Hetzner, Contabo and DigitalOcean SSD server comparison

I wrote before how I selected the best server for my use and choose one from the Hetzner as main server and one virtual server at Contabo as backup. They are cheap but powerful. And because most of my traffic goes to Slovenia, the EU location of server is a plus. But with any new player on server market, homework should be done. And SSD virtual server offer from DigitalOcean looks great.

Starting from just $5 per months they are worth to check, if your online business requires good price/performance ratio.

For testing I took their test machine, which is offered for free for limited time (few hours). It contains 512 MB RAM / 1 core / 20 GB SSD disk ($5 = 3,75 EUR/month). For testing I’ve used sysbench. And compared results to my servers on Contabo and Hetzner. On Contabo I have a virtual machine 4 GB RAM / 1 core / 200 GB disk space (10 EUR/month). And at Hetzner I have their EX4 machine with 16 GB RAM / 4 core / 3 TB HDD in RAID 1 (49 EUR/month).


Processor in DigitalOcean virtual machine is almost twice slower (sysbench CPU test) as those in Contabo and Hetzner, which performs the same on one thread test. Both virtual machines really have one core. More test scripts are runing (more threads), more time is needed. Server at Hetzner has 4 cores, which work like 8 (pipeline and stuff) so up to 8 process can run simultaneously. You can run up to 8 threads and time will stay almost the same, but 16 threads will duplicate time needed for test to finish.

CPU info shows QEMU Virtual CPU for DigitalOcean server running at 2GHz, and Intel i7 870 @ 3Ghz (Contabo) / Intel i7-3770 @ 1,6 Ghz (Hetzner). Cpu frequencys are real processor clock.


This is a surprise. Memory at DigitalOcean is 4-5x slower as compared to the other two. Only writing at Contabo virtual machine was just 2 times faster. And it was slower comparing operations per sec or MB per sec. I got around 1GB/sec transfer at DigitalOcean and 2-5GB/sec at Contabo and solid 5GB/sec at Hetzner.


This is where DigitalOcean should be the best. And it is. Random read-write with sysbench shows that it is 20x and 25x faster then Hetzner and Contabo. It is even faster in sequential read and write, but the difference is lower. In sequential operations it is aprox. 8 times faster than Contabo, but just 2 times then Hetzner.


Mysql sysbench testing, shows that DigitalOcean is 2-3 times slower then the fastest Hetzner. Contabo was something in between. This is somehow understandable. More RAM on Hetzner helps, faster disk helps DigitalOcean. I tested without transactions, InnoDb and myisam, small and bigger table, but not really big.

Testing shows that this newcomer is best where is advertised that it is the best, but not on other fields, where it underperform. So your choice will not be easier, assuming you are not prayer of SSD church where SSD is good, anything else is bad. Your choice will be harder. You must know what you need. Processor power, big disk or fast disk. The only case where I see DigitalOcean server as the better choice is, where you need very fast persistent data storage. In almost all other combinations, more RAM can help with caching etc…

So if we take one more muscular server from DigitalOcean for $80 (60 EUR) we will get 8 GB RAM / 4 cores / 80 GB SSD disk. For same price you will get at Hetzner 32 GB RAM / 8 cores / 3 TB disk. Because we can 24 GB of RAM (so in both cases we will have 8 GB) change to RAM disk or use it for caching, it is hard to tell if this is better as 80 GB SSD disk. It depends on you usage. But if you have a lot of stuff 80 GB is quite small.

Or we can take another solution from Hetzner. Take EX4 as I currently have with 16 GB RAM for 49 EUR / month and add additional 120 GB disk for 15 EUR/month. For 5 EUR more you will have 8 GB more RAM, 4 more cores, 40 GB more SSD disk and 3 TB SATA disk in RAID1. I think it is quite clear who is the winner.

But there is something, where DigitalCloud is uncomparable to other two. Cloud service. Everything today is cloud service. But DigitalOcean offers full API access to their system (like anybody want to be called cloud service should). And you can pay per hour, not just per month. So if you have an application, where you can benefit with more dynamic resource hiring, then DigitalOcean is worth to check. Both Contabo and Hetzner are more in the cloud as cloud service providers. And new instance at DigitalOcean is really started in under 1 minute. I did not compare them to other cloud services like Amazon. But they did. And they said that they are better. When I checked them before, they were always much more expensive compared to Hetzner or Contabo which I used for few years.

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