We have been monitoring our DigitalOcean test site since the beginning of January. And so far the results are promising, here’s our in-depth review on how they measure with others out there.
This review has been six months in the making.
We’ve been a paying customer of DigitalOcean during that entire time, carefully monitoring this system’s vital metrics. Specifically load times, customer service responsiveness, and, most importantly, uptime and downtime.
In this DigitalOcean review, we’ll evaluate how their technology, usability, and pricing stack up against all of the other hosting companies we’ve reviewed.
So, let’s get this show on the road…
What is DigitalOcean?
Launching its first server in 2011, DigitalOcean is an American cloud hosting company focused on helping developers launch more apps faster and easier.
This system is the brainchild of Mitch Wainer, Alec Hartman, Ben Uretsky, Jeff Carr, and Moisey Uretsky.
What started as a small start-up company based out of New York City has grown exponentially, reaching a customer base totaling over half a million developers.
The ultimate goal of DigitalOcean is to use a solid-state drive, or SSD, to create a user-friendly platform that will allow their wealth of clients to transfer projects to and from the cloud, ramping up production, with speed and efficiency.
But is it good enough to be ranked as one of our Top Hosting Services?
Let’s find out…
Pros of Using DigitalOcean
Most web hosting features can be boiled down to one big category:
If solid uptime and speedy load times aren’t there, your site will always suffer. Period.
I’m happy to report that DigitalOcean doesn’t just succeed in these areas, it excels.
1. Fantastic Uptime of 99.99%
The industry average uptime for a cloud hosting service is 99.94%.
DigitalOcean blows that out of the water (pun intended) with a whopping 99.99%.
That means from January 2018 to July 2018, DigitalOcean had only eight outages that all together equaled only 27 minutes.
That ties Bluehost as our most reliable hosting uptime to date. We can’t oversell how amazing that is. Most of our top ten services come in around 99.96 or 99.98%.
Click here to find full uptime and load time statistics of last months
Average uptime since the beginning of 2018:
- January 2018 – Average Uptime: 99.99%
- February 2018 – Average Uptime: 99.96%
- March 2018 – Average Uptime: 99.98%
- April 2018 – Average Uptime: 100%
- May 2018 – Average Uptime: 100%
- June 2018 – Average Uptime: 100%
- July 2018 – Average Uptime: 100%
As you can see, there is a small dip at the beginning of the year, with the lowest recorded Uptime percentage coming in at 99.96% in February. But the system rebounds in April, with no outages occurring throughout April, May, June, or July.
That’s improvement in the right direction. The arrow is constantly moving up, and it shows that DigitalOcean is on top of its problems.
2. Lightning-Fast Load Times
Uptime is the number one statistic to watch for when selecting a web host.
After all, every bell and whistle on the planet won’t account to a hill of beans if your website is spending long periods of time offline.
But coming in a close second is speed.
Lagging websites might as well be ‘down’, for all intents and purposes. Sluggish sites are virtually unusable.
And your traffic won’t hesitate to bounce. Literally.
A difference of just a few seconds can cost you nearly three-quarters of your potential website traffic.
Sounds crazy? Unfortunately, it’s not.
Market research states that websites that can’t load within five seconds can lose more than 74% of mobile site traffic.
Conversely, decreasing load times have been shown to increase traffic and sales conversions by more than 74%.
I call it the 74% see-saw. When it leans in one direction, you’re gaining, and in the other, you’re losing.
So, what does that mean for our friend DigitalOcean?
Good things. Really good things.
DigitalOcean is not just fast…it’s the fastest product we’ve ever reviewed. Seriously, it leaves the other top hosting programs we’ve reviewed in the dust.
The industry average load speed is 890 ms.
At its fastest, DigitalOcean was moving at 322 ms. At its slowest, it was 456 ms. Even when performing at its lowest it was still nearly 50% faster than the industry average.
So, let’s take a look month by month to see how DigitalOcean performed:
- January 2018 – 322ms
- February 2018 – 353ms
- March 2018 – 361ms
- April 2018 – 412ms
- May 2018 – 443ms
- June 2018 – 404ms
- July 2018 – 456ms
That is one fast system, with an overall average speed of 394.6 ms.
But, one problematic aspect of DigitalOcean’s speed is the exact opposite of what we saw from its uptime.
As the months went on, the overall speed of the system decreased a little bit. Its fastest month was January, and its slowest month was July.
3. Developer-Friendly Product Ecosystem
DigitalOcean is not just a one trick pony.
In fact, their suite of products offers tons of potential for developers.
What are the different options offered by DigitalOcean? Glad you asked!
Droplets are a scalable computer platform that can be customized to meet all of a business’s application needs. It also includes add-on storage, monitoring, and advanced security.
You can choose between standard or optimized droplets and then customize to your heart’s content. Droplets let devs skip time-consuming installation and configuration to move right along toward code deployment.
Whereas Droplets were for app deployment, Spaces are about simple object storage.
We’re talking about a secure system that allows you to store and deliver data to applications and end-users. Spaces operate under a simple process, creating reliable storage with a drag-and-drop UI or API.
Spaces can be used to store backup files, weblogs, data analysis, and much more.
The service is also scalable, so your Spaces can grow with your company. What’s more, Spaces can be combined with other DigitalOcean features, or it can be used on its own.
