DigitalOcean’s cloud-based virtual machines (VMs) are cheap and highly customizable, but its wide range of options might make you feel confused as hell. Droplets (as DigitalOcean calls its VMs) come in different configurations, and there are over a dozen add-ons to consider. But which of these do you actually need?
Having some prior experience with a few of DigitalOcean’s services, I decided to dive deep into DigitalOcean’s pricing plans. I’ll be looking at its popular Droplets plans, but also at the lesser-known Kubernetes and App Platforms, so you know exactly what you’re getting with each service.
But before we get started, keep in mind that DigitalOcean markets itself as the “developer cloud,” so you won’t find any beginner-friendly, easy-to-use solutions here. If that’s what you’re looking for, you might want to jump straight to my recommended alternatives.
Short on Time? These Are DigitalOcean’s Best Plans in July 2022:
- Basic Droplets ($5.00/month) – Great introductory prices for virtual machines. Ideal for hosting multiple low-traffic websites or developing apps that don’t need a lot of CPU to work.
- Managed Kubernetes ($10.00/month) – Cheap plan for deploying apps. Comes with free control plane and option to autoscale.
- Professional App Platform ($12.00/month per container) – Publish code quickly with App Platform. The Professional plan offers dedicated vCPUs and horizontal/vertical scaling.
DigitalOcean Features and Pricing Overview
Affordable Plans Bogged Down by Pricey Add-Ons
DigitalOcean’s cloud services are built around one main product – the Droplet. Droplets are highly-customizable VMs that can be used to host static websites, dynamic applications, databases, and more. You can’t select the exact number of vCPU cores or the amount of RAM/storage that goes into a Droplet, but there are dozens of configurations to choose from.
Other services include managed Kubernetes clusters built on top of Droplets, an App Platform designed for quick deployment, cloud storage, managed database hosting, and more.
You can pay hourly or monthly, using all the major credit cards, PayPal, or wire transfers. DigitalOcean doesn’t offer a money-back guarantee, but you do get $100 in credits as a new client. You can use these credits to try out a Droplet for free.
Once you sign up, you’ll find that Droplets come equipped with several great features by default. You get a free firewall, plus access to DigitalOcean’s RESTful API, monitoring graphs, and collaboration tools. That said, extra features can be expensive. For example, adding basic load balancers to a starter Droplet can double its cost. Backups aren’t as pricey, but they still cost extra.
If you change your mind, you can cancel any service straight from your dashboard, without having to contact support. The entire process takes no more than a couple of minutes, provided that no issues occur along the way.
|Initial term starting price||$5.00/month or $0.00744/hr||$60.00/month or $0.08929/hr||$40.00/month or $0.05952/hr||$80.00/month or $0.11905/hr||$125.00/month or $0.18601/hr|
|Price on renewal||Same as above||Same as above||Same as above||Same as above||Same as above|
|vCPU cores||1 – 8||2 – 40||2 – 32||2 – 32||2 – 32|
|RAM||1GB – 16GB||8GB – 160GB||4GB – 64GB||16GB – 256GB||16GB – 256GB|
|Storage||25GB – 320GB||25GB – 500GB||25GB – 800GB||50GB – 4.69TB||300GB – 7.03TB|
|Outbound transfer||1TB – 6TB||4TB – 9TB||4TB – 9TB||4TB – 10TB||4TB – 10TB|
|Data center locations||US, UK, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, Singapore, India||US, UK, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, Singapore||US, UK, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, Singapore, India||US, UK, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, Singapore||US, UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Singapore, India|
|Support||24/7 via support ticket only|
A Droplet is essentially a cloud virtual private server (VPS) with guaranteed access to a specific number of resources. DigitalOcean’s Droplets are self-managed, so you’ll have to set up your own server in order to deploy an app (or host a website).
DigitalOcean offers a unique monthly cap for all its Droplets plans. If your monthly usage falls under 672 hours (the equivalent of 28 days), you’ll be billed per hour used. If you exceed 672 hours, then pricing reverts to the monthly cost.
