Read the latest web development and design tips at Fred Wu's new blog! :-)
Poke me on GitHub

Cloud Hosting: Slicehost, VPS.net and Media Temple Comparison Review

Disclaimer: The post indicates my personal opinion, all references about Envato are not official.

The word cloud is getting a lot of attention lately, almost like web 2.0. Marketing gimmick aside, I believe cloud computing does offer a tremendous amount of advantages over traditional computing environment.

At Envato, we use a number of providers for our server needs. We currently have servers with Media Temple, Slicehost and Engine Yard.

Even though Envato was already using Slicehost for some of their applications, I still did my fair share of research before making a suggestion to move away from Media Temple.

I have eventually nailed down to three service providers: Slicehost, Linode and VPS.net.

For Envato, we decided to go with Slicehost, because we already have some servers there, and they offer bandwidth pooling. We would have given Linode a deeper look if they had offered backups (their backups system is still in beta).

Having said that, I was very very impressed by VPS.net, so I decided I should sign up anyway, for my personal projects.

Let’s compare the three services: Slicehost, VPS.net and Media Temple.

Vertical Scalability

As some of you might know, Envato serves over 12 million page views a month, and is growing rapidly. Scalability is becoming more and more important to us. This is the primary reason why we opt to using cloud servers.

Slicehost

Slicehost is one of the first cloud VPS providers out there, they are reputable and reliable. Scalability is based on their VPS plans, which is flexible, but not flexible enough, compared to VPS.net’s offerings.

VPS.net

VPS.net, a new service offered by the UK2 Group. Scalability is offered on a node-basis, a node consists of 0.4Ghz CPU power, 256MB RAM, 10GB storage and 250GB bandwidth. As you can see, this is much more flexible than Slicehost’s plan based approach.

Media Temple

Unfortunately Media Temple is very limited in terms of vertical scalability. (dv) has only three options, the most expensive one costs $150/m. If you need any more power, you’d have to fork out $750/m for a Nitro server.

Virtualisation Technology

Virtualisation technology usually isn’t a big deal, because for the less system-admin-minded people, they all look the same. If you’re keen to finding out the differences, have a read at this post. We much prefer to use Xen over Virtuozzo.

Slicehost

Xen.

VPS.net

Xen.

Media Temple

Virtuozzo.

Automated Backups

Backup is a crucial part of the server architecture. We therefore prefer a service provider that offers automated backups. This way we will have at least two offsite backups, one provided by the VPS and one by ourselves.

Slicehost

Slicehost offers automated backups at a premium cost compared to VPS.net. A 2GB slice costs $30/m, and that’s the most you can get. If you have a slice larger than 2GB, there is no backup service offered.

A maximum of three snapshot slots are offered, you can either have automated ones (daily and weekly) or manual ones.

VPS.net

VPS.net offers a more affordable backup solution, it only costs $5/m, for VPSes of any size.

You get three automated snapshots (daily, weekly and monthly) and one manual snapshot.

Media Temple

Media Temple does not offer any backup solutions.

Control Panel

Control panels help increase our productivity, so we do prefer to use them provided they don’t use up too much system resources.

Plesk is very similar to CPanel in terms of system resource usage, so even though it is powerful, we don’t really like it. ISPmanager on the other hand, claims to only use 10MB of system memory. I like it a lot, so I decided to use it on Slicehost. Be aware that it does have some glitches, I have found a minor issue when using with a remote database server.

Slicehost

No control panels are offered.

VPS.net

Free ISPmanager PRO.

Media Temple

Plesk, for Nitro servers.

System Images

One clear advantage of using a VPS over a dedicated server, is the ability to quickly deploy and redeploy server operating systems.

Slicehost

Offers a wide range of operating systems, in both x86 and x64.

VPS.net

Offers a wide range of operating systems, in both x86 and x64.

Media Temple

Offers 32-bit CentOS 5 by default. I was truly shocked at this decision. The Nitro server has 8GB of RAM, you’d think that they would know people will most likely want to use more than 4GB of RAM for their MySQL server. ‘Switching to 64-bit is available upon request’, according to their FAQ page, but why? Why don’t they make 64-bit the default?

VPS Controls

Same as the operating system, a VPS usually comes with handy tools to start/stop/reboot the server.

Slicehost

Soft reboot / hard reboot / image rebuild.

VPS.net

Graceful shutdown / force power off / graceful reboot. The rebuild feature is estimated to be available in September. I still find it weird that this feature is not built-in in the first place.

