When you’re looking for a cloud platform—whether you’re running a business, starting up, or an indie developer—making the right choice is key to your success. It’s about more than just picking the most recognizable hyperscaler cloud on the market. Switching services later and initiating a cloud migration can be a hassle; think through the option that will work well as your needs grow and change, without costing too much. Look into your options and pick a cloud service that’s a good match for where you’re headed, not just where you are now.
DigitalOcean and Microsoft Azure are two distinct cloud contenders, each with its own strengths and value propositions. Although both platforms offer a suite of cloud-based resources, including compute instances and managed services, they cater to different user demographics and needs. Azure excels with its native support for Windows-based virtual machines, ideal for enterprises leveraging Microsoft technologies. For Linux users, DigitalOcean offers a simplified and economical alternative. This article delves into the differences between DigitalOcean vs Azure, helping you consider the contrasts in product offerings, pricing, performance, and customer support.
Looking for Microsoft Azure alternatives?
DigitalOcean offers comprehensive cloud solutions for startups, SMBs, and developers who need a simple, cost-effective solution that’s tailored to their needs.
DigitalOcean, founded in 2011, has become a go-to choice for developers looking for a robust no-fuss cloud platform. Its developer-centric approach shines through a user-friendly platform that prioritizes simplicity and ease of use, garnering appreciation from SMBs and solo developers alike. DigitalOcean offers a range of products, including Droplets for virtual machines, Managed Kubernetes, and scalable cloud storage options, all designed with developer productivity in mind.
The service has a strong community and a wealth of tutorials, facilitating a smooth learning curve. Its transparent pricing model, with predictable flat-rate plans, ensures that users can scale their operations without facing unexpected costs.
Microsoft Azure, released in 2010, is a hyperscaler cloud for large-scale enterprises. It delivers an extensive range of services and an enterprise-grade infrastructure that integrates neatly with the Microsoft ecosystem.
While its comprehensive offerings, Azure has the capability to handle complex, hybrid cloud architectures. However, this introduces a level of complexity that may be excessive for smaller teams. The pricing, although flexible, can be unpredictable and may present a challenge for those who need a more straightforward cost structure without hidden costs.
There are notable differences between DigitalOcean and Azure—from product offerings to pricing.
These factors shape each platform’s fit for different business sizes and needs—from startups to global enterprises.
Take a look at DigitalOcean’s full product offering. Here are a few highlights:
Droplets: Scalable virtual machines offered with a range of CPU and memory configurations, providing a predictable and affordable platform for deploying applications and development environments
GPU Compute: High-performance options for AI/ML workloads via Paperspace
Managed Databases: Support for MySQL, PostgreSQL, Redis, MongoDB, and Kafka
Managed Kubernetes: Simplified orchestration for containerized applications
App Platform: A PaaS for building and deploying applications
DigitalOcean Functions: Serverless platform for code execution without server management
AI/ML Deployment and Notebooks: Facilitated through Paperspace by DigitalOcean
Managed Hosting: Offered through Cloudways by DigitalOcean
Spaces Object Storage: For unstructured data like images and videos
Volumes Block Storage: For database storage and other I/O-intensive applications
Cloud Firewalls: Network layer protection for VMs
DDoS Protection: Built-in with Droplets
Load Balancers: For traffic distribution and high availability
DNS: Domain name system management tools
Take a look at Azure’s full product offering. Here are a few highlights:
Azure Virtual Machines: A selection of instance types for various performance needs, including specialized instances for compute, memory, or storage optimization
Azure Functions: Serverless computing enabling event-driven functions without infrastructure management
AI and Machine Learning: A comprehensive set of tools like Azure Machine Learning and Cognitive Services for building intelligent solutions
Internet of Things (IoT): Azure IoT Hub and IoT Edge for connecting, monitoring, and controlling IoT assets
Databases: Managed database services including Azure SQL Database, Cosmos DB, and Azure Database for MySQL
Hybrid Capabilities: Services like Azure Stack and Azure Arc to extend Azure’s capabilities to on-premises environments
Identity and Access Management: Azure Active Directory and role-based access controls to secure access to resources
Networking: Network services including Virtual Networks, ExpressRoute, and Azure DNS for secure and scalable networking
Enterprise Integration: Services such as Azure Logic Apps and API Management to connect apps, data, and services
Storage Solutions: Storage options like Azure Blob Storage, File Storage, and Queue Storage for different data needs
DigitalOcean maintains a strong stance on protecting customer data and ensuring our services are compliant with global standards. DigitalOcean has achieved compliance certifications such as ISO/IEC 27001, SOC 1 and SOC 2 Type II. The platform secures customer workloads with a suite of security features that include Cloud Firewalls, DDoS protection, and cloud monitoring tools that provide insights into potential vulnerabilities. Additionally, DigitalOcean ensures data encryption at rest and in transit, and offers private networking capabilities to reduce exposure to potential threats.
