Looking to compare DigitalOcean vs AWS? You’re in the right place. In this article, we’ll be deep-diving into both platforms to see which cloud provider is the best option.
DigitalOcean is a cloud infrastructure provider headquartered in the United States, and at a glance offers simple yet powerful cloud services. While giants like AWS and Google Cloud dominate most of the market, DigitalOcean stands out by offering simplified pricing and service packages in an industry that is often ripe with clutter and confusion.
Currently, DigitalOcean offers 25 different services such as team management, database hosting, data storage, and network virtualization. Globally the platform has 13 datacenter regions located in several major cities such as Toronto, Frankfurt, Bangalore, New York, and San Francisco.
While DigitalOcean does offer many cornerstone services, its lack of overall products can make it feel limiting when comparing DigitalOcean vs AWS. Let’s take a brief look at the types of services DigitalOcean offers.
Computing & Hosting – Currently DigitalOcean offers on-demand virtual private servers with customizable hardware configurations. A full Kubernetes suite allows for scalable cloud-native apps, while the dedicated App Platform focuses on offering a fully managed and flexible solution for launching apps quickly and predictably.
Storage – DigitalOcean offers both object and volume block storage as well as compatibility for local SSDs. Spaces Content Delivery Network is a CDN service that can provide content globally through a simple API structure with S3 compatibility.
Databases – Features PostgreSQL, MySQL, and managed Redis hosting.
Networking – Provides cloud-based firewalls, DNS, load balancing, and Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) with resource provisioning.
Tools – In addition to traditional cloud services, DigitalOcean also hosts software to manage your applications, infrastructure, and even your staff. DigitalOcean Teams and Projects help you organize resources and collaborate through a customizable platform.
Amazon Web Services Overview
Amazon Web Services (AWS) is a subsidiary of Amazon.com and offers a full-stack suite of cloud services for both the public and private sector. With over 175 services AWS has quickly become a household name among enterprises and small businesses alike.
AWS has about 75 data centers scattered around the world covering five regions and 77 availability zones. In addition to geographic locations, AWS reports they also have seven dedicated wavelength zones for providing wide-scale 5G services to IoT and other industries. AWS proves it has ample and competitive coverage when compared to IBM Cloud and other competitors.
Below are a few core services AWS offers.
Computing & Hosting – Through 11 different products, AWS offers flexible networking tools to cater to a variety of needs. Virtual Private Servers (VPS) can be hosted and launched in the cloud while Amazon EC2 lets you scale those services in a predictable way. AWS also has a feature called Wavelength, which can deliver ultra-low latency applications for 5G devices, which is great for IoT.
Machine Learning – Offers AI and ML services without the need to train an algorithm. Tools like DeepLens can analyze and identify events through a video feed while Amazon Comprehend can ingest massive amounts of text and provide insights and relationships based on patterns and anomalies. There are a few unique tools such as DeepRacer which allows you to program scale model vehicles and DeepComposer which enables machine learning to use a musical keyboard.
Storage – Like Google Cloud, AWS offers a series of flexible storage ranging from high-performance file systems to low-cost archive storage. AWS also offers CloudEndure and AWS backup which act as disaster recovery and AWS service synchronization.
Databases – Features products that can manage and host SQL and NoSQL databases as well as provide in-memory caching through Amazon ElastiCache. Amazon RDS allows for additional flexibility for other databases such as PostgreSQL, Oracle, and MariaDB.
Networking – Allows for the creation of isolated cloud resources with Amazon VPC and granular control of your applications with AWS Web Application Firewall. Other features include a Content Delivery Network (CDN), load balancing, application hosting, and cloud DNS.
Big Data – Amazon Braket offers a fully managed quantum computing service geared towards massive datasets used for research and discovery. A combination of classic and quantum algorithms can be run against massive datasets with those results being available in an Amazon S3 bucket.
When comparing DigitalOcean vs AWS solely on their service offerings, AWS has DigitalOcean beat by volume. But when it comes to medium-sized companies moving quickly in the cloud, DigitalOcean’s simplified product range truly begins to shine.
Let’s get a bit more granular and compare DigitalOcean vs AWS head to head based on their features, starting with storage.
