Comparison of VPS Providers

So you’ve graduated from the world of shared hosting providers and it’s time for you to set up your own big-boy hosting package. You need a Virtual Private Server (VPS) of some sort, but the options are dizzying because these services have become a commodity: it seems that nearly everyone is peddling some variation of them. Well, we feel your pain. And I feel my own pain… I’ve dealt with a number of hosting providers over the past few years, and I’m writing this article to share with you my opinions. I’ve set up accounts for myself or for my clients on all of the following systems, and here is my unbridled opinion of each of them. Keep in mind that these reviews and opinions relate primarily to using the services for web hosting.

These aren’t affiliate links unless otherwise indicated (hey, if you want to throw us a bone for saving you the pain of experiencing these guys yourself, then please, feel free to click the affiliate link: it costs you nothing and it is your way of saying “thanks for saving me the trouble of learning this stuff the hard way”).

LiquidWeb

LiquidWeb has impressed me with its clean integrations and its “heroic support”. That doesn’t mean they’ve been able to fix every problem I’ve had, but to be fair, a lot of the tricky stuff was weird 3rd party installs that *I* struggle with greatly. But they have been very responsive in their tickets and I’ve never felt abandoned or in the dark.

The standard VPS’s offer a good value, but if you need more horsepower, their SmartServers offer a nice combination of virtual/cloud and dedicated qualities, and it’s a good combo for many folks. These come by default with WHM/cPanel, so it’s easy to set up sub-accounts with their own logins. Throw me a Bone (affiliate link)

Media Temple

This is a popular option, although I’m not sure why… their cloud servers go down frequently, they’ve had several pretty severe security issues, and using SSH on their servers is a holy pain in the ass because SSH dumps you in some foreign directory miles away from your home directory, whereas FTP takes you to your home directory. What? Yes, it is obnoxious and confusing, and they disconnect your SSH session after 5 minutes, which is approximately 1 minute less than the time it takes you to RTFM through your notes and emails to find where the hell your home directory is or which command you need to run to escalate yourself to the proper user to be able to do anything useful. MediaTemple uses Plesk to offer control panels to their clients, and Plesk is a nightmare if you ever try to do any sysadmin work on the command line. I’ve had a couple clients on MediaTemple, and it just seems like it’s a rocky road with bumps in the service and difficulties in doing basic tasks. It’s not the worst out there, but I wouldn’t rate MediaTemple as anything better than mediocre.

VPS.net

I do not recommend these guys. They do have a nice looking site and what looks to be a nice product, but my experience with them was wholly negative. “Jeez”, you might be thinking, “don’t flame a brother in writing!”, but sit down around the campfire and let me tell you why I feel completely comfortable doing so….

It all started when I set up a VPS server with VPS.net and I signed up for their paid snapshots knowing that I was liable to screw up my server at some point and I’d want to roll back to a snapshot image. Sure enough, I borked my server by removing the sqlite package, which completely destroyed the functionality of my yum utility (don’t ever do what I did, by the way). “No problem”, I thought, “I’ll just roll back.” Well, the restoration process had a fatal flaw, which completely toasted my server. After using their “restoration” utility, I didn’t just have a server with a broken yum utility, I had a completely fried server (ooo… that’s a bad code taco on that one). The people over at VPS.net were completely unwilling to admit the problem. I wasted about 2 days waiting for them to either fix the problem or to just come clean and say “hey, we’re really sorry, but we had a glitch in our snapshot utility so we only have partial backups of your server.” No. They hemmed and hawed and wasted my time for 2 days until finally one of the techs admitted that there had been a problem. I think he was probably later executed by firing squad for insubordination and refusing to tow the party line. I needed to clock in about 40 hours (all un-billable, by the way) to rebuild the server from scratch, and they acted like the Soviets when Chernobyl blew up: in typical fashion they denied anything happened until European scientists started measuring massive amounts of radiation and said “uh, comrades… did something happen at your reactor?”

