Chances are, if you’re shopping for a virtual private server, you already understand why they’re useful for web developers, app designers and everyone in between. You also probably know that the surge in popularity of hourly pricing means you can try most of the big players in this space for yourself for the cost of one Bazooka Joe comic (not even the gum, just the comic). Hopefully you’ve had time to peruse our other comparisons featuring today’s combatants and a few of your other relevant choices.

What is DigitalOcean?

In the not so distant past, it was commonplace to refer to DigitalOcean as a plucky underdog – a company with a long way to go. Well, Ben Uretsky and crew must be quick learners. The company has gone through at least 11 financing rounds, which has seen it raise more than $305 million. A lot of this funding has gone to data center build outs and expansion of cloud services, with the company now boasting a global footprint, with data centers in Toronto, Singapore, San Francisco, and New York, among other locations. The company’s $250 million revenue run rate makes them almost comically successful by any measure. To hear them tell it, the main reason for such a meteoric rise is their intense focus on developers. Their progressively inexpensive pricing structure certainly hasn’t hurt matters, either.

What is Linode? 

Linode’s path to prominence has been a stark contrast to DigitalOcean’s. Founded back in the relative Dark Ages of 2003, Christopher Aker’s company has been a relevant player in the world of virtual hosting since, well, virtual hosting has been a thing. But ironically, if not for the increased competition from later entrants like DigitalOcean, Linode might have stagnated. It takes a lot of resources to compete with tech behemoths like Amazon and Microsoft, but even with gobs of cash, those companies have such broad offerings that they are operating in a different market altogether. Watching DigitalOcean in the rearview mirror must have lit a fire under Linode, because the venerable company has slashed prices across the board and added more economical tiers. From integrating excellent control panel support to building a robust API, the company has made its offerings more user friendly, so as better to compete with rivals like DigitalOcean.

What are DigitalOcean’s Features?

DigitalOcean began to make waves due at least in part to its super simple and affordable pricing. As we will note in the Linode breakdown, that advantage has eroded somewhat over the years, but nevertheless you can find great value up and down DigitalOcean’s range. Their pricing page makes it easy to see what your bill will look like whether you will spin up a droplet for a few hours or months at a time. Their tiniest plan will run you $.007/hr for 1GB RAM, 1 core processor, 25GB SSD and 1TB of transfer.

If DigitalOcean’s starter pricing seems cheap, it’s because it is. Additional memory, processing power and space will cost you more as you go along, and DigitalOcean, whose droplets use KVM as hypervisor, can accommodate some very high volume users. Its $.007/hr and $5/mo VPS pricing is so insanely cheap I don’t know why everyone doesn’t have one. $5 is not very much money. You probably can’t even buy four dollars for $5 nowadays. Last week I saw a guy drop a $5 bill and he tried to pick it up by throwing another $5 bill at it. They both blew away, and he didn’t even blink. Hey pal, that could be two months of a private server!

When it comes to DigitalOcean’s billing what you see is what you get. In the old days, DigitalOcean did not charge for bandwidth overages. That has now changed, with DigitalOcean charging in the realm of $0.01/GB for bandwidth overages. 

DigitalOcean didn’t stop at pushing the cloud pricing envelope. Their insistence on the increased performance and reliability of SSDs forced competitors to play catch-up, and for good reason. This test from 2013 shows how even two years ago DigitalOcean’s SSD servers were blowing away the competition: a pair of heavyweight incumbents in Amazon Web Services and Rackspace. But this advantage has eroded over time as well. Unfortunately, if you’re a trendsetter, eventually you set all the trends.

However, not everything DigitalOcean does spreads like wildfire. Their developer-focused and relatively narrow approach may have made them relevant and buried a few competitors along the way, but compatibility and adaptability are the games most other providers are playing. You may find the app integrations lacking, or you may not; Docker, Ghost, LAMP, Ruby on Rails, WordPress and more are all present and accounted for. No matter what, you can appreciate DigitalOcean’s commitment to improving their offerings: The last six months alone have seen them roll out a new APIa revamped DNS and expanded IPv6 support. With a 99.99% uptime SLA and a 55 second startup time, you should have plenty of time to play around.

What are Linode’s Features?

Linode has a slightly different perspective on the world of virtual private servers, having entered the market way back in 2003. While their product line is not as robust as a “full-featured” cloud provider like Microsoft’s Azure or Amazon, its commitment to delivering a first class Linux server experience in the cloud is razor sharp.

Linode can match the bargain basement $5/mo offering, with a 1GB RAM “nanode” which comes with single core, 25GB SSD disk space, 1TB transfer plan that sounds very familiar to DigitalOcean users. Low-end to moderate users won’t find much to gripe about between the two companies’ provisions, the differences mostly amounting to a gig here or a core there, but Linode really steps up their game for heavy users, in some cases matching DigitalOcean’s capacity several times over. But make sure you pick the right plan! Linode is just as stingy with bandwidth overages, charging $0.01/GB once you’ve hit your limit (excluding in-bound traffic).

