DigitalOcean In 2019: VPS Hosting Reviewed By Developers

Our Verdict: #1 of 381 Hosts for Developers

DigitalOcean is a cloud hosting provider that offers virtual Linux servers called “droplets” with SSH access and solid-state drives. They have datacenters around the world and their web hosting plans are ideal for developers.

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Pros:

  • Great value for the price point
  • Simple and quick deployment
  • Superior server quality and reliability

Cons:

  • Can be overwhelming for beginners
  • Server setup takes time

With 17+ reviews from DigitalOcean customers, they score 4 out of 5 stars, with highest marks for quality and features like collaboration and 1-click apps.

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DigitalOcean provides cloud servers that developers can use to quickly create new virtual machines for their projects. They allow you to fully control your web hosting environment at the same time that you pay for only the resources you use.

In this DigitalOcean review, I go over all of their cloud hosting services. Follow along to learn if you should be hosting with DigitalOcean.

Introducing DigitalOcean

DigitalOcean specializes in cloud hosting. 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.

Cloud Hosting Services

DigitalOcean’s services are created specifically for developers of all scales, from individual to enterprise.

Hosting Plans

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.

DigitalOcean Homepage

The real beauty of their services is that you only pay for the resources you use.

On many web hosts, you have to choose a higher tier plan just to get root access, even if you don’t need that level of resources. On DigitalOcean, you pay based on:

  • RAM

  • CPUs

  • Disk space (all SSD)

  • Bandwidth.

Developers

DigitalOcean offers several levels of cloud-based hosting depending on your needs, billed on a monthly or hourly basis.

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

  • A 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.

Droplets

DigitalOcean calls its virtual machines “droplets.” They have two flavors of droplets: Standard and CPU Optimized.

The advantage of using droplets is that you can spin up new machines quickly if you suddenly get a lot of demand.

The advantage of using droplets is that you can spin up new machines quickly if you suddenly get a lot of demand.

Standard Droplets vs CPU Optimized

CPU Optimized droplets are exactly what it says on the tin: virtual machines with beefier CPUs for computation-intensive jobs. Consider going with one of these droplets if you’re doing video encoding, machine learning, or high volume scraping.

Otherwise, standard droplets are perfect for most web apps in my experience.

Consider this basic comparison table of what you would get for $40 per month:

Standard DropletOptimized Droplet
vCPUs4 (not dedicated)2 (dedicated)
Memory8 GB4 GB
SSD Disk Space160 GB25 GB
Transfer (Bandwidth)5 TB4 TB

It’s clear that the main reason the optimized droplets are more expensive in general is the more powerful and dedicated CPUs. So unless you specifically need those, stick with the standard ones.

What’s in a Droplet?

You have a choice of operating systems for your droplets. There are the usual suspects of:

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.

DigitalOcean Droplets Overview

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.

Continued after user reviews

DigitalOcean Reviews by Our Community

Overall Rating from 17 Reviews by DigitalOcean Customers

Support
Quality
Features
Value

Most Helpful Reviews

Evrim Altay avatar
Evrim Altay evrimaltay.net
Apr 08, 2018

It’s good, I mean their servers works fine when they do. The speed is good and etc. But their automatic systems sometimes disables your system’s network access.

So your server Can not connect to the internet, and all of your web sites are going down. They are doing it for security purposes, and I get it. They should, they should protect me, and themselves.

But after doing that, they should be Reachable! Right? If they are closing my server I should be able to reach them and get an answer Asap.

But no, It’s not working like that. They are just disabling it and they are not replying any of your questions about it. Now all of my web-sites down for at least 15-16 hours and still there is no answer.

So If you are looking for any other reachable, qualified servers; please consider the other companies, Digital Ocean isn’t ready for production. You can buy a cheap server and use it for testing purposes if you have 5 bucks to spare. Otherwise you may be regret for your choosing, so choose wisely :)

Visit Host Now →

Himanshu Singh avatar
Himanshu Singh thecshub.info
Mar 15, 2017

I am using Digital Ocean from last 4 months and it’s really good service provider. They do provide VPS, OneClick WordPress and many more things. You can also take backup of VPS as SnapShot.

DigitalOcean aka DO is one of the Best Hosting Provider. They Have low cost and effective hosting plans. Their Uptime is excellent. Their support is also good but is quite slow!

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Andreas Clausen avatar
Andreas Clausen fsc-crew.com
May 07, 2018

I have not yet had a reason to reach out to support, so I’ll rate it based on their thorough documentation. On the other hand, there’s a reason I haven’t had the need. I have not yet experienced downtown after almost half a year of using their droplets, and I have nothing to complain about.

Amazing prices for what you get! I must though come with the disclaimer that I’m only using them for small Api’s and have not tried doing heavy tasks on them. I have been using Node.js (express.js) mostly, works like a charm.

Visit Host Now →

Load More

Features 

On top of the droplets that DigitalOcean is well-known for, they offer many additional features to help developers. Here are a few of the most important ones.

Kubernetes

Kubernetes lets you quickly deploy and scale up a containerized app in clusters. DigitalOcean provides all the main Kubernetes components for free, and you’ll only pay for the resources they use.

Load Balancers

Load Balancers DigitalOcean

If enabled, which is easy on DigitalOcean, load balancers spread out your traffic to multiple droplets to ensure that all users have an optimal experience.

You pay a very small flat hourly fee for load balancers.

One-Click Apps

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:

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.

Collaboration and Reliability

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.

Data and Storage

While you can spin up and delete your droplets, what about the data that they process? You’ll need to keep that around.

DigitalOcean has thought of this. They offer two types of storage: block storage and object storage.

