Web Hosting 101 (Part 2)

In my previous blog post, I briefly mentioned the differences between a Virtual Private Server (VPS) and Shared Web Hosting service and cross compared the three major VPS providers. In this blog post, I will continue my tutorial by detailing the process of setting up a Droplet (DigitalOcean’s way of calling their VPS instances) with DigitalOcean.


Just like using every web service (e.g. Facebook, Polaris), you need an account in order to start using DigitalOcean’s services. Simply open your browser and go to digitalocean.com and click “Sign Up” on the top right corner. Once you’ve entered your email address and your desired password, you will receive a confirmation link via email. After clicking on the link, you will be asked to enter your billing information. DigitalOcean accepts credit & debit cards as well as PayPal.

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As of the time of writing, DigitalOcean offers each new user $10 credit for free. If you happened to be a student who has a .edu email address, you might be eligible for a GitHub student developer pack, which gives you access to many professional web and mobile development tools including a $50 DigitalOcean credit coupon (enough for you to run a $5 Droplet for 10 months). Click on the “promo code” at the bottom of the page to receive the discount.


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Once you’ve completed the billing information, click “next”. You can choose a Linux distribution (e.g. Ubuntu) or an one-click app. The difference between the two is that the former only installs an operating system on the VPS, meaning that the you will have to install the necessary component in order to turn your VPS into an actual server; an one-click app is an solution stack that is preloaded with server components such as Apache web server, MySQL database, and PHP (server-side scripting language) compiler. With one-click apps, you can turn your Droplet to a WordPress blog (yes, like the one you are reading right now), a Git repository server, and even a private chat server. The option you choose really depends on your development environment.

After you have chosen the distribution or one-click application, you can choose the size of your server. The specifications (CPU, RAM, and data transfer) are listed under each option. I recommend the $5 tier because of its cost efficiency. In addition, you can always scale your Droplet to a higher tier. Note that Droplet usage is billed hourly and you only pay for the what you use at the rate listed.


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Choosing the data center closest to you (or your user) is very important. It reduces the amount of time used for contents to be delivered from the server to the client. For example, if the majority of my clients are on the East coast, I would choose New York as my data center region as opposed to San Francisco.

DigitalOcean offers some additional services. The private networking feature assigns your Droplets private IP addresses, allowing your Droplets to communicate with each other locally. The backup feature backs-up your Droplet every week. However, it does add a 20% additional charge to your monthly bill. Selecting user data allows you to upload a configuration file to customize your Droplet.


To access your server, you will can created a SSH key or receive a password generated by DigitalOcean. Using a SSH key is a recommended security measure because keys, unlike traditional passwords, are impossible to be cracked using brute force. DigitalOcean has very detailed documentation on how to create SSH keys on Windows, macOS, and Linux.

Finally, you will be able name your Droplet and enter the number of Droplets you want to create. Once you click “create,” your new Droplet(s) will be ready and online within less than a minute.

You are now able to manage, monitor, and scale your new VPS! Enjoy!


Arnott, L. (2016, July 19). Digital Ocean Logo Animation [Video file]. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/175360744

DigitalOcean. (n.d.). Retrieved April 6, 2017, from DigitalOcean website: https://www.digitalocean.com

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