Azure offers extensive compliance certifications, including GDPR, HIPAA, FedRAMP, and a multitude of region-specific certifications like IRAP, GxP, and more. Azure’s infrastructure is designed to secure data and applications for businesses of all sizes, offering a layered security model that includes identity management through Azure Active Directory, threat protection with Azure Security Center, and network security through Azure Firewall and Virtual Network. They also provide advanced security features such as Azure Sentinel, a scalable, cloud-native SIEM system, and Azure Key Vault for managing cryptographic keys and other sensitive assets.
When comparing DigitalOcean and Azure, their pricing models reflect their respective target markets and service complexity.
DigitalOcean offers a predictable, transparent pricing model geared towards developers and small to medium-sized businesses. Its straightforward cost structure is a key advantage, with flat-rate pricing that’s easy to understand and plan around:
Predictable monthly caps, avoiding unexpected costs
No additional charges for outbound data transfer within monthly transfer limits
Competitive pricing for standard compute instances and additional services
Azure, in contrast, targets a broader market including enterprise clients, resulting in a more complex pricing structure:
Pay-as-you-go pricing with a broader range of services and scalability options
Detailed billing can become complex, with charges for additional features like networking and data transactions
Offers an Enterprise Agreement option for large organizations seeking customized pricing
To provide a direct comparison of specific services, let’s look at a basic instance of compute service from each provider:
|Azure Virtual Machine
|25 GB SSD
|50 GB HDD
|1 TB Transfer
|Pay-as-you-go data transfer
Please note that the prices are estimated as of January 20, 2024 and can vary based on region, current pricing adjustments, and specific configurations. Azure may also provide discounts through its various purchasing options, such as reserved instances or hybrid benefits, which are not reflected in this basic comparison.
While DigitalOcean’s pricing includes generous transfer limits, Azure charges for outbound data transfer beyond a small included amount, which can make Azure expensive. Check out our article on Azure egress costs for more side-by-side price comparisons for DigitalOcean vs Azure.
When SansPaper migrated from Azure to DigitalOcean, they saw financial benefits. This considerable cost reduction has empowered Sans Paper to reallocate funds to other business areas, fostering growth and innovation. “There was a definite cost savings and that was a motivator as well. We have seen thirty percent cost savings,” says Marcus van Enk, the Founder and CEO of Sans Paper.
DigitalOcean’s documentation shines with its approachable, succinct, and actionable content that developers, particularly those without extensive cloud experience, find accessible. The platform also offers well-organized tutorials and API guides, supporting an easy onboarding experience and rapid infrastructure deployment.
Sans Paper, an Australian construction software firm, made a strategic shift from Microsoft Azure to DigitalOcean for their cloud service needs. Gim Wee, the CTO of Sans Paper, pointed out a key challenge with Azure, stating, “The documentation for Azure is not great. You probably need specialized DevOps that knows Azure, how to set it up, and how to maintain that.”
Azure’s documentation can be overwhelming, given its vast ecosystem and technical depth. Users often encounter a steep learning curve navigating through the extensive documentation, which can be intricate and sometimes convoluted for those seeking quick solutions or straightforward guidance. This can make Azure’s comprehensive documentation appear less approachable for users seeking the same ease of use that DigitalOcean offers.
DigitalOcean maintains a strategic selection of 15 data centers across key global locations, including New York, San Francisco, Bangalore, London, and Sydney. Our newest Sydney data center incorporates the latest advancements in technology and network architecture, providing high performance and reduced latency for the Asia-Pacific region. Despite a smaller footprint than hyperscaler clouds, DigitalOcean prioritizes quality and performance, delivering swift response times and low latency to its customers. That includes a robust 99.99% Service Level Agreement (SLA) for their Droplets and Volumes, offering credits to customers if uptime isn’t met, thereby prioritizing reliability and customer satisfaction.
