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Linode vs. Digital Ocean – Which VPS should you get?

April 15th, 2013 by Andrew Smales

I wrote an update post to this, however, it doesn’t replace this article, it’s simply a 6 month update on what’s new with Linode and Digitalocean. If you’re only going to read one of the posts, I’d probably stick with this one.

UPDATE: After the great response to this review, I’ve decided to also do a review in the near future on Chunkhost, an up and coming VPS place with a very good rep. Subscribe to this blog’s RSS feed, or check back soon if you want to see that, and let me know if you have any feedback on Linode, Digital Ocean or Chunkhost!

Okay, so even though this is a podcast hosting site, I am going to use this blog to provide some information that might be interesting to people running startups and other websites. The fact is, most people running podcasts have at least a basic website to go with it, and many have more substantial web presences. I’m actually writing an article very soon about the benefits of having a podcast for startups, I have some thoughts on that, that I don’t think have really been written about that much before.

So, as far as the question of Linode versus DigitalOcean: Both of these companies are VPS providers. A VPS is a Virtual Private Server, which is basically the step between getting a $10/month shared web hosting account (from somewhere like Dreamhost), or a dedicated server. I’m not looking to define which of these three choices you need: I personally love using the latter two choices, and I think a VPS is usually a nice step up from shared hosting accounts. This is just going to be a quick summary of my thoughts on the Linode vs DigitalOcean choice, which I’ve seen come up a few times lately.

Linode has been around for a while now, and is trusted and loved by a lot of tech savvy nerd types. Linode seems so dominant that when they make a change, people submit it to Hacker News (a popular site for startup-related news) as if it’s taken for granted that most people know and use Linode.

Digital Ocean is a newer company, whose popularity has exploded this year. I couldn’t find a source for this, but a friend of mine in the hosting industry told me they tripled the amount of customers they had, in January 2013. That’s an astounding figure for a hosting company (as opposed to some hot social network), and I’m not exactly sure that the catalyst was for that growth. I do know that the first time I visited their site, I was blown away, I thought their services looked great, and the value they provide is very nice.

I’ve probably used VPS and dedicated servers at about 15 different companies since 1999, ranging from extremely low-end cheapo VPSes, to relatively powerful dedicated servers running a busy, database-intensive site. I’m always looking around for alternatives, and I think I have a pretty good feel for what is out there.

We use a number of servers and hosting providers for Castmate. We’ve been using Linode for almost 2 years, and Digital Ocean for a couple of months now. I signed up for a $10 DigitalOcean account in order to host a few WordPress blogs I have, and, because their prices looked much more attractive than Linode, especially for bandwidth, I wanted to evaluate them and see if they might be an option at some point to replace Linode. I’ve never had any real problems with Linode, but I always keep my eyes open.

So a few thoughts:

1. My $10 D.O. server has 1GB RAM, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t keep running out, and has killed my database process numerous times. The weird thing is that the sites I have on there get almost no traffic, and I can’t figure out why that much memory isn’t working. I am not completely familiar with the virtualization software that VPSes use, and I don’t know honestly why this is happening, but I’ve run these same sites on other servers with less memory before, so that’s kind of weird. My server definitely does report that it’s giving me the correct amount of RAM, it’s not like it was set up incorrectly, and I have all the LAMP stuff running in a very standard fashion, under CentOS.

2. I had one support encounter with DigitalOcean, and I wasn’t super happy, but it wasn’t terrible. After I first set up my server (they call them Droplets btw), I woke up two days in a row to find out it had crashed due to low memory. Actually, I think this was when I was briefly on the $5 plan with 512MB of memory (I upgraded this fairly quickly.) Because I was brand new to the company and server, I wanted to write in case… ahh, know what, I’m not going to write a book about this, suffice it to say, their response came in 24 minutes, which is fine, but it was a bit terse and essentially said that I should reboot my server because there was a kernel panic.

3. Linode’s support is amazing by the way, I have never seen anything like it. To be honest, Digital Ocean’s reply would probably seem very good to me if I had never used Linode, who are almost unbelievable in how fast they have replied to me and solved any problems I’ve had.

4. Here is the big kicker: Probably as a direct response to DigitalOcean gaining so many customers, Linode has boosted their plans in an insanely huge way, without raising prices. A couple of months ago, they gave all their customers 20% more storage space. One day, more recently, I woke up and they casually announced they have multiplied everyone’s bandwidth allotment by 1000%, which was a huge, huge thing for me (Castmate serves a crazy amount of podcasts per day). Then, a week or two ago, they announced that they have doubled the RAM that every customer’s server has.

These Linode upgrades are amazing, and unprecedented in my experience with hosting companies. These guys do not simply give you things for free, and in fact, I’ve had really annoying situations with other hosting companies in the past where they would roll out a new range of more powerful dedicated servers for half what I was paying, and wouldn’t lower my price to match, unless I migrated all my data over to one of the new ones (not always the most fun when you have 500GB of data and don’t really need the extra power or to have to recompile all sorts of custom things on the new server).

This post is going on forever! Listen, I’m going to wrap it up and just say this: Now that Linode has upped their bandwidth and memory and whatnot, I really don’t see the point of using Digital Ocean. It’s not that they’re bad, I would give them a B+ if I was grading every VPS company I’ve used, but it is incredibly hard to compete with Linode, they are just miles ahead of everyone, super helpful, super easy to use, and they are now up to speed as far as value-for-money.

And I guess I will say this: Digital Ocean are probably the only place I’d recommend other than Linode. A lot of the other places I’ve used have been okay, but have always had some kind of annoying problem here or there.

Note: I included affiliate links in my links to Linode. This was purely because I happen to have those links available to me, I am not saying nice things about Linode in hopes of a few referral bucks, and I didn’t write this article for that reason (to be honest, I wrote it because I want to get some readers from the web and startup world, since those are groups that Castmate caters to!). I also included an affiliate link to Dreamhost. I mentioned Dreamhost in the context of shared hosting, and I’m going to be honest: It was partly just because I’m a former employee (their first actually) and I have a warm spot in my heart for them. I remembered after the fact that I had a code, so I stuck it in.


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