Moving from Heroku to DigitalOcean

How moving to DigitalOcean reduced my hosting costs with 80% and improved performance 1.5x.

Why not Heroku?

Heroku is fantastic. But Heroku can also be expensive. To run a Rails app with 1 GB RAM ($34), a database ($9), a worker thread ($34) and SSL support ($20) will cost $97 per month on Heroku.

If you have a profitable app with many paying customers that is probably ok. I’d say it is worth $97 per month not having to worry about servers and instead focus on your what’s more important - your apps, customers and business.

But what if your app is not making any money yet? And what if you have many apps like this?

If you know your way around a server, and have some time to configure and maintain it, you can save some money by doing it yourself.

Why DigitalOcean?

DigitalOcean is a relatively new cloud server provider (started 2012) and it has been getting a lot of attention due to its all SSD storage and low priced servers starting at $5 per month.

To run a Rails app like the example above, 2GB RAM should be enough. That will be $20 per month on DigitalOcean. That is 80% cheaper than Heroku!

To compare, 2 GB of RAM would cost $40 per month on Linode, and $44 per month on Amazon EC2.

Please note that I am not taking storage, bandwith, transfer costs or support level into account here. If you have special needs this needs to be factored in.

Performance comparison

I compared load times on Heroku and DigitalOcean with an app running the exact same source code. I did 30 requests to each service to get the load time of a page, where the page did a few database queries per load. So, not super scientific, but good enough to get a hint.


Min: 0.538s Max: 1.175s Average: 0.811s


Min: 0.248s Max: 0.798s Average: 0.502s

Surprisingly, DigitalOcean has 40-50% faster load times.


I still use Heroku for many things and I have been using it for years. It’s reliable and hides all the stuff that you don’t want to worry about as an app developer (failover, load balancing, process monitoring, backups, security patches, etc, etc).

However, if you…

  • Have an app without enough paying users
  • Have the time to set up and maintain a Linux server
  • Want to save a few dollars
  • Think fiddling with servers is awesome!

Then YES, a move to DigitalOcean can save you money today! If you use this link you get $10 free usage!

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Note: I included affiliate links to DigitalOcean and Linode. It does not affect my opinions or recommendations of those services. Use the links if you want to support future blog posts like this.