- Inexpensive, everyone can have their own server.
- Easily scaled up as needs grow.
- Excellent tutorials.
- Easier to manage than Amazon AWS (IMHO).
- No easy to use web interface. Need to learn command line.
- Built for developers not everyday users. (Of course that might be a Pro depending who you are.)
If fast and easy hosting is important for your website, app or other Internet application then DigitalOcean is a great host for you to be on. While not as complicated as managing an Amazon AWS server DigitalOcean offers many of the benefits of AWS while making it easier to get started running your own server.
You will need an account to get started on DigitalOcean and you can do that simply by visiting their website. Once you have your account you can create your own virtual private server, or as they like to call them Droplets.
While the video below is a little older the process is still very similar.
It is very easy to get started on DigitalOcean to run your own server. The service is fast, they have some great tutorials on the Community section of the DigitalOcean website and if you are confident or have experience managing a server DigitalOcean is the perfect place for you and your organization.
Fast and inexpensive hosts are hard to find. Sure there are your web hosting companies like GoDaddy, Hostgator and DreamHost that offer cheap web hosting, but they all tend to over sell and be slow (honestly I will never go back to a shared host after using DigitalOcean). Then there are the specialized web hosting like WPEngine where speed and service are really quite good, but you end up paying a pretty high price for that speed and service.
Location, location, location! Just becuase you host your site in the cloud does not mean it will be fast for everyone in the world. It is still beneficial to have your servers close to where your customers/readers/users are. DigitalOcean has a decent selection of locatons to choose from for you to host your site from. While they might not have the largest list of data center locations they are upfront about it and you can probably find a location that will suit your needs. Even us Canadians have at least one option with a Toronto data center.
DigitalOcean has found a very sweet spot to be in. They offer very quick servers and a relatively inexpensive price. You get all the benefit of running your own server allowing you to easily add more servers as your needs grow while at the same time not totally draining your bank account to do it.
The Not So Great
DigitalOcean makes it look so easy to run your own server that it looks like anyone can do it. While I believe it is a good thing for people to learn new things and running their own server can be fun and exciting, there are downsides to how DigitalOcean sets things up initially. First off when you create a new Droplet you can either create a bare install or a one click install of the app you want. That makes it easy to get started but it ignores many things, like create a user, adding SSH key authentication, disabling SSH password authentication and setting up a simple firewall. Remember I mentioned that DigitalOcean has a very good tutorial section, you can find instructions on how to do all of that but you need to know that you have to do all of that.
Second, you need to be comfortable, or want to be comfortable, with the command line interface. The list of things you can do on a DigitalOcean server without the command line is pretty short. Look at graph usage, add volumes, run backups are a few things. To do serious work on a DigitalOcean Droplet you will need to use the command line. If you are not willing to learn it then stick with other hosts that make it easier to manage a server or simply pay someone to do it.
Some of the problems with DigitalOcean are easy to fix. There are services like ServerPilot and Cloudways that offer an easy way to get the benefits of DigitalOcean while taking away some of the work of managing a server. Cloudways looks impressive and could be the easiest way to take advantage of the speed and flexibility of DigitalOcean. You don’t even need a DigitalOcean account and they manage it for you.
ServerPilot, is a little different. You still need a DigitalOcean account but you can manage the server and install apps using ServerPilot. Serverilot will even install a basic firewall to help keep your server safe. Honestly, I really like ServerPilot and the software stack they use and install on DigitalOcean servers. They even offer a free level so you can try them out before paying anything.
If you want fast, inexpensive hosting DigitalOcean is hard to beat. Yes there is a learning curve if you are not a server admin, but the large collection of excellent tutorials can really be a great source of information. Perhaps the best part of DigitalOcean is being able to create a snapshot of your service, website etc and being able to scale it up as you need. Honestly I have been very impressed with DigitalOcean, I use it for work and to host some of my own projects. It has become the first host I turn to get a project started and off the ground.
For the record, I am an DigitalOcean partner. If you signup for DigitalOcean through my link they will compensate me but that in no way has impacted my review. Did I mention this site is hosted on DigitalOcean.