Tom's Guide Verdict
DigitalOcean is an excellent developer-focused cloud hosting service with great features and unbeatable performance, held back only by its lack of responsive customer support.
Advanced developer tools
Excellent speeds and uptime
Lacks responsive customer support
Intimidating, advanced UI
Why you can trust Tom's Guide
Founded in 2012, DigitalOcean has its offices in New York, Cambridge (Massachusetts), and Bangalore (India) and data centers across New York, Amsterdam, San Francisco, Singapore, London, Frankfurt, Toronto, and Bangalore. It’s a highly advanced, developer-focused cloud hosting solution from one of the largest providers in the world, and ranks among the best cloud hosting platforms.
In our DigitalOcean review, we take a look at the platform’s unique strengths and weaknesses to determine if it’s the best web hosting service for your business. We find that while the hosting is indeed top quality, Linux users will probably make the best out of this advanced platform.
DigitalOcean: Plans and pricing
DigitalOcean’s pay-as-you-go plan differs from the set packages offered by typical hosting providers, charging you only for the number of resources you need. The hourly rates start at just $0.007 an hour or $5 a month, although this can easily scale to thousands of dollars a month depending on the resources your business uses.
While DigitalOcean does not have a free trial, nor does it offer refunds, there’s a free $100 credit offered to new users that has to be used up within the first 60 days. For those who want to try out the hosting environment before making a commitment, using the credit is probably the best option.
DigitalOcean is a unique, developer-focused, cloud-based web hosting service that’s intended for scalability and advanced use. There are no shared or virtual hosting plans on offer here. However, the company’s interesting pricing model does allow for a lot of flexibility in the number of resources you use. Below, we take a look at the web hosting provider’s notable features.
It does not offer a free domain name or SSL certificate, nor does it rank very well in terms of support. What it does have, though, is a collection of advanced tools meant for professional developers who know what they’re doing. These features include block storage, object storage, load balancing, private networking, and floating IPs, among others.
There’s an assortment of data centers to choose from with DigitalOcean. As mentioned, it has servers located across New York, Amsterdam, San Francisco, Singapore, London, Frankfurt, Toronto, and Bangalore. What’s more, DigitalOcean even allows you to test the performance of each server location right from your account dashboard.
DigitalOcean offers an average uptime of 99.99%, which is rare even in the more expensive cloud-based hosting space. It also boasts really good server speeds, timed at 268ms as per Pingdom. If you are a business that prizes website accessibility above all else, DigitalOcean is undoubtedly the first choice in its category.
DigitalOcean: Interface and in use
DigitalOcean is an advanced solution that prioritizes features over ease of use. That said, however, there are plenty of online tutorials and quality-of-life features to guide you through should you feel lost.
Creating a new account is easy enough. You can even use your Github account to log in, which a lot of developers will appreciate. Once in, you have to build a custom plan for yourself using all the resource options available. If you’re not sure what you need, there’s an option called "Help Me Choose".
Once it’s set up, DigitalOcean’s interface can still be intimidating to use. There are a lot of minute details to account for, and the system does flood you with a lot of information. Thankfully, its knowledge base is an excellent resource, and takes you through the entire step-by-step process should you feel lost.
DigitalOcean isn’t a great option in terms of support. There’s no instant chat or phone number that you can use, leaving you with the cumbersome process of opening a new ticket each time you need help from the customer support team.
Thankfully, there is also a community forum, where you can ask questions of fellow developers and customer support team members alike, although a response isn’t always guaranteed. Users primarily depend on its excellent knowledge base for guidance whenever they run into a problem. The knowledge base is not only vast and well categorized, but also fast and accessible.
While highly technical situations may still require help from the customer support team, general issues can be fixed by following simple instructions.
DigitalOcean offers extra security to advanced developers via SSH keys, provided that they are familiar with coding and can follow its online tutorials to go through a somewhat complicated first-time setup process. This step is actually recommended for all users.
Otherwise, all your data is still protected by the default end-to-end encryption technology, which ensures that malicious actors cannot infect your website with ease.
Alternatives to DigitalOcean
Cloudways is a competitor that actually lets you use DigitalOcean’s hosting environment via its own UI, eliminating the need for most of the complicated and unnecessary technical processes.
The best thing about Cloudways is that it also has other hosting environments you can switch to, including Google Cloud and AWS, should you find this provider unsatisfactory.
Bluehost is a standard web hosting service that offers the usual bells and whistles you may have come to expect from a web host, and is a good choice for those who find it intimidating to use a platform like DigitalOcean.
Bluehost also offers one-click installation for content management systems like WordPress, which is great if you want to use this system to manage your self-hosted website.
DigitalOcean: Final verdict
DigitalOcean is an excellent cloud hosting solution for advanced users who are familiar with coding processes and the Linux environment. It offers great speeds, unbeatable uptime, and excellent performance. The end-to-end encryption is especially attractive to security-conscious website developers.
However, DigitalOcean does falter when it comes to providing customer support, which is a shame since its advanced interface is not meant for all users. Thankfully, a well-organized help center and community forum compensate for the lack of a responsive support team.
Further reading on web hosting and website builders
Looking to build a website? Take a look at the best website builders. Learn which hosting providers we've ranked highest for various hosting types, including the best VPS hosting, the best WordPress hosting, the best Windows hosting, the best Linux web hosting, and the best unlimited hosting.
Ritoban Mukherjee is a freelance journalist from West Bengal, India whose work on cloud storage, web hosting, and a range of other topics has been published on Tom's Guide, TechRadar, Creative Bloq, IT Pro, Gizmodo, Medium, and Mental Floss.