In this section, we’ll be comparing both object storage, and block storage capabilities between the two platforms. Fast and reliable block storage is critical for hosted applications and services. While flexible object storage is important when balancing accessibility and cost. Let’s take a look at how DigitalOcean stacks up against AWS when it comes to block storage.
|Block Storage Features||DigitalOcean||AWS|
|Volume Size||1GB to 16TB||1GB to 16TB|
|Replication||Built-in redundancy||Built-in redundancy|
|Encryption||AES-256 bit||AES-256 bit|
|Volume Duplication||Yes, with snapshots||Yes, with snapshots|
|Max IOPS||5000 IOPS||20,000 (Provisioned) Max 75,000 per instance|
Max input-output per second (IOPS) is a common way to measure disk performance and is closely dependent on the size of the block compared to the queue depth. IOPS can be influenced by factors such as block size, disk speed, network speed, and location. Local disks will always have higher IOPS than when moving over a network.
Moving towards object storage, we’ll compare both DigitalOcean and AWS to see what products they offer and what limitations are set in place.
|Object Storage Features||DigitalOcean||AWS|
|Size Limit||5/TB per object||5/TB per object|
|Hot Storage Platform||Spaces||S3 Standard|
|Cool Storage Platform||Spaces||S3 Infrequent Access|
|Cold Storage Platform||Spaces||Glacier|
You’ll notice right away that both platforms are identical when it comes to object size and number limitations. Interestingly DigitalOcean does not have separate products differentiating hot, cool, and cold storage.
Hot storage options will need to have the ability to quickly upload and download files, where cold storage is built for more archival purposes and is usually a slower but cheaper option. AWS separates products for each of these methods of storage and even offers intelligent tiering which moves objects between each storage platform automatically based on usage.
DigitalOcean takes a simpler approach by categorizing all object-based storage under one product called Spaces which charges a flat $5.00 per month for 250GB of storage space per month, with additional storage costing $0.02/GBs.
Even just at a glance, you can see the AWS storage space services are more complex, and in some circumstances more expensive. DigitalOcean has a simple pricing calculator with a built-in comparison of what you would pay using either AWS or Google Cloud.
To compete with simpler storage solutions and companies like DigitalOcean, AWS launched Amazon Lightsail. Lightsail also has its own simple calculator aimed at serving small businesses. If you compare DigitalOcean to Lightsail you’ll find that you can still get similar configurations for less per month.
No matter how much data you’re able to store, you’re still going to need a reliable network to access it. Let’s review each platform’s reliability in terms of uptime, customer support, and service level agreement (SLA) guarantees.
Both DigitalOcean and AWS offer robust SLAs combination for downtime. Each platform handles this compensation a bit differently. Let’s start with DigitalOcean.
DigtalOcean offers a 99.99% uptime service level agreement for both its Droplet virtual environments as well as its block storage service. A credit will be applied back to the impacted account based on an hourly rate.
Unfortunately, its SLA policy is lacking some serious context. There is no specification if its 99.99% uptime is monthly or yearly. There also isn’t a detailed outline of what rate you are credited back after this SLA is breached.
For smaller businesses, this might not be a deal-breaker, but for larger corporations or managed service providers, an outage could result in a considerable amount of revenue lost. In this case, DigitalOcean’s overly simple policies end up hurting them.
AWS on the other hand credits accounts based on the monthly deviation for its 99.99% SLA. If that uptime drops below 95% in one month, it offers a full 100% credit back towards your account. AWS also requires you to submit a claim to receive these credits along with log files showing the outage.
|AWS Monthly Uptime Percentage||Service Credit Percentage|
|Less than 99.99% but equal to or greater than 99.0%||10%|
|Less than 99.0% but equal to or greater than 95.0%||30%|
|Less than 95.0%||100%|
Customer Support through DigitalOcean now comes in three tiers: Developer, Business, and Premier. Developer support comes free with all accounts and includes ticket-based cases accessible 24/7. Access to the self-help knowledge base is also free but can feel limiting at times. The status of all DigitalOcean servers and products can be tracked via its status page.
Business support is free for anyone who is spending over $500.00 per month and includes infrastructure assistance, third party support, and a team of customer success managers. Lastly, Premiere support is available for an undisclosed monthly fee that is likely tied to your organization’s size. This tier offers 30 minutes of response times, a dedicated account manager, and advanced solutions engineering.
