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Buying VPS Systems

Paul Reinheimer Jan 02, 2011

One thing we’ve managed to accrue a lot of experience with is dealing with VPS providers. In an ideal world we’d probably be able to buy thirty servers from a single provider, but that’s not the case. Most of our providers give us a single server to work with, so we’re managing lots of accounts in parallel. We’ve got some great providers that month after month give us zero issues to deal with, sketchy providers where we had to get PayPal or our credit card issuer involved, and some odd cases like where the provider went down between deciding to order, and finding the credit card to pay with.

Finding Candidates

Finding a VPS in a specific location can be somewhat challenging. The hosting market is extremely competitive and is flooded with GoogleAds on any relevant term; a few sites have been so well optimized for search engines, they appear even when irrelevant. Searching for generic phrases like “hosting in denmark” are likely to yield results containing a lot of basically spam sites, that link to companies that pay a referral fee regardless of their actual location. The most effective method we’ve found is to use Google Maps to search for hosting providers in the appropriate location.

Due Diligence

Having already been burned numerous times, we then do a few searches to look for reviews of the provider. Web Hosting Talk has a popular set of forums and a lot of active users. It’s a great place to start. There’s also a lot of… less experienced users there posting based more on their own incompetence than the provider, beware. One thing I do watch out for is hosting providers posting details of a users account in response to a complaint. While I understand their desire to defend themselves, I generally feel this presents a lack of professionalism on the part of the provider so I steer clear.

It’s also a good idea to look at how long a company has been in business. While every company does need to start somewhere, we’ve already been around long enough to see several hosts come and go. Finding some history of posts in WHT is helpful, finding a relatively short period of heavily discounted coupon posts is probably an indicator that they’re desperate to get their first customers (and revenue) through the door.

Looking for Coupons

Lots of providers have sales nearly constantly, we’ll do a few quick searches on the net as a whole, and on Web Hosting Talk specifically. We’ve managed to knock some costs down significantly by signing up with coupons.

Signing Up

A pretty basic process, that a few providers do manage to make difficult (with non-refilling forms after error, multiple step process, or email based validation mid-registration). We’ll take a bare bones Debian 5 64bit machine whenever we can get it.

Favorite Providers

It doesn’t take much for us to like you: Give us the box quickly, give us the operating system we asked for, keep an accurate clock, and don’t have serious downtime. That said, our list of favourite providers isn’t terribly long (we’re only listing providers we’ve had for at least 6 months, and have no serious issues with).

  • VPSVille – Our VPS in Toronto has been a solid part of the network, no issues since we procured it.
  • GPLHost – We have several locations with GPLHost, they’re all reliable, we appreciate being able to set up our box with a minimal Debian install.
  • Slicehost – Solid provider, easy to set up and get going.
  • Cool Housing – Reliable provider.
  • Gandi – Their payment system is tricky, and leaves a bunch to be desired but the VPS has been solid.
  • – Reliable provider in Ireland.

Providers We've Left With Prejudice

  • Spry – Migrated our systems to a different city, without notice or apology. They then blocked ports that we used to monitor our system’s health, rendering our monitoring infrastructure useless.
  • Delimiter – Stopped answering support tickets, cities would just go dark either for days at a time or permanently. If you compare their offered locations six months ago to the present you’ll notice a lot of omissions.
  • Enotch – Completely failed to actually set up our VPS, we ended up requesting a refund and using a different provider.

Paul Reinheimer

Developer, support engineer, and occasional manager. I enjoy working on new products, listening to customers, and forgetting to bill them. Also: co-founder.