DigitalOcean vs AWS | Secrets Unlocked

Infrastructure as a service or IaaS cloud computing is highly reliable as a service model for countless businesses across the world. AWS (Amazon Web Services) and Digital Ocean are two of the most prominent IaaS providers for organizations belonging to diverse industry sectors. 

Both of these IaaS platforms offer distinct sets of features and benefits for their users, and AWS also offers PaaS and SaaS options. The DigitalOcean vs AWS question is usually difficult to answer for most business owners and developers. Knowing exactly what each platform offers is crucial for making the right choice. Take a look at the detailed information provided below to get a clearer idea about DigitalOcean and AWS. 

I will unlock the secrets of these two suppliers and here is what you will learn reading this article:

  • What is DigitalOcean? Pricing, features, advantages
  • What is AWS? Pricing, features, advantages
  • DigitalOcean vs AWS | Comparison

What is DigitalOcean?

DigitalOcean is a cloud service provider offering users a fast set-up along with a host of useful IaaS features. It can be used by businesses for hosting applications and websites at affordable costs. Digital Ocean users prefer the simplicity of the platform which makes deployment easier. Its data centers offer adequate security for client resources and applications. 

DigitalOcean provides virtual private servers to its customers in the form of ‘Droplets’. Users can manage their DigitalOcean applications through a CLI command line interface or a web-based interface. Its IaaS platform is relied upon by many reputed large-scale organizations. Users can select the size of Droplets, choose data centers for their applications to run on, and geographical region. 

Digital Ocean Pricing Overview

First things first! DigitalOcean’s pricing structure is simple, easy to understand, and all inclusive. Transfer and SSD costs are already incorporated on the pricing and there is no additional cost for it.

Monthly pricing for DigitalOcean depends on the number of vCPUs (virtual CPUs) developers select. The plans start at $5/month and go up based on parameters SSD disk size, transfer caps, memory caps, and vCPUs.

Users have the option of choosing from Standard Droplets, CPU-Optimized Droplets, General Purpose Droplets, and Memory-Optimized Droplets, Managed Databases, and Spaces Object Storage.

For detailed information, please refer to DO pricing page.

DigitalOcean Features

Droplets

Droplets refer to Linux-based VMs functioning over virtualized systems. Users can create any number of Droplets based on their requirements. They can be used on their own or integrated as part of a larger cloud infrastructure.  

Block Storage

Block Storage is the storage feature of DigitalOcean. It enables users to scale their storage intuitively to create and scale large applications. Block Storage enables storage resizing up to 16TB and is quite reliable. 

Backups

DigitalOcean backups are Droplet disk images created automatically. Users can enable backups weekly which makes getting back to previous application states quite convenient. Backups last for 4 weeks. 

Snapshots

Snapshots refer to a disk imaging feature for cloning Droplets or volumes. They let users create new volumes and Droplets having identical contents. It can be an important feature for preserving one’s assets and does not have a storage time limit. 

Object Storage

The Object Storage feature of DigitalOcean is an architecture for data storage. It enables users to store and manage data in the form of objects, as opposed to storing in blocks. This feature can help your business harness a robust content delivery network infrastructure. 

Kubernetes

DigitalOcean offers Kubernetes managed services for businesses. This feature helps users perform fast Kubernetes deployment and enhance resource usage. DigitalOcean Kubernetes applications can run on any supported environment.

Load Balancers

Load Balancers are fully-managed load balancing services for channeling network traffic to Droplets groups. It helps to ensure that your application services remain online. 

Floating IPs

Floating IPs refer to IP addresses that can be transferred between Droplets within a data center. 

DigitalOcean Advantages

Ease of use

With Digital Ocean it’s possible to create an Ubuntu Droplet in less than 60 seconds. No kidding! The UX is incredible and the learning curve for a new user extremely low.

Reliability Levels

DigitalOcean provides 99.99% up time guarantee. This is a pretty high commitment and will make sure that your droplets will be down less than 1 hour per year maximum.

SSD servers

All Droplets use reliable SSD (Solid State Disks) servers that ensure optimal performance for applications and sites hosted on it.

Low and predictable costs

The low starting costs of DigitalOcean are quite advantageous for developers on a budget, and hourly billing is available. Also, there are no hidden costs for block storage and data transfer.

