SiteGround vs. DigitalOcean
SiteGround’s cloud hosting services are a lot more expensive compared to those of DigitalOcean, but they are also much easier to use. The company also offers multiple types of hosting to choose from whereas DigitalOcean is a bit of a one-trick pony.
Interest in cloud-based web hosting services has skyrocketed in recent years and it’s easy to see why. Cloud hosting is generally considered to be more reliable and efficient than shared hosting or even a virtual private server in many cases. Moreover, this type of hosting has become very affordable and user-friendly in recent years. At least in some cases. SiteGround is one of the companies trying to make cloud hosting accessible to everyone while old guard providers like DigitalOcean are opting to focus on performance above all else.
For the average user, choosing between SIteGround and DigitalOcean can be a bit of a conundrum. Both companies are highly respected hosting providers that have a lot to offer, but is one unquestionably better than the other for the average user? Keep reading our SiteGround vs DigitalOcean comparison to find out.
Before we jump into the nitty-gritty of this comparison make sure to check out our guide to public cloud hosting. Cloud hosting is quite different than other types of hosting you might be familiar with, so it’s worth reading up on it just to make sure that it’s a good fit for you and your website.
We discussed in our Bluehost vs DigitalOcean comparison how one of the major advantages you can expect from specialized cloud hosting providers like DO is good performance. But is the performance that much better than what is offered at SiteGround, a company that offers cloud hosting as a secondary service? The short answer is no. While DO’s performance is indeed better, the difference isn’t as significant as some might think.
Following the steps established in our web hosting reviewing process, we set up a simple WordPress website at each of the two hosts and added some dummy content along with a couple of images for good measure. Both services did remarkably well during our GTMetrix tests, however, on average our DO website loaded 0.2 seconds faster than our SiteGround website.
It’s worth mentioning that neither website took more than 1 second to load so you can definitely expect excellent performance regardless of which company you choose. As a side note, the site we created using SiteGround’s shared hosting service was a bit slower than its cloud-based counterpart. Their average loading speed there was just 1.3 seconds. You can read more about the company’s shared hosting services in our SiteGround vs Bluehost comparison.
Next up we fired our load impact test, which measures how well servers hold up when bombarded with around 200 virtual users. Once again, DigitalOcean performed a bit better but we were pretty surprised to find out that neither website crumbled under the pressure. This test makes or breaks a lot of services, particularly in the case of shared hosting, as we’ve seen recently during our Namecheap vs GoDaddy comparison. Luckily, sudden traffic spikes don’t seem to be a problem at all for cloud hosting services like the ones offered by SiteGround and DigitalOcean.
One important factor that helped DigitalOcean come out ahead in our performance tests was the location coverage. The company has no less than 13 data centers in multiple locations across NA, EU, and Asia. By comparison, SiteGround only has 6 data centers so you may notice more variations in performance depending on where you’re conducting the tests from. But to SiteGround’s credit, the company has state-of-the-art data centers and a CDN that spans around the globe. DigitalOcean has its own built-in content delivery network but it requires a bit more customization than SiteGround’s CDN.
The final performance tests we conducted were aimed at measuring the uptimes of our two websites. As expected, we didn’t end up running into any significant issues. We learned from many of our previous comparisons that websites hosted on SiteGround’s shared hosting service tend to stay up around 99.99% of the time. A very impressive figure that happens to be mirrored by the cloud hosting services, based on our testing.
Meanwhile, our DigitalOcean website also saw an uptime of 99.99% so it’s fair to say that the two services are evenly matched in this department. The only thing that really sets them apart is the fact that DigitalOcean offers a 99.99% uptime guarantee while SiteGround’s guarantee is more conservative at 99.90%. However, SiteGround’s uptime guarantee is universal and meant to also cover its shared hosting services. When it comes to cloud hosting, these services have exceptional uptime in general so expect next to no downtime regardless of which company you choose.
Pricing and Value
There’s a pretty massive difference between SiteGround and DigitalOcean when it comes to pricing. At DigitalOcean you have a wide variety of ‘droplets’ (the name used by the company to describe virtual machines) to choose from, with prices ranging anywhere from just $5 to over $2,000 per month. Things can sometimes get confusing when there’s so much variety but DigitalOcean does try to simplify things by grouping the droplets into categories. For instance, you have general purpose droplets, CPU-optimized droplets, storage-optimized droplets, and more.
SiteGround only offers four cloud hosting packages but you also have the option of building your own custom cloud instance. Unlike DigitalOcean, SiteGround doesn’t let you choose the operating system but it does give you almost as much flexibility when it comes to resource allocation. However, there’s one big problem here. SiteGround’s cloud hosting plans start at $110 per month and while there are many opportunities for scaling up from there, I’m afraid there’s no way to scale down. There’s a good reason why DigitalOcean made it on our list of cheapest cloud hosting providers on the market while SiteGround didn’t.
SiteGround’s cloud services are aimed at established businesses rather than individual users. But the company does make up for it by offering shared hosting, WordPress hosting, and reseller hosting plans, all of which are fairly affordable. Although there are definitely many SiteGround alternatives out there that are quite a bit cheaper. SiteGround is primarily known for offering quality and reliability but those come at a price. And if we’re looking strictly at the company’s cloud hosting services, it’s clear that not everyone will be able to afford that price.
