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Heroku vs. Digital Ocean for hosting high-traffic app?

My app just launched on the App Store, but we're still optimizing it. My developers (in the Ukraine) want to switch from Heroku to Digital Ocean because of lower pricing and faster performance. I am completely non-technical, so I have been doing some web research on pros and cons of various hosting solutions. However, a lot of the reviews are coming from people who are using hosting for small-scale applications like Minecraft, blogs, etc. I would like to hear from people who are hosting for mobile apps with millions of users, or have at least planned for that volume. One of the major knocks against DO is that it does not do load-balancing, so whenever the traffic increases beyond your current, paid level, there is system down-time to upgrade your level, and the user will see an error message during that time. Not ideal. It also doesn't automatically monitor your server for you. Thanks in advance for the advice!

23 Replies

Benjamin Wheeler
8
0
Benjamin Wheeler Entrepreneur • Advisor
CTO at Telepathy
at the millions of users level, i think a majority of companies/applications are using AWS directly. a bit of downtime to upgrade every once in a while is not really an issue. is a tiny increase in server performance and a decrease in cost really meaningful at this point in your project? often the best decision is to punt the transition down the road... working fine now is better than working perfectly in theory after a bunch of work. you can always transition later. at least with heroku, coping with surprising new traffic isn't much of an issue.
Thomas Jay
1
1
Thomas Jay Entrepreneur
iOS / Server Architect / IoT / BLE / iBeacon / Apple Pay
Its my understanding that Heroku still uses Amazon (AWS) so I would be hard pressed to move from that.

I would think you have a Ruby on Rails app so Heruko is the platform of choice for most developers.

If you really get the scale of users you expect then don't be cheap. You want to keep the backup and recovery server provided by Heruko, don't try to be cheap on that stuff.


Michael Brill
1
1
Michael Brill Entrepreneur
Technology startup exec focused on AI-driven products
If you're trusting the team on architecture/implementation, then why not on deployment? There's likely much higher leverage on the former. As per Ben's suggestion, go with what you have, add dynos as you need them and when it becomes painful then you'll have enough traffic to get $$$ to fix the problem.
Yorke Rhodes III
0
3
cloud | startups | strategist | catalyst & game changer
You should definitely be building in the cloud ... hope that is the case. If so, you shouldn't experience down time as a long as the architecture is properly defined. Is your Heroku solution cloud based? I'm assuming Digital Ocean is as metal / server solution ... speed is probably good, but I wouldn't go in that direction ... It sounds like you are mixing a few things in your decision making process .... Cheers! -Yorke
Stephen Brandon
5
0
Stephen Brandon Entrepreneur
Lead DevOps Engineer at IMATCHATIVE INC.
DO doesn't have load balancing out of the box, but you can easily build nginx or HAProxy to do that for you. Would I? Not really. If I were in your shoes, I would stay with Heroku for now until you hit a point where you could hire a devops person to move you to AWS. That's where I've found myself having a large impact at several startups. Prior to that, Heroku will do just fine.
Owen Rubel
0
5
Owen Rubel Advisor
Creator of API Chaining, IO State, API I/O Abstraction and modern API Automation
Yeah no one uses PAAS for high volume. PAAS is not meant for that; it's meant for a quick, easy solution for fast turn-around and quick deploy.

For high volume, you want an enterprise deploy which both of those most certainly are NOT.

Next time go with Americans devs; you get what you pay for. I would have told you to 'build to scale'
Ted Neward
2
3
Ted Neward Entrepreneur
Technologist, Leader, Coder, Author, Speaker
Ive really heard nothing positive in terms of reliability with respect to Digital Ocean; theres a few CTOs here in town (Seattle) that got burned badly by itdowntime, weird outages, poor customer service, and so on. What may also be driving your Ukrainian developers is the fact that Digital Ocean is (apparently) owned by some folks out of Eastern Europe, so they may be feeling some nationalistic loyalty there, or even getting direct kickbacks. All of this is hearsay, though: I have no direct experience with DO. If Heroku is currently working, then Id just stick with it. Its not the cheapest in the long run, but if youre just getting started, theres really no point in rocking the boat. Ted Neward Author, Speaker, Mentor http://www.newardassociates.com t: @tedneward | m: (425) 647-4526
Michael Brill
0
0
Michael Brill Entrepreneur
Technology startup exec focused on AI-driven products
Criminy, this thread has some serious weirdness in it.
3
3
X
Entrepreneur

Why are you having this discussion with us rather than your technical co-founder/team/advisors?

If you have a technical question like this coming to you, who admit that you are "completely non-technical", then I would suggest that you have a larger problem than where to host your code :). I'm not trying to be snide, but as others have mentioned even your statement of the problem has some issues (e.g. load balancers are not necessarily the solution, or the only solution, to reducing downtime during upgrades). If high-volume/millions of users is in your future you need someone close to you who can advise you on how to handle that traffic level... and you need to be able to trust that judgement.

Martin Miller
2
0
Martin Miller Advisor
VP of Engineering, Infrastructure, DevOps
Several good points already brought up by Benjamin Wheeler, and I also agree with Owen Rubel's comment on PaaS.



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