My VPS Journey

Last year around this time my one year promo with Dreamhost was expiring and I didn’t feel like paying for a year of hosting up front. So I decided to shop around looking at shared hosting, reseller accounts and VPSs (Virtual Private Server). Much of the shared hosting I came across either were priced out of my range of comfort or had restrictions like single domain hosting and the like.

The idea of a VPS really intrigued my interest. In my day job I manage a decently sized multi-size VMware cluster with iSCSI SAN backend. I know how stable a setup like this is and what cost savings it offers. So I decided to get out and do a bit of research of what was out there.

The major platforms used by VPS providers are OpenVZ, KVM and Xen. There are a few providers that do offer VMware platforms but these are usually priced outside the range most users migrating from shared hosting deem reasonable.

Xen and VMware are bare metal platforms meaning they don’t require a traditional host operating system. OpenVZ and KVM differ in that they require Linux as the host operating system and as such do incur a bit more overhead. But for the role of low end VPSs they offer a great cost savings in software and licensing.

After some time spent googling around and forum hunting I came across lowendbox.com. Easy to use website that offers reviews from real users. I came across a great deal for a 512mb VPS in Dallas and decided to start the process of moving my three blogs over to it.

I’ve been using Debian since 2002 and Ubuntu since release 4. Since I needed to keep my ram usage down I decided to roll with a minimal Debian 6 x32 install. I also wanted to be able to hand the keys of managing stuff over to a friend so I decided to install a control panel. While the list of free CP software varies from year to year one of the more stable projects is Webmin. A plugin for Webmin called Virtualmin helps with the website hosting side of things.

So I had everything up in running a few hours after my account was activated and was really excited. I wanted to check the stability of the service though so I set it up to by monitored by Pingdom. One day it went offline and I figured it was just a technical glitch like a DoS attack or something. I decided to check the forums and found out that the company owned the datacenter a boat load of money and were more than likely shutting down.

This is when it slapped me in the face that I had forgot to setup a backup process. I had seen that little tab in Virtualmin that offers automatic backups even to an external server but I had just skipped past it. Well the datacenter finally got things back up so customers of this client could retrieve their data which was so awesome of them. Thanks again Rackspace!

I’m currently running two VPSs, one with Virpus.com and another with BuyVM.net. Both are pretty stable but I’ve gotta say the guys at BuyVM really love what they do and it shows, they are amazing.

So if you are tired of the limitations of shared hosting or just want to get your hands dirty try moving your site(s) to a VPS. And yes, I back it all up everyday offsite.


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