Linode Improves… Again!

linodeI know I talk about Linode a lot on my site here, but they are my faithful VPS hosting provider, so I want to support them as much as possible.

Recently, Linode made the jump to SSD drives for VPS and at the same time, doubled the RAM for them. SSD drives are not new for VPS providers, for example, Digital Ocean has used SSDs for over a year and at a lower price point for a basic server ($5/mo for 512mb RAM & 20GB space). Linode has a higher starting price point, but it’s well worth the price considering the robustness of the Linode experience including the control panel, very active support staff and excellent hardware.

I currently have 5 VPS on Linode, but manage another half dozen or so for clients. So when it came to “testing” out the SSD upgrade, I wanted to try it on my own first. It was relatively simple. The only caveat was that a few of my VPS were setup with 32-bit kernels. I had to change them to 64-bit and that was all. I clicked the “Upgrade” button in the Linode control panel and it only took about 10-15 minutes to migrate my VPS to new SSD servers with the 1GB memory upgrade. I then proceeded to update Ubuntu to 14.04 LTS on them all and they are running smoothly. Very painless.

Doing a hdparm drive benchmark, it is notably faster than before.

Before

Timing cached reads: 6854 MB in 1.99 seconds = 3442.87 MB/sec
Timing buffered disk reads: 404 MB in 3.02 seconds = 133.82 MB/sec

After

Timing cached reads: 19672 MB in 1.98 seconds = 9931.54 MB/sec
Timing buffered disk reads: 2856 MB in 3.00 seconds = 951.48 MB/sec

So, in conclusion, Linode continues to make major improvements to their infrastructure without raising the cost to the end-user. I hope they keep up the good work and they will have my business for years to come.

Why I like Linode (after using others)

When I started hosting websites for clients, I hosted them in-house, literally, in my house. This was nice because I had direct control over the servers and could quickly fix them or migrate data if there were hardware failures. But obviously, it does not scale very well when it comes to bandwidth, and if you need many servers, the power and cooling requirements can get out of hand.

GoDaddy

At the point when I felt my home setup was “obsolete”, I then took the plunge onto GoDaddy dedicated servers, 2 of them at the time. One was for websites and ran Windows 2003 Server with IIS. The other was a mail server and each had DNS running on them so I didn’t have to depend on/pay for a third-party DNS provider.

GoDaddy dedicated servers ended up being the biggest mistake I ever made.  They ran well for a while, but then a worm of some kind crawled around their internal network and came in through some backend they use to manage the servers.  I had everything well locked down, all Windows sharing turned off, including unneeded admin shares (C$, etc.) and had the firewall pretty tight. It took around 3 days to recover fully from the crash and even though the machines were virtually “destroyed”, I was fortunately able to FTP out all my customer data.

Crystaltech

I moved most of my ASP & .NET sites over to a Windows 2008 Server at CrystalTech. Including email (SmarterMail), which I love, but with the limited space on a Windows VPS, it is quickly filling up with email (people rarely delete things when using IMAP). I still use Crystaltech and they’ve been very stable, but their cost is quite a bit higher than other virtual solutions.

Slicehost

After the GoDaddy crash, all my PHP sites moved to virtual servers running Ubuntu with a standard LAMP stack. Apache got old real quick. It required constant tuning.  I explored many web servers to find one with better performance, at one time, I had three setup for ALL my virtualhosts where all I had to do was stop all the web daemons, change the config of the one I wanted to use to 80 and just start that one, bring up all my sites on a different daemon.  I finally settled on Cherokee and have NEVER looked back.

Slicehost, in my opinion, had HUGE potential at one time (pre-Rackspace buyout).  The support was phenomenal, everyone in the company was open and reachable. I many times talked to the founder via chat and email.  But all of that went down the drain with Rackspace and all Slicehost’s offerings and prices went stagnant.

I recently cancelled Slicehost completely after getting a hard to access domain, whose DNS was hosted with Slicehost, to change their nameservers to Linode’s.

Others

I’ve used a number of other minor providers from time to time that I won’t get too much into here. None of them seemed to be as “turnkey” as places like Linode and Slicehost when it came to the admin backend experience. They were either too complicated or did not even have some of the basics required for “full service” hosting.

Linode

Linode, so far (knock on wood), has been the best company I’ve ever done business with. Rock solid, great support at all hours, fast host servers, lots of datacenter locations, excellent control panel, iPhone app, etc. I can’t say enough to express my happiness with the service.

I currently host a number of VPS servers with them and have brought over a few clients onto their own server(s).  We host everything from test servers to full production and even PBXs. All runs perfectly.

