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Vultr vs Digital Ocean

I don't normally post this sort of thing, but wanted to put in my 2 cents worth. This isn't going to be in-depth, give you some huge feature matrix, or count the pennies. It's my perspective on my use, mostly through SporeStack.

Vultr and Digital Ocean are both your typical unmanaged VPS providers that are trying to compete on price. They have APIs, offer a number of images, datacenters, and for most not looking for an AWS equivalent, are perfectly fine. They both work and they both work well. SporeStack V1 was based around Vultr, SporeStack V2 currently only has a Digital Ocean driver.

Here's my take off the top of my head.

Digital Ocean Pros

  • Pooled bandwidth
  • Consistent penny per GB overages across all regions.

Vultr Pros

  • Almost everything else.

For most of you, it probably won't matter. Vultr has a few nice features that Digital Ocean doesn't have, iPXE and they accept Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash. Digtial Ocean probably has a few legs up in other areas. They're both very competitive with eachother. They both seem to perform about the same. I really don't care if one is 30% faster than the other, I'm not usually dealing with such bottlenecks. For most, it's probably better to worry about orders of magnitude and not anything less.

They differentiate on reliability. Digital Ocean's API goes down all the time. And by all the time, I mean several times a day being polled every minute or so. Vultr's is much more reliable. Secondly, reliability of the hosted VPSs. Digital Ocean is not bad but in my experience has a higher failure rate than Vultr. Maybe 5x? Sounds like a lot but it's really not when you're talking about failures per X number of servers per year, month, whatever. I know from working at Rackspace what to expect with host reliability and how often a VPS is likely to go down. Vultr seemed to meet or exceed those rates. Digital Ocean has been acceptable but not as good. I think provisioning reliability on Digital Ocean is slightly better, but not certain. In some regards the Digital Ocean API seems more modern but with it going down so often, I don't really care.

I don't have hard numbers for this. I don't really care to put them up. We're talking about 99% reliability and 99.9% reliability or something in that range. Maybe add another 9 or two for VPS reliability, I'm more referring to API availability.

Another aspect is support. Digital Ocean has a crappy Sales Force panel that's kind of bodged in. I've also had cases where I just didn't hear from DO for ages. Now to their credit, they did eventually set me up with a fantastic account manager. With Vultr, not every experience was perfect but most were good or really good. The support panel was a lot better.

If I didn't only have a V2 driver written for Digital Ocean and have a large account credit there from a while back, I'd keep most of my servers on Vultr.

But Teran, you run SporeStack, why are you talking about other hosts?

I rolled out my own VM stack for V2 and hosted VMs on my own rented bare metal. It was a huge pain, especially getting network filtering rules done well. It did work but had some bugs that needed to be fixed. And getting enough SSD storage was expensive, the memory wasn't such a big deal. In the end, any big VPS provider with an API does the same thing better than I can. Now I can do it, and I can make mine better and better, but they've got it pretty refined and it's tough to compete. So I'd rather proxy requests back to some other VPS host to launch them, taking a cut for anonymity and API normalization.

Hidden Hosting does not use existing VPS hosts and is a different animal.

If Vultr takes Bitcoin, why would I use SporeStack?

If you don't want to put a credit card on file, SporeStack is a better bet. If you want to launch servers on behalf of other users, SporeStack is probably a better bet.

Anyway, Digital Ocean will have a few more good points than I note here, but my takeaway, after having sustained 2,500 servers on Vultr in the past, is that Vultr is a safer bet. Of course, if you really care about reliability and all kinds of fault tolerance, use both.

For the longest time I thought affiliate systems were stupid. I still think they are a lot of the time. You get a lot of stupid sites making nonsensical comparisions and gaming SEO like Korean Starcraft players trying to get to the top. You also have cases where you align economics of the business and end user to encourage the user to promote your product. Sometimes this makes shills who will tell people anything to sign up. Other times it might encourage them to make slightly meaningful reviews from first hand experience. I'm hoping to add a variant of affiliate to SporeStack, although I'll cringe if it gets shilled with stupid SEO affiliate page sites.

For the record, most SEO links give you some benefit over signing up directly. I'm guessing these links might give you $10 of credit or something like that. Compared to your actual spend on the service, it's not a big deal most of the time and any company is going to care about sustained revenue.

2020-04-03 Update

Digital Ocean's API has improved a lot since I wrote this. I still don't think it's as reliable as Vultr, but the gap is closing.

Digital Ocean still has a horrible ticket interface.

One difference that's taken me a while to notice is that the abuse team on Digital Ocean seems a lot more understanding and open to 3rd party hosting like I'm doing with SporeStack. Vultr seemed pretty on edge about it by comparison, and I don't blame them but Digital Ocean is surprisingly nice this way.