Digitial Ocean is simple, fast, scalable SSD cloud virtual servers that you can deploy in seconds for as low as $5/mo.
Last updated February 3, 2016. Please visit the official site for the most up-to-date information.
It's been a long time since you needed to buy a server before you could start a new website. Between shared hosting, VPS (or virtual private servers), and cloud computing tools like Amazon's EC2 and Microsoft's Azure, launching your website or app takes little more than a credit card and a few online accounts.
But that doesn't mean it's simple. You'll still need those online accounts, and each hosting option offers its own complications. Shared hosting can be temperamental, prone to take your site offline if it gets too much traffic. VPS takes more of your admin time, and cloud computing—while powerful—requires a rethinking of how you build and deploy sites.
Digital Ocean tries to offer the best of all worlds with its simple VPS hosting. It includes pre-configured web app images for a taste of shared hosting's simplicity, per-hour pricing like cloud computing services, while still letting you run the Linux distro and software you want on a virtual private server. And it's cheap enough to easily start a test server for a new site whenever you need.
Once you have a Digital Ocean account, you can create a new VPS—or Droplet as they're called in Digital Ocean—in around a minute. First choose the distribution you'd like, from a number of recent releases of Ubuntu, FreeBSD, Fedora, Debian, CoreOS, and CentOS, then choose the size of Droplet you need and where you'd like it located. Digital Ocean offers 11 datacenters in New York, Amsterdam, San Francisco, Singapore, London, Frankfurt, and Toronto, so you can pick one closest to you and your users. Finally, you can enable extra networking options, add a name, and Digital Ocean will have your Droplet ready to use around a minute later. All you'll have to do then is SSH in and start setting up the software your site or app needs.
Or, you could get started even easier. If you want to start a new WordPress or Ghost blog, MediaWiki wiki, Discourse discussion board, Magento store or any other popular open source self-hosted web app, just click the One-click Apps tab when setting up your Digital Ocean droplet. You'll get a pre-configured Droplet with that software and any needed tools already installed, to get a new site online in minutes.
Once you've made Droplets, you could make other similar Droplets just as easily. Just take a snapshot of your fully configured Droplet, then you can recreate multiple instances of it in the same datacenter where the original Droplet was made. Or, if you break something in your Droplet, you can always roll back the changes to one of your previous snapshots—or you can go to a more recent backup if you've enabled them (for an extra 20% of your Droplet's cost per month).
If you're building a modern web app, one server won't be enough. That's where Digital Ocean's networking features come in. Along with support for IPv6 as an optional Droplet feature, you can also enable private networking to connect your Droplets inside Digital Ocean. That way, you can link your database and file server easily, or use Floating IPs to send traffic to another Droplet if one's overloaded. And if you ever run out of space on one Droplet, just shut it down—perhaps using Floating IPs to redirect traffic to another Droplet in the mean time—and you can resize it with a click.
There's more, too. Digital Ocean's popular tutorials can teach you everything you need to know about managing and scaling web apps, while their API lets you automatically manage Droplets from inside your apps or using integration tools like Zapier.
There's thousands of places where you could host your site, but for a quick and easy way to build your own virtual datacenter—or just to spin up a test site—Digital Ocean is a great choice.
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