Is AWS cheaper than Digitalocean? 

Dibbyyan Nath
23 Min Read

As cloud computing continues explosive growth, organizations of every size are migrating applications and workloads to leverage the flexibility, scalability, and cost-efficiency of the cloud. Two major players in providing enterprise cloud computing solutions are Amazon Web Services (AWS) and DigitalOcean. Let’s dive in to find the answer is AWS cheaper than Digitalocean.

But when evaluating these platforms, one key question arises – which offers the best value and most cost-effective pricing for your needs?

This comprehensive blog post examines the pricing models of AWS and DigitalOcean across their suite of on-demand computing, storage, networking, and managed services. By comparable cloud computing capacity, available configurations and usage-based costs side-by-side, you can select the ideal provider for your infrastructure strategy.

I’ll also outline best practices for cost optimization when architecting deployments on either cloud. Let’s dive in!

Overview of DigitalOcean and AWS

DigitalOcean markets itself as “the developer cloud” – perfect for spin ups of for lightweight hosting needs. Founded in 2012, they focus on providing fast, affordable virtual machine instances called Droplets with predictable flat-rate monthly straightforward pricing starting at just $6 per month, their cloud server is better.

Digital ocean signin page

Over 14 million developers take advantage of DigitalOcean’s user-friendly interface to deploy workloads. In addition to Droplets, DigitalOcean offers block storage volumes, object storage (Spaces), load balancers, DNS management, container hosting, and other infrastructure – all aimed at simplifying cloud provisioning.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) pioneered on-demand cloud infrastructure back in 2006. Today, AWS provides over 200 feature-rich services including computing power, serverless functions, analytics, databases, developer tools, machine learning APIs, storage, networking, and much more, a leader in the cloud computing.  The array of services as well as global edge network has established AWS as the clear market leader – used by everyone from startups to enterprises.

AWS  Signin Page- Is AWS cheaper than Digitalocean

AWS operates on a pay-as-you-go pricing model – you only pay for the exact resources or services used, scaling up and down automatically based on utilization. This brings great flexibility, but also introduces some pricing complexity across the vast range of services and configurations.

Let’s outline some major difference between the platforms:

Primary FocusStreamlined cloud hostingMassive range of 200+ infrastructure services
Pricing ModelPredictable droplet pricingPay-as-you-go pricing
OfferingsMore straightforwardExtremely feature-rich but complex
Ease of UseSimplified interfaceSteeper learning curve

So when evaluating AWS vs DigitalOcean costs or pricing, organizations should consider factors such as on-demand usage patterns, network bandwidth needs, as well as the level of managed services required.

With that overview of the cloud rivals in place, let’s dive deeper into comparing available configurations and usage-based costs across some of their most widely used infrastructure offerings:

Compute Power Instance Cost Comparison

The underlying compute capacity or processing power that instances provide is where most cloud infrastructure costs accumulate.

DigitalOcean Droplets and Amazon EC2 Instances form the base virtual machines for hosting workloads. So evaluating pricing and specs across different configurations is essential.

DigitalOcean Predictable Droplet Pricing

DigitalOcean provides consistent pricing tiers for Droplets starting at just $6 per month for an entry-level instance. Higher configurations scale up from there predictably.

Some example base Premium Intel Droplet plans:

  • $8/month – 1vCPU, 1GB Memory, 35GB SSD Disk, 1TB Transfer
  • $24/month – 2vCPU, 2GB Memory, 90GB SSD Disk, 3TB Transfer
  • $32/month – 2vCPU, 4GB Memory, 120GB Disk, 4TB Transfer
  • $48/month – 4vCPU, 8GB Memory, 160GB Disk, 5TB Transfer
regular prices for Digitalocean- Is AWS cheaper than Digitalocean
regular prices for Digitalocean
Premium intel CPUs for Digitalocean
Premium intel CPUs for Digitalocean
Premium ocean pricing for premium AMD cpu
Premium ocean pricing for premium AMD cpu

So whether you are hosting a simple blog or launching a production application, costs are straightforward based on the compute sizing.