Linode, too, will generally run your favorite flavor of Linux (Ubuntu, most likely, if the stats are any indication). A Linode user will have to swap CoreOS compatibility for Slackware, Gentoo, openSUSE, Slackware or Arch Linux, however. Happily, Linode adds even more functionality by allowing for the installation of custom distros, a feature that DigitalOcean users will have to go without.

It may be difficult, but try not to get too excited counting up Linode’s feature advantages in this competition; feeling like a kid in a candy store doesn’t really make much sense now that we all just get 40 flavors of Pocky delivered to our doors for ten bucks a month. You want those analytics we were talking about earlier? Try Longview. Need load balancing? If you’ve got a crisp Andrew Jackson every 30 days or so, Linode wants to sell you NodeBalancers. What if you just feel like sitting back and watching someone else do all the work while you try to find “rare Mountain Dew” on eBay, for whatever reason? Managed Hosting and Professional Services have got you covered. Linode has done a great job filling out its product line beyond mere servers; there really is something here for everyone. Linode’s data centers, in locations like Newark, Fremont, Frankfurt, Singapore, and Mumbai, allow your apps to support a global user base, with Linode recently adding new data centers around the world.

Does DigitalOcean or Linode Have a Bigger Community?

Both DigitalOcean and Linode have active communities centered around open source, Linux, vps hosting, and cloud computing generally, though DigitalOcean has a big lead where sheer numbers are concerned. DigitalOcean has around 4 million developers in its global community, with customers in an impressive 195 countries, who, collectively, have spun up more than 150 million DigitalOcean droplets. The stats indicate DigitalOcean’s rising profile in cloud computing, ranging from simple web hosting for small PHP websites to complex data farms for large enterprises running on thousands of cpu cores. These are impressive accomplishments for a cloud provider that started only in 2012 before launching its data centers in San Francisco, Singapore, and London.

With over 800,000 developers using Linode, the Linode community is impressive as well, but it’s obviously a smaller group than that in the DigitalOcean community. Part of it might just be how obsessively Linode has focused on highly technical Linux types, which, perhaps, has slowed down its growth somewhat since its 2003 founding. In the early days, the company did not offer a convenient one click installer for common web hosting software, making it clear that it was only for Linux-savvy power users. This is a company that got its start in the cloud in 2003, before Amazon or Azure even appeared on the scene, so its community, while smaller than the competition, has some dedicated early adopters who are unlikely to ever jump ship.

Is DigitalOcean or Linode Easier to Use?

Over time, both DigitalOcean and Linode have become easier to use, though they continue to be cloud hosting services with a decidedly technical developer and devops engineering audience. Both platforms offer un-managed hosting plans with a 99.9% uptime SLA, block storage to meet your apps’ demands, downtime mitigation, high availability features such as Linode’s load balancer NodeBalancer, and power features to support complex enterprise cloud deployments. The advanced functionality offered on the platforms makes them ideal for such users but are not ideal for small, throwaway projects by small teams, where the complexity of provisioning infrastructure from scratch, running, and maintaining it, can be overwhelming. 

Nonetheless, both platforms continue to make their cloud products easier for beginners to use. For example, Linode now offers one-click install for the following popular cloud applications:

  • WordPress
  • Drupal
  • Lamp
  • GitLab
  • MERN
  • Minecraft

Teams with any technical depth at all are likely to find both DigitalOcean and Linode to be not only easy to user, but much more user friendly when put in contrast to the web of complexity involved in bigger cloud offerings such as AWS and Azure. Those much bigger platforms combine incredible power with the inevitable complexity that comes with offering services to meet an enterprise’s every conceivable cloud need. Linode’s support is notable, with 24/7 availability via telephone, support tickets, and a #linode IRC channel. APIs and CLIs provide programmatic management of both DigitalOcean and Linode. DigitalOcean has established a wide collection of community tutorials for developers, which cover everything from creating API gateways on DigitalOcean Kubernetes to deploying a Go web application with Docker and Nginx. Linode has a smaller collection of guides as well, and offers a 7-day money back guarantee to make exploring the platform and getting used to its capabilities easier for those new to Linode.

Does DigitalOcean or Linode Scale Better?

Scaling your application with additional cloud servers or more powerful servers is an area where both Linode and DigitalOcean really shine. On Linode, all you have to do is select a desired RAM size and click “Resize this Linode Now!” Linode then migrates your servers according to your new configuration. DigitalOcean recommends horizontal scaling though, with the rationale that vertical scaling is often problematic and subject to a lower ceiling of performance gains. For example, ten $5 servers can outperform a $50 server under the right conditions. In 2019, DigitalOcean rolled out General Purpose Droplets with Intel Xeon Platinum 8168 “Skylake” Processors and speeds of 2.7GHz in order to guarantee extremely high performance with zero interruptions. While the most advanced servers will not always be required for each deployment, both of these hosting providers have tiered server offerings that make it easy to graduate your cloud deployment to more powerful hardware as your traffic and demands grow.

