One is just a small and emerging cloud service provider, while the other is a pioneer and market leader in the cloud computing industry. One delivers products in the IaaS and PaaS spaces, the other has solutions across SaaS, IaaS, PaaS, CaaS, and everything else under the XaaS umbrella. So why do we even compare DigitalOcean and AWS? In this article, we offer a perspective and a peek into DigitalOcean’s unique approach and strategy.

Introducing AWS and DigitalOcean

AWS, the undisputed market leader in cloud computing with around 32% market share, hardly needs introduction. Cloud computing services is an umbrella term that includes SaaS (Software as a Service), PaaS (Platform as a Service), IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service) and even XaaS (Anything as a Service). AWS plays in all segments.


AWS plays in IaaS, PaaS and certain XaaS services. AWS has 38.5% market share in the IaaS space, 28.3% in PaaS, 19.3% in SaaS and 23.1% of the overall cloud services market.

AWS is the market leader in the sector, followed by the other cloud computing heavyweights, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform. An underdog that has been making a name for itself in recent years is DigitalOcean. DigitalOcean participates only in IaaS and PaaS.

Overall, DigitalOcean has a market share of approximately 2% of the cloud computing market. In a couple of specific sectors, DigitalOcean is competitive against AWS. For instance, DigitalOcean holds 1.55% of the storage infrastructure market, while AWS is marginally ahead with 2.43%. DigitalOcean (2.06% market share) is not far behind AWS (10.95%) in web hosting, either.

It may seem surprising that DigitalOcean warrants comparison with AWS. However, its unique business strategy makes DigitalOcean a player to watch in the industry.

DigitalOcean – A solution for developers?

DigitalOcean is a cloud computing platform that offers a range of IaaS, PaaS and other cloud computing services and solutions for developers. Since its launch in 2011, DigitalOcean has focused on allowing developers to quickly spin up a server (that is, a droplet) in a fraction of the time it takes on other platforms.

DigitalOcean focuses on developers’ needs, and supports all the most popular Linux distros including Ubuntu, CentOS, Debian and Fedora. Multiple applications, including Docker, Ghost and WordPress, can be launched with a single click.

Since its setup is simple, user-friendly and uncomplicated, it’s easier for developers to start up their droplets – droplet startup time is only 55 seconds.

DigitalOcean offers high-performance machines, uses SSD disk drives and provides a network speed of 1 GBPS. DigitalOcean nodes are high-performers, delivering performance that’s as good as or better than the competition, as per independent testing.

DigitalOcean’s developer-first acquisition strategy

Instead of targeting end-users (retailers or businesses intending to use the cloud for their own applications), DigitalOcean focuses product development, strategic acquisitions and marketing efforts on development firms.

DigitalOcean is all about value for money for the developer. Its simple, user-friendly UI makes it easy to set up affordable Linux instances called droplets. It has three major differentiators: pricing, simplicity, and performance of its virtual machines.

Strategic investments have been a major part of DigitalOcean’s growth strategy in the recent past. In 2021, DigitalOcean bought Nimbella with the intention to go deeper into serverless technology. They offer cloud infrastructure services at a price point below that of the big players, including AWS, and many developers have been demanding serverless functionality. This is a major move for DigitalOcean to expand its IaaS service offerings.

DigitalOcean has announced a partnership with MongoDB and launched a fully managed Database as a Service offering, Managed MongoDB. This has further expanded their portfolio of curated managed offerings that are suitable even for customers without prior development expertise.

DigitalOcean vs AWS


DigitalOcean’s USP is simplicity, and that’s true of pricing too. It’s less expensive, but more importantly, it’s easier to calculate. In addition to an hourly rate for Droplets, there’s also a predictable monthly rate. On the other hand, AWS uses a pay-as-you-go approach, which means that the amount you spend on your cloud services can vary from month to month.

However, UpGuard notes that “you can make your AWS costs more predictable and save money by using reserved capacity rather than pay as you go, while Amazon Lightsail has made available a simpler, more predictably priced way to leverage AWS for small apps. Reserved capacity involves an upfront payment for your virtual server, with the potential to save as much as 75% compared to what you would pay with provisioning your EC2 instance on a pay-as-you-go plan.”

AWS has been reducing their prices to remain competitive. Read our blog post on pricing comparisons between AWS, Azure and GCP, here.

Geographic presence

As expected from the world leader in cloud services, AWS operates the most extensive network of cloud data centers. They are spread around the globe, with 84 Availability Zones across 26 geographic regions. You can check out the full list of services available in each region, here.

DigitalOcean has a smaller footprint of data centers, but also spans the globe with its network. You can check out the full list of services available in each region, here.

Support and service partners

Both DigitalOcean and AWS have a vast network of support and service partners. While DigitalOcean offers simple setup and is primarily targeted at developers, it also has a strong Solutions Partner Program (SPP). These partners enable developers to leverage DigitalOcean products to deploy and modernize client infrastructure. Smaller businesses without in-house technical capabilities can use the support of a DigitalOcean Solutions Partner to get the most out of their infrastructure at the best price.

The same is true of the AWS Partner Network (APN). Depending on the services being delivered, AWS divides registered partners into two categories: APN Consulting Partners and APN Technology Partners. While APN Consulting Partners help end users implement and manage their AWS cloud deployments, Technology Partners provide tools and services that are hosted on or can integrate with AWS. Consulting Partners include development agencies and managed services providers, while Technology Partners include providers of SaaS, PaaS, security and other developer tools. Both groups are included in the APN Partner Directory, which offers classification by category as well – some of the categories include “business software, software infrastructure, developer tool, APN Program, APN Competency and APN Skills”.

With the right AWS Partner, you can make smart infrastructure choices and optimize your resource allocation. AWS Partners can also help by providing end-users with AWS product support, even when they do not provide development services themselves.

Choosing the right cloud computing service provider

If you’re a developer or a very small business, DigitalOcean may be a good fit for you. It’s a value-for-money proposition and is considered to be the cheapest cloud computing system on offer.

Currently, their servers run only versions of Linux operating systems, and DigitalOcean has a relatively short list of product offerings.

While these solutions cover most of the essentials needed for small-to-medium-sized businesses, DigitalOcean is not ideally designed for larger enterprises. If you’re likely to need new functionality as you grow as an enterprise, you’ll find that you’ll soon outgrow DigitalOcean.

Since AWS’ list of offerings includes everything that DigitalOcean has, it probably makes sense to set up initially on AWS rather than start off with DigitalOcean and completely redo from scratch on AWS at a later stage.

The bottomline

DigitalOcean is optimized for a specific requirement – it’s ideally intended for smaller development agencies, which is not really the target audience for AWS. It’s cheaper and offers great performance for certain requirements.

Having said that, while DigitalOcean has a clear USP and certain advantages, AWS is the undisputed cloud services leader. It offers a range of solutions that are suitable for almost every usecase and kind of organization. And yes – that also includes small development agencies.

The best way to move forward? Just ask your tech agency. Request a trusted agency such as Ziffity to advise you on which cloud service provider to choose. Contact us today!