Spreading the Load

A nice geeky post again πŸ™‚

been looking into different alternatives to VPS.net this last week or 2. i started looking after they experienced there major outage at the UK DC taking all there UK Zones/Clouds out of action for anything from 2 hours to 14 hours in the worst case for me. Although i have not really wanted to it would have been just unprofessional of me to not be aware of the current alternatives around just in case the same thing happens again. i need servers in the UK and i need them to be reliable, i thought that putting servers in different UK Zones at vps.net would be ok (they didnt need load balancing or anything fancy) my theory was that if a zone went down i would only have to deal with 1 perhaps 2 servers or clients and thats much more manageable. i wasnt planning for all 3 zones to hit out and a total of 7 servers that i manage for clients (including my own) went down at the same time, you can guess my phone got busy quickly! it really hurt me by being at a conference and suffering from the worlds worst wifi and mobile coverage (Brighton) in the UK during the middle of it.

so i started my looking and only came up with a few possibles. my requirements were simple, UK based, reliable and competitive costs or at least on the spec. the main few i found were:

so for my first requirement for UK servers i had to eliminate Slicehost and Rackspace, i remember speaking to Rackspace live chat and asking about whether they had a UK VPS service and the response while not these words exactly, i got the impression the agent was thinking, “why would you want to do that?” and it looks like rackspace dont have any imminent plans to bring it here.

Linode next on my list recently in the last 12 months or so setup a London based zone and they have pretty good pricing, but have reasonably tight bandwith limits that would mean potentially paying more than vps.net to make sure we dont have over bandwith issues. the dont offer cpanel (and for transparency even though i hate it, plesk) licenses meaning you have to get them yourself and often have to pay 3-4 times as much as if you go direct through a provider such as vps.net. going through there UI and i just didnt feel comfortable with it, sure i could use it it just felt overly complex to get things setup quickly and easily. that said i do like there specify how big disk images are (so that you can have multiple images attached to a vps and they are movable) they have some nifty features such as LiSH (Linode Shell) which is basically ssh access for when you mess up network or firewall settings, its like having a screen, keyboard and mouse plugged into your vps direct.

Next up is Clustered.net i got recomended these guys a few months ago when vps.net had another major issue (which i was largely unaffected by luckily) they are more traditional vps hosts in that you generally get a fixed instance size but you get good resources for your price (i am getting double ram and CPU than equivalent prices at vps.net. however this comes at the price of not having hypervisor redundancy like vps.net does, but you are on top of the range hardware and drives and they are a company that has been around a lot longer than vps.net has (although vps.net’s parent uk2group likely has been around longer) and just seem to get on with the job and do it well. the thing about clustered.net is that its not for normal people (read people that dont really know what they are doing – which seems to be much more prevalent at “big” companies like Linode or VPS.net) which means support resources (FAQ’s forums etc) are somewhat lacking, there support is excellent though and although they dont have a big fancy control panel (it just looks like rebranded whmcs for billing side and support only) they have importantly an ssh based emergency console and full slave dns which is a doddle to slave off your servers and white label – i am actually researching the best way to code up a cpanel module to automate this too. setup is not instant with them but if you sign up within british office hours you generally get set up in under an hour (mine was 20 mins).

so my outcome for me is the clustered is a great choice of provider, in reality all of them are good and i would reccomend the best tool for the job which in a nutshell is:

VPS.net – if you need the flexibility and very easy management system
Linode – if you dont need to worry about the added expense of a server control panel
Clustered.net – if you dont need to worry about the management interface and just want guarenteed reliability and good prices

all in all i am keeping most of my services at vps.net for now – i am more than happy with the service they provide, one client has moved to MediaTemple and getting round the plesk as control panel its a damn good service even for something based solely in the US and pretty swift. i have moved my personal server off to clustered.net as i got better resources for the same price and i dont need to worry about the management interface. besides its good to road test properly πŸ˜‰ This will also allow me to look at something that can monitor my servers at vps.net and be able to do stuff that via there API that i may not neccesarily be able to do if the server its hosted on is down at vps.net πŸ™‚

its always better to have your eggs in lots of baskets in the server hosting world because host’s get targeted, DC’s have issues etc etc, the more you can minimise that impact the better. i will still be reccomending vps.net to most people that ask me, however i am much much more informed about the competition and can definitely give a much more objective reccomendation to clients now.



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