What is Digital Ocean?

This article will explain the Digital Ocean cloud platform, its pros and cons, core products, and pricing structure.

Deploying and scaling applications require businesses to depend on reliable and feature-rich cloud service platforms. Digital Ocean is among the top platform choices for many developers and business owners around the world.

While there are many options out there, this platform stands out due to its ease of use, features, and straightforward pricing. It offers many useful features to facilitate cost-effective hosting and deployment

Read on to know more about Digital Ocean, its features, and pricing.

Digital Ocean Overview

Digital Ocean is a popular cloud service solution equipped with robust infrastructure and that provides multiple services.

It is utilized mainly for application and website hosting use cases and is preferred by users due to its ease of use. Digital Ocean data centers offer a high level of security for applications. 

Virtual Private Servers or VPS offered by Digital Ocean to users are known as Droplets. Users of the platform can manage their applications through a web-based UI or CLI – Command Line Interface.

The Digital Ocean IaaS platform is a popular choice for many large enterprise clients globally due to its reliability. It lets users choose parameters such as data centers for applications, Droplet size, and geographical region.

Digital Ocean History

Digital Ocean started as a managed hosting business named ServerStack under the leadership of Ben and Moisey Uretsky in 2003. The duo wanted to create a product through the combination of virtual servers and web hosting.

They analyzed the cloud hosting industry to observe a trend that there were fewer hosting options for software development companies. Digital Ocean was founded in 2011 for delivering cloud hosting and server provisioning services for developers.

Uretskys and co-founder Mitch Wainer met in 2012, and the beta version of Digital Ocean was launched during the same year. The Digital Ocean team consisted of the Uretsky brothers, Jeff Carr, Mitch Wainer, and Alec Hartman, in 2012. During the same year, the company became a part of the TechStars startup accelerator.

The company reached a milestone of 400 customers and 10,000 cloud server instance launches by August 2012. 

Droplets, the new virtual machines of Digital Ocean, were announced in January 2018. The company’s Kubernetes container service was also announced in May 2018.

Mark Templeton, the former Citrix CEO, became the new CEO of Digital Ocean by replacing Ben Uretsky. Former SendGrid CFO Yancey Spruill replaced Templeton in 2019.

Digital Ocean Advantages

Below we will discuss some of Digital Ocean advantages over other cloud platforms.

Low Data Transfer Costs

Digital Ocean provides extremely low transfer out pricing. The bandwidth cost is as low as $0.01/GB. It’s an excellent option for network-heavy applications like Audio & Video streaming, cloud storage, and web conferencing.

The other advantage is the bandwidth the price simplicity.

  • Price is the same for all regions;
  • Price is the same for all bandwidth volumes;
  • There is a generous bandwidth quota for each droplet;

The table below compares Digital Ocean bandwidth costs with AWS, Azure, and GCP regular pricing.

BandwithRemarks
Digital Ocean$0.01Same price for all regions and volume.
AWS$0.09For the first 10TB in North Virginia. Price for other regions will vary.
GCP$0.12For the first 1TB in Iowa.
Azure$0.0875From North America do any destination. Volume range from 5GB-10TB/Month.

Uptime Guarantee

The second advantage of Digital Ocean is its reliability. The service has an uptime guarantee of 99.99% for Virtual Machines and storage. It means Digital Ocean guarantees less than 1-hour downtime per year.

The SLA – Service Level Agreement for Digital Ocean aligns with AWS, and there are no significant differences regarding this variable. The way GCP and Azure measure the SLA is different, and they segregate it between a single instance availability and multiple instances availability.

The table below summarizes the differences and more details; please read the SLAs referenced in this article.

Uptime GuaranteeRemarks
Digital Ocean99.99%
AWS99.99%The service uptime commitment for AWS is the same.
GCP99.50%The compute SLA for a single instance is lower. The SLA for instances in multiple zones is 99.99% or higher.
Azure99.50%The SLA for a single instance is lower. The SLA for instances in multiple zones is 99.99% or higher.

Ease of Use

The other advantage of Digital Ocean is the ease of use and its straightforwardness over its products and services.