While waiting days for a response (all while my server and all of its sites were completely down), my patience got exhausted, so I finally threatened to make a blog post like this one. The CTO jumped in saying “I was approaching this in the wrong way”. I listed the several tickets that I had filed that had gotten no response for 48 hours (even ones that *he* had initially responded to). And then even the CTO stopped responding to my requests for information (read: he must have known how badly they screwed up). His response was literally an advertisement: he blabbed on about how awesome their servers were and what great new offerings were available. I felt like he had just run over my dog, and instead of apologizing for killing my best friend, he was yammering on about awesome his car was with its dual-hemi’s, turbo-charged engine and high-performance tires. The final “kiss my ass” message they sent me was a legalese “F-U” which basically stated that none of their services, including backups, were guaranteed. Seriously, I don’t often say stuff like this this in writing, but VPS.net can go french kiss a donkey’s ass. I gave them every opportunity to respond to my questions or to justify their actions, and they ignored me, so I feel I’m being more than fair.

So dealing with VPS.net cost me several thousand dollars, it almost cost me a client, and their ineptitude set me back on several high priority projects, and their response to a completely legitimate issue was childish and unprofessional, and my requests for just basic professionalism were ignored. So there you have it: my rant against VPS.net. Use their services at your own risk.

VPSlink.com

These guys offer a simple no-frills hosting package, and I’ve used them for several dev projects over the years. Nothing fancy, but they are responsive to the requests, and I’ve only had minimal fuss with their servers and their control panel is easy to navigate. They may not give you as much RAM as some for the price, but they do give you lots of CPUs (like 16!). I like these guys and I give them a good thumbs up. There is no cPanel type dashboard for sub-accounts, so this one is only for command-line sysadmins only.

ServerAxis.com

This is another no-frills VPS system that offers some pretty nice stats for the price: lots of RAM and a good amount of CPU. They offer a few more options than VPSLink (e.g. you can pay extra to get an external backup volume mounted to your server), and they are a bit more scalable, but I didn’t find their admin panels very intuitive, so I’ve lost time fumbling through them. There is no cPanel type dashboard for sub-accounts, so this one is only for command-line sysadmins only, but still a solid thumbs-up with these guys.

GoDaddy

Ah yes, now even GoDaddy is offering VPS services (hey, we said this stuff is becoming a commodity). The prices there look competitive, but my experiences with GoDaddy as a host have been mindbogglingly poor. Their shared hosting is a complete disaster — hands down, it’s the worst I’ve seen… they arbitrarily limit functionality, it takes hours to complete tasks that take only minutes on other hosts, and all for a cost that is higher than their competitors. I even had one of their techs tell me that the MySQL dump was “working perfectly” when the log file showed clearly that there was an error. Blink. Are they blind? Or just stupid? They also had zero understanding of how DNS records worked, so they weren’t able to offer any assistance in configuring a custom zone file. Furthermore, their dashboard is impossibly confusing to navigate. Do you know that weird castille soap by Dr. Bonner? I’m pretty sure the intern that did the layout for that soap is the same person who did the UI for GoDaddy’s control panel because I always have to dial their support # when I have to do anything in there.

Did the same guy do GoDaddy's control panel layout?
Layout designed by GoDaddy: Worst Layout Ever

I mean seriously… can you read that?

So even though these look like competitive prices, I have severe reservations about using GoDaddy as anything more than a registrar. Hey, I want to jump on Danica Patrick as much as the next horny guy, but maybe if they spent some time cleaning up their site and services instead of Super Bowl ads and models, they’d have a product worth recommending, but as it stands, you should pass on GoDaddy as a host.

Amazon cloud EC2

This is a popular option because hey, it’s Amazon… but I’ve found EC2 cloud stuff to be a pain in the ass to use simply because you get lost on the command line. It’s worse than MediaTemple from a command-line standpoint. In my opinion, being on the cloud means your data theoretically is always there (there are outages), but if you’re coming in via SSH, then you can’t find it. Haha. Only sort of kidding there. In general, this isn’t a very nice option for those people doing simple web hosting types of services. It’s more appropriate for companies doing persistent application deployments.

Other Providers

I feel obligated to mention the following 2 providers because so many people I work with recommend them highly:

I don’t have first hand experience with them, so I can’t comment directly.