Documentation

Community pages are updated frequently and there is a lot of information in the form of Q&As and tutorials. The docs are developer friendly and directed to this audience.

What is AWS?

AWS or Amazon Web Services is a cloud platform from Amazon Inc. It is regarded as one of the most popular and widely-used IaaS platforms today. AWS also provides SaaS and PaaS offerings for its worldwide client base which includes numerous reputed organizations.

AWS offers a great number of features that incorporate AI, machine learning, and advanced analytics. Amazon Web Services offer a great deal of security, scalability, and reliability.

AWS features and offerings have revolutionized cloud computing and set the example for many of its competitors. The platform lets you run applications and website servers efficiently. It offers secure file storage, managed database functionality, CDN file delivery, and more.

AWS Pricing Overview

 Pay-as-you-go model

The pay-as-you-go pricing model lets users adapt their AWS plan according to their needs. It helps to cut down the risk of having services capped off. 

S3 Storage Pricing

The S3 (file storage) model has no minimum storage and users can explore a wide variety of plans that vary by geographical locations. Billing is function of GB and storage period (GB/mo).

 EBS Pricing

EBS (block storage) is also a pay-for-what-you-use model with pricing being calculated depending on a user’s requirements. 

Please refer to AWS pricing page here.

AWS Products and Services

The range of products offered by AWS is huge! There are more than 100 offerings on their website and they cover not only infrastructure requirements but also value-added services on top of the IaaS layer. For detailed information please refer to the AWS product page.

For a better comparison with Digital Ocean let’s focus on the features that are similar.

  • EC2 – Are virtual machines that you can use on-demand or sign long term commitments for a discounted price.
  • S3 – File storage service that you can use on demand. Several options with different levels of reliability are available.
  • EBS – Stands for Elastic Block Storage and you attach this service to an EC2 instance to store data.
  • Load Balancers – Automatically distributes incoming application workloads over multiple EC2 instances
  • Kubernetes – Amazon EKS is a managed Kubernetes service provided by AWS.
  • AWS LightSail – This service is pretty similar to DigitalOcean and follows the same principles of all-inclusive pricing, SSD, and block volumes out of the box.

AWS Advantages

Vast range of products and services

As mentioned before, there are more than 100 services and products available. On can do pretty much anything using AWS’s cloud platform and centralize your entire operation under one vendor.

Costs goes down with scale and with long term commitments

AWS provides cost-effective cloud computing options for businesses of all sizes. Also, the more your AWS usage grows, the less you will pay for unit economics.

Second, you can have significant savings using reserved instances or savings plans. The offers vary from 1 to 3 years commitment with AWS.

Third, private contracts. As soon as your usage starts growing you can negotiate private contract with much more favorable rates in comparison to the pricing page.

Scalability

AWS plans and services are quite scalable and adaptable for the needs of most businesses today. They are the first cloud player and dominate more than 30% of market share. So, you can pretty much scale any workload using AWS and have geographical coverage in all world continents.

Security

AWS supports thousands of enterprise customers around the globe and their security protocols follow pretty high standards. Business owners can be assured of getting the highest level of cloud security with AWS.

DigitalOcean vs AWS | Comparison

Now that you know the basics of each provider let’s compare the differences so you can make a better decision on which platform to choose.

Digital Ocean vs AWS | Pricing Structure

Let’s dig into the pricing differences between AWS and DigitalOcean.

General Purpose Instance / Droplet

The pricing model for both companies is different. DigitalOcean provides an all-inclusive, capped, and predictable pricing model. On the other hand, AWS works with a Pay as you go model that charges you based on your usage and without capping the services.

Second, AWS will charge you separably for EC2, data transfer, and EBS costs. DigitalOcean will bundle all the services under a single package.

Let’s now compare the pricing for a General Purpose droplet of Digital Ocean with the same usage of a general-purpose AWS instance in North Virginia.

VariableUnit
Memory16 GB
vCPU4
Data Transfer5 TB
SSD Size50 GB

The pricing for this Droplet at Digital Ocean will be $120/mo.