  • UI and UX are great and clean
  • You can deploy a new Droplet in less than a minute
  • The console is extremely intuitive and simple to navigate
  • Easy to use management panel, analytics and metrics

On top of that, there are plenty of tutorials explaining how to start with Digital Ocean, and it shall be an easy task for seasoned or junior developers.

Predictable Pricing Structure

The way Digital Ocean handles pricing is straightforward and easy to understand. Generally speaking, the products will have a bundled price that will cover:

  • Memory
  • Number of vCPUs
  • Bandwidth
  • Disk Size

Billing works by the hour, and there is no price difference for long-term commitments. The pro-rated hourly price is the same as the monthly price. For instance, let’s consider the example below for a better understanding.

  • Entry level Virtual Machine
  • $5/month or $0.007
  • RAM: 1GB
  • vCPU: 1
  • Bandwidth: 1TB
  • SSD Disk: 25GB

The entire package above will cost you $5 per month. If you use less than 1TB network or the 25GB SSD will cost you the same $5 per month. If you use more than 1TB network or 25GB, you can contract additional bandwidth and storage.

Developer Centric

A fantastic developer experience has forever been at the heart of what Digital Ocean does. It understands what is essential to developers and what gets in the way. Examples of developer-centric services are:

  • APIs and Tools
  • Deploy button
  • CLI
  • Pre-Built Images
  • Amazing documentation

Digital Ocean also has a vast community of developers supporting each other on their community page. Lastly, the documentation is very well structure, clear, updated, and provides in-depth content.

Digital Ocean Disadvantages

Below we will discuss some of Digital Ocean limitations over other cloud platforms.

Power off instances

When a Digital Ocean instance is powered off, it will keep charging you. The reason for that is because it is still using up space on the server. It’s required to destroy it to stop the charges. Please read here to know more.

This process is slightly different on other clouds. For instance, on AWS/GCP/Azure when you stop a instance it will only charge you for the block storage associated to the virtual machine, but will not charge for the virtual machine itself.

It is a significant disadvantage over other clouds, in particular for non-production environments. For example, a company can have a testing environment on AWS/Azure/GCP running 8 hours per day during business days and stop the instance during the nights and weekends.

On the other hand, this process is not possible with Digital Ocean, and you would either destroy the Droplet to avoid the costs or keep accounting for the expenses 24/7.

Let’s use an easy to understand example to understand the concept. Let’s consider a $5 per month Droplet on Digital Ocean and a t3.micro instance on AWS. Let’s consider the following specifications:

Digital OceanAWS
TypeBasic Droplett3.micro
Memory2GB1GB
vCPUs11
Storage25 GB25 GB
Price$10/mo$9.99/mo

$7.592/mo for the VM
+
$2.5/mo for Storage

Considering computing power and storage, the AWS and Digital Ocean pricing will be pretty much the same, and AWS will benefit from not charging for computing power when the instance is stopped.

Let’s simulate this scenario for a testing server running 5×8 (22 business days) during a one month period. It will cost $10 using Digital Ocean and $4.33 on AWS ($1.83 for the VM and the same $2.5 for storage).

Please note that this simulation did not take into consideration the bandwidth costs. Digital Ocean is very advantageous for network-intensive applications, and if we consider the total 1TB egress available on Digital Ocean’s package, it would still be more affordable versus AWS.

Details below:

Digital OceanAWS
1TB Transfer$10/mo$96.49/mo
63 GB Transfer$10/mo$10/mo
1 GB Transfer$10/mo$5.23

So, the price comparison is not straightforward and depends on the following variables:

  • Hours per month the VM will not be used
  • Storage Size
  • Bandwidth

Generally speaking, Digital Ocean will be advantageous for network-intensive applications, and AWS/GCP/Azure an excellent choice for testing environments with low egress and that are not used 24/7.

The table below compares what happens when you stop an instance on the major cloud providers.

Is the instance charged?Are the resources attached charged?
Digital OceanYesYes
AWSNoYes
GCPNoYes
AzureNoYes

Limited Locations

Compared to other cloud providers, Digital Ocean offers a relatively small number of deployment regions. It encompasses a total of eight regions distributed across North America, Europe, and Asia. There are no datacenters in South America or Oceania.

The table below helps to understand how small Digital Ocean is versus other major cloud providers.

