Interview with DigitalOcean

Have you ever tried wrestling with the death-star-sized control panels of Amazon Web Services?

Or have you ever lost hours of your time trying to figure out how to make a cloud server behave, relying only on incomplete documentation or out-of-date StackExchange discussions?

If 'yes' to the above then you will appreciate a cloud server system which prioritizes both ease-of-use and comprehensive easy-to-follow documentation. The leader in this regard, in our experience, is DigitalOcean.


What goes on behind the scenes surely is rocket-science but the ease of use of DigitalOcean systems opens up powerful options for less technical organizations and intrepid entrepreneurs...

The DigitalOcean team have kindly given us an exclusive interview here on the KnowledgePower digital marketing blog - read on to find out more about this innovative provider...

How did DigitalOcean come into being?

Ben and Moisey Uretsky, CEO and CPO respectively, had decades of combined experience in the managed hosting business prior to starting DigitalOcean. As developers, however, they realized that none of the public cloud options catered to their needs; mainly, quick access to powerful resources that was simple to set up and easy to use. That’s why in August 2011 they launched DigitalOcean – the rest is history.

DigitalOcean’s mission is to make the lives of developers easier by providing the simplest cloud experience in the industry.

Our combination of powerful SSD hardware, fast provisioning, and heavy emphasis on UX enables developers to deploy their applications to production in minutes.

screenshot of digitalocean homepage deployment animation

DigitalOcean show off their ease of use by showing an entire VPS ("droplet") creation process in one animated gif on their homepage.

DigitalOcean how-to guides are great - is this a deliberate part of the marketing plan?

We saw a unique opportunity to create a community that was friendly and inviting. When we started writing tutorials, we saw that it was very hard to find content that really spelled each step out in explicit detail. We also make all of our tutorials provider-neutral, meaning the knowledge within them can be leveraged with other cloud providers as well.

It’s a small way to give back and create a friendly place for people to learn and ask questions.

Example super-useful DigitalOcean tutorials:

[KnowledgePower editor note: one of the best examples we've seen of customer support merging into high value content marketing. Serves the community, establishes authority, major search engine traffic rewards.]

If you make your system easy for inexperienced users, doesn't this mean you'll be overwhelmed with lame support questions?

No matter who you are, and what level you're at today, you had to start somewhere. It's an obvious statement, but it's very true.

We're more than happy to help customers learn server administration and best practices.

When we think about scaling support, we actually consider three factors, and two of them aren't directly related to support:

  1. How can we support the customer's needs?
  2. What information can the customer discover on their own?
  3. Is the product simple and intuitive?

One of our core beliefs is that "Love is what makes us great".

When we receive questions from customers, we go out of our way to show love, enable them, and push towards a resolution.

The largest challenge for us is when a customer thinks that we fully manage their servers.

We brand our team as self-managed support, which is to say that we will guide you, but not provide direct server administration. The vast majority of customers understand this, and for some, it's a hurdle that they might not have the time or patience to overcome.

To us, the best solution is if a customer can learn on their own, which is partly why we have >1,000 articles in our community.

When helping the customer, we certainly link to those articles, but ultimately it's best if the customer can get to the answer via our product.

It's more fulfilling to solve it on your own.

This is the challenge ahead of us: we need to make it easier and easier for customers to uncover the answer to their own questions.

Lastly, we act as the customer's internal advocate. We do a deep dive on ticket categories to analyze customer questions, how they use the product, and highlight areas of opportunity where the product isn't simple enough and leads to a customer ticket. We then setup monthly meetings with product managers to present ticket data, and outline the problems that our customers face. It's helpful to have a forum that encourages collaboration and discussion with the goal of improving the customer's experience.

One of your classic support articles basically says, do not create your own email server. Can you comment on that?

[Cloudflare support article "Why you may not want to run your own mail server"]

Basically, administering an email server is difficult. It involves heavy monitoring, detailed configuration, and the ability to implement adequate security for many different protocols and layers. The consequences of getting it wrong are pretty large (spam, banned IP addresses, etc.).

The availability of some pretty good email solutions that you can use with your applications without the hassle also affect the cost-benefit analysis.

How long can you keep handing out IPv4 addresses?

Our customers need IPv4 so their end users can reach their Droplets. A lot of effort goes into our IPv4 address space supply, so we're in a good spot for the foreseeable future.

It’s tough to predict “how long” we will have a surplus of IPv4 addresses, but this may be a good time to mention that all of our regions are now also IPv6 enabled.

rocket ship blasts upwards with a banner saying launching ipv6

IPv6: totally one of our 2016 new year's resolutions. Luckily completely supported by DigitalOcean.

What Linux distros are most popular for your droplets?

Ubuntu is the top choice with 73% of currently active Droplets.

CentOS is in second with 15.5% of active Droplets. Debian is third with 9.5%

What's the latest new feature in the works?

We recently released Floating IPs, and we’re hyper-focused on continuing to simplify innovation and collaboration for developers and development teams around the world. [DigitalOcean tutorial: How To Create a Floating IP on DigitalOcean ]

Also, keep your eyes out for new products and new datacenters in 2016 🙂

Floating IP deployment diagram

Floating IPs mean you can keep the same IP but reassign it to different machines. So usefulness. Many infrastructure. Very ninja.

Where is cloud hosting pricing heading?More power for your $10 per month? Or same power for even more ridiculously low rates?

Both are possible.

But what’s more important for us is figuring out what tools developers need, and how to make the experience using and implementing these tools as simple and elegant as possible.

About DigitalOcean

  • HQ/team: New York City; we have a world-class engineering team.
  • Main strengths and focus: We are a cloud infrastructure provider for developers building and scaling applications. We put a tremendous effort on simplicity, elegance, and speed.
  • Most proud of: Our control panel is the best in the industry, allowing users to easily launch and manage their cloud servers, and our provisioning time is less than a minute. We’ve also built a great community that helps developers walk through launching their first cloud server all the way through managing their production application.
  • Well-known clients? TaskRabbit, Compose, InfluxDB, etc
  • User base: Over 500,000 developers have launched nearly 10 million cloud servers on DigitalOcean.

THANKS DigitalOcean for the interview. More power to you and hats off to your great tutorial writers.

Thank you for reading this non-sponsored, non-affiliate interview for the KnowledgePower Digital Marketing Strategy blog. Copyright 2015 KnowledgePower Ltd.

KnowledgePower is a Digital Marketing agency in the UK specializing in PPC management for SMEs. Fast VPS hosting comes as standard in our Webmaster service for businesses using WordPress.