This Droplet is equivalent to an m5.xlarge instance of AWS. The pricing detailed as follows:

  • The price will be $140/mo for an On-Demand instance
  • The price will be $88.83/mo for a 1-year reserved instance
  • The price will be $60.59/mo for a 3-year reserved instance

To compare apples with apples we still need to add the transfer and SSD cost to the AWS instance. The costs will be as follows:

  • 50GB SSD on AWS will cost $2 per month
  • 5TB of transfer out on AWS will cost $459.45

So, pricing wise Digital Ocean is more competitive than AWS if you fully use your droplet. The main variable that triggers the price difference is the Data Transfer. So, if your application consumes high volumes of data transfer DigitalOcean will be a no brainer for you.

On the other hand, considering only compute and SSD prices, AWS will be a more affordable option if you opt for a 1-year or 3-years reserved instance contract. Considering the 1-year term, the AWS total price will match the DigitalOcean price for approximately 350GB transfer out. Below this data transfer volume, AWS will be more competitive in terms of price.

Please refer to this tool to compare DigitalOcean services with other cloud providers. To calcule AWS prices please refer to this tool.

General Purpose Droplet vs LightSail

AWS has a product called LightSail that offers EC2, SSD, Data Transfer bundled under a single pricing structure. It’s very similar to DigitalOcean and let’s compare these two services.

ProviderEntre level priceSpecs
Digital Ocean$5/mo1GB Memory
1vCPU
1TB Transfer
25GB SSD
Light Sail$3.5/mo512 MB Memory 
1 Core Processor 
20 GB SSD Disk 
1 TB Transfer

Now, let’s compare a virtual machine with the exact same specifications.

  • 4 GB Memory
  • 2 vCPU
  • 80 GB SSD
  • 4 TB Transfer
  • DigitalOcean pricing is $20/month.
  • LighSail pricing is $20/month.

So, for this specific configuration pricing is exact the same on both LighSail and DigitalOcean.

SSD Pricing

  • Digital Ocean pricing is $0.10/GB/month.
  • AWS General Purpose SSD pricing is $0.10/GB/month.

* IOPS limits for Digital Ocean and AWS will vary and not be exactly the same. Please refer to their pricing pages for detailed information.

Object Storage

Digital Oceans provides Object Storage fully integrated with a CDN service. It’s pretty cool and handy! It costs $5/mo for 250GB file storage and 1TB transfer. Extra usage is charged at $0.02/GB/mo storage and $0.01/GB transferred on the CDN. For more information read here.

The equivalent service of AWS is S3. This service has several pricing tiers for different levels of data access requirements and availability zone storage (single or multiple). For the sake of this comparison, let’s go for the S3 Standard. Pricing as follows:

First 50 TB / Month$0.023 per GB
Next 450 TB / Month$0.022 per GB
Over 500 TB / Month$0.021 per GB

AWS does not provide an out-of-the-box CDN service integrated with S3. Let’s add this variable to the pricing comparison. The CDN pricing varies per region and volume. Let’s consider USA and Canada for this comparison.

Per Month  United States & Canada 
 First 10TB $0.085
 Next 40TB $0.080
 Next 100TB $0.060
 Next 350TB $0.040
 Next 524TB $0.030
 Next 4PB $0.025
 Over 5PB $0.020

Fore more information about S3 pricing read here. For Cloudfront (AWS CDN) read here.

So, let’s compare apples to apples and simulate a 250GB S3 Storage with 1TB transfer.

  • 250GB x $0.023 = $5.75
  • 1TB Transfer x $0.085 =$87.04
  • Total Cost: $92.79 (vs $5 of DigitalOcean)

Wow! The bundled package (Storage +CDN) of DigitalOcean is more competitive if you consider both variables. The main difference in pricing is on the CDN. DigitalOcean charges $0.01/GB versus $0.085/GB of AWS.

So, if your application relies heavily on files, images, or video storage and transfer, it is worth looking at DigitalOcean services in a detailed way.

Digital Ocean vs AWS | Up Time Guarantee

Digital Ocean provides 99.99% uptime guarantee for the droplets. Please see below their Service Level Agreement.

DigitalOcean provides a 99.99% uptime SLA for both Droplets and block storage. We refund lost time back to your account at the hourly rate incurred.

Here are the detailed Droplet Policies.

AWS provides 99.99% Service Commitment as detailed below:

AWS will use commercially reasonable efforts to make the Included Services each available for each AWS region with a Monthly Uptime Percentage of at least 99.99%, in each case during any monthly billing cycle (the “Service Commitment”). In the event any of the Included Services do not meet the Service Commitment, you will be eligible to receive a Service Credit as described below. 

