First Impression of DigitalOcean

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I have been desperately looking for a hosting company to house my personal and freelance projects. In my line of work, I’ve used a handful of hosting companies (HostGator, Dreamhost, DewPixel, Rackspace, and dozens more) and formulated an opinion on them all.

Where I work I’ve finally landed on Rackspace Cloud Sites, which I immediately fell in love with. To dumb down a much more complicated product Cloud Sites is basically like a shared hosting plan on steroids. I loved it because it integrated wonderfully with our team’s process and knowledge, easy enough for nontechnical folks to handle, yet robust to handle more complicated projects. It comes with a price tag starting at $150 a month and rightfully so, it is an amazing service. But that is a tad too hefty for my personal projects. I needed something that was reliable, scalable, fast to deploy, and affordable. After several months of testing and countless Google searches which didn’t wield me any closer to a solution, I turned to Twitter to see how my fellow nerds handled their hosting.

Which erupted into a 50+ reply string involving representatives from several hosting companies competing for my business (something I did not expect). After the smoke had cleared and statements made I found myself giving DigitalOcean a shot.

I had attempted to use DigitalOcean a year ago and found the service to be too difficult to be used on a regular basis, requiring knowledge of command line and server set up I did not have, nor the time to learn. To give a bit of perspective I am a web developer. I build things that go on servers and spend minimal time on the server setup. But I was assured that the service has matured and may suit my needs.

So it has been just shy of a week of using the service so it is a bit too early to determine its long term advantages, but so far I am completely nerding out over the DigitalOcean platform. With DigitalOcean you can launch a SSD VPS service which they call a “Droplet” for the ridiculously low starting price of $5 a month. Doing a very quick and crude comparison to similar packages on other providers it was obvious this was the most affordable VPS hosting.

I tested two separate methods of using the Droplets as well. The first method involved launching a fresh site from a Droplet that installs WordPress for you and the second method of migrating an existing site into a LAMP Droplet. Both took around 25 minutes to complete from start to domain propagation, which was acceptable being the first time using the service and both required a moderate amount of command line knowledge. Additional command line steps do not fit my current web development process, but their documentation and knowledge base are well written and vast making it easy to accomplish these tasks.

Also, response time is amazing, this site has hovered around a 250ms load time since moving.

So my next steps in using DigitalOcean for all my personal and freelance needs will be to set up a Droplet with some sort of Control Panel that can handle multiple domains and databases to limit my time inside of terminal manually setting up sites.

Overall I am pleased with my decision and I’ll keep you informed if that ever changes!

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