Asking the right questions! If you are deciding between Amazon Lightsail and DigitalOcean for your hosting and VPS needs, then you are not alone.
The reason is because these are two very similar services, similar approaches to web and server hosting, offering similar resources, features and control panels. Both are built for developers, and both platforms have their comparable pricing models.
That being said, there are several key points to consider when choosing between these two hosts.
Let’s get starting to the point.
If you go with Lightsail, you are basically getting a subset of existing AWS features that are presented in a fashion that makes it easy for users to get going with. You will not be forced to learn about details like VPC, subnets, security groups, or forced to choose every last detail of the hardware you provision and the software you deploy — that is all done for you.
You will also not be confused and overwhelmed by the varying hourly costs for sever instances, IP addresses, bandwidth and storage. Many users felt burned in the past from these unexpected changes when using AWS, and so serious is this issue that it has spurred the creation of billing analytics companies like Cloudability and CloudHealth.
Lightsail gets around this by offering you a flat rate charge that is quite in line with what companies like DigitalOcean is charging. And though you are still prone to be billed beyond what the pricing page quotes due to variable factors like I/O and bandwidth usage, things are, more or less, kept in control.
So, why would you want to go with Lightsail when the service DigitalOcean is offering is almost a mirror?
The biggest benefit is that you get a potent upgrade path to the more serious services and automation tools that the AWS platform offers. In addition to that, there is built-in firewall support on offer, as well as the uptime reliability that you get from what is perhaps the true industry leader in regards to the uptime percentage that their services provide.
All that said, unfortunately, for the lone developer that is new to all this, or is cost conscious, Lightsail is still a bit complicated and leaves room for unexpected changes, particularly those for using other AWS services with Lightsail. This brings companies likes DigitalOcean into the picture.
Why DigitalOcean, you ask?
Well, the company is close to building a business worth $500 million dollar a year with its unique twist on cloud and hosting services. This half a billion affair came right under the nose of Amazon, which actually prompted the company to launch the Lightsail in the first place to compete.
Yes, there are other service providers that offer a service similar to DigitalOcean, including popular names like Vultr, Linode and Bluehost. These companies offer what can be called a tier below true cloud, and a ladder above simple VPS plans.
So, why would you want go to opt for DigitalOcean?
For starter, the company is the perfect size, and growing. It also has an almost unheard level of brand loyalty. What this means is that there is a vibrant community of developers that are there to provide you with directions when you need them. Plenty of help is available, and you can easy ask question on the community forums. DigitalOcean has a sheer wealth of tutorials to help web developers get started in deploying a multitude of projects.
These are areas that Lightsail currently lacks in, but the situation is fast improving.
DigitalOcean also has a slightly larger selection of base operating systems images that can be deployed, though Amazon Lightsail is catching up fast. To top it all off, the company makes support available when and where you need it without costing extra — unlike Amazon.
It also makes cost control a selling point on the website, sending notifications to users when their bills approach a certain threshold. In addition, while all these small to medium sized providers charge extra for bandwidth in excess of the plan specified limits, Lightsail surprisingly charges more — you have to pay $0.09 per GB, compared to the $0.02 per GB at the other three.
All these factors limit the Lightsail appeal a little.
Yet truth be told, there is much to like here still, particularly for users that are quick learners, small businesses and teams that want to start small and add more advanced AWS tools and databases, without having to make a major shift to a completely different hosting provider.
If you know you are one of these, then Lightsail is unbeatable.