AWS EC2 Instance Pay-As-You-Go Pricing

In contrast, Amazon’s AWS EC2 pricing follows a pay-as-you model with dozens of available instance types spanning different combinations of vCPUs, memory, disk capacities, and networking bandwidth.

Configurations range from t2.nano instances, aws charges with just 0.5G of RAM up to massive x1e.32xlarge clusters with 128 vCPUs and 3,904 GB of RAM!

AWS Ubuntu Pricing- Is AWS cheaper than Digitalocean
AWS Ubuntu Pricing

Pricing also varies by operating system (Linux vs Windows). Finally, specialized instance classes exist for accelerated computing, machine learning, and high performance requirements.

AWS Windows server types
AWS Windows server types

As a sample, pricing on a few standard instance configurations:

  • t3.small (2 vCPUs, 2GB RAM) – $0.0208 per hour
  • m5.large (2 vCPUs, 8GB RAM) – $0.096 per hour
  • m5.2xlarge (8 vCPUs, 32GB RAM) – $0.384 per hour

For basic usage spikes or workloads with intermittent traffic, AWS provides burstable t3 instance types that offer a baseline processing capacity using CPU credits, then automatically handle usage spikes above the baseline smoothly.

So AWS provides an enormous range of flexibility for provisioning infrastructure. But this does introduce some complexity in evaluating long-term costs across dozens of instance permutations.

Comparing Base Compute Costs: DigitalOcean vs AWS

Now let’s compare Digitalocean Vs AWS some examples of estimated monthly compute costs for hosting common baseline workloads on entry-level Droplets versus representative EC2 machine types.

Light utilization scenarios:

  • Simple Blog or Dev Servers
    • DigitalOcean – 1vCPU/1GB RAM Droplet = $8 month
    • AWS – t3.small (2 vCPU/2GB) = ~$15 month
  • Entry CMS Site or App
    • DigitalOcean – 2vCPU/2GB RAM Droplet = $24 month
    • AWS – m5.large (2vCPU/8GB) = ~$70 month

For these types of entry-level workloads often seen with small businesses, DigitalOcean provides better value with RAM and SSD disk configurations in line with needs for an affordable price.

Now examining medium production workloads:

  • Mid-Traffic CMS or eCommerce Site
    • DigitalOcean – 4vCPU/16GB RAM Droplet = $96 month
    • AWS – m5.xlarge (4vCPU/16GB) = ~$210 month
  • Enterprise CMS or App Tier
    • DigitalOcean – 8vCPU/16GB RAM Droplet = $128 month
    • AWS – m5.2xlarge (8vCPU/32GB) = ~$700 month
Digital Ocean Droplet pricing for 4 Gb Ram Prcing screenshoot - Is AWS cheaper than Digitalocean

At the mid-range, Droplet pricing comes in around 3-6X less expensive for running web applications with equivalent compute resources.

However, for some high memory use cases like running massive MySQL, MongoDB databases or batch processing clusters, AWS provides instance types optimized specifically for memory or storage capacity that can process huge datasets cost efficiently.

So while DigitalOcean pricing and developer experience is simpler, passing certain scale or workload thresholds, AWS efficiency optimization, purchasing Reserved Instances for long term usage, or leveraging Spot instance bidding all bring costs down substantially.

Cost Optimization & Savings on AWS

While deciding, AWS or Digitalocean, list pricing on AWS generally runs higher than DigitalOcean, AWS offers ways to cut cloud resource costs by even 80%:

  • Reserved Instances – reduces EC2 prices 30-75% with 1- or 3-year commitments
  • Savings Plans – commit to usage amount for lower discounted apply across instance families
  • Spot Instances – bid on excess capacity for fault-tolerant workloads at 90% discounts
  • Utilizing auto-scaling, right-sizing approaches, AWS Trusted Advisor also curb waste

Combining these best practices for cost efficiency is key for optimizing total AWS spend.

Network Bandwidth Cost Comparison

Most cloud platforms provide a monthly data transfer allowance, then charge for additional “overage” bandwidth usage beyond that. This is where provider pricing diverges widely.

