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AWS or DigitalOcean - Which cloud platform is the best fit for you?

Posted: December 8, 202210 min read

Cloud computing has attracted businesses of all sizes due to its simplicity, scalability, and economies of scale. When compared to on-premise hosting, the cloud is less effort to manage and less expensive, while providing on-demand access to limitless computing resources. Amazon Web Services (AWS) is one of the most prominent cloud providers in the market and many startups as well as small and medium businesses (SMBs) use AWS for their cloud infrastructure. However, as these businesses begin scaling their operations they run into complexities and high costs associated with AWS. As a result, cloud computing’s promise of affordable and easy-to-manage infrastructure often goes unfulfilled.

At DigitalOcean, our mission is to simplify the cloud so that you can spend time on building what matters the most to you. We believe that the cloud should not turn cost-prohibitive as you scale your business. Our pricing model reflects our vision of cloud computing being an enabler of business growth. Over the past few years, many businesses have migrated their workloads from AWS to DigitalOcean primarily due to our simplicity, affordable pricing, and customer-first support services. If you are running a startup or an SMB, here are some reasons why DigitalOcean might be the better choice for you.

1. A simple cloud that drives business growth

AWS is designed to cater to the IT needs of enterprises, which are vastly different from those of startups and SMBs. When you choose AWS for your startup or SMB, you are force-fitted to a cloud that was built for a large enterprise, resulting in complexity that you might not be equipped to handle. AWS’ cloud platform with more than 200 services, hundreds of instance types and numerous workflows makes your IT environment complex and cumbersome to maintain. The cognitive overload resulting from this complexity necessitates long hours of configuration and management, along with additional training and certifications for your staff. Without a large IT and Devops team, this scale of technological complexity is a huge distraction for growth-focused businesses.

On the other hand, simplicity is at the heart of everything we do at DigitalOcean. We believe that a cloud platform should not be self-important and instead should be all about helping businesses deliver value to their customers. Our simple UI, command line interface (CLI), API, and straightforward pricing are all designed to get you up and running quickly. Whether you’re spinning up a virtual machine in seconds, managed Kubernetes, fully-managed databases, effortless apps, or simple-and-scalable storage, we help level the field for you with unparalleled ease of use.

Easy to learn, implement and manage, DigitalOcean’s cloud platform can bring significant efficiencies and productivity gains. To use DigitalOcean you don’t need an array of certifications or a massive IT and Devops team. Our simple workflows, documentation, and tutorials let development teams focus on high-value product functionality and move away from undifferentiated cloud management work. According to a Forrester analysis of tech-focused SMBs, these efficiencies translate to $545,000 savings in dedicated IT/ Devops expenses and $300,000 in productivity gains over a three-year period.

Customers such as Ghost, a nonprofit, open source platform for content creators have found it easy to scale fast with a lean team on DigitalOcean’s cloud platform. Hanna Wolfe, co-founder of Ghost says “Unquestionably, it wouldn’t be possible for us to serve 15,000 customers with only a few full-time people if DigitalOcean wasn’t doing the heavy lifting.”

Marco Donel, CTO of Shoppermotion, an IoT platform for retailers, loves DigitalOcean’s simplicity, “Hyperscalers are more difficult to use, which is fine if you have a huge DevOps team. But when you are starting out, it’s all about building and not wasting time having to tweak instances and do DevOps. We were amazed at how easy DigitalOcean is to use and it let us spend more time focused on our product.”

2. Skip the pricing surprises

Cash flow and runway are always top of mind for SMBs and startups. Higher, unpredictable cloud computing costs can often negatively impact these metrics. It’s important to pay close attention to your monthly cloud bill. There is often more going on than meets the eye in terms of cloud pricing.

Does your cloud bill start low and stay low?

DigitalOcean is on average considerably less expensive than AWS. For example, the pricing analysis below shows that AWS can be over 40% more expensive when compared to DigitalOcean for a single virtual machine. Whether you’re a startup with a few dozen instances or an established business with many more, these costs can add up quickly. Several AWS EC2 configurations don’t come with enough storage and bandwidth for the average business, which means you have to buy them separately at very high prices. For users with significant storage and bandwidth needs, these expenses could send their cloud bill soaring.