Media Temple

Reboot / reinstall (revert to default setup).

DNS Management

All three providers offer DNS management.

Slicehost

To put simply, Slicehost offers an awful awful interface for DNS management. We have a bunch of domains we need to migrate over, and I find it extremely irritating to click back and forth between pages. Terrible, terrible user experience.

VPS.net

VPS.net’s DNS management interface is a delight to use!

Media Temple

Media Temple’s DNS management interface is also very nice!

Billing

Is usage calculated daily or monthly?

Slicehost

Monthly billing with usage calculated daily.

VPS.net

Monthly billing with usage calculated daily.

Media Temple

Monthly billing with usage calculated monthly.

Account

Are we allowed to have multiple logins (i.e. one person can handle the billing, another can handle the VPS management)?

Slicehost

Yes.

VPS.net

No.

Media Temple

Yes.

Extra Features

Let’s see what extra features they have. :)

Slicehost

Web-based console for troubleshooting, simple stats (CPU %, CPU time, Disk read/write, Network in/out), slice cloning, rescue mode, root password reset.

VPS.net

Web-based console for troubleshooting, CPU usage charts, bandwidth charts, scheduled upgrades (temporary resource burst), additional IP addresses, dotDefender WebApp Firewall, Cannybill, one-time managed service.

Media Temple

Bandwidth report (just a simple list), root password change, installation of developer tools (gcc, make, etc).

Overall VPS.net has more features and is well priced, I am so far very impressed. Some of the areas they could improve are:

  • Image rebuild
  • Multiple logins under the same account
  • Root password reset

Let’s hope competition drives better products. :)

*Disclaimer* I am not affiliated with any of the providers mentioned in this post.

  • Digg
  • DZone
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Mixx
  • Google Bookmarks
  • LinkedIn
  • Live
  • Reddit
  • Slashdot
  • StumbleUpon
  • Technorati
  • Twitter

Related posts

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Comments Section

24 Responses to “Cloud Hosting: Slicehost, VPS.net and Media Temple Comparison Review”

Sidebar might be covered by comments ... consider it a feature! ;)
  1. 1

    One very very important factor that you don’t mention at all is support. How quickly are your support tickets tended to? What avenue of support is available? How does it compare to the competition? Support and how things play out during unexpected complications (whether it be hardware issues or what have you) is a crucial when choosing who you want to be responsible for your hosting needs.

    Would you open some tickets with all these folks and let us know how it goes? Go secret shopper on their asses so they don’t know your coming.

  2. 2

    Good point Dave.

    I haven’t had any chance to test the Slicehost support, but Envato has been using them for a while now and the Ruby dev team is very happy with Slicehost, so I assume the support is great.

    VPS.net support is also great, my two tickets were both answered within 20 minutes.

    Media Temple’s support is similar, my three tickets were all answered within 20 minutes.

    :-)

  3. 3

    Thats a realy cool comparison, I can tell you it’s reviews like these from everyday users that help all the providers listed improve their products.

  4. 4

    One thing I don’t like about VPS.net is that you can’t tell if a coupon works without completing the signup process.

    Did you consider SoftLayer? The last time I compared hosts, SoftLayer costs slightly more for the CPU and RAM but has nearly twice the storage and bandwidth. 5 IP addresses are included and after that they’re 50¢ (instead of the $1 or $2 charged by others).

  5. 5

    Thanks NullMind, I hope you guys would bring more awesome products in the future. :)

    @christefano: I did look at SoftLayer, but I was more interested in their CDN offering rather than their cloud computing. The latter is simply not flexible enough for our needs, their CDN on the other hand, looks interesting. But now that VPS.net is bringing on their CDN solution, I am keen to try it out.

  6. 6

    You can actually :)
    Just type in the code – you dont have to fill in the form.
    Here is an example:
    http://www.ditlev.dk/snitch/VP.....150403.jpg

    :)
    Ditlev

  7. 7

    Support is a big deal for me. Hackers are attacking these boxes all the time. You only know a hosting company’s true colors until this has happened. If you want to be a NOC admin and designer/programmer at the same time then go right ahead.

