When you are confident that you are able to run an unmanaged VPS, or when you are determined to tackle any necessary hurdles, then DigitalOcean is a great choice.
You already have a VPS – or Droplet in DigitalOcean lingo – for $0.007 per hour. With this entry plan you get 512 MB of memory, 1 Core, a 20 GB SSD (Solid State Drive), and 1 TB of traffic.
Although droplets are charged on a per hour basis, the fee for the smallest droplet is capped at $5 per month. If you have not tried a VPS yet, I guess for $5 a month it is definitely worth a try.
Next to affordable server resources, DigitalOcean has a great community. This community offers a load of helpful tutorials. When you post a question you will discover that DigitalOcean staff and peers are there to help you on track.
Willing to give it a shot? First thing to do is create an account, and click the link in the confirmation e-mail to verify your e-mail address.
Another required step prior to creating your first droplet is updating your billing details. With DigitalOcean you have two payment options: credit card or PayPal.
When you prefer PayPal you have to prepay the usage for the current month. For the entry plan, that is $5. Your card or balance with DigitalOcean will be charged at the end of the month.
Creating a Droplet
Basically, you can name the droplet anything. However, it is good practice to pick a name and add your domain – or the main domain on the server regarding.
So when the domain of your site is hostingcaddie.com, and you want to name the droplet vps1, then the Full Qualified Domain Name (FQDN) becomes vps1.hostingcaddie.com.
Use this FQDN as the name for your droplet.
Additional bandwidth is charged at $0.02 per GB. The smallest option comes includes 1,000 GB traffic to start with. Every following plan adds 1 TB.
When you just want to play with a VPS, experiment with new software, or when you are not sure, pick the cheapest option. You can always upgrade.
As mentioned earlier, you will be charged by the hour, until you have reached the monthly maximum of 672 hours (28 days) for a droplet.
- New York – US East Coast
- San Francisco – US West Coast
- Amsterdam – Europe
- London – Europe
- Singapore – Asia
In New York and Amsterdam, the most popular locations, DigitalOcean is running three data centers.
Depending the location, you can choose from some additional server settings.
Private Networking and IPv6 are not available in all data centers (yet). Private Networking allows you to communicate with other droplets in the same server location. The IPv6 protocol is (slowly) replacing IPv4. So, the question is; do you need these options today?
All server locations let you enable backups and user data. User Data are optional server meta. If you do not know what that is, just ignore it.
With DigitalOcean you can have Backups and Snapshots. Both make a copy of the current state of your server.
Backups are created automatically, according to a specific algorithm. You do not control when a backup is made. A backup is created while the server is powered on. Backups cost 20% of the monthly costs of your droplet. So in case of $5, backups cost you $1 per month.
Snapshots are billed according to the storage required by your snapshots. You pay $0.02 per GB storage. The main advantage of snapshots is that you can initiate these anytime you want. A disadvantage is that you have to power off the droplet.
Since you are going to be in complete control of your droplet, you can always implement other kinds of backup procedures.
Please note that it is possible to disable Backups afterwards, but you can only enable Backups upon creation!
However, there is a workaround when regret you did not enable backups:
- create snapshot
- create new droplet from that snapshot, this time with backups enabled
- update DNS records
- destroy first droplet
You pay per hour, remember.
After setting your location, you need to choose an image. This image is used as a blueprint for your initial server setup. Basically, you have three options:
- Linux Distributions
- Snapshots, Backups, Destroyed Droplets
The last options – Snapshot, Backups and Destroyed Droplets – are not available for first-time customers, so we skip those.
Personally, I would not recommend Fedora for a production environment, while CoreOS is a bit of an overkill for smaller server deployments.
Clicking the dropdown menu, directly below the names of the Linux distributions, presents a list with available versions of that distribution.
When you do not have a personal preference, pick the suggested Ubuntu 14.04 x64.
For a web server, you might need Apache, MySQL and PHP. Together with Linux this is called the LAMP stack.
Some prefer Nginx (pronounced as eNgine-x) above Apache. Analog to LAMP, this is bundle is called the LEMP stack.
DigitalOcean offers several One-Click Applications for popular server setups. Droplets created with Application images have the required software pre-installed.
Some examples are the above mentioned LAMP and LEMP stacks, and WordPress. In case you might wonder, the WordPress Application installs LAMP.
Please note that all Applications are all based on Ubuntu 14.04. So, when Debian or CentOS is your operating system of choice, you will have to install the required software packages manually. It is not hard, it only requires a few additional entries in the terminal window.
Add SSH Keys
At this stage, you have the opportunity to add existing SSH Keys or create a new pair of SSH Keys.
With SSH Keys you are able to access your server without the need to enter a password. Instead of the password, you need a matching Public and Private SSH key.
When you do not assign SSH Keys here, you will receive a root password by e-mail. It is no problem postponing the creation of SSH Keys, that is why this step is optional. You can apply SSH Keys anytime. Until then, you can login with your password..
You do not need a password if you choose to assign SSH Keys – so you will not receive one either.
As soon as you have made the four mandatory decisions (name, size, region and image), the [Create Droplet] button turns green. However, before you hit that button, briefly scroll up and down the page to verify your options.
Is all well? Hit that green button!
You need a little patience…
When the panel of your droplet appears, you know are done. Congratulations, you have created a VPS with DigitalOcean.
Now, you can login to your droplet.
When you are on Linux or Mac, you can login via the shell terminal. Windows users need to install PuTTY.
In the terminal windows you enter:
ssh -p 22 root@$ipaddress
The IP adddress is available form the Droplets screen of the dashboard at DigitalOcean. When you haven added any SSH keys yet, you will have to enter the pasword received by mail.
You can also log in through the console at DigitalOcean. First click the droplet regarding and then hit the [Console Access] button.