Cheap hosting with DigitalOcean
This is the fourth installment of my series looking at cheap web hosting. This one is the first installment where I depart from the hosts listed with on Digital.com's list.
DigitalOcean differ from previously reviewed hosts in that they only offer the platform as a service (PaaS) i.e. the virtual servers, databases and other resources. Other hosts offer out-of-the-box hosting solutions, which aren't available from DigitalOcean; however there is a "marketplace" which has pre-configured server profiles to help you get up and running.
The added complexity of needing to be able to configure and maintain things yourself means DigitalOcean is really only for those who have someone technical they can call upon if needed, or for those who are willing to get their hands dirty - even with the 1-click installs on the Marketplace.
There is no option to buy a domain name through DigitalOcean, so that's something you'll need to source elsewhere. You'll also then need to configure DNS to point to the new resource (it could be a droplet (VPS) or load balancer) in order to serve a site from them.
Pricing is fairly transparent with DigitalOcean. Hosting can cost from as little as $4 per month. That's for a basic droplet hosted on shared hardware. The drawback there is that you aren't guaranteed the resource, and some intensive processes on other shared droplets could impact the performance of yours.
The basic droplet, therefore, costs $48 for 12 months; $144 for 3 years, and $240 for 5 years' hosting. That doesn't include the domain name cost, though a 5-year domain registration can be bought for around £50 (yes, domains in pounds sterling and hosting in USD - that's confusing). Total 5-year cost of under £300.
For some dedicated VPS resource prices are a little over 10x the price of the basic hosting, at $42 per month - for CPU-Optimized Droplets. 12-month costs, therefore are $504; 36-month costs are $1512; and 5-years costing $2520. Again, this is without a domain name for each of those price points.
At the entry point $4 per month, you get access to 1vCPU and 512MB RAM. There's 10GB storage available and it comes with 500GB data transfer per month. Not a lot, but it should be enough to get up and running, or to try out a project. I wouldn't expect a lot of performance on that type of hardware if you're wanting to run WordPress or similar blog which needs a database to store the content.
Should you opt for the dedicated resource droplet which is CPU optimised (the cheapest of the dedicated resource droplets) you get 4GB RAM, 2vCPUs, 25GB storage as well as 4TB data transfer. This is more expensive than some of the other hosts we have looked at for VPS, but it's never easy to compare these things unless they have exactly the same specification.
It's easy to upgrade the hosting as you go with DigitalOcean via the dashboard, so don't worry about being stuck with one level of hosting forever.
Support is an area where DigitalOcean are different to other hosts we have looked at. All plans come with 24/7 access to email support, though the response time is given as < 24 hours, so you may not have fast access to the support you need. Spend more than $100 per month and that response time drops to 2-hours.
Up your spend to $1000 per month and it drops further to < 30 minutes. That level also adds the ability to access live-chat support, dedicated business and technical advisors, and a lot of other options which may be useful to a larger spend business user.
You can set the location for your VPS at the point of creating it. There's various options around the world across North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. That should help take care of any data soverignty issues you may come across.
DigitalOcean is certainly a different type of host. They only really sell VPS type products, and solutions to build a cloud-type setup for your hosting. If you are technically minded, or have someone available to you who is, there's a lot more flexibility going with DigitalOcean than you may be able to get easily from other hosts. In fact, I've previously posted a guide to horizontally scaling a Ghost blog on DigitalOcean, which could be used as a basis for performing the same type of scaling to a WordPress blog or other site.
Each DigitalOcean subscription is day-to-day. You can cancel at any time and only pay for what you have used. Don't like them? Move to another host and turn them off.
DigitalOcean try to ride on their $4 entry-level hosting (used to be a $5 one for twice the RAM), but the reality is it's a teaser and you'll pay for more expensive hosting to get the better resource. There's a sweetener with credit for 60-days when you sign up with my referral link. Don't want that, then the link at the start of this article is not an affliate/referral link.