DigitalOcean – a Worthy Competitor to AWS?

When it comes to cloud computing, the first platform most people think of is AWS. However, there’s a worthy opponent called DigitalOcean. Which one you choose will depend on your business, project requirements and the type of services needed.

Both platforms have their strengths and weaknesses, which we’ll review in this article. Playing to different audiences, each platform has specific reasons that make it a winner, depending on what you need.

DigitalOcean – a Little Background

Ben and Moisey Uretsky first founded ServerStack, which was a managed hosting company. Then in 2011, the Uretskys founded DigitalOcean, which was slightly different than ServerStack in that it offered both server provisioning and cloud hosting services.

DigitalOcean currently offers nine data centers located in London, New York, Amsterdam, San Francisco and Singapore. The company only offers services for Linux-based servers.

The company’s focus is on developers and entrepreneurs, with the goal of providing affordable solutions for those in this market.

AWS History

AWS is one of the most popular cloud service providers around. It’s said that AWS has as much computing power as its 11 combined competitors, making this a powerhouse of a company.

The company was launched back in 2002 and is a subsidiary of Amazon…yes, that’s Amazon. In the beginning, the company only offered simple services and tools; however, it began to expand in 2003. In 2004 the AWS service was launched to the public, then again relaunched in 2006 with a focus on cloud storage, SQS and EC2.

By this point, the platform offered a suite of core services for website developers and more. Over the years since, AWS has been focused on providing services for everyone—from the entrepreneur up to large corporations. It’s also important to note that AWS offers services for both Linux-based and Windows-based servers.

AWS provides scalable services for everyone and offer a variety of services that integrate with servers. They have some of the largest data centers located in 9 regions around the globe.

Services Comparison: DigitalOcean & AWS

DigitalOcean

When it comes to services, DigitalOcean offers standard VPS servers and flexible provisioning. The platform has become a favorite of many developers due to its high-performance services and ease of use. DO also has creative billing: they offer “compute droplets” which makes pricing easy for those on a budget.

Digital Ocean supports most Linux distros, making it easy for several apps to be launched with just once click. Their services are known to be super easy to setup and fast, while their pricing makes this an affordable option for many small businesses and developers.

DO also offers a lot when it comes to documentation where it’s easy to find solutions and fixes for your projects.

AWS

On the other hand, AWS takes the approach of “everything for everyone,” making this a scalable solution for startups wanting to grow their businesses. AWS sells multiple products across many categories; their service offerings include everything from storage and networking to databases and compute.

AWS provides a range of solutions including from IaaS to PaaS; they’re most popular solution is the EC2 IaaS solution. They also provide:

  • Load balancing
  • Storage
  • Content delivery
  • Databases
  • Networking
  • Content delivery
  • Deployment & configuration management
  • Application development platforms

Amazon offers a massive amount of documentation, also.

Customer Service: DigitalOcean vs AWS

When it comes to customer service, you’ll find a vast difference between DO and AWS. Due to its ease of use and the huge amount of documentation available for self-help, DigitalOcean only provides assistance via email, not by phone. As a result, response times can be slow due to the large number of clients they service. However, you will find a large, active community from which to draw help.

You’ll notice a vast difference when it comes to customer support with AWS. Due to the number of services they offer and the number of clients they have, most people find it easier to contact AWS directly, rather than thumbing through their help documentation. AWS has a large support team; however, support is not offered in all of their packages. In fact, technical assistance charges can cost up to 10% of your monthly expense with this service.

Set Up

Both AWS and DigitalOcean are easy when it comes to set up. However, DO offers a UI that’s simpler and isn’t bloated with buttons, knobs and other features. You can easily and quickly set everything up with only a couple of clicks. In addition, DigitalOcean’s UI allows you to use PayPal as a payment option.

When it comes to AWS, credit cards are the only payment option, which is rather limiting. The platform can also be a little more intimidating, though it does provide video tutorials and other helpful information.

Scalability

When it comes to scalability, both platforms are pretty good. With DigitalOcean, however, you’ll find they offer more intermittent steps than AWS. You can start with a basic machine 1 GB of RAM, 1 CPU and 25 GB of SSD for a low price. Then you can gradually scale up to 192 GB of RAM, 32 CPUs, and 4 TB of SSD storage.

With AWS, you can scale up very well, but the service doesn’t have as many “steps” to choose from. Lightsail comes with a basic virtual service that provides 512 MB of RAM, 1 CPU, and 20 GB of SSD storage. From there you can scale up, but not as high as with DO, though you can upgrade to Amazon EC2 if needed. EC2 is configured to auto scale, which is a nice touch for growing companies.

Pricing

Cloud services are becoming more affordable each year and here you’ll find DigitalOcean can be a better option if you’re on a tight budget. DO starts at $5 a month with at the basic level. This is a little more expensive than Lightsails basic service, but with DO you’ll have more resources. When you’re ready to upgrade, DO makes it easy—you can increase by $5 increments until reaching the $20 tier. After that, prices are more significant, and can go up to $960 per month at the platform’s upper level. DO only caters to Linux-based servers.

AWS’s cheapest service is Lightsail, which starts out at $3.50 a month; however, there are fewer incremental levels with this platform. From here it’s possible to upgrade a few times to their $20 tier, but after this there are only three more tiers to grow, to $160 per month. These prices are for Linux servers. Windows-based servers will set you back anywhere from $8 to $240 a month, for the same amount of resources as the Linux-based servers.

AWS also offers a free service tier which offers very basic virtual machines. This can still be a good offer, however, because you can access over 60 different products even with the free trial.

It’s difficult to compare these platforms, but each has a lot to offer. Both services are tops when it comes to performance, etc. However, DigitalOcean, while Linux-based, is the choice for anyone who’s new to cloud hosting and the price is affordable. AWS is geared more to enterprise customers but is still comparable when it comes to price. This platform can support both Linux- and Windows-based systems but can be a little more challenging to use.

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