DigitalOcean’s droplets are much cheaper than SiteGround virtual machines that have the same configuration. For instance, DigitalOcean charges $240/mo for a droplet that comes with 32GB of RAM, 100GB of SSD storage, and an octa-core CPU. Meanwhile, SiteGround charges $420/mo for a virtual machine with the exact same configuration. Granted, SiteGround’s service is managed while DigitalOcean’s isn’t, but more on that a bit later. Pound for pound, there are very few companies that can match DigitalOcean in terms of price, except perhaps for long-time rival Vultr.
Before we move on to the next section it’s important to note that DigitalOcean offers a pay-as-you-go system whereby you are charged each month only for the resources you use. SiteGround doesn’t have a system like that but it does allow you to pay for up to 12 months in advance and gives you discounts of up to 10% off for doing so.
Most cloud hosting providers don’t focus a whole lot on customer support because most of their clients are developers who already know their way around servers. That’s very much the case at DigitalOcean. The company only offers ticket support to regular customers, which isn’t the best channel if you’re hoping to get in touch with a tech agent as fast as possible. Live support is available as well, but only if you’re willing to pay separately for it. Then, there’s also a third tier of support available for anyone who spends at least $500 per month on their hosting.
Meanwhile, at SiteGround there’s no need to worry about having to pay separately for support. You can expect 24/7 customer support via tickets and live chat regardless of what hosting plan you’re using. This applies not just to cloud hosting but also to all the other hosting services offered by the company. Granted, DigitalOcean’s agents tend to have more technical expertise but SiteGround’s agents are known to be fairly knowledgeable as well while also being very fast to reply to inquiries.
Ease of Use
One of the reasons why SiteGround charges more than competitors like DigitalOcean is because the company puts a lot more focus on user-friendliness. SiteGround’s cloud hosting services are fully managed, so you can expect the company to do all the heavy lifting for you. That includes taking care of the configuration and management of your server, as well as the security and updates. SiteGround is even willing to migrate your website for you at no additional cost. If you’re familiar with shared hosting services, you pretty much know what to expect here. There’s no traditional cPanel but SiteGround’s dashboard lets you manage things in a very similar way.
DigitalOcean is almost the opposite of SiteGround when it comes to ease of use. You only have to take a quick peek at DO’s dashboard to realize that the service was not designed for beginners. Far from it. You’ll need to rely on a command-line terminal to configure parts of your server and install most applications. Even installing something as simple as WordPress is a process that involves multiple steps and can cause a lot of headaches to users who aren’t very tech-savvy. If ease of use is a must for you, we recommend checking out our list of DigitalOcean alternatives.
DigitalOcean has a lot to offer in terms of security features but you’ll need to configure pretty much everything all by yourself, including firewalls. This can be a very daunting task for a novice webmaster. Not to mention time-consuming because you would also have to manually perform various updates when they are needed. An experienced system administrator could take advantage of DO’s inherent flexibility to build very solid security systems. But doing so would prove much more challenging for a beginner.
At SiteGround you don’t have to worry about any of that. Since the cloud hosting service is managed, you can rely on SiteGround to take care of the security for you. The company offers around the clock monitoring and protection against malware, spam, and hackers, as well as a free SSL certificate. A free dedicated IP is also included along with easy access to your cloud server via SSH and SFTP.
SiteGround and DigitalOcean have been very closely matched thus far so let’s see if one of them can take the lead by offering better features.
- Fully managed service
- Free SSL
- Free dedicated IP
- Daily backups
- 6 data centers
- Free website migration
- Multiple types of hosting
- Advanced priority support for cloud hosting
- 14-day money-back guarantee
- Fully customizable virtual machines
- Dozens of droplets to choose from
- Prices starting at only $5/mo
- Flexible pay-as-you-go system
- 13 data centers
- Instant provisioning
- Up to $100 worth of free credits for first-time customers
SiteGround vs. DigitalOcean – Our Pick
SiteGround is the better hosting provider for the average user in our opinion, however, its cloud hosting services are a very tough sell if you’re on a budget. If you already have some experience managing websites you won’t be disappointed by what DigitalOcean has to offer. Otherwise, you should start with shared hosting at SiteGround and work your way up from there.
- Performance: DigitalOcean managed to outperform SiteGround in each of our tests, though admittedly not by a significant margin.
- Pricing and Value: SiteGround’s services are too expensive for the average user. DigitalOcean can also get pretty pricey, however, its basic droplets are very affordable.
- Customer Support: DigitalOcean only providers a minimal amount of support for free. SiteGround wins this one by a landslide.
- Ease of Use: DigitalOcean was designed for developers so don’t expect a lot of ease of use features here. You can expect them at SiteGround, though.
- SEO: You can’t rely on any of these two companies to take care of SEO for you so we’ll have to call this one a draw.
- Security: The two companies have similar security features but DigitalOcean asks you to configure everything by yourself while SiteGround does most of the work for you. SiteGround wins.
- Scalability: Both services have very solid scalability but DigitalOcean is a bit better at letting you upgrade or downgrade quickly whenever the need occurs.
This wasn’t an easy decision to make but at the end of the day most users will get more out of a generalist provider like SiteGround than a specialized one like DigitalOcean. Although a bit pricey, especially if you’re going for cloud hosting, SiteGround makes sure that you’re getting your money’s worth. The quality of SiteGround’s services are legendary and the company is a good fit for both veteran and novice webmasters alike.