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VPS.net SAN 2.0 early thoughts

thought i would put some of my early thoughts of VPS.net’s new SAN infrastructure as i have now been using them for a couple of weeks in production usage.

when i first started using the new London clouds (London Zone E – F opening soon) there were a very limited range of templates available

one good bonus of the new SAN infrastructure is that Windows is now available on VPS.net – i have yet to get the chance to test it first hand and for 99% of anything i do i am unlikely to need windows anyway but its good for vps.net obviously as it will attract another stream of users (namely the windows junkies).

my first step into SAN 2.0 territory was pretty smooth, i didnt have a cpanel template to choose from but i normally install it from a scratch centos install anyway so no problem for me. i didnt do any detailed timings but it certainly felt like the install went much faster  (most likely due to the faster and probably more consistent SAN performance) which if anyone knows how long a cpanel install from scratch  is a good thing!

have only been running the server a couple of weeks so far, but things seem to run much more stably i have not had any strange temporary performance issues that i used to have on the old SAN’s in fact performance has been so stable i have been running my server without litespeed on 3 nodes (litespeed causes issues with a reverse proxy domain i have setup in that it just doesnt work with dns based reverse proxy only IP) where as before i “had” to run litespeed to keep consistant performance without adding extra nodes that generally weren’t needed.

the new tweaks to the control panel look really really good, the new console is actually usable now and i could quite happily use it for client servers over the trusty terminal – sure it wont ever totally replace a terminal or ssh client but its a huge step forward over the old version. the new bandwith and cpu usage graphs are really nice looking (although i didnt mind the old graphs in anyway just annoyed that they used to break all the time)

the only negative of the new graphs is that you can only see the last 14 hours of data, there is as yet no way of editing the timescale or seeing further back or over a longer period. the other one thing about the new clouds is that monthly bandwith used is no longer accurate to my knowledge. because since i started my server 2 weeks ago its total bandwith is 6.4MB this includes the cpanel install and software updates and the constant syncing to S3 for the cdn of this site supposedly. i have yet to raise a support ticket for this as its not critical for me as i dont yet get near the transfer limits of vps.net.

all in all its been a long awaited upgrade and its certainly worth dipping in to test. if you are a potential new vps.net customer. use the new SAN’s dont even bother using the old cloud Zones.

now hopefully i should recieve one of the vps.net stress toy robots soon 🙂




Never underestimate the power of “Word of Mouth”

the title says it all really, and seriously dont underestimate it. lets just give some background, i do occasional freelance systems admin work in my free time, this includes but is not limited to, server setup and maintenance, site migrations and optimisation and other general geekery relating to webservers 🙂

i was contacted last week by a guy called Rick Anderson of Tailoring the Web to optimise and speed up his server hosting one of his sites Build Your Own Business Website he told me that he had paid for VPS.net to migrate him from bluehost and manage the server for him, he was telling me how since moving his site had in fact slowed down. i set out to optimise the server and also optimise the site by making use of the awesome W3 Total Cache plugin for wordpress, over 2 nights i was able to improve page load times from 4.5-5 seconds down to between 1-2 seconds, i was pretty pleased with that and went to sleep pretty happy.

over the next 2 days i recieved 5 enquiries about doing similar stuff (Migration/Optimisation/Setup etc) now bear in mind i currently only do this in my spare time (will have lots more time to spend on it from October) all of these referrals were as a result of Rick making one single post on the Thesis Support Forum where he is a very active member, i dont currently actively advertise my services so that i dont get swamped with extra work so its a pleasant surprise especially as i need to earn some extra money at the moment (Uni fee’s amongst other things).

Incidentally if you are looking to build your own business website, do take a look at the site as it is a great resource and tool to aid you in that process and walk you through it, and if you ever need hosting services or server setup, do send me an email anthony@somersettechsolutions.co.uk

in other news, this time next week i will be flying through 2 different countries to go to Zimbabwe for a friends wedding and to meet Marie’s parents and help out with a christian youth conference called Ignite2010 – busy times so please pray for me




Spreading the Load

A nice geeky post again 🙂

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 😉 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 🙂

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.




