Jan 20, 2018
by Irina Linnik

AWS vs. DigitalOcean: Which Cloud Server Fits You Better?

There’s been a talk recently about DigitalOcean rapidly catching up with Amazon Web Services and of course we could not ignore that.

This story is basically about a relatively small company that found its niche and is now able to call out the market giant. But it’s not a competition – both companies have something special for various types of businesses. Let’s have a closer look at both providers and see what benefits they offer.

The concept of cloud

Before we hop onto the breakdown of the providers, let’s first have a quick look at the cloud itself and see why it matters so much these days.

The cloud is normally referred to a few servers that are associated with the web and they can be contracted as part of product or part of software application. Or it can also mean distributed computing power (a number of servers are connected and share the load).

Anyway, the concept is: many distributed resources acting like the whole. And it has a lot of benefits: high tolerance of errors, no need for expensive infrastructure, saving on utilities and much more.

In addition it’s the tool number one for the companies that operate with Big Data and Big Data management is everything today.

Both DigitalOcean and AWS are cloud service platforms, which offer database storage. They have a lot in common – yet, they have their differences, which help them find their audiences.

DigitalOcean: why so popular?

This new cloud hosting provider was launched in 2011 and since then became well-recognized and beloved by a lot of developers.

One of the unexpected factors for its popularity was the decision by Beyonce to host her album on DigitalOcean in 2013 and it caused a lot of media coverage and attracted great number of new clients. DigitalOcean is also known for its explosive growth.

DigitalOcean focuses on three main selling points: pricing, simplicity and high-performing virtual servers.

They revolve around a simple but effective business model: they are offering developers a quick start for affordable Linux instances (droplets). DigitalOcean supports most Linux distros and several apps can be launched with just one click (such as RoR, Docker and many more).

One of the strongest and recognized DigitalOcean advantages is, with no doubt, it’s pricing. In addition to them being super-affordable (what’s especially valuable for small developer setups), they also have no hidden charges.

The minimal price offered is $0.007/hour or $5/month and you can convert from hourly to monthly pricing with no problem.

DigitalOcean most popular droplet (1Gm memory, 1 core processor, 30GB SSD disk, 2TB transfer) is offered for $0.015/h or $10/month. If we compare the price with Amazon, the closest AWS equivalent starts from $0.026/h.

We also mentioned high-performing virtual machines. All DigitalOcean disk drivers are SSD and the network speed is 1 Gbps. The droplet startup time is 55 seconds only – while large cloud providers have a startup time of 1-3 minutes. Independent performance testing proved DO to be at top of competition, outdistancing even AWS.

Last, but not least is a clear and simple setup. For now it offers only Linux machines and basic services: DNS management and virtual machine. DigitalOcean is a basic IaaS provider for Lnux developers and the company is perfectly fine with it. Nothing fancy – but customers are incredibly happy and that’s DigitalOcean’s strength.

AWS: the market giant

Amazon Web Services don’t need an intro: it’s cloud computing colossus, a monster track and a Goliath. Amazon is a confident market leader and it was estimated that Amazon has as much computing power as its 11 combined competitors.

Amazon offers huge array of solutions and the most well-known of them is its EC2 IaaS solution.

Others include PaaS configuration, storage, databases, load balancing and many more.

In 2013 Amazon also had its moment of fame: it won a contract to create GovCloud for the US Government. How cool is that?

Besides its capacity, Amazon is also famous for its robust database of help documentation but considering the amount of services offered clients will contact support at some point of time anyway. And tech assistance can charge you 10% of your monthly expenditure so that should be kept in mind.

Let the battle begin

OK, it won’t be a battle but more of comparison and closer look at each provider’s pros and cons.

If we look at setup, DigitalOcean is simple but not much simpler than AWS. What makes DigitalOcean stand out is the fact that its UI does not seem scary because it’s not overloaded with buttons, levers and knobs. Couple clicks – and you are ready to go.

As for the time value, with DigitalOcean you will setup MySQL yourself while Amazon saves your time and you won’t be dealing with patches, Operating Systems and updates.

DigitalOcean is a bit superior to Amazon in terms of support but only in case you are new to the cloud. Due to the size of Amazon, its process may seem kinda mechanical and DigitalOcean has a huge community with lots of tutorials, guides, etc.

A bit more pros of DigitalCloud: it has mobile friendly UI and accepts PayPal as form of payment, which Amazon, unfortunately, does not offer.

To sum up, it’s not really a competition because DigitalOcan and Amazon target different audiences.

DigitalOcean suits perfectly for small developers and has clean UI, one-click deployments and high performance.

Amazon has “everyone-approach” with its IaaS/PaaS market of any cloud services you can choose from.

But it’s interesting still that such giant like Amazon faces a competition from a startup. And it’s up to you to decide which one fits you best, but we highly recommend to try DigitalOcean and enjoy the advantages it offers.

As for Middle East, right now Amazon has huge plans for it and is planning to bring the Infrastructure Region to the Middle East. It will be the first AWS Region in the Middle East and it’s built within Amazon plan of global expansion. Amazon plans to have everything ready by the beginning of 2019 and it’s interesting to see how it will affect local IT business.

At the same time the UAE region is seeing many international startups appearing all over the region and many of them are familiar with DigitalOcean and can bring it to local businesses. Time will show which cloud server will be preferred by local developers but DigitalOcean has huge potential that can’t be ignored.

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