My thoughts on DigitalOcean in 2015

What is a “cloud”?

One of the latest trends in hosting at the moment seems to be the word “cloud”. The cloud is a rather loose term, and many different people seem to have different ideas of what a true cloud should be. In my opinion, cloud hosting should be fully redundant, high availability hosting with a true fail over system, allowing your application or website to instantly come back online after any disruption, even if affects half a country. Others may think of the cloud as a system where they can instantly scale their server up or down, or dynamically change any of the resources so they can scale their application to fit 10 or 10,000 users. I think that the cloud could be useful for scaling your application up and down as needed, but I don’t think DO’s scaling system is the best way to achieve this, as scaling back down can be a bit of a hassle.

From what I understand, DigitalOcean, or DO for short is not what I would define as cloud, however it does allow people to instantly scale their servers and application from one server to many. In my opinion, cloud hosting with scaling capabilities does not work well with KVM due to the disk resizing issues, and something like OpenVZ or even xenserver, where you can scale a server without even having to restart would be much better suited.

Going back to my definition of what cloud hosting is, there are not many true cloud hosts at under $7 a month, sometimes known as “low end” hosting. One such example of a true cloud provider at lowend pricing would have to be iwstack, who are great. They store a copy of your server in more than one place, and advertise automatic healing as well as a decent private network and virtual routers, all of which are immensely useful to someone who thinks of the cloud like I do.

My thoughts on DO

I have only used DigitalOcean for around 3 months now feel that I have had enough experience of what they are to offer my review. Overall I have had no major issues with their control panel, support or API, apart from one issue with their auto null route system.

I have been using their servers in the London location, which is a new location and thus most likely underutilised compared to somewhere like NYC or even Singapore. The virtual servers, or Droplets as they are called come with 512MB ram, 1 CPU core, 20GB of SSD space and 1TB bandwidth allowance on a gigabit port. On my test server I am able to use the full port speed without any issues, and they do not have any system to detect bandwidth overages – hence making the service unlimited! I have also run a Tor relay from a DO server using over 30TB per month without getting charged any extra on the 512mb, at least so far…

The 20GB of SSD disk space provided with your server is local SSD storage, in what I think is RAID6. Running a “dd” speed test gets around 200 MB/s in London 1, and around 120 MB/s in more utilised locations such as NYC 2. This is nowhere close to the SSD speeds on RamNode in RAID10, which is somewhere around 1 GB/s but is bloody good for the price you pay!

As a host mainly designed for developers, DO does a great job. You can make full snapshots of your server, which are free as of now but will be charged for at some point in the future – the same I think for bandwidth. I do not think using DO as a host in a production environment would be a good idea, mostly because of the lack of a high availability system such as automatic failover.

There is also no way in hell you can spin up a server in 55 seconds, and it takes well over 80 seconds in the last 4 I have spun up. This is by no means slow, and many provides who have manual activation can take up to a few days to get everything set up (I’m looking at you goodhosting!).

Pricing at DigitalOcean

DigitalOcean charges $5 a month for their 512MB plan, however this is quite expensive in the lowend market. You can now get similar specs for around $15 a year from someone like Crissic, or HostUS for much cheaper, there are even deals on lowendtalk.com for OpenVZ VPS’s with 4gb ram for $6 a month!

However, this is a full KVM VPS, and hopefully won’t be too oversold on ram or disk space – so you know you are getting guaranteed performance unlike with similar hosts that use OpenVZ where you might have other abusive users on the same node doing some high I/O operations or using all the CPU on the host node. KVM is a little more isolated in this sense, and thus might be a better platform for a proper production server, even though I am not a big fan of using anything shared for production.

DigitalOcean’s Support

In my account I have two support tickets, one is for an incoming DDoS attack and the other is one opened by me to increase my droplet limit. The first ticket about increasing my droplet limit was opened by me, and I got a reply from their support in two minutes – even if it was a predefined reply with them asking for my name, location, phone number, new droplet limit and why I needed more droplets. After I had replied to them with my updated information, it took them around an hour to verify my account and increase my limit.

My second support ticket was a little more concerning, as for some reason they called my droplet Mario! They claimed I had experienced a DDoS attack on my Droplet – however this was just me running a speed test using iperf. Once I explained this to DO, they replied to the ticket and removed the nullroute in around an hour and appologised for the false positive.

Uptime

Two of my three servers with DigitalOcean have 100% uptime in UptimeRobot, and the other has 99.8% due to the nullroute as explained above. I have personally not seen any network dropouts, and I’m even using one of my droplets in London to host an IRC network – that’s how stable it is!

Conculsion

In conclusion, DigitalOcean is a solid host that I would not think twice about in using for development or even light production use. They are not suited for game server hosting due to the lack of a DDoS protection add on like what BuyVM and RamNod have, but their support do recommend cloudflare for use with websites. I will continue to use DO with my three droplets for the foreseeable future. For game server hosting in the UK that is subject to the occasional DDoS attack I will be sure to use a VPS provide in the UK that hosts with RapidSwitch, as their suto null route system is much better.

If you wish to sign up with DigitalOcean yourself, please use my refferal link to get $10 free credit, or sign up directly at https://digitalocean.com

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