There is an incredible number of hosting providers out there, most of them offer you unlimited bandwidth, unlimited sites, unlimited everything, and charge you no more than a few bucks.
To me, if you are serious about hosting your site, and you do not want to have turned off when a large number of visitors start comming, you have to carefully choose a good one. And if you want to have full control over your server, and install as many applications as you like and control the headers of your website, and every little bit, you have to get a VPS (Virtual Private Server).
Well, even with VPS there are still a lot of providers, and you have to choose wisely the one that better fits your needs. For these last weeks I have been working with Digital Ocean.
By the time of writing their prices start on 5 dollars per month per VPS with 512 RAM, 20 GB of disk space (on a SSD disk) and 1 TB transfer. Below a detailed chart of their pricing structure:
The smaller package offers you 1 TB of transfer, which is a lot, and you pay only 2 cents per GB extra once you finish your monthly quota. Each droplet (Like they call their virtual servers) is connected to a 1 Giga bit per second channel, which is enough for almost anything.
They offer SSD disk. The good thing about this, is the speed, you can use swap files to enlarge the RAM of your server, and still have a good performance.
Comparing things is not always good, but in this case I think it is needed. I will compare Digital Ocean vs Linode. To me Linode is one of the best VPS providers, but after testing Digital Ocean I must say that they now have competence.
Comparing them both side by side is not fair, as they do not have similar offers. What I can see is that you have to choose one or the other based on your specific needs. Here is why.
Check them both side by side.
It looks like they are offering the very same thing, but it is not that way. Let's review the first option.
RAM: 512 for Digital Ocean and 1 Gig for Linode.
They both offer the same RAM, so in this field thy are the same.
In this field now Linode is offering twice the RAM than Digital Ocean is offering. RAM is one of the points you should consider the most when choosing your VPS.
2002T GB Transfer with Linode vs 1TB transfer with Digital Ocean You can see clearly that Digital Ocean is offering a lot more, but unless you have an app or site full of graphs you really do not need that much transfer quota.
Now Linode is offering more, and once again, it is really hard to use even the 1 TByte that Digial Ocean is offering. Both are offering a lot here.
Disk Space: 20 GB for Digital Ocean and 24 GB for Linode
Linode is offering more, but Digial Ocean's offer is for SSD. If you have too much disk I/O you may be better with Digital Ocean.
48 cores with Linode, 1 core with Digital Ocean.
Here there is a clear winner, Linode offers you a lot more power for this package
Let's see now, how you should choose, and how to get the best out of your money.
If your application or website is not CPU demanding, you should go for Digital Ocean offer, do not think about it, 5 dollars vs 20 dollars is not something to think about. If your app needs a lot of CPU power, then you should choose Linode, with
4 8 cores you will get that power, but this is only if it is hard to split your app into different servers. With the same 20 dollars, you can have four servers with Digital Ocean, and suddenly you get your four cores, but with 2 GB RAM splitted in four servers, You can have one with the Database (MySQL for example), two servers running your App (Maybe PHP with Apache), and the fourth one, running Varnish or Nginx serving the static assets and balancing the load to the two app servers behind. With Linode you will have to put all those on the same machine, and with 512 GB RAM… Good luck.
That is not true anymore, it will be hard, really hard to split your app in such a way to get the power Linode is offering for 20 dollars. 1 GByte RAM and 8 CPU cores.
It is almost the same for the rest of packages, but there are some times, when you can't split your app, in that case, and if you need a lot of CPU, but not too much RAM, and you can't split your app, then you should go for Linode.
One good thing about Linode is that they clearly and transparently state how many VPS are installed per machine. You can see it here
Because the pricing structure Digital Ocean is offering, and if they do not oversell their server, I think they are here to stay. And for me they are the only ones that can beat Linode.
With the current packages, which one too choose is a matter of how much power you need, if your CPU power or RAM or both, then you should go for Linode. If you want to run a simple app, or you just need to host your blog what gets very few visits, or maybe a family site, then you should stay with Digital Ocean, you will be saving a lot of money and the result will be the same.
I am using on droplet with Digital Ocean, just to run Varnish (it points back to other servers as backends) and it is doing just great. I would never get a Linode server for 20 dollars just to run Varnish. Varnish is a RAM demanding application, so if I need more RAM I can get 2 GBytes for the same 20 dollars that on Linode will only give me 1 Gbyte.
This is a clear example of that never one size fits everybody, you need to carefully check your needs, and go for the best.
As for performance when well configured and support, they are both the same, I have used Linode for years, and Digital Ocean for some months with no problems with none of them.
Edited: 2013-04-08: If you want to read more, you can check an updated example of Linode vs Digital Ocean
Edited: 2013-06-12 To reflect all changes that Linode has made to their offerings.