I Like Digital Ocean

I haven't updated this blog in over year, but I wanted to switch to a different blogging setup with less friction.

I've tried various blogging engines over the years, but none of them ever made for a great writing experience especially with programming posts. This blog originally ran on Wordpress, but I migrated it to Jekyll to be able to use markdown. However, I've finally decided that I don't want to have to set up specific versions of Ruby, Python, and other stuff I don't use every time I'm on a new machine and want to write a blog post, so I switched to Ghost.

Ghost is nice because it has a built-in web interface for composing markdown posts with a real-time preview, and it's an overall a pleasant user experience. Since it is a dynamic blog engine you can't host it for free in Github pages like you can with Jekyll sites. You can purchase a hosted blog at ghost.org, but those are a bit pricey (around $20/month for the cheapest plan). Plus, I wanted to be able to customize things or host other stuff on my domain.

I've used AWS and Azure in the past, but those services don't have any way to set a spending cap, so something could fire off a bazillion requests to my website, eat a bunch of bandwidth, and I would be stuck with the bill. Call me paranoid, but it's not a risk I'm willing to take for a dumb personal website.

So I looked into other cloud providers and eventually settled on Digital Ocean. Digital Ocean is the simplest and best cloud provider I have ever used. The cheapest VM they offer is $5/month which gets you 500 MB RAM, 20 GB SSD, and 1 TB data transfer, good enough for my needs. When launching your VM (droplet) you can choose from one of several Linux or FreeBSD images, or you can choose one with a pre-installed app such as Ghost, which is the route I ended up taking.

When you first sign up you have a choice between monthly and hourly billing. Both types are pro-rated based the amount of time your machines are kept in existence, which is nice for experimenting. The difference is that monthly bills your credit card at the end of each month, where as hourly uses prepaid funds from transferred from your PayPal account.

When you set up a new droplet, they redirect you to a nice guide on how to set up SSH and the like. In general, I found their documentation to be very friendly and helpful. Their site includes a community section with tutorials, including one on setting up Ghost and nginx from a bare Ubuntu droplet.

Beyond hosting your droplet, they offer other basic services like the ability to scale it up or down to a different size, attach additional storage volumes, assign a floating (static) IP, define custom DNS records, and take backups and snapshots. There is even a virtual console that allows you to log in to the machine from your browser (although I was disappointed that it wouldn't let me copy text).

In conclusion, I like Digital Ocean. The pricing transparency and simplicity of use are hard to beat. I think I will continue to use it for hosting this site and any other personal needs that arise.

Luke Sandell

Read more posts by this author.

comments powered by Disqus