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Aborted: Server Move and a Review of VPS.NET

Second VPS.net review - a Different Cloud Hosting Experience

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Written 14 November 2011

Updated 29 December 2011:
The move to VPS.net has now been aborted. Please read my Second VPS.net review for the reasons why. I still think VPS.net has good future potential and have left the rest of this page untouched to give a comprehensive and fair review of their service.

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At some point in the next few weeks, Springfrog will be moving to a new cloud server at VPS.net. Apart from a short time a few years ago, Springfrog has always been hosted at Westhost, who have been a fabulous company to deal with, and it's with great sadness that I'm leaving Westhost. In a way, it won't really be goodbye to the Westhost family though, as VPS.net is actually a sister company of Westhost, both being run by the UK2 Group of companies. It is with confidence therefore that I'm undertaking this move, and this confidence is backed up by the past couple of months during which I've had an account with VPS.net and have already set up and successfully launched a new site and subdomain on their cloud server platform.

One of the main advantages of VPS.net is the huge scalability capabilities of their Node-based cloud hosting. The question of scalability had been one of the things I had been investigating when considering a new host a couple of months ago. The other main consideration has been cost, after all, in today's world we all need to save every penny! Being a Westhost customer, I had heard of VPS.net in the Westhost forums. Something that had put me off had been reading some posts online about downtime, however, so I was naturally cautious.

I spent some good time checking out other similar scalable hosting offers, but always kept coming back to thinking about VPS.net. Quite a few other hosts these days offer some kind of scalable hosting, but VPS.net has it all organized in a particularly neat way and at a very good price, as well as a huge choice of different Linux distributions. This "neat way" is the Nodes that I mentioned earlier. Each Node consists of 0.6GHz of processor power, 376MB of RAM, 10GB of Disk space and one terrabyte of network transfer. For small sites, one node on its own may be sufficient, but the great thing is that a bunch of nodes can be stuck together to create a super-hefty virtual cloud server if required. Current pricing is 15 per node, so if anyone wanted something of reasonable power, sticking just a few nodes together wouldn't cost the earth (thankfully!).

At any time new Nodes can be ordered to add to your cloud server. This is done this within a very easy-to-use VPS.net management portal. I've given this a try and it works wonderfully. The extra Nodes were allocated to my account instantly. There are two ways to incorporate new Nodes into an already running cloud server. You can choose:

1 . To add the entire Node in one go including upgrading the disk space,
or
2. You can choose to upgrade everything except the disk space, and leave the disk space upgrade to a later stage.

The reason for the two options is that upgrading the disk space takes longer, and your server will be booted down, whilst the upgrade is taking place. I've tried both options on a working cloud server. The first only took about two minutes for an upgrade. The management portal warns that the second way (upgrade including disk space) may take up to an hour, so I was very pleasantly surprised when this only took less than 5 minutes to upgrade.

So...what about those downtime fears that I had been having. Well, so far everything has been very stable and consistent indeed. VPS.net did undertake a scheduled upgrade of their platform last week, but sent a warning email out in good time beforehand. I had been concerned about this, and the fact that the email warned of around a 3 hour downtime period, but the work on the part of their network where my running cloud server was located took less than 2 hours. Still not great for anything to be down that long, but I hope this was a one-off.

Talking about their network, there is a choice of datacenters where you can locate your Cloud Server. Currently there are 3 locations in the USA, and one in each of London, Tokyo and Amsterdam. A lot of Springfrog's traffic comes from the USA, so our Cloud Server will be in Salt Lake City.

One important consideration is backups. I've purchased snapshot backups at an extra 4 per month and Rsync backups for another 4 per month on the 2 cloud servers I've created so far. As far as I understand the snapshots should be doing nightly backups, but this does not seem to be working at the moment so I've had to force manual backups a few times.

Notable extras include free comodo SSL certificates, and a choice of paid or free control panels (thankfully I won't have to use Webmin which ended up the cause of a hacking attempt on a previous server a few years ago).

All in all, so far, I'm very pleased with VPS.net. As long as those downtimes don't happen and I can get the backups sorted, I'm sure our new home on "hoppy V the cloud server" will be a pleasant one.

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