AWS (N. Virginia) DigitalOcean (any data center) AWS (N. Virginia) DigitalOcean (any data center)
Instance name t2.micro Basic (regular) Droplet c6i.xlarge CPU-optimized Droplet
Type On-demand On-demand On-demand On-demand
vCPU 1 1 1 1
Memory 1 GiB 1 GiB 8 GiB 8 GiB
Storage Not included 25 GiB included Not included 50 GiB included
Bandwidth Not included 1000 GiB included Not included 5000 GiB included
Instance price $8.47 $6 $124.10 $84
Instance price with storage $10.97 (after adding 25 GiB Amazon EBS storage) $6 $129.10 (after adding 50 GiB Amazon EBS storage) $84
Instance price with storage and bandwidth $100.97 (after adding 1000 GiB DT Outbound Internet) $6 $579.10 (after adding 5000 GiB DT Outbound Internet) $84

Be aware of region-based pricing

Startups and SMBs are increasingly looking to benefit from global demand for their products and services. With AWS’ region-based pricing, operating costs will vary based on the datacenter in which the product or service is deployed. Additionally, AWS’s outbound data transfer pricing can vary based on the destination, which introduces more variability in costs, especially for businesses with large outbound data needs. DigitalOcean’s uniform pricing across datacenters is designed for today’s global businesses and enables them to take advantage of new markets without worrying about pricing differences.

Watch for varying bills

With more businesses adopting as-a-service models for product or service delivery, having predictable Cost of Goods Solds (COGS) has become a vital element of business strategy. A stable cloud computing spend that doesn’t fluctuate based on the number of days in a month makes it easier for startups and SMBS to price their products and services right for their market.

On-demand pricing in AWS EC2 is based on the number of hours or seconds in a month. Hence, your AWS EC2 bill will vary based on the number of days in a month (eg: 31 days in July vs 28 days in February). In contrast, DigitalOcean bills you only 28 days every month, even for the months with 30 or 31 days, effectively giving you a discount every month except February and a more predictable cost model.

Avoid being nickel-and-dimed for every service

Every DigitalOcean Droplet comes with significant storage and bandwidth capacity included in the monthly Droplet cost, and any additional storage can be added via DigitalOcean Volumes and Spaces. As illustrated in Table 1 above, many equivalent configurations in Amazon EC2 do not include enough storage by default, resulting in additional payments for Amazon Elastic Block Storage (EBS).

“An affordable price doesn’t mean the same for less; it means more for the same price. We can afford to have several staging environments and multiple instances with DigitalOcean.” - Aleksey Kolupaev, CTO, Co-Founder, eduki

Account for bandwidth costs

Every DigitalOcean Droplet configuration comes with a significant bandwidth allowance, ranging from 500 GiB for the Basic Regular plan up to 11,000 GiB for higher plans. AWS EC2 configurations do not include outbound data transfer to the Internet, which has to be bought separately. AWS’ data transfers to the Internet are also 5-9 times more expensive.

test AWS Bandwidth Pricing DigitalOcean Bandwidth Pricing
Bandwidth pricing $0.05-0.09 per GiB $0.01 per GiB for overages beyond the free allowance

Another significant advantage of DigitalOcean Droplet plans is the flexibility to pool these generous bandwidth allowances across Droplets within the same account. Pooling increases the amount of bandwidth available for your account and helps keep bandwidth overage costs in check especially for network-intensive use cases such as video and audio streaming, gaming, real-time communication, IoT and web crawling. Consequently, it is much simpler for businesses to scale their cloud footprint without bandwidth costs eating away their cloud budget.

DigitalOcean customers love our bandwidth pricing model, Joshua Verdehem of Loot.tv says “Cloud providers love gouging on bandwidth for seemingly no reason.The only reason that Loot.tv can exist is because of the very cheap overage [bandwidth charges] on DigitalOcean Spaces.”