If you’re looking for plans packed with features, you won’t find it here. DigitalOcean is able to keep its costs low by offering stripped down plans. There are no free control panels, SSL certificates, backups, or site transfers to be found here. But you will get a one-click app installer for a lot of popular content management systems (CMSs) and collaboration tools.
There are five different types of Droplets plans, four of which come with dedicated vCPUs. Basic Droplets don’t offer dedicated vCPUs, and are the cheapest.
Starting at $5.00/month, DigitalOcean’s Basic Droplets configuration is nothing short of affordable. At this price, you’ll start off with 1 vCPU core, 1GB of RAM, 25GB SSD storage, and 1TB of transfer. You can also upgrade to AMD Premium or Intel Premium for more processing power, which adds a few dollars to the base monthly price.
Because all vCPU cores on this plan are shared, basic droplets are suitable for small websites, databases, or low-traffic servers. They’re also a good environment for developing and testing an app that doesn’t require a lot of CPU work.
Of course, if you need more resources, you’ll be able to choose from five other configurations for up to 8vCPU cores, 16GB RAM, and 6TB of bandwidth.
While General Purpose sounds like a catch-all for most use cases, these Droplets configurations pack a lot of resources – VMs can be scaled up to 40 vCPU cores, 160GB of RAM, 500GB of storage, and 9TB of transfer.
You’d only want to consider these plans if you’re running a mission-critical application, SaaS application, or high-traffic web server, or you might run the risk of underusing your resources.
Pricing starts at less than $100 per month and can run into the thousands, especially if you factor in essential add-ons like load balancers and backups.
If you’re running graphics-heavy applications, work with video production, or want to run a machine learning project, you’ll find these plans offer more than enough resources, with room to grow.
While cheaper than General Purpose Droplets, CPU-Optimized plans are much more scalable, with ten configurations to choose from. The drawback is that there is less RAM allocated per vCPU core.
Streaming video or hosting a game server? All of DigitalOcean’s Droplets offer free outbound data transfer, starting at 1000GB per month. If you go over your quota, you’ll be charged $0.01 per GB.
For these plans, more RAM is allocated per vCPU core, and there are more than 15 configurations to choose from. If you opt for the introductory plan, you’ll start off with 2 vCPUs, 16GB memory, 50GB SSD storage, and 4TB of transfer. While the cheapest memory-optimized plan costs twice as much as the cheapest CPU-optimized plan, you do start off with more memory and storage space.
If 16GB of memory isn’t enough, you’ll be able to scale up to 32 vCPUs with 256GB of RAM.
Like all Droplets solutions, these plans are designed with specific use cases in mind. Consider these plans if you have high-traffic websites or an online store with decent traction. These plans are also good for data mining, executing complex machine learning applications, and running mission-critical apps with high memory requirements.
As you’d expect, these plans offer the highest volume of storage, but you’ll still be able to choose from plans with a high number of vCPU cores (up to 32 vCPUs), RAM (up to 256GB), and transfer (up to 10TB). For these plans, more RAM is allocated per vCPU core, and your data resides on NVMe SSD storage.
DigitalOcean also offers Spaces, its object storage product, as an add-on to any of its Droplets plans. Starting at $5.00 per month, you’ll get 250GB of storage, ￼1TB of outbound transfer, and unlimited uploads. You’ll also get perks like a built-in CDN and S3 API compatibility.
If you just need some good ol’ storage, you can purchase additional space for $0.10/GB per month. This data is stored separately from your Droplet and there’s a high level of redundancy to reduce the chance of data loss.
Are Droplets Right for You?
If you’re fluent in Linux, DigitalOcean’s Droplets are an easy and very inexpensive way to host anything from blogs and other simple sites to high-traffic online stores, CPU- or RAM-intensive applications, massive databases, and more.
One thing to keep in mind, however, is that Basic Droplets come with shared vCPU cores. RAM, storage, and bandwidth are dedicated, but CPU hyperthreads can be used by other VMs. For mission-critical websites and apps, the four dedicated vCPU Droplets are a more suitable choice.
