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Here's how DigitalOcean, an upstart contender to Amazon's cloud, is scaling to meet higher demand during the coronavirus pandemic

Yancey Spruill DigitalOcean
DigitalOcean CEO Yancey Spruill

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  • As the coronavirus spreads around the world and forces people to stay home, DigitalOcean has seen more demand, especially in gaming and streaming services.
  • In response to the pandemic, DigitalOcean has worked with its data center providers to make sure customers' businesses continue running smoothly.
  • Unlike its rivals Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, and Google Cloud, DigitalOcean's main focus is targeting small and medium-sized businesses, rather than large enterprises.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

As states around the US implement shelter-in-place orders and entire countries around the world go on lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic, the cloud computing company DigitalOcean is bracing itself for higher demand.

DigitalOcean is an upstart rival to cloud giants like Amazon Web Services that has become popular with developers. As the coronavirus spreads around the globe and forces more people to stay home, they're relying on online services — to work, to fill their time —  more than ever, and cloud providers must adapt to keep everything running smoothly. For example, AWS is leaning on its pandemic response plan and Microsoft has placed a "few temporary restrictions" on its customers as it deals with a "very significant spike" in usage of its Teams chat app.

DigitalOcean has already seen a "pretty dramatic shift" in usage since last month, too, and has had to adjust accordingly, says Apurva Joshi, the company's vice president of products. Joshi estimates that its bandwidth usage has gone up 20% to 25% and the company expects that to continue to grow. 

For example, Joshi said that customers are "spinning up large amounts of computer workloads" using DigitalOcean's managed services for Kubernetes, an open source cloud computing project started at Google that's used for running large-scale applications. In general, DigitalOcean is seeing more customers building and increasing spend on gaming and streaming -heavy applications

"Given the nature of the public cloud, elasticity is built in," Joshi told Business Insider. "We're fortunate to predict capacity needs way in advance to cope with this kind of demand we're seeing across the board."

Fast-forwarding processes and focusing on customer support

The DigitalOcean team usually plans its capacity six months in advance, but the current, unexpected situation has meant that it's had to fast-forward its usual processes, Joshi said. 

For example, it's had to add more capacity to its data centers than usual to make sure that customers don't face interruptions. Given that the pandemic has forced people to stay home, DigitalOcean and its data center providers needed to receive clearance letters from local government agencies to allow workers to enter and maintain its data centers. (The company says that making sure employees stay healthy is a top priority). 

"We're working through those processes to make sure there's continuity of the business, as well as make sure employees' health and wellness are taken care of," Joshi said.

DigitalOcean is also speaking with customers both proactively and reactively to help them readjust their capacity to address immediate business needs. Right now, one of its biggest challenges is making sure it can provide support to all its customers: making sure they're taken care of and can continue running their businesses the way they'd like.

That's particularly important because DigitalOcean's cloud is squarely aimed at small and medium-sized businesses. DigitalOcean's pricing is more effective and simpler for smaller customers than what they'd see from giant competitors like AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud, which also go after large enterprises, Joshi said. And DigitalOcean is increasingly winning over more of them as they look to the cloud to save money during the economic downturn, he said. 

"In this difficult time we are here to help them in any way we can," Joshi said. "We want to be the cloud that every single SMB goes out there and says, 'This is our cloud. This is the cloud that doesn't nickel and dime us. It stood by us in difficult times.' That's the message I want to spread to the community."

DigitalOcean is also trying to help groups that are working on pandemic relief: It recently launched Hub for Good, an initiative to commit $100,000 in infrastructure credits to new, not-for-profit projects related to COVID-19, or the disease caused by the coronavirus. 

Got a tip? Contact this reporter via email at [email protected], Signal at 646.376.6106, Telegram at @rosaliechan, or Twitter DM at @rosaliechan17. (PR pitches by email only, please.) Other types of secure messaging available upon request. 

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SEE ALSO: The coronavirus crisis is putting Amazon's cloud to the test like never before. Here's how it keeps its massive data centers running smoothly, helping apps like Netflix and Zoom stay reliable.

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