Here is the detailed SLA.

So, both providers delivers the same SLA for virtual machines.

Digital Ocean vs AWS | Datacenter Locations

DigitalOcean data centers are spread out to 08 regions around the globe. Details as follows:

  • North America (New York, San Francisco, Toronto)
  • Europe (London, Frankfurt, Amsterdam)
  • Asia (Singapore, Banglore)

AWS data centers are located in 25 different regions. The list includes North America, South America, Africa, Europe, Asia, and Australia. Please refer to the detailed regions list here

AWS is the clear winner in this aspect. In special, if your application will run out of Australia/Africa or needs a worldwide presence. 

Digital Ocean vs AWS | Ease of Use

One thing I really like about DigitalOcean is the easy of use of its platform. Also, it’s designed with developers in mind and have a best in class Ubuntu deployment. It’s pretty easy to use and the learning curve is pretty low.

AWS is a more complex platform and takes a while to get used to it. The learning curve is steeper in comparison to DigitalOcean. On the other hand, it provides more services and delivers higher levels of flexibility.

There is no right or wrong on this aspect. The best choice depends on the project you will create, how familiar you are with both services, and the OS you will use.

Digital Ocean vs AWS | Support Levels

DigitalOcean provides support in the following ways:

  • Ticketing system
  • Documentation
  • Status Page
  • Community Forums

The support is free of charge. I was not able to find on their website information about enterprise support or SLAs. For more info read here.

AWS has 4 different support levels:

  • Basic (Free)
  • Developer (Greater of $29/mo or 3% of monthly usage)
  • Business (Greater of $100/mo or percentage of monthly usage)
  • Enterprise (Greater of $15k or percentage of monthly usage)

For additional information about AWS support please read here.

Comparing the Free support tiers of DigitalOcean and AWS they are very similar and delivers a ticketing system, technical docs, status page, and community forums. Both providers have 24/07 coverage.

What I like about AWS is that it provides more flexibility in terms of support. If the customers are willing to pay for more exclusive support it provides the option at a given price.

Digital Ocean vs AWS | Comparison Table

Digital OceanAWS
BlurbHelps developers easily build, test, manage, and scale applications of any size – faster than ever before.Offers reliable, scalable and affordable cloud computing services.
Start Date20112006
Parent CompanyIndependentAmazon
Employees56363,500
Datacenter Locations0825
Ideal forFastly create and deploy Ubuntu virtual machinesComplex applications
Advantages– Easy of use
– Developer friendly
– Low and predictable costs
– Range of products and services
– Data center locations
– Enterprise Support
Products and ServicesLimitedBroad
PriceIn general, less expensiveIn general, more expensive
Up time guarantee99.99%99.99%
SupportFreeFree or Paid

Conclusion

This article compared DigitalOcean and AWS cloud services.

DigitalOcean is a developer-friendly cloud provider ideal for Ubuntu virtual machines deployment. The platform is easy to use and a beginner can deploy a Ubuntu server in less than 1 minute. Benefits of DO are the low costs, all-inclusive packages, and the ease of use.

AWS is the largest and most important player in the cloud market and has been operating since 2006. The benefits include a broad variety of products and services, multiple data center locations, and enterprise-level security protocols.

I hope you enjoyed reading this article and that it helps you to better select a cloud provider for your future projects.

Disclaimer

  • I have no affiliation with AWS or DigitalOcean.
  • Back4app runs their services on AWS infrastructure.
  • If you find any inconsistency on the article please feel free to report on the comments and I will correct.

General FAQ

What is DigitalOcean?

DigitalOcean is a developer-friendly cloud provider ideal for Ubuntu virtual machines deployment. The platform is easy to use and a beginner can deploy a Ubuntu server in less than 1 minute. Benefits of DO are the low costs, all-inclusive packages, and the ease of use.

What is AWS?

AWS is the largest and most important player in the cloud market and has been operating since 2006. The benefits include a broad variety of products and services, multiple data center locations, and enterprise-level security protocols.

What are the differences between DigitalOcean and AWS?

– DigitalOcean is easier to use, in general it’s less expensive, and it’s ideal for Ubuntu related projects.

– AWS has a broader range o products and services, a global presence in 25 regions, and it’s ideal for complex and sophisticated projects.


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