Number of RegionsLocations
Digital Ocean8New York, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Singapore, London, Frankfurt, Toronto, and Bangalore.
AWS24It covers all continents.
AzureMore than 50It covers all continents.
GCP24It covers all continents.

The limited locations of Digital Ocean may or may not affect your company. If your businesses are primarily located in the US or Europe, the Digital Ocean will be a feasible option. For companies located in South America, New Zealand, and Australia, the nearest data center location may impact overall latency and performance.

No Free Tier

Digital Ocean does not provide a Free Tier for its services. Considering that other major cloud providers have free tier available, this is considered a disadvantage of Digital Ocean.

Free Tier
Digital OceanNo
AWSYes
GCPYes
AzureYes

It’s important to emphasize that Digital Ocean offers Free Trial Credits to new customers, and not all products/services from AWS/Azure/GCP have a free tier available. 

Limited Products

The scope of products and services offered by Digital Ocean is limited versus other cloud providers. Digital Ocean mainly offers:

  • Virtual Machines
  • Kubernetes
  • Databases
  • App Platform
  • Block Storage
  • Object Storage
  • Networking (VPC, Load Balancers, IPs, DNS, and Firewalls)
  • Developer Tools

On the other hand, providers like AWS/Azure/GCP deliver a much broader range of products and services.

Digital Ocean Products 

Below are the core products from Digital Ocean.

CategoryProductPrice
DropletsBasic
General Purpose
CPU-Optimized
Memory-Optimized
Storage-Optimized
Starts $5/month
Starts $60/month
Starts $40/month
Starts $80/month
Starts $125/month
KubernetesKubernetesFree
App PlatformStarter
Basic
Professional
Free
$5/month
$12/month
StorageBlock Storage
Object Storage
CDN
$0.1/GB/month
$5/month for 250GB
$0.01/GB
Managed DatabasesPostgres
MySQL
Redis
Pricing starts at $15/mo
NetworkingVPC
Firewall
Load Balancers
Floating IPs
DNS
$0.01/GB Transfer Out
Free
Starts at $10/month
Free + $4/month
Free
Developer ToolsAPIs
Client Libraries
CLI
Terraform
GitHub Actions
Custom Images
Container Registry
Free
Monitoring ToolsMonitoring
Projects
Teams
Free

Let’s discuss in detail each product.

Droplets

Droplets are Linux-based VMs offered by Digital Ocean function on top of virtualized hardware. A Droplet can be used as part of a cloud-based setup or as a standalone unit. The basic Digital Ocean Droplets and most Droplet plans can be accessed across all regions.

Pricing Structure for Droplets

Digital Ocean Droplets are available across five different plans. One of the plans is offered with a shared CPU while the others are dedicated CPU plans. The plans are:

  • Basic Droplets – Pricing starts at $5/mo
  • General Purpose Droplets – Pricing starts at $60/mo
  • CPU-Optimized Droplets – Pricing starts at $40/mo
  • Memory-Optimized Droplets – Pricing starts at $80/mo
  • Storage-Optimized Droplets – Pricing starts at $125/mo

Kubernetes 

Digital Ocean Kubernetes refers to the company’s managed Kubernetes offering that enables effortless Kubernetes cluster deployments for the platform’s users. They get freedom from having to deal with the difficulties associated with the control plane and infrastructure maintenance.

Clusters enjoy compatibility with conventional Kubernetes toolkits and native integration with block storage volumes and Digital Ocean Load Balancers.

Pricing Structure for Kubernetes 

Kubernetes feature is free of charge, and Digital Ocean only charges for the underlying resources.

Kubernetes’ cost is based on the cluster resources. Digital Ocean nodes are created atop Droplets, with the main node being offered free of cost to customers and managed by Digital Ocean.

App Platform 

The Digital Ocean App Platform is the Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) solution that facilitates code publication to the provider’s servers without users having concerns about the base infrastructure.

The App Platform is capable of performing automatic analysis of code or utilizing code from GitHub, public repositories, and GitLab. It publishes applications on the cloud and is also capable of publishing a container image that has been uploaded to the Container Registry of Digital Ocean.