DigitalOcean Network Pricing

The entry level DigitalOcean Droplet includes a generous 1TB monthly data transfer allowance. Overage transfers cost a very reasonable $0.01 per GB – among the lowest overage rates in the industry.

Digital Ocean Data Transfer pricing for Premium Intel CPU
Digital Ocean Data Transfer pricing for Premium Intel CPU

Even better, uploads or inbound data transfer IN to DigitalOcean is always free. For bandwidth heavy applications, this is substantial cost savings.

AWS Data Transfer Allowance and Overage Rates

In comparison, AWS provides very limited 15GB to 50GB a month data transfer allowance depending on the region your instances run in. Beyond that small amount, overage rates are $0.09/GB on average – nearly 10X as costly as DigitalOcean!

While AWS does not charge for inbound data transfers, the much lower monthly data allowance and high overage rates make DigitalOcean far more cost efficient for bandwidth intensive applications.

Cloud ProviderMonthly Data Transfer AllowanceOverage Rate Per GB
AWS15-50GB*Avg. $0.09

* AWS data transfer allowance depends on the region you deploy in

So while DigitalOcean may lack some advanced AWS features, its transparent network pricing makes it clearly superior if substantial outbound bandwidth is required each month.

CDN, Media Streaming, Large File Distribution

For major media streaming, large file downloads/software distributions or CDN usage transferring terabytes out each month, DigitalOcean Spaces combined with their Cloud Firewall and CDN tools handles bandwidth extremely efficiently.

Amazon AWS pricing for S3
Amazon AWS pricing for S3 pricing table continue
Amazon AWS S3 pricing complete

AWS CloudFront + S3 can also achieve reasonable network pricing at scale. But smaller sites just getting started may find better value using DigitalOcean’s Spaces for storage and leveraging Cloudflare’s free CDN caching layer to reduce origin traffic.

Storage Options Cost Comparison

Available storage for cloud infrastructure spans from fast SSD disks to highly durable object storage. Let’s break down the pricing across storage tiers.

SSD Volumes for DBs or Performance Storage

DigitalOcean Block Storage delivers reliable, lower latency SSD volumes that can expand your droplets’ disk capacity or provide mounts for databases. Volumes start at $0.10 per GB per month – adding storage affordably.

AWS EBS gp2 volumes match $0.10 per provisioned GB monthly. However, you also pay $0.10 per 1 million I/O requests on EBS introducing variability. More performant Provisioned IOPS SSD io1 volumes run $0.125 per GB plus $0.065 per provisioned IOPS making costs add up quickly.

AWS EBS gp2 volumes
AWS EBS gp2 volume options with pricing

While base SSD pricing runs cheap, factoring the per GB requests on top of EBS introduces cost variability.

Cloud Object Storage for Large Assets

DigitalOcean Spaces follows consistent $0.022 per GB monthly for at-rest data. Retrieval and API interaction costs round down to zero for most reasonable use cases. Outbound data transfer is an amazing $0.01 per GB – among the lowest egress rates.

DigitalOcean Spaces pricing

AWS S3 Standard comes in just slightly cheaper at $0.023 per GB month for storage. However, data transfer OUT from S3 is a much pricier $0.09 per GB compared to only $.01 on DigitalOcean Spaces!

AWS S3 Standard plans

So for storage use cases in the 50GB to 100TB range, Spaces shapes up as the more cost efficient cloud object storage thanks again to almost 10X cheaper outbound data transfer pricing.

Storage TypeDigitalOceanAWS
SSD Volumes$0.10 per GB$0.10 per GB + IOPS fees
Object Storage$0.022 per GBS3 Standard $0.023 per GB
Object Egress$0.01 per GB$0.09 per GB

Additional Features and Services Costs

Beyond core computing and storage, cloud platforms offer dozens of managed services, governance features, networking & security tools and database options that enterprises rely on:

  • Load balancing
  • DNS Management
  • VPN Connectivity
  • Monitoring stacks
  • Log management
  • Container deployment pipelines
  • Access controls
  • Encryption
  • Databases
  • Analytics

These managed services, features and add-ons allow companies to deliver complete production application environments.

