I run a number of hobby sites – like this one. But unlike this one, many of my older hobby sites run on Windows. I’ve been using WebSecureStores (a shared host) and am fairly happy with them – but they seem to have stopped all activity on the feature enhancement front – going even so far as not to update their websites in the last year or two or add support for the .NET Framework 3.0 or 3.5. These are big no-no’s and make we wonder, “Is this company still alive? Will my servers suddenly disappear one day?” So I’ve been looking for a new home. Before WebSecureStores I used WebStrikeSolutions – and they were awesome – but I left them because they didn’t include MSSQL in their default packages – and still don’t. Most recently I tried DiscountASP.NET where I am still hosting FreeWargamer – but they also don’t offer MSSQL without an additional cost ($10/mo. per database – if it was just $10/mo, I’d be fine – but I have several smaller databases, and no I don’t want to combine them all into one big database).
Before leaving Collages.net I was working a lot with different virtualization technologies – and I love them – and believe they are the way of the future. So I researched various VPS providers over at WebHostingTalk. I finally decided on VPSLand, despite some bad reviews, because of their AMAZING prices. On 7/26/08 I purchased a Windows-EZ Value or Busines plan from them (I don’t recall which). In any case, at the minimum I received 1280 MB RAM 400 GB Bandwidth, and so on – running Windows Server 2003 64-bit. AWESOME!
Unfortunately, I had not had previous experience with Parallels/SWSoft’s Virtuozzo and have since decided I absolutely hate it. I had a number of issues over a period of a few weeks, but knew a few where Virtuozzo’s fault and the rest I decided to give VPSLand the benefit of the doubt on. For those who aren’t familiar with Virtuozzo, it works differently from most virtualization technologies. Rather than completely isolating the virtual OS instance it shares the instance across all slices. The practical result of this is that you can’t make modifications to the Windows core (e.g. apply Windows Updates). Call this the network engineer in me – but when I get a VPS I want full control to upgrade/patch/install/replace however I see fit.
Next step – research alternative VPS solutions. It seems a majority of VPS providers utilize either Virtuozzo or its open source companion, so it took me a while to find ones supporting Citrix XenServer, Microsoft Hyper-V, or VMWare’s ESX. In the end I decided to stay with VPSLand and use their Xen VPS.
Double the price. I purchased one of VPSLand’s WindowsXL-1024 Xen VPS plans. It included 1024 MB of RAM and 1000 GB bandwidth. Not bad, certainly a step up – though I would have taken less bandwidth and less HD space in exchange for a lower price. No matter, I’m now paying $79.99/mo. Well, for over double the price I expect some good service and a good system. Now lets follow the timeline:
- Sept. 3rd, 2008 – Order places for Xen VPS around 3 P.M. EST.
- Sept. 4th, 2008 – Account information received around 7:50 P.M. EST.
- Sept. 4th, 2008 – At 10:22 P.M. EST I submit a ticket reporting that while I can connect to the VPS I cannot ping out to any remote server (e.g. Google, Yahoo).
- Sept. 5th, 2008 – At 4:27 A.M. EST I receive a ticket reporting that this issue has been resolved. The support tech. informs me not to apply Windows Updates, that they take care of this on their VPS.
- Sept. 5th, 2008 – At 11:09 A.M. EST I send a response asking why I can’t make Windows Updates since this is a Xen VPS not a Virtuozzo VPS. Also asking for an explanation on what caused the technical issue with my VPS.
- Sept. 6th, 2008 – At 9:52 A.M. EST I receive a response from a different technician that yes, the first technician was incorrect and I can install patches and then a cryptic answer to my question about the cause/resolution of the issue in the first place (something about restarting a network service on my VPS – strange since I rebooted the entire server multiple times).
- Sept. 6th, 2008 – At 12:35 P.M. EST I submit a new ticket. I’ve just noticed that my VPS is down – entirely. No ability to visit the sites, no ability to RDC into the server. No ability to access the web based control panel. This is a complete service outage.
- Sept. 6th, 2008 – At 2:41 P.M. EST I receive a response to my ticket – over two hours later. They are “escalating” my ticket to the “reboot queue.” Two hours and they are just now recycling the server?
- Sept. 6th, 2008 – At 3:47 P.M. EST I write again on the same ticket, “I am still down. The server came up briefly according to a pinging service but went back down again shortly thereafter. Please give me a status update.”
- Sept. 6th, 2008 – At 11:10 P.M. EST I wrote again on the same ticket, “I would love to get an occasional update – say once every two hours or so to let me know what is happening. Right now it kind of feels like you guys just gave up on fixing my VPS. This has been a horrible starting experience with VPSLand. Please inform me of the status – I am still down – nearly twelve hours after initially reporting this outage. How can I even place a minor website on a server that is going to be this unstable? And where support does not respond?”
- Sept. 7th, 2008 – At 3:37 P.M. EST as I write this post my VPS is still down, I have received no further communication from VPSLand and it has been well over 24 hours since my VPS went down.
- UPDATE: Sept. 7th, 2008 – I submit a new ticket in a desperate attempt for attention. Title is, “SERVER DOWN FOR 24+ HOURS!”
- UPDATE: Sept. 7th, 2008 – At 9:23 P.M. EST receive a response to my original ticket that this issue is being escalated to their senior admins (after well-over 24 hours straight downtime) and that they will give me status updates.
- UPDATE: Sept. 8th, 2008 – At 12:01 A.M. EST receive a note informing me VPS has been restored, also that they are giving me a credit for one month free service and apologize for the delay. Issue report is a failed drive (this is why one uses RAID – at least 1, perhaps 5 or 6).
At this juncture I feel the neglect is simply insane. “VPSLAND.com’s Virtual Private Servers are perfect for Businesses or Individuals looking for an affordable dedicated server alternative with full Root/Administrator privileges.” I’m running hobby sites folks – and this isn’t working for me?
So here are my thoughts at this juncture:
- Talk to Us. People are very understanding when they know that there is a problem and that a company is working to resolve this problem. My problem is I don’t know if anyone is even working on this problem. Sure, the ticket is open – but is anyone home?
- Better SLA. I should have looked at their SLA more closely. While they offer a 99.9% uptime guarantee their SLA more carefully defines this. If you have less than 99.9% in a single month they compensate at 100% if it is 89.9% or below – that’s an astonishing 72+/- hours in a single month (yes, that was the sound of my jaw hitting the floor). The SLA should look like: Below 98% 100% credit plus a 100% refund (e.g. you pay me).
- How Ya Gonna Change? Why does it take hours to get a reply to a ticket? Why is there no phone number to call in emergencies? Do you need to hire more techs.? Do so. Jump the prices to do so? Okay. But this is unbelievable. Automatic migrations? Manual migrations? A must!
Maybe something at this point will change…and if it does I will inform you. But at this juncture – my personal opinion is – don’t ever EVER ever utilize VPSLand for anything (yah, grandma, not even your hobby site on knitting!).
Anyone out there have a good Windows VPS service (not using Virtuozzo) that wants a new client? I’m good PR if you treat me well (and bad if you don’t).
P.S. I’m softer on companies that haven’t been in business for a long time (e.g. startups). I know the difficulties experienced, but VPSLand or its antecedent have been running since 1994.