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Second VPS.net review - a Different Experience of Cloud Hosting

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Written 29 December 2011

About 6 weeks ago I wrote a review of VPS.net and told of my intentions to move Springfrog to their cloud hosting service, following a good experience of trying using their hosting for a new site that I had set up. Unfortunately, I've decided to abandon the plan to move Springfrog and my ther sites to VPS.net, following a not-so-brilliant experience over the last few days whilst I had been in the process of migrating over to a new VPS (Virtual Private Server) that I had created on their system.

In part, the original review still stands, and the VPS that I had created on their Chicago B cloud is still running very smoothly. I'm still using that VPS for another website of mine.

I wanted to keep that VPS (which I've named "Jumpy") separate to the main VPS for Spingfrog and my other sites. When setting up a VPS, you can choose from any of their available datacenters. There are 6 different datacenters worldwide, and each datacenter is subdivided into "zones". Jumpy is located in the Chicago B zone. Rather than put all my eggs in one location, I decided to set up the VPS (which I named "Hoppy") for Springfrog and my other websites in their SLC-B zone which is in Salt Lake City. As far as I know this is in the same datacenter that VPS.net's sister company, Westhost, uses. Having been a very happy customer of Westhost for around 10 years I was hoping this would be a good reliable choice.

Creating a Virtual Private Server on VPS.net's cloud is as simple as setting a slider to choose how many nodes you want to dedicate to your VPS, choosing a few options like what server control panel, backups you'd like, and selecting where you want the VPS to be located. You can't really mess anything up at this point (although you need to be sure of the hostname that you want to give your VPS as you can't change this on VPS.net's control panel later). So it was just a few clicks and taps at the keyboard, and voila, Hoppy the server was set up (technically this would be Hoppy V) as I'd had 4 servers named hoppy in the past.

Unfortunately, as soon as I created the VPS the problems started . The VPS simply refused to boot. I - tried 2 different ubuntu images and was just getting "This VPS is currently running a task. " when trying to start it in the vps.net control panel. Overall I probably tried booting about 6 times so far.

I had opted for the ISPmanager Pro control panel, for which VPS.net provides a free licence with their cloud hosting packages, and I had received an email from a friendly member of their support staff asking if I really wanted this or was just testing things out. I replied confirming that I did want the ISPmanager Pro license, and mentioned about the VPS's failure to boot. Much credit to VPS.net for a quick service on this - the query was immediately moved to one of their Support Engineers in their General Support L2 Department, and within minutes I received an email advising me that my VPS had been moved to a different hypervisor and had sucessfully booted. All of this only took about 15 minutes from my initial email. So although it didn't start out too good with the failure to boot, the quick support made me feel good.

That initial setup was on 10th December. Over the next couple of weeks I got the basic architecture of the server set up nicely, partly with the help of ISP Manager Pro, and had to do a few other non-server things, so it took until Christmas week before I started the main job of moving sites over to the newly set up cloud server. Two or three nights ago (about 26th or 27th December), just as I was untarring one of my websites to the proper folder on the VPS, the filesystem went "read only". Uh-oh, this is one of the things that I had read about happening a lot to other people on other VPS.net reviews and forums. I had hoped that maybe those bad reviews were a bit overblown, or that the company had sorted out the problems or at least minimised their happening...or maybe that I would just be lucky. Other reviews seem to indicate a great many cases of filesystems going "read-only" over and over again, and causing lots of problems.

I decided to try to restart the server, and as it restarted I used the Console tab of VPS.net's control panel to see if any messages appeared to help. From the console I was able to see that the VPS was able to check its drive for errors, and yikes, a lot of errors and fixing stuff seemed to fly by. After all of that the server rebooted successfully. The previously untarred stuff had disappeared (possibly part of the error fixing?) but a second attempt at untarring worked fine. This had all been a bit scary but it all seemed recoverable so I kept on, moving a few more sites over in following day or two.

Last night (29th December) everything seemed to be fine, so I popped of to bed with the intention of continuing with the migration from my Westhost server to VPS.net today. However, this morning I awoke to find that overnight the filesystem had gone "read only" again, presumably sometime overnight or early in the morning. Knowing that restarting the VPS and allowing it to go through its disk-checking and fixing process worked sucessfully last time, I did the same again, restarting the server and watching lots or error and fixing messages fly by on the VPS.net control panel's Console tab. Part of my brain was starting to worry here - what was being fixed and exactly what was going on with all my data? A short while later (5 to 15 minutes maybe)The server rebooted and the filesystem was writeable again. However, a folder with one of my websites had disappeared. This had not been the last site I had been working on, so why this had gone I have no idea. It had been working fine yesterday. This is what really scared me.

At this point I should mention that I have never had a filesystem go "read only" on Westhost. If a "read-only" problem can happen at VPS.net twice in the space of two or three days, and one of my sites can, seemingly at random, be wiped out as a result, this was too much of a risk. In addition, I don't know whether there was any more that was destroyed during this problem.

Maybe I've given up too early, or should have contacted VPS.net directly about this. Possibly this may be a problem just on particular clouds, seeing as my "Jumpy" vps on the Chicago B cloud is still running very reliably. I don't know, but having read of other people's similar continous problems I decided that the best and safest course of action for now is to stay with good old reliable Westhost for Springfrog and my other main sites. I'm still keeping one site on the Chicago B cloud of VPS.net but at the moment I'd recommend VPS.net mainly for experimental sites rather than projects which need anything close to 100% reliability. I'll keep watching the reviews for the company, and hope that they do get their problems worked out. In theory, their system is a good one but they probably need a bit of time to smooth over their bumps.

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