But here is where provider pricing diverges again…

Streamlined DigitalOcean Managed Offerings

While a relatively new provider, DigitalOcean recognized that steeper AWS pricing for ancillary services deterred developers.

Digitalocean Managed Database pricing

So they built out key managed offerings like Load Balancers, Block Storage, and Databases with usage pricing capped at reasonable monthly rates – not variable hourly consumption models:

  • Managed Load Balancers – $10 per month
  • MySQL Managed DBs – from $15 per month
  • Premium Support – $299 per month

By capping monthly fees per service, DigitalOcean simplifies cost forecasting. Just know your baseline infrastructure and managed services needed.

Add-ons like Cloud Firewalls ($6 per month) and Monitoring ($3 per GB) introduce some variability but remain competitively priced.

This focus on transparent pricing keeps total cost of ownership low – in line with DigitalOcean’s target developer audience. AWS may offer richer capabilities but DigitalOcean services integrate smoothly at a fraction of the cost.

Wide Range of AWS Managed Services

One main value driver (and bill inflator) from utilizing AWS is leveraging dozens of managed services around the application stack:

  • Application Load Balancing – from $18 per month
  • Managed PostgreSQL RDS – from $90 per month
  • Route 53 DNS – $0.50 per hosted zone monthly
  • CloudWatch Monitoring – $3 per GB data ingested
  • AWS WAF Web Firewall – from $5 per ACL per month
  • There are literally over 100 other managed offerings!

Tapping into these enterprise-grade capabilities provides tremendous leverage…but can lock you into perpetually escalating monthly costs that need constant optimization.

Just setting up common managed security, storage, DNS, and database functionality across a few application environments runs $500+ in overhead every month. From there costs grow exponentially if not kept in check.

So while presented as seamless services that “just work”, each one chips away at budgets across every environment. The conjured convenience comes at a staggering price over time.

Optimizing Costs: Architecting Workloads for Savings

Based on the pricing comparisons above, some guidelines emerge for controlling costs on both platforms:

DigitalOcean Predictability Suits Lean Teams

For organizations focused on agility with smaller DevOps teams:

  • Simplify cloud spend forecasting with Droplets for hosting and Spaces for storage. Add managed services like load balancers and DBs conservatively.
  • Right size droplets based on actual usage, not guessed capacity. Monitor tools help spot waste.
  • Since most network transfer is free, leverage bandwidth for large media storage and delivery.

Following modern infra practices, you can launch scalable architecture reliably on DigitalOcean for a fraction of the effort and cost as AWS.

Their pricing transparency and focus on developer experience pays dividends for organizations valuing speed to market with minimal fuss.

Architecting AWS for Cost Efficiency

For engineers building complex production infrastructure, utilizing AWS well requires meticulous planning:

  • Assess real workload needs and match instance family to ideal performance profile – don’t overprovision capacity.
  • Analyze storage patterns and select appropriate S3 tiers from frequent access to archival.
  • Eliminate resource waste thoroughly before deploying using AWS Trusted Advisor.
  • Implement autoscaling groups based on demand across compute, databases and services.
  • Utilize Reserved Capacity discounts for steady state workloads.
  • Combine Savings Plans and Spot Instances to cut compute costs further.
  • Consolidate multiple accounts under AWS Organizations for volume discounts.

Following these best practices for cost efficiency helps optimize total AWS spend. But it does require serious operational maturity and capacity management skills to tame the AWS beast!

Summary – Comparing Platforms by Workload

Based on this detailed analysis, we found in various areas DigitalOcean edges out AWS on pricing thanks to its simplified offerings and transparent usage model. Network transfer costs in particular run multiples cheaper.

However AWS provides unmatched breadth and depth of enterprise-grade managed services that prove cost effective for larger scale deployments. The specialization and data warehousing capabilities grant flexibility DigitalOcean can’t match.

There is no universal winner when evaluating AWS vs DigitalOcean. Each platform fits certain workloads better based on scale, performance needs, bandwidth requirements and features required.

Smaller teams favor DigitalOcean for its simplicity and predictability. Enterprises with complex infrastructure leverage AWS configurability and discounted capacity reservations to optimize yearly spend.

