My Experience with DigitalOcean: Simplicity

in Hosting



It all started with with curiosity and a free trial. For one, a $5 per month virtual private server with virtually unlimited bandwidth sounds too good to be true. As far as I know this would be the first from DigitalOcean. However, I was taken by surprise not only with the lower cost but specially with the ease and simplicity of the entire system.

Signing-up and Setting Up my VPS

Signing up was dead simple, nobody asked for my name or credit card information. All that was asked from me was my email address and a password. Then I was immediately presented to an area where I would create my first droplet, which is what DigitalOcean calls for each VPS instance.

The lowest tier had a hardware configuration of 256MB/1 CPU/20GB Disk, the best virtual hardware has a 16GB/16 CPU/640GB Disk configuration. I signed up with the lowest VPS tier because I wanted to test how good their droplets were.

I chose one of the CentOS images and in about 36 seconds my VPS was ready to go. The password was sent to my email address seconds later and a couple of seconds more I was inside my VPS instance via ssh. All in all, it took me just about a minute to create the droplet and log-in to it.

I was impressed. I’ve dealt with virtual private servers before from various hosting companies and as far as my experience went, setting up meant waiting for about half an hour to an hour to get my instance ready for use.

The Good

I toyed around the VPS instance for a couple of minutes, latency was good, it was virtually the same with other VPS instances from other hosting companies I’m managing (aws, intovps). I spent the next couple of minutes installing nginx + php-fpm + apc + mysql + redis. When I tested the server responsiveness, it was satisfyingly fast.

It was at this point that I was convinced. I needed to get myself  a droplet, so I paid through PayPal and all was set.

I tested their backup and snapshot features, all was working as described. I destroyed one entire droplet, created another one and used a saved snapshot and presto I’m back where I left off just a couple of seconds ago.

What I liked best is that my snapshots and backups are not counted against my disk usage so I can take as many as I need when I test out different systems or roll out new features/software on a specific droplet.

Almost Bad

I don’t think this is a bad thing but from a guy who’ve had dealt with virtual private servers before, everything seemed way too simple. I’m not pertaining to the administrative overhead required to manage a VPS but what I meant is DigitalOcean made the process of getting a live droplet almost like a dream.

This could provide a false impression to beginners that managing a VPS instance is an easy feat. On another note, the easy access can provide a very good learning ground for those who want absolute control to their hosting configuration as shared hosting accounts tend to be restrictive.

Regardless, the reasonable (perhaps cheap) cost and ease of access on building a VPS instance via DigitalOcean makes it a feasible perhaps practical option for individuals and mid-tier businesses who have limited budgets but has the technical capacity to manage a server.

Why I’m Moving

I’m slowly moving all of my domains including this blog, www.jeedo.net as a test case to DigitalOcean. They won me over with their ease and simplicity of creating backups/snapshots and deploying it. The amount of flexibility I have at my fingertips is priceless.

As far as customer support is concerned, my experience has been very positive. I’ve reported a specific bug and it was fixed and deployed in their system within 24 hours. Response time on all my support tickets was well within 20 minutes to 30 minutes of opening one.

Considering that DigitalOcean is fairly a new company, I believe they are starting on the right track. I hope they don’t lose their focus on simplicity and their customers regardless of how big they get in the near or far future.

Update:

Just resized a droplet that had about 29% of disk space used and had a couple of low traffic sites in it. Resized to the next bigger droplet and the process took no less than a minute. There was no need to call any tech support and the upgrade went without a hitch. Talk about smooth :-)

 

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Hayden James May 13, 2013 at 10:01 am

I really love DigitalOcean but the single IP limitation has caused me to stop using them except a single $5 server that syncs as remote backup.

Now I use GridVirt (https://bit.ly/17VZAO2). There’s no IP limitations and their SSD’s are at least 3 times as fast. It’s not a simple as DigitalOcean. For example when you purchase a node you have to Netinstall your own OS. There’s no 1 click auto install, which I prefer because I choose CentOS Minimal then strip it down.

That said, there’s no host for the cost of their plans thats as simple to use, just works and is pretty fast as DigitalOcean.

The other how I like is LiquidWeb. Also faster SSD’s but price-wise there no comparison because of what they offer.

Jeedo May 28, 2013 at 10:57 pm

Hi Hayden,

Thanks for sharing, I’ll look up some of your recommendation and see how it works from my end. Cheers!

Peggy U. Wiggins June 10, 2013 at 2:23 pm

Multiple IP’s would be nice in cases where more than one website is hosted on a single droplet. For instance, we have a number of clients that reside on servers/networks outside of DO. A handful of them require SSL for their websites/domains though don’t need their own VPS (they just need a site that works, they don’t want to manage a server). In the case of only allowing one IP per VPS, if we were to move them over, we’d need 1x VPS per 1x Client which would be overkill simply based on their collective needs. Given that example (a real-life example, btw), it’d be nice to see 1 IP on the 256/512MB and the option to add an at least 2-4 IP’s on the 1GB VPS’s. On the larger VPS’s that boast 4-8GB RAM (and beyond), it’d be nice to see even a limit of up to 10 IP’s. I don’t care to pay for the IP’s, I don’t expect them for free, though I would need them. Just my 2c :-) .

Jeedo June 13, 2013 at 1:17 am

Hi Peggy,

Good points, it would be awesome if digital ocean would be able to do that. I’m still waiting from my end as well, but as far as performance is concerned, so far so good.

About SSLs though, you actually don’t need a dedicated IP for each domain that require a secure layer. I’ll link it up here once I’m done with the post on how I was able to serve https sites from a single digital ocean droplet.

Did I mention I was able to obtain the SSL certificate for free :-)

Simon S. August 6, 2015 at 7:02 pm

For anyone reading this:

Stay away from Digitalocean if you’re not willing / having a strict backup set in stone. You’ll be paying for an service upfront – that ‘s ok but …

… if you ever forget to pay and don’t notice their mail (e. g. when you’re in hollidays offroad with no mail-access) your data will get wiped after 72 hours! (which is a joke for any paid service)

https://www.digitalocean.com/community/questions/forget-to-pay-account-droplet-deleted

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