21 June 2011

New control panel for ElasticHosts

I have been contacted by Anna from ElasticHosts and I have been given access to new (still beta) control panel for ElasticHosts accounts.

I have to say it looks much better and it is much easier to navigate through the virtual machines and its mounted drives. There might be some issues but I cant wait for this version to go live. It will make our life much easier.

Good job ElasticHosts.

ElasticHosts - weekly update and first SLA refund

First of all I'd like to show you last weeks EH availability graphs:



As you can see last 7 days it has been 100% working and functional. That's exactly the reason why I have chosen EH as our IaaS provider.

There are couple of things:

  1. 22 minutes downtime 2 weeks ago have been refunded under SLA (We got around 6 pounds of credit for 22 minutes). They had problem with faulty switch and problems were 4x 5 minute periods. 
  2. Be carefull when you create new VM, problem with their current control panel (which I honestly dont like, it might behave pretty but it is not very usable) is that it will allow you to create machine even if you dont have enough free resources. I made mistake when creating 3rd machine (debian) which I wanted to have only 500mhz cpu and 256 ram. I forgot to change sliders and kept default 2000mhz and 1024 ram and it  created this machine although I did not have enough free resources on my account.

    Immediately I got email that I need to increase my credit or in few hours all machine would be switched off. This is not good behaviour, by mistake I created unwanted machine and it immediately charged me. If I did not have SLA credit from EH on our account I would probably disabled all our machines by mistake. Not good.
That's all for now, if you want to have a good try free trial here.

Cloudns.net down again - DDoS attack again?

Few questions first:

  1. Who hates Cloudns.net so much that every week or two they are under DDoS attack? 
  2. Who have resources for such attack every time and repeat it so often?
  3. How is it possible that of 5 servers at least 3 or more can be down?
And now stats from Icinga, it will tell you more than just words:



And now the main problem: With one server running there is a good chance your websites and emails will work fine BUT if you do any change to domain settings they will not synchronize correctly and you will have DNS zones split. Just try http://www.intodns.com.

This makes this service unusable, really. 

This is not the first time this happened, nor it will be last. People (or maybe one person) from Cloudns.net dont have enough skills, or money, or time, or all to make this service 100%. I guess it is money first, for such a price (free or really cheap money for premium) they cant have loadbalancers, firewalls and technology to stop DDoS. And someone really hates them. Other Nameserver provider? Make your own guess.

10 June 2011

ElasticHosts - Real user & hosting experience

Once in a time every web developer or company has to go through stressful and painful experience of choosing right solution for web hosting, server hosting, cloud hosting, name server hosting, etc. It is usually weird experience because you must rely on people recommending or completely trashing particular provider or hosting.

There are dozens of forums for webmasters with discussions about hosting, posts about recommended or bad providers. The problem with such forums is that for every recommendation you have 3-5 bad opinions. It means that service or  provider itself may not be necessarily bad but there are people who try to ventilate their frustration online. You don't usually get positive reviews online, if it works there is no reason to complain online.

We have been looking for right provider and solution for 2-3 weeks. First choice was to choose dedicated, VPS or cloud hosting. We chose cloud hosting based on fact that we had option to try ElasticHosts, CloudSigma, RackspaceCloud for free and directly compare it against our current dedicated HP ML330 G6 with RAID1 SAS drives. We have done plenty of tests and were quite happy with the speed of servers, network.

We chose ElasticHosts simply because:

  • they have partnership with Peer1 and ServerBeach, both of them considered quality providers.
  • Peer1 seems to be really good and fast network, we dont have problem with websites speeds in Slovakia, people from CZ, UK and US are all reporting very good speeds. Something we could not guarantee on local servers 
  • prices for the service were/are acceptable. I wonder how will the prices change in time with dedicated providers giving 1TB+ of traffic for free these days. Even ServerBeach gives 1TB of traffic with their cheapes dedicated server (£89 )
  • we cant be bothered with own hardware, costs and problems related to own dedicated servers. With dedicated server providers I don't like idea of waiting for support to change drive or memory for few hours (we have seen some horror stories), we prefer option of simply moving our VM into another HW
  • they have IaaS cloud platform and accept clients system images, own API and Elastichosts are gainong popularity with many scripts/packages supporting them directly
  • they have persistent storage up to size of 2 TB, hopefully prices for drive will get a bit lower in time
  • easy to use control panel, quick and easy creation and administration of various systems, no packages with fixed memory, cpu and drive for every package. You simply buy memory, drive, cpu and you can split whatever way you want. The minimum for first order is 2ghz cpu, 1024mb and rest you can do whatever you want
  • very quick support and sales responses (90% of responses comes from Anna, so she is either robot, workaholic or whoever replies they have they all have emails set as Anna)
  • very good documentation and FAQ, so good and big that I missed many important points but luckily support is really good and responsive and they replied to everything very quickly
  • I had technical problem so picked up a phone and ... they are live people so you can have chat and discuss technical things over the phone quickly
  • ... and finally because it is cloud/VPS/whatever you call it. If we don't like it, we simply download drive images and go to another cloud/VPS provider. Simple as that, no long contracts ...
There are few unanswered questions
  • How big and reliable they are? Time will tell, so far they had one problem with faulty router and they seemed to solve it quite quickly
  • What happens if there is a problem with the site outside their work hours? Phone switches to voice mail. 
  • All other providers have online system monitoring available to clients and public. Elastichosts don't have that now, they said they are planning to do it for public as well. So for time being I have been using Icinga to monitor all servers, network. 
  • Prices. Will they move as HW and connectivity gets cheaper? Fact is that Cloud hosting is simply more expensive than even dedicated server.
If you are interested, this is the Icinga Trends graph for last 7 days. You can see that outages were always at night, that's because we were configuring Win2k8. So not Elastichosts fault.

Cloudns.net - additional experience & Godaddy Premium DNS comparison

Since March I have learned new things about Cloudns.net. First of all I have to say that I like it a lot. But there is one big problem. Reaction time. I don't know why is that but they seem to have periodic problems with the service. It might be DDoS attack, it might be technical problems or maybe something else. Really big issue is that it always takes more than few hours for them to even start to solve the problem. If you are using only and only Cloudns.net services you might be in for trouble.

The best practice for me over the time is to have one additional DNS server. With the prices so low for linux virtuals you can simply pick provider, setup any Linux (I prefer debian and bind combination) and create secondary DNS server. It should cost you really minimum but you will keep your NS servers alive all the time.

Once frustrated with the Cloudns.net service I have decided to use Anycast Premium DNS from Godaddy. But it was such awful experience that just after two days I have asked for refund. Few points I dont like about Premium DNS:

  • Only two Nameservers - this might be enough but I live by saying more is better
  • Vanity servers - this is really showstopper for me. You can use vanity servers only for domains hosted by GoDaddy.com. What is the point? Cloudns.net is not asking about domains and their registration. You have it, you setup Cloudns.net nameservers (or vanity nameservers) and that's it.
  • Unbelievably slow and difficult to use control panel - Where was the UX designer when they developed Godaddy.com control panel? It is really difficult to use. And I have been using them for over 4 years for domains. Showing control panel to my wife I realized she couldnt move there and find anything I asked for. Fail.
Overall, I like Cloudns.net and they have added new servers and promised to make sure they will completely stop service failures. We shall see, I have my own backup DNS server so I can sleep much better now.