Blogging 101: How I manage my web hosting options - Digital Ocean vs. Bluehost
Digital Ocean vs. Bluehost - both are outstanding web hosting providers, but I use one over the other because of a very particular reason - I want flexibility!
The time has now come - the blog has been around for more than a year and it's now the right time to start diving into the world of blogging and describe how I put everything together to pull off the web site and keep it running nice and smoothly.
In this article, I'm going to talk about web hosting. I will discuss where I host this blog as well as a more "turnkey" alternative for those who don't need (or probably want) the technical flexibility that I have.
Note: I do include affiliate links within the article. If you sign up for service through one of these links, the blog gets a little monetary reward for referring you, and you also get a discount on your web hosting fees. It's a win-win.
Now, let's get right down to it.
Where do I host my blog?
I host my blog with a company called Digital Ocean. They are what we call a "cloud" hosting provider, which means that customers like me can spin up new hosting environments on the fly with full customization capabilities throughout the entire process, including access to the filesystem itself as the "administrator" user, providing full power and control over the entire hosting environment.
I use them because they are one of the best options for cloud-based hosting for nearly-bargain prices. Seriously low cost, but incredible reliability.
And with Digital Ocean, each hosting environment provides dedicated resources just for your blog rather than sharing resources with other customers.
Traditional hosting services (like Bluehost, which I will talk about a bit later), provide shared hosting to their customers, which means each customer shares all the resources available on the web server. Shared hosting is cheaper for the web hosting company to provide, which also means the shared hosting option tends to be cheaper than dedicated resource hosting (aka: Digital Ocean). However, this also means that heavily trafficked web sites can slow down other sites on the same server because all web sites are vying for the same system resources.
ThinkSaveRetire.com operates within a dedicated "container" on one of Digital Ocean's web servers, which means the resources are dedicated just to this blog. No other web site on the same physical web server can "steal" the resources that are provided to this blog.
Digital Ocean calls these little containers "droplets". Each droplet is your dedicated container for your web site to run, and you can create as many droplets as you like - but, of course, there is a cost for each one. Luckily, droplets start cheap - at $5 bucks a month.
What I like about Digital Ocean's services
What I like the most about Digital Ocean is the flexibility I have when I create a new droplet. I get to pick how big I want the hard drive, the memory (RAM), the operating system, any pre-installed software (like Wordpress) - and even the location of the web server! This means if I'm blogging in Europe, I can choose to have my droplet hosted on a web server in London. If I am in Australia, perhaps I would choose the Singapore location. Since I am in the southwest United States, I selected San Francisco - which happens to be one of my favorite big cities to visit.
Or, if you're based on the United States but are running a blog with a European flair, you're still able to host that web site on a London-based server while your other web sites run on another container here in the United States. Awesome flexibility!
Digital Ocean also offers pre-installed software when the droplet is created. I chose to include Wordpress and it was installed and ready to go without me having to install or configure anything. There are many different options to choose from, including web applications like Wordpress, databases and programming frameworks. Of course, droplets can also be created with nothing on them, allowing you to start from scratch. The choice is entirely yours.
Why would YOU likely pick Digital Ocean?
Digital Ocean is a wonderful option for those who want the ability to customize their web hosting environment. If you know what the phrase "root-level access" means, then you'd probably be comfortable with operating within the Digital Ocean environment. It truly gives you an amazing level of customization for an incredibly low monthly price.
Why would YOU likely NOT pick Digital Ocean
If you're less technically inclined and do not care about the nitty gritty of your web hosting environment, then Digital Ocean probably isn't the best hosting company for you. Consider Bluehost instead.
Also, here's a deal: If you sign up with Digital Ocean using this blog's referral link, you'll get a $10 credit to use however you wish. If you select the least expensive droplet (at $5 a month), you're essentially getting two months FREE.
The best alternative to Digital Ocean is Bluehost
Though I now use dedicated resource hosting, over the past 15 years of running web sites, I've encountered enough hosting services to know what to look for in a shared hosting environment, and in my opinion, Bluehost is the best shared web hosting service available. I have used Bluehost in the past and would not hesitate to use them again for web hosting or email services.
Why? First and foremost, they are big, and especially in the world of web hosting, companies don't continue to grow year after year unless they are doing something right. Second, I've personally used them before and know their services to be quick and easy to use. Oh, and their customer support I found to be knowledgeable and anxious to help.
Also, I bet that you'll love using their easy control panel to manage your web site, like create and manage email accounts, databases, change your password, browse through your file manager, manage your domain names, install software (including Wordpress), etc. It's all in one place and easy to get to.
Speaking of their control panel, here's a screen shot:
And perhaps the best part? You can host an unlimited number of web sites (i.e.: domain1.com, domain2.com, domain3.com) through a single hosting account.
It's damn cheap, too. Their regular shared hosting plan starts at $5.95 a month, but if you signup using our referral link, they will take $2 bucks off of that and bring that price even lower, to $3.95. Seriously, there isn't much cheaper than that.
Bluehost is your no-nonsense way to get your blog started quickly and easily.
Answering the question: Digital Ocean vs. Bluehost
Both web hosting providers are excellent. I have personally used both services over the years and vouch for their service level and value. So, how do we answer the question of Digital Ocean vs. Bluehost?
You're essentially asking this question: Dedicated resource hosting vs. shared resource hosting. Or, maximum flexibility vs. turnkey point-and-click ease.
Remember that when your resources are shared, your web site will utilize the same system resources on the physical web server as every other web site on that same web server (there could be thousands). Usually, these web servers are technically beefy and in general this resource contention does not pose significant problems, but it can (and does) happen.
Here are a few scenarios that might help you to decide which type of web host is right for you.
If you want a web site up fast and easy
If you want to select your operating system and hosting location
Choose Digital Ocean.
If you are comfortable configuring web sites at a relatively low level
Choose Digital Ocean.
If you want an easy-to-use interface to create email addresses
If all you want to do is blog and not worry about technology
And if you just don't know
Choose Bluehost. Their services will get you up and operating quickly and extremely cheaply. Digital Ocean will take a little more time to setup completely, but their knowledge base is fantastic. If you want or need ultimate customization, or you want to choose where in the world your web site will be hosted, then Digital Ocean might be your best choice.
Who hosts your web site? Are you happy with their level of service?