How ServerPilot and CloudFlare improve DigitalOcean

I was a Dreamhost customer for more than a decade before discovering DigitalOcean in 2014. Both offer virtual private servers to host one or more websites, but DigitalOcean offers better performance via an all SSD back-end and better pricing.

Dreamhost‘s shared hosting plans cost $9/month. While DigitalOcean virtual private servers (1 vCPU, 512MB vRAM, and 20GB vDisk) cost only $5/month. DO wins, for it’s both cheaper and better than DH.

But it is also more complex.

On a shared hosting plan, customers don’t have to worry about managing the actual server — which Dreamhost does for you. DigitalOcean does none of that. When you build a VPS at DigitalOcean, you are responsible for installing, configuring, and maintaining everything on your server.

While I have the experience and skill set to build and manage my own Linux servers, many do not. That’s where ServerPilot makes its biggest contribution.

Let ServerPilot configure everything for you

ServerPilot is a free third-party service that will help remotely setup and manage your DigitalOcean servers. It will keep your servers secure by regularly applying patches and updates.

Using ServerPilot is easy (see “How ServerPilot Works“). You first create a new Ubuntu VPS on DigitalOcen. ServerPilot will then provide you a few lines of code to run on your new server, which will install the ServerPilot agent on your server.

Once the ServerPilot agent is install, it will automatically configure a LAMP/LEMP stack on your server. LAMP stands for Linux + Apache + MySQL + PHP. The stack will also install Nginx, which will serve as the public-facing web server because it is more scalable than Apache. See “How ServerPilot Configures Your LAMP/LEMP Stack” to learn more.

All in all, it takes about 55 seconds for DigitalOcean to build you a new server and another 90 seconds for ServerPilot to install everything you need.

Deploying a PHP App like WordPress

For each PHP-based website that you want to deploy on your new DigtialOcean+ServerPilot VPS, you’ll start by creating a new application via the ServerPilot web interface.

It’s really very easy to use ServerPilot to remotely “Install WordPress on Ubuntu.” While you are at it, you might also want to “Install phpMyAdmin” and “Back Up MySQL Databases with AutoMySQLBackup.”

That’s it. A few articles and applications later, and you have built your own virtual private server to host multiple websites for just $5/month.

Add CloudFlare for DNS and CDN

You may want to further improve and protect your VPS by creating a free CloudFlare account. I use CloudFlare as my external Domain Name System (DNS) provider, Content Delivery Network (CDN) provider, and even as a one-click SSL provider.

There are so many free and professional services that CloudFlare offers, you’d be remiss to not take advantage of some of them.

By combining the affordable SSD-only DigitalOcean servers, the convenient ServerPilot configuration and management, and the optimizing CloudFlare content delivery network — you end up with a very robust yet cost efficient hosting platform that is easy to manage.