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Reviews and expert opinion DigitalOcean

Mark Holden Mark Holden Web Hosting Expert

DigitalOcean is a specialist provider that’s best suited to developers who want to deploy an affordable cloud infrastructure. The problems start to kick in if you’re a rookie user who needs plenty of support or if you need to cancel your trial or ask for a refund. Like any web host, it has pros and cons, and so as long as you know what you’re getting into, you’ll do just fine.

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Web hosting by developers, for developers

If you’re not a developer but you still want to take advantage of DigitalOcean’s superior infrastructure, I recommend you check out Cloudways, which offers fully managed cloud hosting plans that work with DigitalOcean.

DigitalOcean offers what it calls a developer cloud: a network of virtual machines that are designed to allow you to scale up as your website grows. CEO Mark Templeton was behind the explosive growth of Citrix Systems, and the company now serves over a million developers in 195 countries across twelve different data centers.


Unlike other hosting companies, DigitalOcean specializes in cloud computing and doesn’t offer shared or VPS hosting. When you first land on the website, it can be hard to tell what it actually does. It clearly focuses on attracting web developers and its stripped back homepage aims to deter non-techy visitors.

Spoiler alert: if you’re a beginner website owner who needs any kind of support or hand-holding – don’t bother reading on. The support team is practically non-existent, and, because this is something of a specialist provider, it’s not going to be the perfect host for everyone.

The question is, is it the perfect host for you?

In this article, I’m going to help you to figure that out, and I’m going to share a few of my own experiences along the way. Are you ready? Good. Let’s get started.



Heavy duty tech tools (if you know how to use them)

As DigitalOcean has a heavy focus on working with developers, you won’t find standard features like free domain names, free backups, SSL certificates, or even instant customer support.

However, if you’ve got technical know-how, you can create and maintain your own bespoke cloud server featuring everything from floating IP addresses to private networking, just be warned, its features are not as straightforward to use as with other providers.


Product Ecosystem

Despite focussing solely on cloud hosting, DigitalOcean has no shortage of options to choose from. It offers different platforms for different use cases, from its scalable droplets for app deployment to its spaces solution for file storage and its “worry-free” database hosting. You can choose which products you’re most interested in and only pay for what you use.

Top Security

DigitalOcean protects your data from end-to-end with extra encryption included by default. It’s not foolproof, but it is better than most and you can always enhance it with additional layers of security, as long as you know a little coding and can follow DigitalOcean’s online tutorials.

Choice of Server Locations

With DigitalOcean, you can take your pick of where you’d like your primary server to be located, from Germany and the Netherlands to India, Singapore, Canada, and the USA. It also allows you to run speed tests on each of those locations from right within the dashboard. However, it’s always worth running tests using an external tool for a second, impartial opinion.


Tools and Integrations

On top of the company’s web-based control panels and command lines, DigitalOcean also taps into a bunch of APIs and includes some one-click installers, although some people have had problems getting them to work. It also has collaboration tools for full teams and integrations for a range of common dev tools. It even integrates with Slack — if you can get that integration to work in the first place.

digitalocean-features3See full list of features

Ease of use


Honestly, DigitalOcean isn’t going to win prizes for its accessibility any time soon. Its core audience is seasoned developers, and so the emphasis is more on providing functionality and scalability at a low price than on making it easy for you to find your way around the interfaces. Still, it does have some pretty cool ease-of-use features that are worth a mention.

Create an Account

Creating an account with DigitalOcean is refreshingly easy, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that it has one of the more pleasant onboarding experiences on the marketplace. The problems start if you try to contact support, which is pretty much non-existent throughout the setup (any really any other) process.

Read more about my account creation process.

Connect a Domain and Install WordPress

In fact, there’s a strange disparity between how easy it is to create an account and how tricky it can be to carry out other tasks. Connecting domains and installing WordPress can be too complex for beginners because you’ll need to fiddle with SSH keys and command terminals, but developers will have no problem getting started.

Comprehensive Documentation

Perhaps it’s just a developer thing, but DigitalOcean has an impressive set of documentation including a public knowledge base. Its “Write for DOnations” program invites people to submit knowledge base articles and to get paid for them, with a matching amount being paid to charity. This means that it has an impressive amount of technical content just waiting for you to tap into it.


Choose Only the Resources You Need

Because the system is cloud-based, it’s easy for you to select and pay for only the resources and functionality that you need. Other hosts tend to group the offerings together into different packages, but DigitalOcean keeps its prices low by allowing you to strip it back to the bare minimum.

Advanced Server Management

The DigitalOcean console provides some visual server management tools, but it also provides SSH access or management via a web-based Linux console. If you want to use something like cPanel, you’ll need to install (and pay for it) yourself, so you’re likely to need at least some command line experience if you plan on managing your cloud server yourself.

See if DigitalOcean is Right for You



Pretty speedy, but watch out for downtime

One of the good things about DigitalOcean is that it offers a speed test tool on the site so that you can instantly check the performance of any of the twelve servers. But if anything, all that the screenshot shows is how bad my ISP is.


I also ran a test of my own using Sucuri Page Load Test (because you should never rely solely on what a potential host tells you) and the results are shown in the screenshot below.

