Blogging 101: How I manage my web hosting options – Digital Ocean vs. Bluehost

Published December 15, 2015   Posted in Blogging

The time has now come – the blog has been around for more than a year and it’s now the right time to start diving into the world of blogging and describe how I put everything together to pull off the web site and keep it running nice and smoothly.

pinterest-web-hosting-providerIn this article, I’m going to talk about web hosting. I will discuss where I host this blog as well as a more “turnkey” alternative for those who don’t need (or probably want) the technical flexibility that I have.

Note: I do include affiliate links within the article. If you sign up for service through one of these links, the blog gets a little monetary reward for referring you, and you also get a discount on your web hosting fees. It’s a win-win.

Now, let’s get right down to it.

Where do I host my blog?

I host my blog with a company called Digital Ocean. They are what we call a “cloud” hosting provider, which means that customers like me can spin up new hosting environments on the fly with full customization capabilities throughout the entire process, including access to the filesystem itself as the “administrator” user, providing full power and control over the entire hosting environment.

I use them because they are one of the best options for cloud-based hosting for nearly-bargain prices. Seriously low cost, but incredible reliability.

And with Digital Ocean, each hosting environment provides dedicated resources just for your blog rather than sharing resources with other customers.

Traditional hosting services (like Bluehost, which I will talk about a bit later), provide shared hosting to their customers, which means each customer shares all the resources available on the web server. Shared hosting is cheaper for the web hosting company to provide, which also means the shared hosting option tends to be cheaper than dedicated resource hosting (aka: Digital Ocean). However, this also means that heavily trafficked web sites can slow down other sites on the same server because all web sites are vying for the same system resources.

ThinkSaveRetire.com operates within a dedicated “container” on one of Digital Ocean’s web servers, which means the resources are dedicated just to this blog. No other web site on the same physical web server can “steal” the resources that are provided to this blog.

Digital Ocean calls these little containers “droplets”. Each droplet is your dedicated container for your web site to run, and you can create as many droplets as you like – but, of course, there is a cost for each one. Luckily, droplets start cheap – at $5 bucks a month.

What I like about Digital Ocean’s services

What I like the most about Digital Ocean is the flexibility I have when I create a new droplet. I get to pick how big I want the hard drive, the memory (RAM), the operating system, any pre-installed software (like WordPress) – and even the location of the web server! This means if I’m blogging in Europe, I can choose to have my droplet hosted on a web server in London. If I am in Australia, perhaps I would choose the Singapore location. Since I am in the southwest United States, I selected San Francisco – which happens to be one of my favorite big cities to visit.

Or, if you’re based on the United States but are running a blog with a European flair, you’re still able to host that web site on a London-based server while your other web sites run on another container here in the United States. Awesome flexibility!

Digital Ocean also offers pre-installed software when the droplet is created. I chose to include WordPress and it was installed and ready to go without me having to install or configure anything. There are many different options to choose from, including web applications like WordPress, databases and programming frameworks. Of course, droplets can also be created with nothing on them, allowing you to start from scratch. The choice is entirely yours.

Why would YOU likely pick Digital Ocean?

Digital Ocean is a wonderful option for those who want the ability to customize their web hosting environment. If you know what the phrase “root-level access” means, then you’d probably be comfortable with operating within the Digital Ocean environment. It truly gives you an amazing level of customization for an incredibly low monthly price.

Why would YOU likely NOT pick Digital Ocean

If you’re less technically inclined and do not care about the nitty gritty of your web hosting environment, then Digital Ocean probably isn’t the best hosting company for you. Consider Bluehost instead.

Also, here’s a deal: If you sign up with Digital Ocean using this blog’s referral link, you’ll get a $10 credit to use however you wish. If you select the least expensive droplet (at $5 a month), you’re essentially getting two months FREE.

The best alternative to Digital Ocean is Bluehost

Though I now use dedicated resource hosting, over the past 15 years of running web sites, I’ve encountered enough hosting services to know what to look for in a shared hosting environment, and in my opinion, Bluehost is the best shared web hosting service available. I have used Bluehost in the past and would not hesitate to use them again for web hosting or email services.

