As many people reading this would know, I have several servers around the world doing various things. This website you’re viewing right now is hosted on one of those very servers. Now, because I’ve got a few of these, I like to keep costs to a minimum. As such, I tend to look around for cheap providers when I can.
Nearing the end of last year, I started looking for a decent server provider. I ended up going with KDDI in Australia mainly because they offered an unmetered plan for $11 per month. Problems started to surface very early on when even attempting to pay for the service would result in errors. It became quickly apparent that this was only a one man operation when I decided to do some investigation and discovered the servers were just hosted on a single VMWare Hypervisor. There were no tools to re-image your system, even basic things like rebooting were a chore.
Early this year, I discovered DigitalOcean. While they didn’t have an Australian datacentre, I thought I could forgive this considering what they were offering was miles ahead of KDDI in terms of pricing, features and specs on the servers. My experience with them has been absolutely superb. So far, since January, there has only been one serious outage. They even gave me $200 free credit for helping out in their IRC channel during that outage, and it was only down for about 2 hours total. The company actively engages with and tries to build a community and regularly rewards those who participate. This is something other companies should take note of, it greatly adds to customer satisfaction.
Just last month, I started searching for providers to host in Australia, as I was aiming to host a game server. This is something that relies on low latency, so it had to be in the country. I investigated the current players, of which there really aren’t many. The main contenders were Vultr, commonly seen as DigitalOcean’s primary competitor, and BinaryLane, a Brisbane based provider with similar offerings. I decided to give Vultr a try, however after about half an hour, I very quickly realised this service was under par in terms of performance. Simply updating the package cache took an exorbitant amount of time. As such, I switched to BinaryLane.
BinaryLane were generally pretty good, however I quickly realised that the server I was hosting would need more RAM than the lowest tier ($5/512MB) would offer. This is when everything just got a little stupid. In order to double the RAM, I would need to pay 140% of the price. With most providers, doubling of the RAM is usually met with double the price, as well as other things added on like disk space. This was certainly not the case here. To get more disk space, I was yet again looking for a higher cost. Suddenly BinaryLane was no longer competitive for anything other than their truly basic offering.
So I decided to give Vultr another chance. For a while, they were good. Nice and quick, reliable, etc. Fast forward a week later and I start getting status emails about my server being unreachable. I check and I can reach the server fine, but it turns out for some reason, outgoing packets, mostly to the US, are just not going anywhere. While this doesn’t really matter all too much for an Australian based game server, it’s still quite an annoyance considering I’m paying for this service and have status scripts running that require constant connectivity.
A couple of weeks ago, I decided it would be a good idea to get another server solely for storage. I had a bit of a look around and thought GreenValueHost would be a good fit. I had heard a few problems here and there about them, but thought I’d give them a go anyway. This was a horrible decision. The problems arised literally as soon as I bought the service. Straight up, I try to connect to my new service only to find that it doesn’t work, it doesn’t respond to anything. I go to the control panel to get to the console of the service, that is working fine, I then try something as simple as pinging Google. Nothing. I had been given a null routed IP. I contacted support, they then admitted I had been given the wrong IP and assigned me a new one. They then told me that in about a week, the service would be moving and a new IP would be assigned again.
I started using the service and very quickly learned of the faults. A completely idle system, doing absolutely nothing at all except running an application to measure the usage (top) was reporting a load of 2.68 (1.0 is max ideal). I couldn’t do anything on the system. The online console was just completely unresponsive, even something as simple as copying a file to another location took extremely long amounts of time. This service was horrid. What topped it all off, however, was the fact that I asked them to change my reverse DNS address and they somehow did it for the entire C class IP block. That’s true incompetence there. I was extremely happy when I remembered they had a 14 day money back guarantee, which I quickly took them up on. However, at the time of this writing, I’m still waiting for that refund.
Bottom line, if you’re looking for a cheap virtual private server, go with DigitalOcean. There’s really no other alternative for what they offer. I just wish they’d open a datacentre here in Australia.
Disclaimer: The links to DigitalOcean on this page are referral links. If you sign up and have an active service, I get $25 credit in my account. Other providers have similar offerings, however I will only link to DigitalOcean as I believe they are the only provider worthy of my referral.