It's been about 2-3 years since I transitioned from Hostgator, a popular shared hosting service, to DigitalOcean, a popular and affordable VPS hosting service. At the time, I didn't know a thing about how to deploy a website, much less any commands on a Linux-based operating system (other than rm -rf which my friend back in university would always joke about deleting the main operating system's system folder).
This post is meant for web developers. If you are someone who is non-technical, steer clear from this post, it is not meant for you but you are welcome to read it for fun.
There are a lot of hosting solutions for more advanced websites, such as Amazon AWS, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, Heroku, etc. However, despite knowing about these services, I chose DigitalOcean.
Why DigitalOcean makes a great first VPS hosting platform for beginners?
DigitalOcean Services Are Less Confusing To Understand
First of all, they don't obscure things too much to the point where, as a beginner, you wonder which package or component is right for you. Here's a screenshot of Amazon AWS as an example of all of their available hosting services:
As you can see, they have a lot of options to choose from for each category. Of course, for the more experienced or veteran web developer, you can easily figure it out. However, this article is targeted towards beginners.
Disclaimer - I'm not hating on any web hosting services. I think Amazon AWS is great for a certain crowd, etc.
This reminds me of an episode where Gordan Ramsey (the superstar chef) goes to certain restaurants to give their business some help. One of them had a menu filled with a lot of options for each course. This not only made more work and stress to get the old stock of food out of their fridge, but it also overwhelms the customer when it comes to choosing something to eat. The solution was to eliminate most of the items from the menu, and keep it minimal.
DigitalOcean Allows Beginners To Learn The Basics And Importance Of Linux For Web Deployment
One of the things why DigitalOcean makes a great first VPS hosting platform for beginners is it encourages web developers to learn about Linux for web deployment. Unlike Google Cloud or Amazon AWS, you don't have to use a API and add it to your code to deploy the website. With DigitalOcean, you get right into it once you created a new VPS hosting instance (aka a 'Droplet'). After that, everything you need to do is done via SSH and your preferred way to transfer your website source code to the VPS instance (e.g. Github).
Users get to install things like Apache or Nginx from scratch. Users get to figure out LetsEncrypt from scratch. Users will have to learn some basic Linux commands to navigate around and to do things in the VPS. If anything goes wrong, users always have the option to delete the entire Droplet (or restore from a backup copy of the Droplet image) and start all over again.
DigitalOcean Doesn't Need Extra API Configurations
As I mentioned before, DigitalOcean doesn't need extra API configuration to make your website work with their hosting services.
In addition, another benefit that results from this (which may depend on your website's architecture and how you setup digitalocean instances), is that you don't get locked in to their platform.
Unlike Amazon AWS and Google, you'll probably be locked in once you scale, grow, and become more dependent on their cloud hosting services.
DigitalOcean Has One-Click Installation Setup Options
I'm sure most hosting plans have this feature by now, so it's not really a main selling point, but I'll mention it anyways. DigitalOcean also has one-click installation setup options.
DigitalOcean Has A Nice UI Design
The user dashboard where you can manage your account and droplets has a very nice looking UI design. It's clean, modern, and minimalistic. No clutter at all.
DigitalOcean Is Budget Friendly
DigitalOcean has a clear pricing system. Their lowest droplet plan starts at $5/mo. You only get charged while the VPS instance exists. You still get charged even if you "Turn Off" the VPS instance. The charge only stops once you delete the VPS instance.
With the lowest droplet plan, you get the following:
- 1 vCPU
- 1 GB RAM
- 25 GB SSD Disk Storage
- 1 TB Bandwidth
It's pretty good, and it supports multiple domains! Take that shared hosting plans (although it is not a fair comparison though)...
Not only that, if you sign up through a referral link, you get a $10 credit which, if you choose the lowest tier, will get you 2 months of free VPS hosting! Here's my referral link if you are interested: https://m.do.co/c/80a2e0cdadde
DigitalOcean Has An Active Community On Their Forums
Finally, they have an activity community on their forums. You can also find a lot of helpful guides that help beginners with certain issues when it comes to setting up certain websites, etc. Very handy especially for someone who is starting out without knowing a thing about Linux-based operating systems.
The Not So Great About DigitalOcean
Because users have fine grain control over the VPS instance, security becomes a major issue if the VPS instance is not configured properly via SSH. You can risk getting your website hacked.
When it comes time for you to scale your website, you have to setup your VPS instances from scratch. The entire architecture is in your hands. Sure, you can make the process a little bit less painful and faster via the One Click Apps, but you still have additional setup and configuration work to do in the VPS instance.
So if you are someone who has moved on from just purely HTML/CSS/JS and onto more advanced frameworks like Laravel, Node.js, etc., I highly recommend you to use DigitalOcean at least for a few months just to learn the basics of Linux for web deployment. Doing so will be very beneficial and educational at the same time. You'll have a better understanding of how everything works and communicates. Not only that, once you start looking into scalability and microservices, you'll start to see how all the pieces fit together without anything like a API to obscure the entire process. Yes, it may be a bit tedious at first, but again, it is very educational. If you are interested in fine-grain control over your web host operating system, well, there you have it! I absolutely do not recommend VPS hosting services to non-technical people though.