Why? First and foremost, they are big, and especially in the world of web hosting, companies don’t continue to grow year after year unless they are doing something right. Second, I’ve personally used them before and know their services to be quick and easy to use. Oh, and their customer support I found to be knowledgeable and anxious to help.

Also, I bet that you’ll love using their easy control panel to manage your web site, like create and manage email accounts, databases, change your password, browse through your file manager, manage your domain names, install software (including WordPress), etc. It’s all in one place and easy to get to.

Speaking of their control panel, here’s a screen shot:

Bluehost cPanel

The Bluehost control panel – notice the arrow? That’s how easy it is to install WordPress

And perhaps the best part? You can host an unlimited number of web sites (i.e.: domain1.com, domain2.com, domain3.com) through a single hosting account.

It’s damn cheap, too. Their regular shared hosting plan starts at $5.95 a month, but if you signup using our referral link, they will take $2 bucks off of that and bring that price even lower, to $3.95. Seriously, there isn’t much cheaper than that.

Bluehost is your no-nonsense way to get your blog started quickly and easily.

Answering the question: Digital Ocean vs. Bluehost

Both web hosting providers are excellent. I have personally used both services over the years and vouch for their service level and value. So, how do we answer the question of Digital Ocean vs. Bluehost?

You’re essentially asking this question: Dedicated resource hosting vs. shared resource hosting. Or, maximum flexibility vs. turnkey point-and-click ease.

Remember that when your resources are shared, your web site will utilize the same system resources on the physical web server as every other web site on that same web server (there could be thousands). Usually, these web servers are technically beefy and in general this resource contention does not pose significant problems, but it can (and does) happen.

Here are a few scenarios that might help you to decide which type of web host is right for you.

If you want a web site up fast and easy

Choose Bluehost.

If you want to select your operating system and hosting location

Choose Digital Ocean.

If you are comfortable configuring web sites at a relatively low level

Choose Digital Ocean.

If you want an easy-to-use interface to create email addresses

Choose BluehostDigital Ocean does provide this support, but it takes more configuration and there is no email control panel.

If all you want to do is blog and not worry about technology

Choose Bluehost.

And if you just don’t know

Choose Bluehost. Their services will get you up and operating quickly and extremely cheaply. Digital Ocean will take a little more time to setup completely, but their knowledge base is fantastic. If you want or need ultimate customization, or you want to choose where in the world your web site will be hosted, then Digital Ocean might be your best choice.

Who hosts your web site? Are you happy with their level of service? 

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Comments

20 responses to “Blogging 101: How I manage my web hosting options – Digital Ocean vs. Bluehost”

  1. I’ve never heard of Digital Ocean before but I may need to check them out a bit when my hosting is up for renewal next year. I’m currently using Bluehost and really don’t have any issues with them so I’ll really have to see how the next few months go.

    Does each website you host have their own dedicated droplets? Or do you need to create multiple droplets for it depending on the size, speed, traffic, etc?

    • Steve says:

      I only have a single droplet, believe it or not, and I host this site, along with my companion FullTimeExplorers.com site, and I’ll probably add a couple additional sites in the future too. I do this through the WordPress multisite feature that runs multiple domain named web site through a single WordPress installation.

      But even if you weren’t using WordPress, you can still host multiple domain named sites, but you’d have to do a little configuring on the web server to make that all happen through Virtual Hosts on Apache. This is where being comfortable on the command line comes into play.

      Thanks for reading!

  2. I wish I had your technical skills. I have to outsource most of the work for my two sites and blog. Making changes via the back end is about what I’m limited to do. All good though. Thanks for the great information on your hosting options…..Steve

  3. Tawcan says:

    Interesting, never heard of Digital Ocean before, may need to check it out later. I’m using Dreamhost for web hosting but is thinking about switching over to Bluehost to save some cost. Also, it seems that everyone is using Bluehost. Any thoughts on Dreamhost or moving over to Bluehost?

    • Steve says:

      I’ve used Dreamhost and their services are pretty solid, actually – though I happen to like the Bluehost control panel a little better. I don’t necessarily think there would be a huge benefit to going from Dreamhost over to Bluehost, honestly unless the $3.95 price is something that you’d be interested in. 🙂

  4. Marc says:

    I’m kinda computer illiterate but I don’t have any hosting….unless WordPress counts?

