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A DevOps Comparison of Cloud VPS Services

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There are a myriad of online VPS (Virtual Private Server) services available now to choose from, and certainly a lot more than there were even 10 years ago. They all vary in price, but most providers have reasonably priced services and reasonable offerings. So what sets them apart? In this article, I’m going to talk about some of the services I’ve used, and outline some of the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Providers Discussed

For this article, I have chosen the following providers due to their being fairly well known in the industry, and relatively unlikely to disappear anytime soon.

  • Linode
  • DigitalOcean
  • AWS (Amazon Web Services)

Linode

I’ve used Linode on and off for many years. They’ve always been very reliable (in the European regions, at least), and their support has been top-notch. On the rare occasions where I’ve had to raise support tickets, I can usually expect replies from their team in a matter of minutes rather than hours.

Some of the key advantages of choosing Linode over other providers are as follows:

  • Affordable (currently $5/month for a VPS with 1GB RAM, 1vCPU, and 20GB SSD storage)
  • Their control panel is very functional, but maybe not as slick as some other providers.
  • Automated regular backups of your VPS can be taken for a small amount of money every month, and scales in cost with the size of your VPS.
  • Built-in monitoring to the control panel (Longview), providing a nice graphical representation of key system metrics. The free version has limitations of 12 hours of historical data, and five-minute resolution times.
  • Free DNS hosting managed through the control panel. You can easily create master or backup zones.
  • Hourly billing
  • Based on the KVM hypervisor
  • Lots of network capacity

DigitalOcean

DigitalOcean entered the market back in 2011, long after Linode had been well-established. Their slick control panel and rock-bottom prices shocked the industry and forced similar providers to reduce their pricing. As a result, over the last five years, we’ve seen a dramatic decrease in VPS pricing across the board, and a lot more competition pop up.

Some advantages to using DigitalOcean would be:

  • Very quick to deploy new VPSs (a little quicker than Linode on deployment time, in my experience).
  • The control panel is about as simple as it gets, and it’s hard to do something wrong (see here for an example of how it looks: https://www.digitalocean.com/).
  • SSD-based storage much like Linode.
  • Friendly for the developer (see: https://developers.digitalocean.com/documentation/v2/).
  • Good for testing things quickly.
  • Hourly billing
  • Based on the KVM hypervisor
  • Lots of network capacity

Disadvantages:

  • Less bang for your buck. For the same price you’d pay Linode, you only get half the amount of RAM with DigitalOcean.
  • Admittedly, I haven’t used them as much as Linode, but when I have, I noted regular recurring packet loss incidents, which doesn’t bode well for production services.

AWS

You might be most familiar with AWS (Amazon Web Services). They have been around for a long time, offering VPSs on their “EC2” platform. These, in my experience, have always been incredibly reliable and offer a lot of functionality.

Key Advantages:

  • Lots of functionality
  • Excellent reliability
  • Good and reliable connectivity
  • Easy-to-use elastic load balancers to load balance your application
  • Other complimentary services such as EFS (Elastic File System), RDS (Databases), Route 53 (DNS), etc.

Disadvantages:

  • The control panel is very complicated for a beginner, and has quite a learning curve.
  • The pricing structure is the most confusing I’ve seen in the industry. It’s easier to spend more money than you think due to all the individual charges for bandwidth, storage etc. This is somewhat mitigated by billing alerts.
  • The solutions provided by AWS are more tailored towards businesses.
  • No support on the free tier, and very expensive if you want it.

Conclusion

In conclusion, although there are many more providers out there than I have reviewed, it’s worth mentioning that your use case and budget will obviously determine which provider fits you best. That being said, if you want reliability, ease of use, clear billing, and some form of built-in redundancy, then Linode is the way to go.

Although AWS can be tricky to get to grips with, and their pricing structure can be confusing at best, it’s worth considering them for your project, as the free tier can provide you with a small free VPS for up to 12 months.

Finally, if you’re wanting something quick to test with, DigitalOcean is your best bet, but I feel the other providers are best reserved for production workloads.

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Keith Rogers is an IT professional with over 10 years’ experience in modern development practices. Currently he works for a broadcasting organization in the DevOps space with a focus on automation.


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