If you’re looking for plans packed with features, you won’t find them here. You’ll also have to manage your own VM – and depending on your level of expertise, the low costs may not justify the time and effort.
|Initial term starting price||$10.00/month|
|Price on renewal||Same as above|
|vCPU cores||1 – 32 (per Droplet, shared or dedicated)|
|RAM||1GB – 256GB (per Droplet)|
|Storage||25GB – 7.03TB (per Droplet)|
|Outbound transfer||1TB – 10TB (per Droplet)|
|Data center locations||US, UK, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, Singapore, India|
|Support||24/7 via support ticket only|
If you use Kubernetes to deploy apps, then DigitalOcean’s managed Kubernetes service might be worth considering. This service isn’t divided into plans – instead, you’re charged for the underlying resources used to power your Kubernetes worker nodes. These include any Droplets, load balancers, or block storage you might need for your project.
You can spin up a cluster for as little as $10.00/month, and like Droplets, you’ll be charged $0.01 per GB for any transfer overages. DigitalOcean throws in a free control plane that helps you manage your Kubernetes nodes. This makes it easier to deploy Kubernetes clusters without having to administer the master node. DigitalOcean will also automatically update your Kubernetes to the latest version, but you have to schedule this upgrade in advance.
If you want DigitalOcean to adjust the number of nodes in your cluster in order to match the need for additional resources, you can turn on autoscaling. When you no longer need extra resources, the autoscaling function removes them from your cluster, which can help you keep costs low.
Are Kubernetes Right for You?
If you’re looking for an affordable Kubernetes service, DigitalOcean’s managed plan provides a free control plane and fully managed nodes so you can concentrate on your app. There’s also an extensive knowledge base with tutorials on how to configure your clusters.
You pay for the managed Kubernetes service based on the resources you use to power your nodes. Because of its transparent pricing, DigitalOcean’s Kubernetes service can fit most budgets.
|Initial term starting price||$0.00/month||$5.00/month per container||$12.00/month per container|
|Price on renewal||Same as above||Same as above||Same as above|
|vCPU cores||✘||1 – 2 (shared, per container)||1 – 4 (shared or dedicated, per container)|
|RAM||✘||512MB – 4GB (per container)||1GB – 16GB (per container)|
|Outbound transfer||1GiB per app||4GiB per app||100GiB per app|
|Data center locations||US, the Netherlands, Germany||US, UK, Canada, the Netherlands, Germany, Singapore, India|
|Support||24/7 via support ticket only|
DigitalOcean’s App Platform is an easy way for developers to publish code without having to configure or manage the underlying infrastructure. There are three tiers to the App Platform, and the first tier is free for up to three static apps (websites).
Pricing for dynamic sites will also depend on what services you’ll be using to run your app. For example, using a 2GB RAM instance for web services will cost $20.00 per month on the Basic plan, and $25.00 on the Professional plan. These plans are highly flexible so you can scale up or down at any time.
You really can’t beat free when it comes to pricing, so the Starter plan is already a winner. On the free tier, you’ll be able to build up to three static websites, with 100 build minutes per month and 1GiB of outbound transfer per app. You’re not bound by this limit, although any additional sites will cost $3.00 per month.
If you’re worried about a lack of features for the free plan, DigitalOcean assuages your fears by offering managed SSL/TLS certificates, DDoS protection, a global CDN, and GitHub integration. You can also bring your custom domain over.
Starter apps are built on Basic Droplets, so your vCPU core is shared.
The Basic plan can handle static and dynamic apps, and is ideal if you want DigitalOcean to provision, manage, and secure your cloud infrastructure. You’ll get a monthly 40GiB of outbound transfer per app and 400 build minutes per month. Pricing will depend on how much RAM you’ll need to run your app’s services for the month. This can vary from 512MB to 4GB.
You’ll get everything that’s included in the Free plan, including the option to deploy code from GitHub, GitLab, and public Git repositories, plus auto OS patching and the option to scale vertically by increasing container size. Like the Free plan, apps will run on Basic Droplets.
If you need something above what these plans offer, you can add managed databases, developmental databases, additional outbound transfer, and object storage.