    • Steve says:

      Yeah, WordPress.com counts. It may not be a traditional web hosting provider the way Bluehost or Digital Ocean are, but it’s still web hosting. 🙂

  5. Stockbeard says:

    I actually use ovh (kimsufi). It costs more in absolute but I get an actual dedicated server (not a virtual server like what Digital cloud offers) for about $20 a month. There’s also no limit on the bandwidth, and I have 16GB of Ram (that’s much more than what digital Ocean offers for the same price) and a 2TB Hard drive (although not SSD).

    Don’t get me wrong; it’s overkill for a tiny blog like mine, but I’ve used them in the past for bigger sites and enjoy doing business with them.
    In hindsight I think I should have gone with bluehost initially for my FI blog, to reduce the costs.

    • Steve says:

      Sounds like a good deal to me, though I’m more focused on cash-to-need rather than having the most. What I have is enough, and I’ve definitely come to cherish the meaning of “enough” over the last year or so.

      Thanks for your comment!

  6. I had not heard of Digital Ocean before either. That is an interesting concept to have the ability to dedicate “droplets” on different servers, in different countries, and having the ability to assign the size requirements.

    I definitely am a less technical guy than you and have Bluehost and WordPress as my blogging platform and tool. After I used the dashboard, appearance, comments, and blog post areas a few times, I believe I had about 80% to 90% of the day to day stuff figured out.

    • Steve says:

      Yup, that’s the nice thing about Bluehost – it’s very easy to figure out. A few clicks here and there and you most likely have what you need. Even for me, I very much appreciate the simplicity of Bluehost, no doubt about it. Every. Just. Easy.

  7. First off, I don’t know how you’re cranking out so much great content — I don’t even feel like I can keep up with reading everything you’re writing. But you’re rocking it — thank you for always having some great food for thought or information.

    I know I’ve been complaining a lot to you about the WordPress hosted platform we’re on now, especially the new interface. I want to go self-hosted, but haven’t felt like I’ve had the time to deal with the transition. Maybe sometime in 2016… But this is super helpful when that time comes. I’ll definitely refer back. So thanks! 🙂

    • Steve says:

      Ha! Thanks ONL – I get into these bouts of inspiration and then nothing can stop me from writing! If you need assistance if and when you do end up moving your blog, let me know and I’ll be glad to assist in any way that I can!

  8. Jack says:

    Thanks for the tip on Digital Ocean. Looks like they’re taking the hosting world by storm, at least on the financial side of things. I’m savvy enough to handle root access, but not sure I want to spend that amount of time maintaining my host.

    Droplet must be their term. Is that a docker container or a self-contained VM with dedicated resources? Makes a big difference when you get a traffic spike, even with caching or a CDN.

    I’m with hostgator for legacy reasons. Not ready to jump ship at the moment, but I may try Digital Ocean when I do, just for the freedom.

    • Steve says:

      Hey Jack – yup, a “droplet” is most definitely their term. It is basically a virtual machine with its own dedicated resources, yeah. I definitely understand the legacy reasons to stick with a particular hosting provider – it happens. 🙂

  9. Mr. SSC says:

    We went with bluehost and it’s worked well enough for us. I haven’t gotten crazy enough about anything just yet to want that level of customization, so again, like you pointed out, Bluehost fits that bill entirely.

    It’s good to know other options though, and Digital Ocean sounds like a good “dip your toes in” platform for taking things to the next level. For now though, I like the ease of someone else dealing with that stuff. 😉

    • Steve says:

      Yeah, Bluehost is one of those “set it and forget it” companies, and for good reason. Things just work, and that’s never really a bad thing. 🙂

  10. Mrs. Groovy says:

    Thanks for the info. I wish I had your technical skills, too. Do you know of any books that might be good for learning to be more technical in this area?

    • Steve says:

      Hi Mrs. Groovy – I’ll be very honest, I’ve never found books to be the greatest teachers of technical disciplines. They do contain good information, but especially in this business, the information is rather meaningless unless applied in a very practical, hands-on setting.

      The best way that I learned was by doing. I purposely got myself in over my head and then figured out how to get myself out. I gave myself challenges to complete. Lots of Googling. Lots of StackOverflow.com.

      I found that simple Google searches worked far better than reading books in my case. 🙂

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