Block Storage

Block Storage - DigitalOcean
Block storage amounts are fully customizable.

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 re-scale the blocks in real time and move them to different droplets.

Formatting Block Storage

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.

Object Storage

DigitalOcean also offers object storage, which it calls Spaces. Spaces are best suited for storing large amounts of unstructured data like video.

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.

Object storage works differently from block storage. The data is unstructured, with no specific format, unlike the file structures on block storage.

How Does Object Storage Work?

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.

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.

Control Panel and Interface

cPanel may rule the web hosting industry, but DigitalOcean is not like a typical web hosting provider.

DigitalOcean Is for Developers

Their offerings are clearly for serious 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.

Here’s the main DigitalOcean interface, you’ll manage your “projects” and droplets using the menu bar on the left side:

DigitalOcean Interface

You can use the bright green “create” button at the top to add a new droplet, domain, load balancer, or any other feature at any time.

Let me quickly walk you through setting up a new standard droplet so you can see how simple it is.

Getting Started and Managing Your Server

We start by using the create button at the top of our account and clicking “droplet.”

You start with a server image, which can either be a popular OS (Ubuntu, Fedora, etc.), or any of those one-click apps we mentioned before.

Droplet Creation DigitalOcean

Select Your Resources

Next, you pick the number of resources you think you’ll need.

Start small, because you can always upgrade (but not always downgrade), and the overage charges are very reasonable on DigitalOcean.

Droplet Size

There are a few basic options after that to let you choose:

  • Which datacenter location to use.

  • To enable automatic backups (+20% of droplet price).

  • To add any block storage.

  • Add SSH keys.

  • How many droplets (with the same settings) you’d like to deploy.

Create Your Droplet

Once done, you click create, and your droplet will be made within minutes at most (depends on the settings you chose).

When a droplet is deployed, you can either SSH into it (typical), or use the “console” option for that droplet in your DigitalOcean account to open a terminal.

Infrastructure

DigitalOcean has datacenters in:

  • San Francisco

  • London

  • Singapore

  • Bangalore

  • 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.

Specialized Technology

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.

From the control panel, you can one-click install common applications or Linux distributions to your droplets, such as CentOS or FreeBSD, and WordPress or Drupal.

Backups

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.

Cost

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

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.

Server Safety

DigitalOcean Security

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.

User Monitoring

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

  • Droplet processes.

You can also set up alerts for certain events, such as when CPU usage exceeds 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.

Firewalls

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.

Customer Support

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.

Documentation

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.

DigitalOcean Documentation

DigitalOcean has extensive documentation on their website, including:

  • “Getting started” guide

  • Knowledgebase

  • FAQ.

DigitalOcean Community

The DigitalOcean Community is designed for users to interact and provide support to each other.

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 answer 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.

Billing

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.

Payments

DigitalOcean accepts payment via PayPal or credit card (Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover).

They do not accept debit cards, checks, or money orders due to past security issues.

Uptime Guarantee

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.

Comparable Hosts

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. Here is a brief comparison of their basic cloud hosting before we elaborate on their notable features:

DigitalOceanCloudWaysSiteGroundKinsta
Memory1 GB1 GB4 GBNot specified
Storage25 GB25 GB40 GB5 GB
Transfer1 TB1 TB5 TB20,000 visits
Price$5.00/mo$10.00/mo$80.00/mo$30.00/mo

CloudWays

Personally, when I’m developing a web app, I almost always host on either DigitalOcean or CloudWays.

Cloudways is actually a partner of DigitalOcean and is built on top of their services. The difference is that Cloudways is fully managed.

They take care of the server setup and maintenance on the platform of your choice (could be DigitalOcean, AWS, etc.), and you can just worry about your application. The extra fees are very small and you pay as you go.

So if the whole server setup (security, Apache setup, etc.) is a bit overwhelming for you right now, try Cloudways for a simpler alternative.

SiteGround

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.

Their server technology is on par with DigitalOcean.

Their cloud hosting plans are quite a bit more expensive, but come fully managed, and come with optional cPanel & WHM.

Kinsta

Kinsta is a relatively new host, but getting quite popular.

They offer managed WordPress hosting based on the Google Cloud Platform (which is of high quality of course).

Kinsta has a similar modern UI and setup process to DigitalOcean, but they set up and maintain servers for you. In terms of cost, it’s higher, but still reasonable for most businesses to afford.

Pros and Cons of DigitalOcean

I am a huge fan of DigitalOcean, but it’s not always right for every situation. Here are the biggest strengths and weaknesses of their platform in my opinion:

Pros

  • Simple user interface and quick deployment.

  • Fantastic pricing for the quality they provide.

  • Amazing support documentation (ie, setup guides).

  • Server quality and reliability is top notch.

Cons

  • Can be overwhelming for beginners.

  • Even if you have some experience, server setup takes time.

  • No live support (although their ticket support is quite fast).

Summary

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 of their servers.

The company is best suited to self-sufficient developers who enjoy researching their own answers and managing their own servers.

If this sounds like you, visit DigitalOcean.com now.

Article edited by Marko Csokasi.

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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 DigitalOcean.
  • 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.
  • Will their support help me setup my servers?
    Not too much. Don’t expect DigitalOcean to hold your hand. They offer products built for developers who are willing to spend time going through help documentation and figuring out things for themselves.
  • Does DigitalOcean support staging websites?
    You can certainly set up a staging site of your own, but it’s not included automatically on a droplet. Look at hosts like Cloudways if you want it automatically included.
David Delony

About David Delony

David Delony is a technology enthusiast based in the Pacific Northwest. He has experience with various web technologies going back to his teen years. David has experience covering technology topics ranging from networking to video games to operating systems.

Connect with David

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