Azure has one of the largest networks of data centers worldwide. This expansive coverage allows Azure to offer geographical flexibility and redundancy to its customers, ensuring improved latency for a global audience. Azure’s SLA promises 99.99% availability for single-instance virtual machines and 99.995% for multi-instance virtual machines using Premium Storage.
DigitalOcean offers a customer support experience tailored to the needs of startups and small to medium-sized businesses. Recognizing that these groups often don’t get the attention they deserve from larger cloud providers, DigitalOcean steps up with:
Starter ($0/month), Developer, Standard, and Premium plans to suit the needs of different businesses
Premium Support services purpose-built for SMBs, providing a more personalized touch.
Convenient communication options, including direct calls via Google Meet and dedicated Slack channels with Technical Account Managers.
Additional benefits like business consultation, co-marketing, and architecture review meetings with product teams, emphasizing their commitment to their customer’s growth and success.
Azure, catering to a wide range of customers from individuals to large enterprises, has structured a tiered support system:
Basic, Developer, Standard, and Professional Direct support plans for different business needs
Basic support available to all users with options to upgrade to more comprehensive support plans.
Professional Direct support for critical workloads, offering faster response times and access to a pool of Azure experts.
A Premier support plan designed for large or global enterprises, providing personalized service with account management, on-site training, and proactive guidance.
So, should you go with Microsoft Azure? Overall, Azure provides extensive capabilities but also comes with a complex pricing structure, risk of lock-in, and a substantial learning curve. Organizations must weigh the pros and cons closely to determine if Azure meets their specific needs. Here are a few pros and cons to help you decide:
Azure offers several benefits that make it an appealing cloud platform for many organizations:
Windows Integration: Azure seamlessly supports Windows-based virtual machines, making it an ideal choice for businesses reliant on Microsoft environments and seeking native integration.
Global infrastructure. Azure has data centers located around the world, providing low latency and high performance for customers globally. This global reach is a key advantage over more regionally focused competitors.
Broad portfolio of services. Azure provides over 100 services for computing, storage, networking, databases, analytics, machine learning, IoT, and more. This extensive selection allows customers to build a wide array of solutions on Azure.
Hybrid capabilities. Azure makes it easy for customers to run hybrid environments spanning on-premises infrastructure and the Azure cloud. This is enabled through services like Azure Stack and Azure Arc.
Enterprise-ready capabilities. With advanced security, compliance offerings, role-based access control, and management tools, Azure offers the capabilities required by large enterprises.
Developer ecosystem. Azure provides developer tools and supports popular languages and frameworks like .NET, Java, Python, Node.js, and more. The platform is highly optimized for DevOps workflows.
While Azure has several strengths, there are also some downsides to consider:
Complex pricing. Azure uses a complicated pricing model that can be confusing for some customers to understand and predict costs. Significant expertise is needed to optimize spending to avoid how expensive Azure can be.
Vendor lock-in. Azure utilizes proprietary technologies and non-standard interfaces, making it difficult to migrate applications to other cloud providers. This risk of lock-in is a major concern.
Steep learning curve. The breadth of Azure’s services means there is a vast amount to learn to use the platform effectively. Significant ramp-up time is required for new adopters.
Support requires payment. Azure offers limited free support, with most support plans requiring additional payment. This support cost adds to the overall expense of the platform.
DigitalOcean is an attractive Azure alternative, especially for startups and SMBs craving simplicity, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness.
Here’s what makes DigitalOcean a strong contender:
Robust product suite: Virtual machines (Droplets), container orchestration (Managed Kubernetes), expandable storage (Volumes and Spaces), managed databases, seamless app deployment (App Platform), and traffic balancing (Load Balancers).
Transparent pricing: Straightforward and predictable pricing, eschewing hidden fees for budget clarity.
Developer-centric support: Access to Premium Support, personalized and enhanced with direct expert communication tools like Google Meet and Slack.
Extensive documentation: Comprehensive guides and tutorials, created with developers in mind for quick learning and problem-solving.
Global data centers: A network of data centers across the globe ensures low latency and high availability.
Solid SLA: Dependable 99.99% uptime SLA that underscores their commitment to reliability.
Active community: A supportive community and a plethora of educational content to aid users.
Step into a cloud platform that’s built for developers, by developers. Start optimizing with DigitalOcean now and experience a cloud that scales with your ambitions.
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