Amazon Lightsail is the much talked about VPS (Virtual Private Server) hosting from the cloud leader Amazon Web Services (AWS). Although AWS solution providers will definitely recommend this for start-ups and small businesses, it is essential to consider the features of Amazon Lightsail (AL) as compared to its competitors, chiefly Digital Ocean (DO) – who have been in the VPS market for long and have a considerable following including big brands like Atlassian, Creative Commons, Red Hat, etc.
Although DO has a head start in the VPS market, it is not prudent to write off the newcomer AL, which is an offering from the cloud leader AWS. The following points weigh AL and DO against each other through an unbiased feature analysis:
1. Data Center Locations
AWS has data centers in almost every time zone of the world. AL on the other hand, has just one data center in the US east region. DO has data centers in 9 cities, spread over the major continents. Having the network proximity near your office location does give businesses an edge. However, since AL is a relatively new service, they might expand rapidly into regions where AWS has its data centers.
2. Instance sizes and types
AL has only 5 types of servers as their instance models. DO has 9 instance types for its standard offering and 5 more in the high memory offering. It looks like AWS is targeting startups and really small businesses and does not want to create unnecessary complexity in their VPS choosing process.
Both AL and DO have a similar pricing model. So it does not really make a ‘differentiator factor’ in their comparison.
4. Base OS images
AL comes with two OS images – Ubuntu and Amazon Linux. DO offers a wide range of Nix based OSes in addition to Ubuntu.
5. Application images
AL has a number of default application images like WordPress, Lamp Stack, Node.js, Drupal, GitLab, etc., while DO offers bundled application images as well as one-click install apps. The collection of DO apps is larger than the default collection of AL. Again, this can be attributed to ‘keep it simple’ approach of AL.
6. User data scripts
Launch scripts in AL allows pre-written code blocks that perform automatic installations, configurations, and updates on servers/applications. DO has a similar functionality in the name of User Data.
7. SSH access
AL allows only SSH key based access for user authentication. DO allows key based as well as password based access for user authentication. If there is no password key created, a temporary password is sent via email.
AL has key generation functionality, while DO does not offer that.
8. Adding extra volume
AL does not have scaling feature like AWS as yet. DO has recently added the functionality, where the user can add a few GBs dynamically.
9. Resizing instances
AL instance cannot be resized for computing capacity once created. DO instances can up-size or down-size the CPU, RAM, and/or disk capacity.
10. Data protection
AL allows creating virtual snapshots to enable recovery at a later point of time. However, only manual snapshots can be taken. DO offers an automated snapshot creation that can take scheduled backups of the server data every week.
Apart from the above points, there are several other factors like performance monitoring, networking, security, billing, API, and documentation over which AL and DO can be compared. However, all comparisons point to similar conclusions:
- AL is in nascent stage. DO is an evolved VPS service.
- AL is a cloud based services offering that targets the VPS market. DO is a VPS services offering that targets the cloud market!
- AL caters mainly to startups and individual developers who want to setup dynamic test environments. DO caters to small businesses and mid-scale enterprises who want to stay with VPS but want to leverage cloud benefits as well.
Hence, even AWS solution providers themselves will agree that the answer to ‘Which is a better fit between Amazon Lightsail and Digital Ocean?’ is subjective, and depends on the purpose and requirements of the application developers.
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