It will be a sad day in VPS hosting land if Linode ever gets bought out by some mega hosting company like Rackspace.

To end this up, decentralization has been the best thing I have done and it is multi-faceted. I separated websites onto multiple, less expensive virtual servers, which prevent ALL my sites from going down when something happens to one of them. I’ve moved most of my clients to Google Apps for Domains, both business and standard, for email.

My uptime has dramatically improved, my customers are happier and that’s what matters.

Linode turns 7, gives ~42% RAM Upgrade to all customers!

Linode has turned out to be the best VPS provider I’ve ever used and it as of yesterday (6/16/10), they upgraded all VPS’ memory by ~42%.  All I have to say is Wow.  Since I’ve been with them, they have upgraded HDD space, which is also nice, but not something I really needed.  RAM is a different story, that is very important for VPS customers.  That much more memory means a LOT and really makes the entry level 512 servers (for only $19.95) much more useful without breaking the bank.

I currently have 5 512MB Linodes (upgraded from 360) and one 768 (upgraded from 512).  I should now be able to do much more with these servers now and offer more scalability to my customers who are paying for their own servers.

Linode, in my opinion, destroys the competition and always seems to be ahead of the gang of “peer” VPS providers like Slicehost, Rackspace Cloud Servers, VPS.net and others.  They may not have the “prettiest” or most user friendly control panel, but they offer a level of flexibility unrivaled by others.

My VPS Provider Adventures

Left Slicehost, joined Linode

I moved my sites (2 servers) from Slicehost to Linode due to no 32-bit support at Slicehost and am VERY happy with the service I am receiving from Linode.  They have been excellent at answering the few questions I had during setup and everything has been flawless ever since.  The 32bit Linodes have been running much more efficiently for me than the 64 bit.

Mosso CloudServers

Since moving, the other day Mosso came out with their “version” of Slicehost’s system running straight through the Mosso control panel.  I setup a small 256mb instance for .015 cents per hour (~10.95/mo) which is cheaper than SH, but it doesn’t include any bandwidth… Bandwidth is bill seperately at .22/gb out and .08/gb in.  Which isn’t too bad if you are a relatively low bandwidth user like I am, but it’s still only 256mb.

Also, Mosso’s DNS control panel is nowhere near as good as Slicehost’s, which is a big negative for me using them long term.  Even though I’m on Linode primarily now, I still keep a 256mb Slice active on Slicehost just for their DNS since it has a very nice web interface and there’s an iPhone App for Slicehost’s control panel, including DNS.

FSCKVPS.COM

Another new place I found is FSCKVPS.COM… They are a little “rougher around the edges” than the Slicehost or Linode offerings, but their prices are quite amazing. This is most likely due to this being a “totally unmanaged” service.  Basic tickets related to network uptime and machine uptime is supported, but other things probably are not.  FSCK is a subsidiary of a larger UK based provider VAServ/A2B2, so I feel better about them not being a “fly by night” company. (Of course not implying that Slicehost or Linode is)

I setup a 32bit 512mb VPS (1024 burstable) in their Atlanta, GA data center for only $9.95 with 50% off the first month to test it out.  The control panel runs on a non-standard port (8887) so if you have a firewall at work, you may have trouble getting into it.

The setup was painless, but defaulted to CentOS which I rebuilt into Ubuntu 8.04 (8.10 in 32bit was not available).  The image was “minimal”… Even the source.list for apt needed to have all the repos added to it to get all the updates (it only had 1).  I then proceeded to do all updates and upgraded to 8.10 via commandline.

I upgraded to 8.10 using the instructions here…

http://www.howtoforge.com/how-to-upgrade-ubuntu-8.04-to-ubuntu-8.10-desktop-and-server

As stated before, the memory use of the default image was only 10mb, here’s a screenshot of htop

Click for larger

A2B2′s dedicated U.S. Server pricing is also VERY nice…

Intel Core2Duo E8300
2×2.83GHz, 6MB L2 Cache CPU
4GB DDR2 RAM
2×250GB SATA-II Disk
2000GB Monthly Transfer
5 IP’s
Price: $109.00/month

Normally you’d have to pay at least twice this much for something like this.  I’d probably switch my windows server here if Windows 2003 server wasn’t $30 more per month.  It would be nice too if they offered a machine like this with half the specs (2gb RAM, 2x120gb HDD, etc) for half the price.  That’s more within my pricing sweet spot.

I’m gonna keep testing this VPS throughout the month and see how it holds up.