VPS.NET – 9 Months in

thought i would update on my progress with VPS.net as i have been with them a little bit longer and i also have a couple of clients and friends that i have helped here so by proxy have had the chance to experience a wide variety of setups and situations, including managed support

last time i reviewed them (see: http://antsomerset.co.uk/2009/09/29/vps-net-thoughts-and-review-kinda) i talked about pricing and some of the issues regarding IP’s and logins etc. firstly it might be appropriate to give an update on new key features, changes etc since last september. firstly nodes have been given a 50% boost, instead of 256MB ram and 400Mhz CPU you now get 600Mhz and 376MB RAM all at the same price! Introduction of Zones within regions to seperate local servers, Rsync Backups as well as snapshots, licensing manager and pricing for litespeed, softaculous and rvskin, free hostbill, FusionIO, delayed storage upgrades on node increases, Akamai CDN, By the Minute Billing and therefore crediting for unused node time and a host of other smaller backend adjustments and lots more new templates to play with including CloudLinux, ClearOS and FreeBSD (Beta still) with Windows imminently expected.

coming back to my last review i pointed out an issue with wanting to reinstall a VPS if a mistake was made or to try a new OS you had to delete and recreate and there was no gaurentees of keeping the same IP address – glad to say this was resolved very soon after with the handy reinstall vps button on the vps screen:

with this function you can create either from the same template originally used – a manual backup you created a template with or even a whole new template and with any of these options you keep the original IP so all the server licenses that you may have had for that specific IP are retained, which is a huge time saver for people.

second issue pointed out previously was security and with regards to vps.net staff needing access to servers/vps.net account, since then there have been a slew of improvements including pin based authorisation for key tasks via sms. and also the ability to leave server details securely in a support ticket (without the root password being seen in plain text in the middle of your support ticket) this has allayed a lot of my fears with this aspect.

support over the 9 months or so has been up and down, i guess like any normal team you have good days and bad days, generally support is very good, sometimes not so, and the issues usually are speed of response or support agent not understanding/reading the actual issue/requirements and therefore not giving relevant and correct advice. as a kind of quality control feature the team have now released a report to manager button which is very good for highlighting times when the team are very good or bad so that they can be given more beer or beaten with a stick depending

uptime again has been variable, they have suffered from some quite huge DDoS attacks and as a result learned from the problems and made the correct adjustments and policy changes to eliminate them and i can say that the service has stabilised massively since that time. there are some outstanding niggles that seem to happen with stability and range from Hypervisors locking up and your server going offline but not self healing again, to other san related incidents (with which no self healing currently happens if its SAN related) but they are being addressed and seem to be very minor when you consider the sheer number of VPS’ operated here (pretty sure the number is way above 10k)

Akamai another new addition to VPS.net in that you can get very very favourable pricing for akamai (pretty much worlds biggest and best CDN), i have the chance to use this for my main work job currently and it has been a large improvement in site load time and taking load off the server for the ChristChurch London podcast. i cant fault this addition at all.

there have been lots and lots of features and changes for vps.net and as i write about them i remember more so i could easily turn this into an never ending article but will close it off with what i think are one of there biggest updates and most significant, firstly is by the minute billing, this just means that your usage is tracked by the minute so that if you decide to delete a node mid way through your billing month, you will get an account credit for however many Minutes, Hours and days that deleted your Node early, this is obviously not convertable to cache but it certainly brings VPS.net in with services like Amazon EC2 and in fact makes them even better  and more competitive than such services.

the next big thing which is not yet officially been launched but has been talked about and is literally very imminent (i wouldnt be surprised to see the open beta pop up any day) is windows support at long last! obviously details yet to be released but it sounds like the only extra charges to use windows will be licensing (so existing nodes will work fine) this could very well shift a huge move in the server market as very few companies i know do windows hosting well and even windows vps hosting at that. like the Iphone 4 this is likely going to turn into a game changer.

so 9 months in, still a true VPS.net fan and totally happy with the service i get happy to stay for another 9 months or more 🙂




now hosted on VPS.net

WOOHOOO

this site is now hosted on my nodes at VPS.net, personally i noticed a big speed improvement, hopefully using Aegir Drupal Hosting software helps make my drupal site management easier and more pain free along with getting more resources available to do more here 🙂

i hope the readership (i think its just me!) enjoys the improvement, hopefully this means real content will start adorning these pages soon, need to talk about my studies at some point!

if you are thinking of getting VPS.net, i can wholeheartedly recommend it, in fact if you do decide to get it, help a student out by using my referral link:

http://www.vps.net/?r=lUOA




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