Get a cloud bill that’s easy to understand

Simplicity is a core tenet for DigitalOcean and it is reflected in our intuitive and easy to understand monthly bills. Our simple pricing model makes your cloud expenses more predictable and business planning easier. On the other hand, AWS bills are complex, long and hard to decipher, even for long-time cloud customers.

DigitalOcean’s simple and short invoices that don’t require lengthy review and verification can save up to 48 hours of billing management time every year when compared to hyperscale cloud providers. When compared to hyperscale cloud vendors, DigitalOcean’s customer-oriented pricing can deliver up to 1.5 million of cost savings, an ROI of 186% and a very short payback time of less than 6 months.

Over the years, businesses such as Eduki have maximized their cloud ROI via DigitalOcean’s platform. Alexsey Kolupaev, the co-founder says “An affordable price doesn’t mean the same for less; it means more for the same price. We can afford to have several staging environments and multiple instances with DigitalOcean.”

3. Avoid vendor lock-in

Startups and SMBs often want to control their technology expenses more closely so that they can pivot when needed or adapt to changes in their operating environment. AWS offers a pricing model where you pay less than on-demand instances if you are on a 1-year or a 3-year contract, which could tie you in long-term contracts with not much flexibility. On the other hand, DigitalOcean’s contract-free pricing gives you affordable pricing plans irrespective of the duration of usage. It also translates to more control over your cloud expenses by providing the flexibility to scale configurations up or down monthly based on your needs.

It’s also easy to get locked into AWS due to the hidden costs associated with migration. AWS’ bandwidth prices are several times higher than DigitalOcean’s, making it a costly effort to move data out, especially if you are entrenched in the AWS ecosystem.

Additionally, several AWS services are based on proprietary technology, which makes it harder to move workloads to other cloud providers or pursue a multi-cloud strategy, effectively locking you in to AWS. DigitalOcean loves open source. Many of the libraries and frameworks we use at DigitalOcean are open source, enabling easier and flexible migration. At DigitalOcean, we also strive to support initiatives that help the open source community thrive.

4. Premium support that feels premium

Startups and SMBs are not the primary customers for enterprise-focused hyperscale cloud vendors, such as AWS, and often do not receive the same level of service that large companies do. On the contrary, DigitalOcean’s Premium Support is purpose-built for the unique needs of startups and SMB, and delivers an exceptional yet personalized support experience. Our Premium Support prioritizes convenience and ease of communication via new ways to deliver support such as Google Meet calls with an expert and Slack channel access to a Technical Account Manager. DigitalOcean’s Premium Support customers also receive access to opportunities for business consultation, co-marketing and architecture review meetings with our internal product teams.

Support plans from AWS have variable and usage-based pricing with no upper limits. That means AWS Business Support customers could end up paying up to 10% of their AWS monthly spend as support charges. In contrast, DigitalOcean’s flat support pricing doesn’t penalize users for higher cloud usage, while also being simpler and more predictable.

Another consideration when evaluating support services from cloud vendors is the definition of response time. AWS’ response times are based on multiple categories of issue severity. For example, AWS Business Support plan has different response times for general guidance, system impaired, production system impaired, production system down and business-critical system down ranging from < 24 hours to < 30 minutes. This categorization of severity not only makes resolution time unpredictable but also results in a complex support experience. As a DigitalOcean Premium Support customer, you will receive a response to all inquiries within 30 minutes, and our goal is to deliver a support experience that truly feels premium.

Here’s what our customers have to say about our innovative support services have to say about our innovative support services.

“The support team is incredible - every time we would have an issue we’d send out a request and somebody really pleasant and nice would get back to you quickly and give you exactly what you need. I’m very pleased with the level and quality of service we get.” - Patrick Wingo, Head of Product, Kea

Grow with us

DigitalOcean is a one-stop shop for everything you need for your apps—compute, storage, networking, managed databases, and more. If you’d like to have a conversation about using DigitalOcean in your business, please feel free to contact our sales team.

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