A New Web Host – Linode

image of laptops connected to WWWJust before the New Years holiday I moved this site to a new web host, Linode. I’ve been with Slicehost for just over two years and don’t have any complaints and think they’re great. There’s an interesting thread on the Slicehost forum about how other vendors have matched and exceeded Slicehost’s offerings. In the thread even Slicehost has admitted they stagnated and haven’t taken advantage of the resources available to them through Rackspace which purchased them about a year ago. That’s part of my reason for shopping around, the same plan at the same price after two years. There were some other hosts that offered more for the same or less money. I  moved because I get more of what I need for the same cost (well, actually a nickel a month less).

I like using a VPS (virtual private server) for my websites. It gives me a lot of control and nearly unlimited flexibility so I wasn’t looking for anything different. I wanted more memory, either by having more physical memory or by more efficient memory usage.

Finally, I’m not running a business. While reliability performance are important, as is good tech support when it’s needed, I’m not willing to pay a premium “just in case”.

Slicehost provided 10GB of disk and 100GB of bandwidth to go with my 256MB of RAM on the slice. The only thing that really mattered to me was the RAM. I never even came close to my bandwidth limits, likewise on the disk space. Slicehost offers only 64-bit OS’s (actually, they now offer 32 bit apps on a 64 bit kernel) while Linode offers 32-bit images.

The two main reasons I picked Linode were:

  • More memory for the same price (360MB vs. 256MB)
  • 32-bit OS which provides more available memory on my server

Linode also provides more disk and bandwidth but I don’t even come close to what Slicehost offers so it wasn’t a factor in my decision.

Slicehost has been extremely reliable and their tech support has been quick and efficient when needed. I couldn’t expect more from any provider. My Linode suffered an unexpected reboot due to a RAID disk failure early on so I was a bit worried. But they’ve been rock solid since then. Slicehost also had some hardware issues in my two years with them and I had a brief outage for an unexpected reboot and later when they moved me to a replacement server.

One differentiator with Slicehost is the ability to do automated backups which make restores simple and fast. But the backup service is an added cost ($5/mth for the small slices. Linode did offer a beta backup service that I was trying out. It was extremely unreliable and they’ve currently suspended the beta pending some architectural changes. If an image type backup was important to me I’d probably have looked a Zerigo (see below) in greater depth since they seemed to offer the most flexibility. (I currently backup my websites, databases and configuration files to my local PC every night and I’m happy with this.)

Linode’s management console has a few more features than Slicehost’s console and I like working with it a little better, but it’s nothing that I’d be willing to pay more for. While Linode doesn’t offer a backup service one feature I like is the ability to copy a disk image. I have 16GB of disk and I can partition this up any way I want. I have three 5GB partitions of which 1 is my actual server partition. The other two are rotating copies. While not truly a backup, before I make a change I dump the oldest copy and make a new copy the production image. I screw up the server I can boot off the copy (or just copy it back). This isn’t truly a backup since it’s all on my server but it’s a nice way to recover from a bad upgrade. It proved useful while testing out Linode.

By switching to the 32-bit version of Ubuntu server I picked up about 30 MB of free memory over my 64-bit Slicehost server. Added to the additional physical memory this gave me much more breathing room on my server. Occasionally my Slicehost server would resort to swapping which my Linode has yet to do despite having more available Apache processes and concurrent connections configured.

I also briefly looked at Zerigo. They’re pricing is competitive with Slicehost (Linode is cheaper) and Zerigo offers 32-bit OS’s . They offer a 4 day test drive and I took them for a spin over a weekend.  Zerigo also offers server snapshots for backups. The snapshots are more flexible than Slicehost’s backup offering. (At least as their described, I didn’t test this feature). There wasn’t anything compelling to make me pick them. I did have problems getting their DNS to resolve to my server, although it worked fine with a 3rd party DNS service. I didn’t open a support ticket since I didn’t plan to stay beyond the trial period.

All-in-all I’m very happy with Linode despite an early hiccup. They have a good reputation which they seem to be living up to. Even with the reboot a support ticket was generated and emailed to me explaining the reason and actions taken.

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