Conclusion

There are a lot of options out there, but with enough time, patience, and trouble-shooting elbow-grease, you can find a web host that works for you.

5 thoughts on “Comparison of VPS Providers

  1. Sorry to hear about your bad experience. Even though our (gs) has had its share of issues in the past, we are working on constantly improving that product for our customers. Recently, it seems that our maintenance has provided higher stability and performance for our customers on the (gs). Finally, our shared service and VPS are two completely separate products, therefore, it would be a bit unfair to compare them.

    But the focus of the article is about our VPS, so it seems like your main issues with our (dv) fell with command line issues and Plesk. To correct one problem that you were having, SSH only kicks you out of the session after 5 minutes of inactivity. If you were having problems connecting and navigating, we do provide knowledge base articles on working with SSH to make your life easier. Also, permissions for access to particular directories can all be managed through Plesk.

    http://wiki.mediatemple.net/w/%28dv%29:Enable_SSH_for_FTP_user

    http://kb.mediatemple.net/questions/16/Connecting+via+SSH+to+your+server#dv

    If Plesk is the major problem, it would probably be best to look at something like our (ve). With the (ve), you are getting a blank box to install whatever you choose. We recommend that customers that purchase the (ve) have a solid knowledge of Linux before using it, as we don’t provide any support for it.

    I hope this helped clear up some of the issues you were having. Please let us know if you have any other suggestions with anything we can improve.

  2. Hi Everett,

    Thank you for the candid review. I’m extremely disappointed to hear about your experiences using us at VPS.NET. Could you please contact me at terry(at)vps.net? I would love to have the opportunity to review your circumstances and see if we might be able to make things right. If not, we can at least make sure future customers don’t have the same frustrating experience.

    Thanks,

    Terry Myers

  3. Terry, I appreciate that you took the time to respond to this article, but holy !#^%@$% smokes, the time to make things right is LONG gone. VPS.net HAD that chance and blew it. I carry a big stick, and when it finally comes out, mother-f’ers get WHACKED. I waited, I pleaded, I damn near *begged* for a response during the course of the incident outlined above, and I basically got NOTHING. *Nobody* over there shot me straight. This flaming was not out of the blue: I had the common decency to offer your company the chance to make things right back then by filing several relevant tickets (which were largely ignored) and then informing VPS.net of my intention to publicize my experience, and unlike VPS.net, I actually do follow-through and do what I say I will do.

    Throughout this experience it was like the left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing: it was clear from Nick Nelson’s responses to me that he had no recollection of the previous discussions that he had participated in, nor was there any acknowledgement or appreciation on his part of the suffering I went through. VPS.net did refund the fees for the snapshot “service”, but nobody at VPS.net had the balls to admit to having screwed up save for one tech, and only then after I basically had him at gunpoint. It was just piss poor, so I refuse to waste any more time with VPS.net. I gave you my *full attention and time* for a sleepless period of about 4 days and all I got was a bunch of waffling BS responses, so no thank you, my time is more valuable than to spend it writing pointless emails so you can feel better about how your company operates.

    If you want to know how to improve VPS.net, here’s my opinion of where to start:

    1. Have integrity. Not easy for a corporation, but if you say you’ll do something, then *do it*. Not because your lawyers said you had a binding agreement, not because you fear getting flamed if you don’t. Do it *because you said you would.* That’s called keeping your word.

    2. Be honest, admit failure. When you screw something up (such as destroying a customer’s server), be up front and honest about the scope of the damage. It’s not flattering to paint yourself in a negative light, but it would have spared you this negative review and it would have saved me many hours of stress. Even your comment was a bit off-base: basically after the hell I went through, the only comment from VPS.net that I would plausibly tolerate would have been something along the lines of “You’re absolutely right. We screwed that up BIG TIME. And although we cannot really make amends for this, we have done everything in our power to make sure it never happens again.”

    3. Don’t offer services you can’t guarantee (this gets back to #1). If one of my client’s sites gets hacked or goes down and they are relying on me to provide backups, do you know how ridiculous it would be if I dug up some legalese fine print that recused me of any liability? It’s just whiney corporate BS, and I have no respect for it.

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