Recently, I shared a brief comparison of Digital Ocean vs Synthesis vs GoDaddy and why switched to Digital Ocean’s VPS. Running my WordPress site on Digital Ocean’s VPS definitely made my site faster and more responsive than any other hosting solutions I have tried. On top that, I have the whole server for me to toy with and implement things I like without any restrictions. In this post, I am going to go a bit more into detail and list 10 reasons comparing Digital Oceans vs Synthesis (a managed WordPress host) and why I chose to move to Digital Ocean’s $5 VPS with LEMP Stack.
Update (4/29/2015): Vultr is a new player in the VPS market and offers better performance and hardware for the same low price for $5 as Digital Ocean. Try Vultr and get $20 credit (4 months free).
Digital Ocean vs Synthesis
There is really no comparison of Digital Ocean vs Synthesis here. The most basic WebSynthesis plan costs $27 while Digital Ocean costs only $5 a month. Even better, use this link to open a free account and get a $10 credit (that’s 2 months free). But wait there is more, you only pay for the time the server is running, so you could end up paying less than $5 a month.
One of my major issues while trying out WebSynthesis was their philosophy of optimizing content origin and undervaluing edge caching (CDN). While I agree that the content source should be optimized, I believe that edge caching, which focuses on delivering content to visitors from locally located servers, cannot be ignored. In my tests while on Synthesis, I did find a definite improvement in pagespeed while using CloudFront.
While WebSynthesis offers a Pro version of W3 Total Cache, I found that to offer little or no improvement in speed. Furthermore, the recommended settings does not include minifying or using a CDN. I was getting the same pagespeed as what I got on GoDaddy with W3 Total Cache and CDN, only now I was paying 5 times more. To me what difference does it make which route you take (origin caching vs edge caching) when the visitor see the page load in the same time. Digital Ocean on the other hand has no such restrictions. You are free to use your VPS however you want. The improvement in speed I observed on Digital Ocean has only gotten better since my initial move.
To me, this was one of the biggest factors that in me choosing Digital Ocean vs Synthesis. With a basic Synthesis account, you can only do one thing: host only 1 WordPress site period. Even with that one WordPress site, there were restrictions on what plugins you could or could not run. Many useful plugins such as Broken Link Checker, WP Optimize, SEO ALRP, were discouraged because they might consume resources. On Digital Ocean I am now running all of those plugins and more. I ended up fully utilizing the potential of W3 Total Cache with Page cache, Browser cache, Object cache, minify, and CDN enabled. Even with 30 plugins, my site easily loads in less than 2 seconds. Of course, there are other optimizations and caching methods that helped. But the point is Digital Ocean gives me the flexibility to do what I want to do.
4. A New Toy
I like to have complete control over some of the things I like to do. Running a Digital Ocean VPS is like running a full-fledged Linux home server, only faster, faster, more responsive, and stable. Being a full Linux server, I have complete control over setting up backup schemes if I preferred. And running Webmin makes system administration chores a breeze.
If you prefer to let Digital Ocean handle backups, you can setup automatic backups costs just a tad bit more. Their snapshots and backups make it duplicating your VPS instance a matter of few clicks. If something goes awry you can restore a snapshot or a backup in minutes. Synthesis on the other hand has backups but I had limited control and the whole process was not very clear to me. [Read: Automatic MySQL database backup on GoDaddy shared hosting]