DigitalOcean is a Linux-based hosting company that we’ve been looking at for some time. However, the only way to really appreciate what the company offers is to test them out.
The company was designed from its launch to be completely different from most other web hosting companies. It’s essentially a cloud-based virtual private server (VPS) company that uses virtualized environments to provide developers with VPS availability in under a minute once they have an activated account.
The company doesn’t provide hosting plans in the same vein as a business like BlueHost. There are no shared hosting plans at different levels and other extras sought after by their customers. Instead, its customers are mostly developers who want to spin up a new virtual server to test their SaaS in a fast environment.
The company started in New York but has taken on several capital rounds from big-name VCs and some debt funding over the years. This has been done to expand to 12 global data centers spanning eight countries (far more than the typical web host).
Also, DigitalOcean was one of the first to offer SSD hosting for faster disk read and write speeds. The company is ideal for developers who use the cloud for their SaaS and mobile apps.
Let’s now see how the developer’s cloud company rates in our review.
DigitalOcean: What are the Pros?
Incredible Uptime Average - 99.99%
The uptime percentage is the amount of time that a cloud or hosting service is accessible and available. This may be calculated over the month or the year.
The industry average for a cloud host is approximately 99.94 percent. DigitalOcean exceeds the average by getting almost 100 percent, with a 99.99 percent grade.
The calculation was performed from April 2018 – March 2019. During this time, the company’s servers only suffered from eight network outages. However, the total combined downtime was just 43 minutes. Indeed, on a monthly viewpoint, most months it experienced zero downtime at all. This is outstanding.
Unrelenting Loading Times
Uptime doesn’t matter much if the site loading times are slow.
Websites that lag behind are abandoned by visitors and developers know this. They don’t want their cloud host to let them down in this respect. And DigitalOcean delivers in spades.
While the industry average is just under 900ms, DigitalOcean delivers loading speeds of around 357ms on average with a peak close to 200ms and almost 500ms at their longest. That halves the average speed developers can expect from most hosts.
Environment Created for Developers
The cloud host caters to the different needs of developers.
DigitalOcean understands that some are creating storage systems, others a SaaS and still others are building out a mobile app to scale.
What do they offer to cater to different requirements?
Droplets – These are virtual environments that can be selected, specified and launched in mere seconds. Extremely customizable and affordable at the basic level. Droplets are ideal for app developers to use.
Spaces and Storage – These are designed as object storage systems. This can be analytics, logs, databases, backup archives, and more. They’re manageable from an on-screen GUI or programmatically through the DigitalOcean API.
Kubernetes – A special cluster-based feature to enable businesses to create, deploy and organize workloads entirely in the secure cloud.
If you are intersted in VPS Hosting, then read our VPS hosting guide here.
The pricing is competitive for a virtual server environment especially when scaling up and needing greater resources.
While there is pricing for Droplets, Spaces, and Kubernetes, they also breakdown individually when getting specific about the requirements. Therefore, Droplets can use a shared CPU, or in the dedicated realm, a dedicated general one, a CPU-optimized one or a memory-optimized one. Furthermore, Droplets are selectable based on a mix of memory, vCPUs, SSD speeds, and SSD disk space too.
Customers can scale up their current Droplet to get extra resources with the click of a mouse. They can also add a second Droplet in under a minute too. This flexibility and affordability is something developers were crying out for before DigitalOcean came along.
Backups are run on a daily basis. There’s continued access to restore data up to a week in the past.
Nevertheless, it’s also a good idea to perform your own backups too.
What About Security?
Security is higher on the priority list for this cloud host. They even have encrypted volumes to protect data from illicit access.
Beyond that, it’ll be necessary to code a mobile app or SaaS securely as any hosting environment is only as good as the code that’s added to it.
DigitalOcean: What are the Cons?
Not for the Tech Novice
When reading through the website information, it’s written with the techie in mind. While the information is provided in English, it’s filled with technical and hosting specific jargon left and right. There’s no escaping it!
For the beginner, it’s going to be a real struggle to figure out what they’re doing. Anyone unfamiliar with Linux and Linux-based hosting environments or the command-line is going to have a hard time.
For instance, jargon isn’t usually linked to an explanation to explain what it means. Essentially, if you need to know what it means, you won’t be able to use this product. That’s the assumption DigitalOcean is working with and it’s a fair one. After all, they call themselves the “Developer Cloud” for good reason.
Doesn’t Offer Same Freebies as Other Web Hosts
The same list of basics that web hosting customers come to expect aren’t usually present here.
Things like an SSL certificate, a free domain or site migrations provided gratis.
You’re not technically coddled, basically.
Customer Support is Quite Limited
Due to the fact that this is a developer’s cloud and the virtual Droplet environment is controllable by the developer, the option for customer support requests is limited.
Essentially, unless there’s a technical failure or something isn’t set up properly, the developer is expected to solve the problem themselves. They won’t be talked through how to install WordPress, for instance.
cPanel is Not Easy to Use
cPanel, something that comes as standard with most Linux-based web hosting plans, is not present from the outset.
It’s necessary to purchase a Droplet and then install cPanel, usually using the command line to do so. Also, the use of cPanel is separate and needs to be bought from the license holder.
Prices Aren’t That Inexpensive When Scaling Up
While the basic Shared CPU Droplet with a low amount of memory is very affordable, as soon as you need a faster processor, more memory or one that’s memory-optimized, the monthly cost climbs considerably. Also, if you end up using quite a bit of outbound bandwidth, that can begin to get expensive too.
Spaces and Storage options also scale up depending on how much is required.
Therefore, it’s necessary for developers to really look closely at what their current and future requirements will be. Their hosting bill will grow over time with their needs.
Complex Pricing Model
The pricing model has so many sections and scales to it that it can be confusing for someone who’s not a developer. They simply won’t know how many vCPUs they’ll need or what bandwidth is required.
For the advanced user, this level of specificity and selectable options is perhaps desirable. However, for people used to more basic hosting plans, it will be both confusing and overwhelming.
Is DigitalOcean Worth Recommending?
For the layperson who’s not technical, doesn’t understand Linux and isn’t willing to learn, we’d strongly say to look elsewhere for your hosting needs.
However, for a developer who is happy using Linux-based hosting for their websites, mobile apps or SaaS projects, DigitalOcean offers an excellent, fast and robust service that’s been tailor-made for people just like them. There’s little to no handholding available, but developers like to do most things themselves anyway.