Built on Basic or General Purpose Droplets (whether vCPU cores are shared or dedicated depends on your preference), the Professional plan can support both vertical and horizontal scaling (adding containers). On this plan, you’ll get everything included in the Basic plan, plus a few additional features.
While the Professional plan costs more than double what you’ll pay for the Basic plan, you are getting a dedicated vCPU after all. You’ll also get 100GiB of outbound transfer per app and 1000 build minutes per month, and hourly metrics to help you analyze the performance of your apps. And for what it’s worth – especially considering DigitalOcean’s spotty reliability – you’ll have high availability clusters.
If you ever need to roll back your app to an earlier version, DigitalOcean will keep the last ten successful deployments for you.
Is App Platform Right for You?
App Platform plans are ideal for developers who want to concentrate on the code and let DigitalOcean handle the rest.
There are several ways to build your app with DigitalOcean. If you use Git, you can tell the platform to automatically analyze and build your code. This makes use of a metric called “build minutes,” and a specific amount of build time is included in every App Platform tier.
Alternatively, you can upload a container image to the DigitalOcean Container Registry, and use it to publish your app. DigitalOcean provisions and manages the infrastructure for you, while you pay only for the resources that you use.
The Free plan is an excellent way to try out DigitalOcean’s services, and you can easily upgrade to a Basic or Professional plan if you need computing resources. While the pricing schema can be complicated, especially with add-ons and extra instances, all infrastructure is fully managed, which more than makes up for the price.
In addition to cloud computing, DigitalOcean offers a basic set of add-on services that you can use to expand your VM.
DigitalOcean offers a number of services to keep you connected to the web, including load balancers, floating IPs, DNS service, and virtual private clouds
Priced at $10.00/node per month, load balancers can be used for both Droplets and Kubernetes. If your site or app experiences spikes in traffic, this is a valuable add-on to ensure reliable performance.
If you’re looking for an isolated network, you might want to consider a Virtual Private Cloud (VPC). VPCs are simple to create and customize. Like other plans, you’ll be billed for outbound transfers only, and charged $0.01 per GiB if you exceed your transfer limit for the month.
DigitalOcean’s DNS service and cloud firewalls are free, although you’ll have to configure these yourself. Floating IPs between Droplets, which improves availability, is also free, although you’ll be charged $0.006 per hour for any IPs that you’ve reserved but not assigned.
DigitalOcean’s managed database service takes care of the set up, maintenance, update, and back up of your database. Supported database engines include MongoDB, MySQL, Redis, and PostgreSQL, and these are hosted on Droplets, which means you can choose from shared or dedicated vCPUs.
Regardless of which database you choose, pricing will only vary based on Droplet selection. Plans start at $15.00 per month for 1 vCPU (shared) and 1GB of memory. Like all DigitalOcean plans, you’ll be able to easily scale your resources when the time comes.
One of the major features of the managed database service is security. You can set the level of access, and data is encrypted in transit and at rest. DigitalOcean will set up automatic daily backups, with the option to restore data from the past seven days.
Recommended DigitalOcean Alternatives
DigitalOcean’s Droplets are one of the cheapest ways to deploy apps to the cloud, but the service is by no means perfect. It’s great for developers on a budget who don’t mind the lack of proper customer support, but if that doesn’t sound right to you, it might be worth comparing DigitalOcean to some of these top-rated alternatives.
|Starting Price||Main Pro||Main Con|
|DigitalOcean||$5.00||Cheap cloud servers built for developers||Lack of customer support and unreliable uptime|
|Kamatera||$4.00||Customizable cloud servers billed by the hour||If you want managed servers, the cost can quickly rack up|
|Liquid Web||$13.30||Fully managed services, including WordPress and WooCommerce||More expensive than DigitalOcean|
|Cloudways||$10.00||Managed cloud hosting built on your infrastructure of choice||Expensive add-on for advanced support|
|Amazon Web Services||$3.50||Massive global network and free tiers for some of its most popular services||Not suitable for beginners and high learning curve|
Kamatera is not quite as cheap as DigitalOcean, but it comes close. And unlike DigitalOcean, it offers fully customizable cloud servers, so you can add exactly as much CPU, RAM, and storage as you need, without being locked into predefined configurations.