Kubernetes is an upcoming product being launched by DigitalOcean in late 2018.
There’s not a lot of information about it, but the company states on its official website that Kubernetes is, “Designed for developers and businesses who want a simple way to deploy and manage container workloads in the cloud.”
They’re currently offering early access to the product, which comes with a free Kubernetes cluster through September of 2018.
The Cons of Using DigitalOcean
Sure, it’s fast and reliable.
And there are a ton of customizable tools.
But there must be something wrong with it, right?
Well, for starters it’s not a very simple system to get started on. Especially for newbs.
Their site and platform are technical. So the jargon can be off-putting to anyone without a computer science degree or a decade in the weeds.
There’s no live support option, leaving much to be desired in the customer service department.
Their pricing is also quite high. It’s far more expensive than most of our top-rated programs.
Let’s break this down one by one, shall we?
1. For Advanced Users (Jargon + Complex)
The mark of a truly great product lies in its ability to summarize its services in layman’s terms.
This is something tech companies, in particular, have a hard time wrapping their collective heads around.
As such, most tech sites and platforms tend to be full of jargon. As in, “special words or expressions that are used by a particular profession or group and are difficult for others to understand”.
When one looks at tech products like DigitalOcean, the temptation to resort to jargon based language becomes clear. You’re dealing with a lot of technical data, so an expert in the field would be compelled to write it as they know it, and not how the average human being can understand it.
That’s no big deal for advanced, power users. They’ll get it. It’ll all make sense.
But for beginners? Not a chance.
This is an area in which DigitalOcean fails dramatically. The site’s copy is filled with technical terms and acronyms with no explanation. They’re clearly marketing their product to developers specifically.
And others will struggle to figure out how to move a site over, launch, maintain, or even grow it.
In comparison, HostGator does an amazing job at simplifying the language of their website into terms that the average Jane or Joe can understand completely.
So it’s a user-friendly product for both beginners and advanced users. Not so, here.
2. Lacks Basic Features Other Consumer Hosts Provide
Most web hosts we’ve reviewed will throw in the same ‘extras.’
Stuff like backups, possibly a CDN, and even an SSL certificate.
However, because DigitalOcean caters to a more advanced crowd, they don’t throw in a bunch of basic features that many other hosts will provide or take care of for you after signing up.
❌ Free domain name with hosting
❌ The ability to even purchase a domain name
❌ Free site migrations
I mean, they can help you with some of this stuff. But just don’t expect a lot of hand-holding services when you sign up.
Which actually brings us to our next point…
3. Limited Support
Most hosting companies offer some variation of 24/7 support.
Now, it might not always be very good. But that’s the stated goal, anyway.
Unfortunately, DigitalOcean has nothing like that. If your website goes down in the middle of the night (which could be disastrous if you’re dealing in overseas markets), there’s no one for you to talk to. You have to go to their website and open a support ticket using their online form.
If I’m having a problem I like putting my trust in a company that will have a chatbot available for me to converse with (or at the very least a support hotline).
Even if it’s not 24 hours, the ability to converse with a real live human being in real time during business hours is better than a contact form with vague promises of “We’ll get back to you shortly.”
What’s more, their contact form didn’t even work!
I tried to fill it out with a question about their Kubernetes product, as the website seemed a little vague about what it could do.
I was met with an error message.
So I had to email them directly. I did so, sending the same exact question, and I have yet to receive a response, over a day later.
Not only should you be a power user to figure out their product. But apparently, you also need to be one to fix your own problems, too.
4. Pricing is Expensive (Comparatively)
There’s an old saying that you get what you pay for. This saying is usually used to discuss cheap items that don’t really work, but quite the opposite is going on here.
DigitalOcean is a highly-functional product that costs a pretty penny.
First off, let’s look at the Droplets.
As you can see, we have the Standard Droplets starting out at $5 per month. Now, this only comes with 1GB of memory. The prices rise from there, getting higher and higher until you’re paying $80 per month for more high-end services.
When you look at the CPU Optimized Droplets, those are starting at $20 and going all the way up to a whopping $920 per month.
Looking at storage prices, it’s not much better.
Spaces, which starts out with $250GB of storage, starts at $5 per month, which coupled with the first tier of standard Droplets would come out to $10 per month.
They have a ton of other additional services. But each one of them is going to cost you a pretty penny.
These are some steep prices, especially when you consider that many of our top-rated services go for $3 per month or less.
But, it’s important to remember that you get unmatched speed and performance for the higher price with DigitalOcean. That’s certainly something to consider.
You’re not just paying for basic hosting or bandwidth, here. So if you need that, this is probably a overkill.
However, if you have a high-traffic site (or a few of them), this is what you want. And need.
Do We Recommend DigitalOcean
… as long as you’re a developer.
If you’re just an average person looking to launch a web presence, there are far more user-friendly products out there that will cost you far less.
But for someone that knows their way around the tech world, there seems to be no faster or more highly performing product than DigitalOcean.
The customer support issue and price aren’t easy to stomach.
But if uptime and speed are among the most important factors for you, DigitalOcean is among the best choices on the market.
Do you have any positive or negative experience with DigitalOcean’s hosting? If you do, please leave a transparent and honest review!