For the past year I’ve been a Rackspace customer. I don’t have anything major with them, just a lower end virtual private server running Ubuntu that I primarily use for hosting personal projects and hobby development work. I’ve been happy with their service, but lately I’ve started to pay more attention to some of the other providers and have begun some¬†initial VPS comparisons.

With the VPS market becoming so competitive, and given that I’m often deleting and recreating my machines anyway, I decided it wouldn’t hurt to try out a new company to see what they have to offer. Today I deployed my first machine with DigitalOcean, a company that really feels like it came out of nowhere and seems to be everywhere I look lately.

 

VPS Plans and Pricing

Linux Distributions Available Both companies have a number of different plans ranging from $5.00 to almost $1,000 per month. Not all plans were featured in the primary pricing sections of either company’s website. DigitalOcean has a plan that’s a significantly leap up from anything advertised, and Rackspace has one with an hourly rate placing it at almost half the price of the lowest provided by their Cloud Calculator. In both cases you’d have to actually log in to come across them.

Distinct Server Regions

DigitalOcean’s plans all come with a ridiculous amount of bandwidth, especially of the price. If you manage to go over the terabyte or more your plan starts with, additional bandwidth is $0.02/GB. Rackspace doesn’t seem to include bandwidth with their Cloud Server packages and instead charges $0.12/GB for outgoing data. Depending on your needs that may not be an issue.

Rackspace definitely has the most variety in Linux distributions to choose from, even if some of them are on the more obscure side. They also have a couple Windows images that weren’t included below. Both companies provide multiple releases for most of their distributions and offer 32-bit and 64-bit options.

When you create a server with either company, you’re given a fresh install and complete root access. So far I’ve found both services to be fast and reliable.

Lowest and Highest Priced VPS Plans as of 5/30/14

 

Server Creation Speed

If you’re like me and frequently recreate your machines, you’ll be happy with the deployment speed of both services. I timed how long it took for each service to create a new Ubuntu instance using the smallest package available which happens to be the same for each.

DigitalOcean servers keep a history

Each created a new server running Ubuntu 14.04 with 512 MB memory, 20 GB disk, and 1 CPU. DigitalOcean was done in 44 seconds. Rackspace finished in a respectable 1 minute 34 seconds.

 

Rackspace’s Perks

Rackspace has around for sixteen years and is a respected name in the industry. They offer a number of other paid services that easily tie in with their Cloud Servers such as load balancers, cloud file storage, dedicated MySQL instances, and automated backups.

cloud-dns
VPS customers can use their Cloud DNS service for free which is great if you want more control over your domains and aren’t yet using something like Amazon Route 53. They really give you greater control over your DNS records than some hosts I’ve used and I like being able to choose my own TTLs.

One other perk they offer is use of their Mailgun service for sending and receiving emails using your own domains. The free plan allows up to 50,000 messages/month and their API makes it painless to integrate into your applications.

 

DigitalOcean’s Perks

You’ll get DNS service with DigitalOcean as well. It’s not quite as robust as what’s provided by Rackspace (no TTL control), but it can still handle most of your DNS needs and is very clean and and easy to use. Their entire control panel is like that really.

billing-2factorWhat I’ve really liked about creating servers with DigitalOcean is that you can choose from a list of applications to have them install automatically as part of the process. I selected the LAMP option, worried I’d have to spend time cleaning up problems. When I logged in, Apache2, MySQL, and PHP were all up and running and the information I needed to get going was provided right in the MOTD.

Surprisingly, their billing system is also a plus. All of the charges are well documented and transparent so you can see exactly what you owe at any given moment. If needed, you can generate a professional, up-to-date invoices that match your balance. They also have a billing alert system so you can receive an automatic email when your balance gets to a certain point!

 

Try Them Out!

DigitalOcean and Rackspace are both great VPS providers and they each have their own strengths. You really can’t go wrong with either one.

I’ll continue to use both services from time to time, and will definitely be trying some new ones too.

 

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