Kamatera has data centers around the world, and a particularly strong presence in the Middle East, which DigitalOcean lacks. It also offers prompt support through tickets and phone, which puts it miles ahead of DigitalOcean in terms of customer service.
If you’re not comfortable provisioning and setting up your own VM, DigitalOcean is probably not a good choice. Liquid Web is more expensive, but it takes care of all sys admin tasks for you, so you can focus on development.
Liquid Web is also a great option if you have a high-traffic website but don’t have the technical expertise to set up a VPS on your own. You can even opt for one of the managed WordPress or WooCommerce plans if you want the tech team to take care of plugin updates, performance optimizations, and server security for you.
Cloudways is different from the other providers on this list in that it doesn’t have its own infrastructure. Instead, it manages other infrastructures like DigitalOcean so you can take advantage of the cloud without having to manage your own server.
If you want to use DigitalOcean’s cloud, you can do so through Cloudways, but you’re not limited to this provider. You can also spin up a server with Linode, Vultr, Amazon Web Services, or Google Cloud. Or you can get multiple VMs from different providers and manage everything from one dashboard.
Amazon Web Services (AWS)
AWS needs no introduction. This cloud industry giant has an impressive global network of data centers, and hundreds of services to choose from for a wide range of projects. Its portfolio is far more diverse compared to DigitalOcean’s, and includes everything from cloud compute and storage to machine learning, Internet of things, serverless computing, and much more.
The problem with AWS is that it’s notoriously difficult to work with. If you’re ready to dedicate days (even months) to learning the ropes, this is one of the most comprehensive cloud providers you can use. Otherwise, you’re better off with something simpler.
With DigitalOcean, You Get What You Pay For
Pricing is DigitalOcean’s biggest advantage, but it’s not without compromises. Customer support is virtually nonexistent, and the provider’s uptime doesn’t always match its generous 99.99% guarantee. Still, if you’re a seasoned developer and you need a low-cost server to test new apps, DigitalOcean could be the right fit.
As a freelance web developer or agency, I’d go with one of the Basic Droplets. With the right amount of CPU and RAM, one of these VMs can handle more than a dozen low- to medium-traffic websites, even if the vCPU cores are shared.
Looking for a more reliable infrastructure? Go with Liquid Web. As a developer, you can opt for one of the fully managed VPS plans, which comes with a 100% uptime guarantee. Alternatively, if you just want to host a high-traffic WordPress website or online store, you can turn to Liquid Web’s managed WordPress hosting.
If you’re looking for a completely customizable cloud server, I suggest giving Kamatera a try. Everything is customizable, from the number of CPU cores to memory size and operating system. Kamatera offers a 30-day free trial so you can try out its services risk-free.
Which is the best host for developers?It depends on your needs and budget. If you just want to set up a test server for small apps, then DigitalOcean is more than suitable. But if you’re looking for a specific server configuration, Kamatera can accommodate your needs. And while Kamatera is slightly more expensive, it has better customer support and is more reliable overall. If none of these services feels like the right fit, you can find more options in our list of the best web hosting services in 2022.Does DigitalOcean have a free trial for Droplets?As a new customer, you get $100 worth of credits to try out DigitalOcean. To become eligible, you’ll be asked to provide your credit card or PayPal information so that DigitalOcean can verify your identity. The credits are available for 60 days, and you will be charged for any services you continue to use after this initial period of time. While DigitalOcean has several plans suitable for website hosting, if you’re just starting out, take a look at our complete guide to website building for some tips on how to build your first site.Does DigitalOcean have managed VPS hosting?No. DigitalOcean’s Droplets are all self-managed, which means that you’re in charge of setting up and maintaining your VM. If you’re looking for a managed VPS hosting provider but you want to keep costs low, take a look at some great deals on our coupons page.How easy is it to scale with DigitalOcean?DigitalOcean’s Droplets are all hosted in the cloud, which makes it very easy to scale up or down. You can do this straight from your dashboard, or you can turn on the autoscaling feature to better handle surges in traffic. You’ll also be able to keep track of your resource usage through the dashboard.