Support in AWS comes in three tiers that vary in cost that is closely tied with your platform usage. For example, to access the Business tier it costs 10% of your monthly AWS usage for the first $10K, and then 7% of your usage from $10K-$80K. This support can get expensive but provides assistance for infrastructure maintenance and 60 minute response times to mission critical issues
From a global network standpoint, AWS has DigitalOcean beat with roughly 75 data centers compared to DigitalOcean’s 13. AWS offers more coverage across the same regions which is an important factor to consider if your service needs global access.
Billing & Pricing
For both AWS and DigitalOcean the amount you wind up paying will be directly tied to your usage. AWS has its own pricing calculator to help you estimate your own monthly cost, but this often feels clunky. The calculator is geared towards those with deep technical knowledge, which can feel intimidating to smaller businesses who want to leverage the power of cloud services.
Calculating factors such as the average duration of your instance runs for block stores and the number of API requests gives you extreme control over your billing and scale, but can feel overwhelming when dealing with larger projects. This of course isn’t a problem for larger companies who have lead technicians and system administrators to oversee and calculate these numbers.
DigitalOcean does a complete 180 and puts its service offerings into neat packages. It too has its own price calculator which guides you through building your own virtual environment based on the configuration of your CPU, memory, storage, and transfer rate. While DigitalOcean doesn’t offer nearly as many services like AWS, it still presents its pricing and services in a simple way that any business size can comprehend.
DigitalOcean is also completely transparent. You’ll see its prices everywhere across its site, where with AWS you have to either use the calculator or scroll through every service page you want to subscribe to.
You’ll find that if you build a virtual machine in the AWS Estimator Tool and then compare it to a Basic Droplet, that DigitalOcean is both cheaper and easier to understand. AWS does give you more control, allowing you to specify the machine’s usage patterns, choose between six different hard disk options. On an enterprise level where small changes tend to ripple fast, these are welcome features.
DigitalOcean offers a free $100 credit to any new accounts that sign up. The credits expire after 60 days, and the credit card you put on file will not be charged after your trial is over. The credit card is only used as a form of identity to prevent abuse to its systems. The credit can be used on all products and services.
AWS also offers a free tier, called “AWS Free Tier”. Inside you’ll get limited access to over 85 products and services. Depending on what service you use will depend on what kind of “free” access you have. A credit card is required to sign up for AWS Free Tier.
Always Free – These offers are always 100% free and are available to all tiers.
12 Months Free – These services are free for 12 months, and then you will be billed the following month.
Trials – Short free trials that start the date you activate the product or service. You are billed after the trial expires.
AWS also has pay-as-you-go and Reversed Instance options that work nearly the same as IBM Cloud. There is also volume-based pricing which motivates you to use more and pay less. For instance, the more space you use in your S3 storage, the less you end up paying per GB.
Strengths & Weaknesses
Here’s a quick list of strengths and weaknesses on both sides.
- Very easy to use.
- Flexible payment options with a free tier.
- Rigid SLAs with credit compensation.
- Simple pricing calculator.
- Competitive pricing.
- Less global coverage than AWS.
- Fewer products overall than AWS.
- Less hardware configuration options.
- Limited support options.
- Vague terminology around their SLAs.
- Robust security.
- Flexible payment options with a free tier.
- Competitive global coverage.
- Rigid SLAs with credit compensation.
- Slightly better global coverage than IBM Cloud.
- Slightly more products than IBM Cloud.
- Offers up and coming 5G services.
- Slightly less rewarding credit compensation than IBM Cloud.
- Costly support.
- Free trial requires a credit card.
- The interface can be confusing and hard to use at times.
DigitalOcean vs AWS – Who Is Better?
When comparing DigitalOcean vs AWS, both platforms have great offerings, but they are catering to two separate audiences.
In the end, both are great options but for different reasons. If you’re a fast-growing company and looking to use the cloud to compete on the enterprise level, AWS will be your best bet.
AWS has a robust global network and dozens of services to serve large fortune 500 companies. DigitalOcean is working hard to expand its global network and service offerings but doesn’t come close to matching behemoths like AWS.
DigitalOcean, on the other hand, removes the barrier to enter the cloud computing market by simplifying its pricing and offering pre-packaged services which are ideal for small businesses that are looking to run a small team, launch an app, or just simply store its files.
Who do you think comes out on top when comparing DigitalOcean vs AWS? Have you used either platform? Let us know in the comments section below.