VPS.NET Review – One Year Later

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VPS.NET Reviewed

We’ve been hosting Learncomputer.com on VPS.NET for slightly over a year now, and I wanted to share my experience with this provider, as well as compare it with our previous web host, HostGator. Moving between web hosts is always a challenging task, so one must tread carefully when choosing one so as to avoid any unnecessary hassles down the road. By now, I am convinced that there is no “perfect” web host, but some definitely try harder than others. Is VPS.NET one of them? Read on to find out.

When we launched our business in 2008, we had chosen HostGator as our host after reading many positive reviews on the company. And HostGator hadn’t disappointed… at least for a while. As long as our Alexa traffic rank remained in the seven-figure range, HostGator had been the “rocket ship” our site needed. The troubles began when our traffic volume suddenly increased 10-fold. Our blog posts and article marketing campaigns have steadily begun attracting more and more visitors, and our “rocket ship” suddenly developed severe engine problems. After some painful back-and-forth with HostGator support (which you can find here and here), we had decided it was a time to “eject”. HostGator’s problems notwithstanding, we also wanted hosting that would give us a complete control over the server and its configuration environment. We were now mature enough for root access!

Coincidentally, one of my favorite bloggers, Joost de Walk, whose work I follow regularly, had posted an article on The Best WordPress Hosting, praising VPS.NET for its affordable high-performance Virtual Private Service (VPS) hosting packages. Joost’s own yoast.com was hosted on VPS.NET, and to me, that was a good-enough reason to jump on the bandwagon.

Having root access to the server has its ups and downs. You have complete control over your server environment, from operating system flavor, to web server and to every single module that defines your runtime environment. This can be both a blessing and a curse, depending on your sysadmin skill level. Luckily, VPS.NET kindly offered us to fully migrate our site from HostGator to our freshly purchased two VPS nodes at no extra charge. The entire migration took less than a day. The files were copied, database scripts run, mail servers configured, and by the end of day one, we were ready to switch DNS to our new hosting provider. We had later run into a few wrinkles, but these were quickly addressed, thanks to VPS.NET’s great forum with a very active community eager to help newcomers. Three days after our initial email to VPS.NET sales, we’ve had our “perfect” setup, powered by Apache, W3 Total Cache WordPress plugin, Alternative PHP Cache (APC), and Amazon S3/CloudFront CDN. Compared to HostGator’s shared business plan, this was an incredible step up! VPS.NET costs more than your run-of-the-mill shared hosting, but you get what you paid for.

Recently, Joost had posted an article on VPS.NET newest offering, Cloud Hosting: Cloud Hosting, Cloud Servers, what’s the difference?, which generated quite an uproar from users unimpressed with the service. As much as I sympathize with them and realize things can go south for us as well, I must admit I didn’t have any of the problems these users are reporting. We’ve had exactly two downtimes (according to Pingdom monitoring reports) in the entire year. One of these was strangely caused by the Apache’s “MaxClients” unexpectedly reaching its limit of 100, causing the server to quit. The other, more recent, was due to VPS.NET’s scheduled maintenance which we were failed to get notified about. The latter was reported to VPS.NET, and we have since received their assurances that the notification failure has been rectified.

As I said in the beginning, if you are looking for a “perfect” web host, you might as well invest in your own data center. As for the rest of us, we’ll stick with the few companies out there that care more than the others. I think VPS.NET cares. Their support is far from perfect and their infrastructure is not immune to hiccups and downtimes. Being your own “sysadmin” carries a certain degree of responsibility and preparedness you must possess to keep your server running at its best. VPS.NET will help as best they can, but you are still mostly on your own when it comes to troubleshooting your server issues. If you don’t have these skills, VPS.NET (or VPS in general) may not be the right fit. For crazies like me, however, who don’t mind to live on the “edge” (if only a little), VPS.NET offers a relatively inexpensive way to develop and launch your own “rocket ship”!

If you enjoyed this review, please give VPS.NET a try.

P.S. I just ran a fresh Pingdom test of learncomputer.com, using Pingtom Tools’ new interface, and the result is still quite impressive, with the homepage having loaded in just under 1.5 seconds from Dallas Texas, and just slightly over 1.5 seconds from Amsterdam, Netherlands:

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