All in all, it’s pretty speedy when it’s up and running, but my own personal experience, as well as tons of online customer reviews, highlights experiences of downtime with DigitalOcean. And if your site does go down, good luck getting the support team to help you to fix it (I’ll delve into more detail below).

digitalocean-performance2See if DigitalOcean is Right for You



45% “bad” from TrustPilot

Most web hosts promote customer service as though it’s a major feature. DigitalOcean doesn’t even seem to bother. DigitalOcean has its strengths, but support isn’t one of them. The company has an impressively poor Trustpilot score of 3.5/10, with 45% of users giving them a 1-star review.

Most of these negative reviews focus on the support team, with one typical reviewer saying, “DigitalOcean’s customer service is non-existent. It locks accounts for no good reason and just doesn’t answer to tickets raised. This is purely unacceptable.”

I wish I could argue with the negative online sentiment, but I’ve used DigitalOcean a few times throughout the years, and I’ve had my fair share of bad experiences with them. In the past, a load of my client sites went down and they didn’t reply to my support request for over two weeks.

I was really hoping that the support would have improved over the years, but when I tried to contact the team to test the service, I couldn’t even get a message to them. When I tried to submit a support ticket and the page threw up an error.


There was a bug at the time I was trying to contact the team. There was a banner stating they were working on fixing it, but despite waiting for five business days, it still wasn’t resolved.

Annoying? You can say that again.




Towards the cheaper end of the market, but it’s by no means the cheapest

DigitalOcean uses a slightly different pricing model than many hosting providers because of the nature of cloud hosting. Instead of charging you a set fee per month for specific packages, it allows you to build your own plan based on how many resources you use.

It also uses a capping model, so you’ll be billed hourly up to a monthly cap of 672 hours, after which you’ll be charged the flat monthly cost.

And there’s good news when it comes to payment too, thanks to a range of different options including Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover and PayPal, as well as wire transfers, purchase orders and ACH upon request.

Cancellations & Refunds

One DigitalOcean customer, Anthony Cosgrove, left a 1-star review on TrustPilot accusing the host of unfair business practices after DigitalOcean billed him $40 for not canceling his trial. Fair enough, you might think, if the user forgets to cancel. But that’s ignoring a bigger problem.

DigitalOcean doesn’t have a refund policy and there’s no working way to contact them (at the time of writing this review) if something goes wrong during the cancellation process.

When I tried, I would have liked to have requested a refund for the $1.03 of usage that I’d had to pay for while testing the service, but the support system wasn’t working and so it was impossible to get in touch. Luckily, in my case, it was only a dollar.

Read about my experience canceling (and not getting a refund from) DigitalOcean.
How much does DigitalOcean cost?DigitalOcean offers plans from $5 to $480. The price depends on which type of hosting plan you choose. You can see the updated pricing table (updated weekly) below.
Which DigitalOcean plan should I get?My recommendation is to start with a cheaper plan. You can always upgrade later on. DigitalOcean can help you with the migration to a more expensive plan. The increase in visitors many times takes longer than expected and you shouldn’t pay a lot of money until the need arises. Of course, your needs may vary, and you can consult with a hosting expert from DigitalOcean here.
How good is DigitalOcean’s customer support?DigitalOcean is not ranked as one of our top web hosts. But that can also be a result of DigitalOcean being a small, under the radar, hosting provider. There are advantages to a small hosting company – as a customer, you are more important to them. You can also check out our comparison of the most popular web hosting services here.


How does DigitalOcean match up to the competition?


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June 02, 2020
They’ll delete your data.

No other hosting company I know of will delete your data if you forget to update your expired CC immediately. They spam you with emails to upsell you and it's easy to miss the "we're gonna delete your stuff next week". Most websites aren't even going to top 1GB. If they can't afford to keep that around for a year, what does it say about the rest of their services?


Because DigitalOcean is something of a specialist provider, it’s best suited to developers who want to deploy an affordable cloud infrastructure. It has all the features that you’d expect from a cloud provider and at a price that’s pretty reasonable.

The problems start to kick in if you’re a rookie user who needs plenty of support or if you need to cancel your trial or ask for a refund. If you do decide to go with DigitalOcean, pay close attention to the terms of service and any agreements before you sign on the bottom line.

Don’t let that put you off, though. Like any web host, it has pros and cons, and so as long as you know what you’re getting into, you’ll do just fine. Good luck.

Still not sure if this is the right web host for you? Check out our top recommended web hosts to learn more.
Is DigitalOcean Cheaper than AWS? Yes, DigitalOcean offers lower prices than AWS (and other platforms, too).
Does DigitalOcean Offer WordPress Hosting? You can absolutely host your WordPress website using DigitalOcean, although DigitalOcean doesn’t offer WordPress-specific hosting. If you’re looking for WordPress hosting, take a look at our list of the best WordPress hosting providers.
Does DigitalOcean Offer an SSL certificate? DigitalOcean enables you to add free Let’s Encrypt SSL certificates in your account manager.
What Control Panel Does DigitalOcean Use? You can use various different control panels with DigitalOcean, including Plesk, CyberPanel, and VPSrobots.
What Is the Best Alternative to DigitalOcean? The best alternatives to DigitalOcean are Hostinger, InterServer, and Liquid Web. You can find our recommendations on our list of the best web hosting services right now.

Mark Holden Mark Holden
Mark is a full stack web developer specializing in HTML5, CSS, JavaScript, MySQL, and PHP. When he’s not busy building websites or geeking out over the latest addition to his ever-growing gadget collection, he enjoys playing drums for his progressive rock band. He can also make a mean Spanish omelet.

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