Review: DigitalOcean keeps the cloud simple

With a great UI, fast machines, low prices, and useful guides, DigitalOcean is an excellent choice for developers

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At a Glance

The cloud is a big place, and it’s getting bigger as everyone moves more and more computation out of their server rooms into the large datacenters. Amazon is the dominant force in the cloud, but it is far from the only choice. When the market grows this big, niches can develop. DigitalOcean is a company that has found a fertile niche by branding itself as the developer’s choice.

This sounds like an obvious ploy because, well, developers make many of the initial decisions about where to build a new website or database. It’s not like the CEO or the folks in the motor pool have much to do with it.

But there’s a bit more to it. DigitalOcean is going after the independent developers who handle many of the smaller projects for the bazillion smaller companies that need a website. To attract them, it dangles fast response time and low prices, two features that are attractive to the folks who build up and tear down machines all day long. DigitalOcean claims that new machines will be ready in 55 seconds, which sure seems to be true.

The prices are also good. You pay a mere $5 for a month’s rent on the smallest “droplet,” which is DigitalOcean’s term for what others call an “instance” or a “virtual machine.” (DigitalOcean, by the way, seems have its own name for other common terms. Load balancers, for instance, are “floating IP addresses.”)

The $5 droplet is a pretty good deal. You get a small machine with 512MB of RAM, 20GB of SSD storage, and one core of a processor. Billing is done by the hour at seven-tenths of a cent. That’s cheaper than penny candy.

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