What is DigitalOcean’s Pricing?

DigitalOcean offers the following pricing as you scale up your servers:

1 GB 1 vCPU $5 / mo ($0.007 / hr)
2 GB 1 vCPU $10 / m ($0.015 / hr)
4 GB 2 vCPUs $20 / mo
8 GB 4 vCPUs $40 / mo
16 GB 6 vCPUs $80 / mo
32 GB 8 vCPUs $160 / mo
64 GB 16 vCPUs $320 / mo
96 GB 20 vCPUs $480 / mo

Other types of droplets are also available on DigitalOcean, including General Purpose Droplets and CPU-optimized droplets. 

9. What is Linode’s Pricing?

For planning your scaling, this is the pricing you can expect on Linode:

1 GB 1 Core $5 / mo ($0.0075 / hr)
2 GB 1 Core $10 / mo ($0.15 / hr)
4 GB 2 Cores $20 / mo
8 GB 4 Cores $40 / mo
16 GB 6 Cores $80 / mo
32 GB 8 Cores $160 / mo
64 GB 16 Cores $320 / mo
96 GB 20 Cores $480 / mo

Linode servers under the Standard Plan go all the way up to 192GB RAM with 32 cores and 3840 GB SSD. More advanced plans are available, including Dedicated CPU Plans and GPU Plans.

As you can see, for shared CPU cloud servers, DigitalOcean and Linode are about neck and neck. Either one can scale your applications well, with both supporting major server OSes such as Debian, Ubuntu, Fedora, and CentOS. Integrations with infrastructure tools like Terraform, Ansible, and Rancher are available on both DigitalOcean and Linode. 

10. What are Other Notable Web Hosting Companies?

So far we’ve considered exclusively DigitalOcean vs Linode for cloud hosting, but the reality is that the market is now teeming with cloud computing infrastructure-as-a-service providers, from market leader AWS all the way to challengers such as OVH, UpCloud, and Vultr. There’s much to like at Linode and DigitalOcean, who are not static at all, but continue to push the envelope with innovative offerings such as a new managed service for MySQL and Redis databases announced to TechCrunch in August 2019. The competition, though, is intense in the cloud computing market, and these are the players the two will have to grapple with for market share in the years ahead:

  • AWS: By far the market leader, Amazon’s IaaS offering, especially its EC2 cloud computing service, has been far and away the biggest beneficiary of enterprise cloud adoption. Amazon has also introduced simpler services such as Lightsail, which provides preconfigured packages for applications like WordPress and others.
  • Microsoft Azure: Azure has seen a lot of adoption lately, and its momentum means it could eventually contend with AWS for the top spot in the cloud computing space. Unlike DigitalOcean and Linode, Azure has a mind-numbing plethora of individual services, as many as 600, that are part of the cloud platform. In this way, it’s a near-perfect substitute for AWS.
  • OVH: Based in France, this is Europe’s largest cloud provider. The company has 30 data centers and serves over 1.5 million customers. 
  • UpCloud: UpCloud might have a smaller community than major cloud providers, but it purports to have the fastest cloud in the world. This commitment to speed and ease of use make this Finland-based cloud provider a notable competitor for both Linode and DigitalOcean. 
  • Vultr: A combination of fast, dedicated cloud servers, bare metal servers with zero virtualization, and block storage products make this young upstart, launched in 2014, a fast rising player among VPS providers. Vultr’s affordable hourly billing for its servers places DigitalOcean and Linode firmly in its targets for grabbing users. 
  • Google Cloud Platform: Google’s cloud business continues to grow, driven in large part by usage of its big data, AI, and machine learning tools. That said, Google lags behind Microsoft and Amazon in market share and is investing aggressively on infrastructure to catch up.   

11. Summary

Linode may be targeting Amazon and the other (very) big boys with its recent brand reimagining, but their most dangerous competitor has been in their backyard the entire time. DigitalOcean is trying to fill the same niche and please the same core audience. Right now, at least volume-wise, they’re doing it more successfully, too. But that’s big picture. The question is: which should you choose for your VPS needs?

Both companies have a lot to offer with a lot of overlap between them. DigitalOcean is incredibly simple with just enough of what most users need to get by, whereas DigitalOcean is incredibly simple with just enough of what most users need to get by, whereas Linode has a good deal more on offer, but strives for simplicity and ease-of-use as well. Linode has a bias towards Linux power users. Linode is at the head of the pack with its brand spanking new infrastructure and clutch datacenter locations. DigitalOcean is just a few miles away in London, New York and San Francisco, and they’re more or less responsible for the Great Price War and SSD Revolution. Neither company will let you put together a custom package, so if you can’t figure out which has an instance that’s right for you, maybe neither one does. In the end, you should decide what you’re looking for first–connectivity, a full suite of add-ons, a cheap rabbit hole to fiddle with–then spin something up and try it out. You’ll only be out a few cents, after all, and whatever you learn will be worth more than that.