Pricing structure for the App Platform

The three pricing plans of the app platform are:

  • Starter: It is a free plan suitable for users who want to test out the App Platform and deploy static sites. The Starter plan lets users perform three free static site deployments, with them having to pay a rate of $3/mo for every additional site. 
  • Basic: This plan starts from $5/month for a single container. The Basic tier is suitable for the application prototyping needs of users. 
  • Professional: The App Platform Professional plan starts at a rate of $12/month, giving one container to the user. This plan is more well-suited for production application deployments. 

Dynamic applications with static site components are deployed across Basic and Professional tiers at no extra cost to the user. 

Storage

There are two types of storage available on Digital Ocean. They are the Block Storage and Object Storage. To know more about the differences, please read here.

  • Block Storage

Digital Ocean Block Storage lets users assign additional volumes to Droplets effortlessly. Block Storage volumes work like conventional block devices on being linked to servers. It enables users to handle storage requirements with tried and tested tools.

Pricing structure for Block Storage

The pricing for Block Storage starts at $0.1/GB per month.

  • Object Storage 

Spaces refers to an S3-compatible object storage service that lets users store and provide large volumes of data. A Space functions as a place for keeping files and serving them.

The Content Delivery Network of Spaces is a built-in feature that reduces load times, enhances performance, and helps users cut down on infrastructure and bandwidth expenses.

Pricing structure for Object Storage

The base rate of a Spaces subscription is $5/month and gives you the ability to create multiple Spaces. Users of this subscription get 250 GB of data storage on Spaces and pay $0.02/GB if their storage requirements exceed this limit. Users who cancel their subscriptions are charged on an hourly basis.

Content Delivery Network    

The Spaces Content Delivery Network is provided to users at no extra cost. The transfer allowance of the base subscription of Spaces encompasses origin bandwidth and CDN bandwidth. This allowance is used for calculating transfer between origin servers and origin. 

Pricing structure for CDN

The price for data transfer out is very affordable and costs $0.01/GB.

Managed Databases

Managed Databases of Digital Ocean refers to an agile and fully-managed database cluster service. This service gives users a suitable option that reduces the need for performing database installation, maintenance, configuration, and other related tasks.

Clusters comprise daily backups featuring point-in-time recovery (PITR), along with end-to-end SSL and standby nodes. Managed databases are scalable offerings and ensure that infrastructures are robust. When a user creates a new managed database cluster, it is placed within a Virtual Private Network.

Pricing Structure for Managed Databases

Managed Databases of Digital Ocean are priced based on parameters such as memory, disk size, vCPUs, standby nodes, and rates per month or per hour.

The starting point for a managed database is $15/mo and covers databases like Postgres, MySQL or Redis.

Networking

Networking lets Digital Ocean users easily control application traffic flow through their own private networks, load balancing, and traffic filtering. The networking components include Cloud Firewalls, Load Balancers, Virtual Private Cloud (VPC), DNS, and Floating IPs. All of these are essential for ensuring optimal networking management for Digital Ocean servers.

  • VPC 

VPC or Virtual Private Cloud is Digital Ocean’s isolated cloud resources network. It helps users gain more control over resource communications. Users of the platform can easily create multiple VPCs using CLI, API, or its dashboard. VPCs are created automatically for user resources if network settings are not customized.

Pricing structure for VPC

  • Free inside the VPC
  • Transfer out $0.01/GB

The next service is Cloud Firewall.

  • Cloud Firewall 

Cloud Firewall is a networking component that filters out unnecessary traffic through filtering. Upstream filtering is beneficial in maintaining optimal security.

Users can define filtering rules with Firewall and easily assign those to Droplets. The component also lets them ensure security for multiple Droplets through tagging. Cloud Firewall rules are also visible centrally, and users can edit rules with ease.

Pricing structure for Cloud Firewall

Cloud Firewall is free as a feature that comes with the Digital Ocean Managed Database. 

  • Load Balancers 

Load Balancers are used for effortlessly scaling applications through high availability load balancing that helps users access available resources. This feature has been designed to offer optimal performance and scalability to users. Load Balancers run without interruption even when there are anomaly incidents. 

Load Balancers are capable of performing auto SSL provisioning and renewal with Let’s Encrypt (another component on the platform). They provide HTTP/2 support, let users perform fast provisioning, and effortless management through API or Control Panel. 