Utilizing each cloud appropriately allows maximizing value derived. As your organization looks to migrate applications to the cloud, carefully assess workload patterns and services needed.

Then architect optimal deployments applying the cost efficiency tips above for the selected platform. Both AWS and DigitalOcean present flexible on-ramps to powering innovation through scalable infrastructure.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why DigitalOcean is so Cheap

DigitalOcean is able to offer streamlined infrastructure services at very affordable rates for several key reasons that makes less expensive than AWS:

Simplicity DigitalOcean focuses on providing core compute, storage and networking offerings without the vast array of higher level services included in AWS. By concentrating on delivering essential infrastructure, they reduce overhead costs substantially.

Transparent Pricing Model The pricing model is transparent and consistent, with no fluctuations based on tiered usage or complex licensing schemes. Customers always pay the same published rate.

Lack of Contracts You pay monthly with no long term contracts or commitments required. This saves users and DigitalOcean administrative costs associated with contract management.

Lean Operation With a relatively small team focused narrowly on improving core infrastructure offerings, efficiency is much higher compared to bloated cloud giants like AWS. Less waste means better savings.

Developer Focus DigitalOcean gears its platform, documentation and support specifically towards developers. This singular focus on devs as the target audience creates tailored solutions with immense value.

Straightforward Auto-Scaling Auto-scaling configurations do not require added charges and management overhead typical with AWS. Dynamic scaling occurs seamlessly.

By concentrating squarely on delivering key infrastructure + storage to developers cost-effectively, DigitalOcean finds ample room to minimize expenses for customers. The savings get passed along through bargain basement pricing on robust cloud computing capacity.

Can I Use DigitalOcean for Free?

DigitalOcean does offer a free tier! While not packed with as many features as AWS, it does give developers a chance to test out essential infrastructure for $0 upfront:

2 Month Free Trial Get 60 days free when signing up for any of the paid Droplet plans to take the platform for a spin.

digital ocean 60 days free trial

Free $200 Credit
DigitalOcean provides $200 in infrastructure credit over 60 days for students with a valid educational email address.

Github Free Trial Verified Github users get a free $50 credit for 30 days to evaluate DigitalOcean hassle-free.

Open Source Sponsorships Active open source creators may quality for up to $200 in sponsored infrastructure credit.

Product Specific Trials
Some products like DigitalOcean Managed MongoDB have 14 day free trials.

Hacktoberfest Promotion During the Hacktoberfest developer event in October, activating a Hacktoberfest account earns $200 over 60 days.

So while an eternally free tier does not exist, between the multi-month trials, educational benefits and open source sponsorships, developers enjoy plenty of opportunities to use DigitalOcean gratis!

Why Use DigitalOcean Over AWS?

Here are the top reasons to choose DigitalOcean instead of Amazon’s AWS, especially for smaller scale apps and workloads:

Predictable Pricing Consistent, metered rates for cores infrastructure makes cost planning straightforward. Never worry about variable charges again!

Easier Infrastructure Management Without the complexities of advanced AWS services, configuring and monitoring essential cloud components proves faster and simpler.

Global Data Center Options Even with fewer regions than AWS, major metro areas across North America, Europe and Asia keep latency low.

SSD-Backed Solutions All DigitalOcean’s infrastructure utilizes speedy solid state drives for optimal performance.

Built for Developers From the UI to the well-written docs to the friendly support, everything caters specifically to coders.

Flexibility Without Commitment No long term contracts – use what you need month-to-month. Easily pivot or wind down infrastructure.

For nimble teams aiming to avoid vendor lock-in or unexpected charges, DigitalOcean provides stellar bang for buck. The removal of enterprise complexities offer streamlined, affordable computing.

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Dibbyyan Nath is a well-known entrepreneur, philanthropist, and the Chief Creative Officer of Inteliqo Research and Services. Mr. Nath, over the past two decades, has donned a lot of hats, while writing has remained his first love. Now he aims to express his experiences, as the head of a digital marketing, content creating, and website development company, through his love for writing. To keep up with the young entrepreneur and his thoughts
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