOcean stores snapshots and backups on separate hardware from the original data.
Snapshot storage is billed by the gigabyte, and DigitalOcean offers regular automatic backups at 20% of the cost of each droplet.
Users have the option of enabling automatic backups when creating a new droplet. Backups are stored by DigitalOcean and cannot be downloaded.
The terms of service note that the customer is solely responsible for their own data, and that DigitalOcean can’t be held responsible for lost and/or unrecoverable data.
Security is always a concern with any web host, but it becomes especially important when it comes to cloud hosting.
Limited Staff Access
DigitalOcean restricts staff access to its most critical systems: technical support staff do not have access to the backend hypervisors, and only the engineering team can access the snapshots and backup storage system.
Their datacenters are physically protected by round-the-clock security staff. They also have biometric readers and two-factor authentication. Finally, they are certified by national and international security standards.
DigitalOcean has an extensive control panel with real-time monitoring of droplet deployments. Customers can track CPU usage, network usage, disk usage, disk I/O, memory usage, and the top processes in a droplet.
You can also set up alerts for certain events, such as CPU usage exceeding a threshold. The alerts are sent via Slack or email.
You can whitelist IP addresses for your load balancers or droplets or specify a range of addresses. You can also whitelist by tags. The firewall automatically blocks access before you’ve made whitelists.
The company also offers cloud firewalls. Firewall rules can be applied to multiple droplets at once. All of the rules are centralized in one view.
Every DigitalOcean account is invoiced monthly and billed per hour based on usage up to your monthly cap.
You can cancel your account with DigitalOcean at any time through your customer control panel. They do not offer refunds for payments already made.
DigitalOcean accepts payment via PayPal or credit card (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover). Credit card payments are processed using Stripe.
They do not accept debit cards, checks, or money orders due to past security issues.
DigitalOcean promises 99.99% uptime and offers to issue a credit for any downtime beyond that. While they don’t provide details on the process, several users have noted in the DigitalOcean Community that they received fair compensation for downtime.
Of course, DigitalOcean is not the only cloud hosting provider out there. If you’re looking for a DIY approach to the cloud, there are several other providers you should consider.
Amazon Web Services
The biggest cloud infrastructure provider is Amazon Web Services.
The major web retailer’s success in this realm is demonstrated by how Netflix, a major rival in the world of streaming video, has transitioned from physical datacenters to almost completely running off of Amazon’s cloud. (The only part still running on traditional datacenters is the DVD-by-mail service.)
SiteGround’s cloud architecture isn’t as buzzword-compliant as DigitalOcean’s, but you can also spin up and tear down virtual machines as you need them.
GoDaddy has also built up a cloud infrastructure-as-a-service platform, in addition to its popular web hosting offerings.
GoDaddy is a major player in the OpenStack initiative to build an open source cloud platform. The OpenStack project has the support of many other major tech companies like HP.
If you need simple web hosting without having to worry about the technical details, then DigitalOcean is not for you.
DigitalOcean should be considered as an option for developers with a need for flexibility and detailed control over configuring their servers.
Due to the style of support DigitalOcean provides, it’s best suited to self-sufficient developers who enjoy researching their own answers rather than having them handed to you. It is ideal for experimentation on a budget since your use of each virtual server is billed by the hour.
Most Popular DigitalOcean Hosting Plans
|5 Monthly||10 Monthly||20 Monthly|
|Price||$5 / mo||$10 / mo||$20 / mo|
|Visit DigitalOcean||Visit DigitalOcean||Visit DigitalOcean|
|60GB||4TB||$40 / mo Visit Host|
DigitalOcean Frequently Asked Questions
- Does DigitalOcean accept Bitcoin?
No, DigitalOcean does not accept Bitcoin.
- Does DigitalOcean have a free trial?
There is no free trial offered by Digital Ocean.
- Does DigitalOcean offer SSL certificates?
No, but they do have a tutorial in their knowledgebase on how to set up a certificate with Let’s Encrypt.