Pricing structure for Load Balancers

Load Balancer pricing is categorized as Small, Medium, and Large, with costs of $10, $30, and $60 per month. They offer between 10,000 to 40,000 simultaneous connections, with 250 – 1000 maximum simultaneous connections per second.

  • Floating IPs 

Digital Ocean’s floating IPs refer to static IPs that can be publicly accessed. Users can assign these addresses to their Droplets and perform remapping to other Droplets within the data center.

Floating IPs help to create and implement a failover configuration to create a high availability infrastructure. They are ideal for network traffic redirection among Droplets and ensure that they retain their original IP address.

Pricing structure for Floating IPs

Floating IPs are available for free when assigned to Droplets. If they are not assigned to Droplets, they cost about $4 per month. 

  • DNS 

Digital Ocean users can add a domain to their account to perform effortless domain DNS record management through API and control panel. User-managed databases are also integrated with Spaces and Load Balancers for enhancing automatic SSL management.

Digital Ocean DNS lets users manage their Digital Ocean based and external DNS records seamlessly. Users do not have to pay anything for availing DNS management.

Pricing structure for Floating DNSs

DNS management is free of charge.

Developer Tools

Digital Ocean Developer Tools refer to a set of tools that help developers optimize their use of the platform’s features and functionalities. They facilitate effective resource management and ecosystem-wide integration.

  • API 

Digital Ocean API lets users perform easy management of resources and Droplets on the platform using convenient HTTP requests. It also provides all the functionality one can get through the platform’s Control Panel, making complex actions a lot easier for users to perform. Users are able to utilize various request methods such as GET, DELETE and POST with API.

  • Client Libraries 

Client Libraries refer to libraries that help users harness the Digital Ocean API features across different programming languages. Currently, the Digital Ocean platform offers 19 libraries for users.

  • CLI

CLI is a component that enables Digital Ocean users to perform infrastructure management through its terminal. 

  • Terraform Provider

The Digital Ocean Terraform provider is utilized for interacting with resources that the platform supports. Users need to configure it with the right credentials before using it. 

  • GitHub Actions

GitHub Actions lets Digital Ocean users automate the platform’s infrastructure based on GitHub activity. 

  • Custom Images

Custom Images is a feature that lets users create cloud environments through server provisioning using custom images. Users can do the same from their preferred Linux distributions.

  • Container Registry

The Container Registry lets users perform effortless and secure storage and management of their private container images. 

Pricing structure for Developer Tools

Developer Tools are free of charge.

Management Tools

  • Monitoring 

Monitoring is a tool for the easy collection and management of system metrics. It has several features that can be accessed through an intuitive control panel. Monitoring can be used for monitoring various parameters such as disk usage, disk I/O, CPU usage, memory, and bandwidth.

  • Projects

Projects are a tool used to manage resources like Spaces, Load Balancers, and Spaces as groups to enhance workflows. It makes managing your projects an easy and simple process. Users can avail of this tool free of cost.

  • Teams 

Teams is a secure collaboration tool with two-factor authentication and can be accessed by many users to ensure hassle-free collaboration.

Pricing structure for Management Tools

Management Tools are free of charge.

Conclusion

Digital Ocean is considered among the top cloud infrastructure as service providers by developers across the world. It offers a plethora of features at attractive rates. Please look at the different features and functionalities mentioned above to get an idea of how your projects can benefit from using them.

FAQ

What is Digital Ocean?

Digital Ocean is a popular cloud service solution equipped with robust infrastructure and that provides multiple services like Virtual Machines, Load Balancers, Databases, Developer Tools, etc.

What are Digital Ocean core products?

– Virtual Machines
– Storage
– Kubernetes
– Networking
– Managed Databases
– App Platform
– Developer Tools
– Monitoring Tools

What is the price of Digital Ocean?

– Virtual Machines start at $5/month
– Managed Databases start at $15/month
– Data Transfer costs $0.01/month
– Block Storage costs $0.1/GB/month
– Object Storage costs $5/month for 250GB
– App Platform starts at $5/month
– Developer Tools are free of charge
– Monitoring Tools are free of charge


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