My Experience with DigitalOcean: Simplicity

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, 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 🙂  ]]>