    Some of your bullets are wrong as I am a MT customer. MT does provide backup for a nominal monthly fee. http://mediatemple.net/webhosting/dv/addons.php

  8. 8

    Excellent review, Fred. I shopped around quite a bit for VPSes after some recent frustrations with MediaTemple and I tend to agree that VPS.net is (by far) the best provider. To be fair, MediaTemple actually does offer a backup solution for $20/mo: http://mediatemple.net/webhost.....hp#backups

    Something worth pointing out in this thread (for those of you who aren’t customers) is that Nullmind and Ditlev are the top brass at VPS.net—seriously, Ditlev is the CEO of the UK2 Group. I’m not surprised at all to see them commenting, because they answer questions in the forums on what appears to be a daily basis. As a matter of fact, my first question on the forum was answered in short order by Ditlev himself. It’s not often that you find the CEO and top decision-makers getting their hands dirty, but they do. Every day. And they know their stuff.

    to be clear, I’m not affiliated with VPS.net in any way other than being a very satisfied customer. There are several other things I could rave about, but you can read them here on the blog: http://vps.net/blog/

    If you’d like to direct any questions my way regarding my experiences over the past two weeks (including and emergency, all-night transition of a site to VPS.net today), please use the comment form on my website.

    Cheers from Atlanta,

    Willie Jackson

  9. 9

    Hello,

    This is a great comparison of features between VPS.net and Slicehost. Media Temple, too, but I consider Virtuozzo somewhat inferior to Xen, so I wasn’t really looking for more reviews about them.

    That being said, I’d like to know if you’ve had a chance since this post was originally written to try out Linode’s servers as well. I was under the impression that they did have a backup solution coming, and last time I remember reading somewhere that they were already in beta.

    I ask because they’re usually also highly recomended, especially among Rails application developers, so to not see them in this comparison (as a reader) was a little disappointing. Not that this is your fault, of course, since, like you said, they didn’t have backups available at the time, and it was a feature you required.

    Perhaps if you decide to do another review again of VPS host providers you would consider including Linode in your future comparisons? It would be very helpful to developers like me who don’t really have the resources to try out each service on our own without spending a small amount of our very limited fortune.

    Again, thanks for your review, and I hope this didn’t come out sounding like a demand :) Please, excuse my rudeness if it did.

  10. 11

    This is an awesome review. One host to add to the list is OpenHosting. They use KVM and VServer and do have backups and overall their approach seems slightly different, with more on the functional side. I found that they really understood my needs and didn’t have flashy features that I didn’t care for in the first place. It’s been fast and reliable and my support emails were always answered very quickly and replies were helpful and to the point. I do also have one Slicehost and two Linode VPS’s, BTW, and I like Linode better, but over the years seems like my OpenHosting ones are the best, actually.

  11. 12

    This is a very good review. I use ressellerzoom.com VPS and its quite good their support is very nice. In terms of scalability they start from 25GB onwards not like VPS.NET. Am comparing different VPS hosting and this review was really helpful.

  12. 13

    Why did you omit Engine Yard from your final selection?

  13. 14

    I tried MT a couple of years ago but was very disappointed. Even a simple FTP upload took a long time. I’m on my way to VPS.net as I’m very disappointed from resellerzoom where I currently host my sites (uptime issues).

  14. 15

    Might be something wrong with the VPN connection itself. Reset the tunnel (If its cisco stuff – clear crypto ipsec sa peer ip). Initiate traffic from one end to bring it back up.

  15. 16

    I feel the need to say that you deserve a thumbs up for your efforts.

  16. 17

    I made this comment before but I will do it here also:
    VPS.net is the worst host I ever tried, every week my websites have downtime and it cost me a ton of money. I have no idea when any of the websites I host with them had a full week of uptime.
    Today they broke one of the vps and my website was down all day because they corrupted the database also.
    I started moving my websites from them and I wouldn’t advise anyone to host with them.

  17. 18

    VPS really are a must-have item nowadays for me. Thanks for the info.

  18. 20

    Dead on. Cloud computing is definitely not a one-size-fits-all approach. Take the time to understand your business requirements and then develop your strategy.

  19. 21

    Hi there. This is my first ever comment on your blog. I want to know which hosting your site is using. I am searching for Cheap linux hosting for my projects.

  20. 22

    I am actually in the start process of a music service right now. I on to use streaming as main service, like a web radio. But also list building and downloads. Getting licences seems to be one of the main challenges, including 4 different licence organizations (and that is just for the US marked).. I don’t like the fact that Google is joining the niche. They are powerfull, and can if they want place their services on top of all music serps..

  21. 23

    John, Well put. Desktops are far from fail-safe. Mission Critical is as much about planning and execution as it is software and hardware.

  22. 24

    Hey there, are you able to recommend any good free pdfhosting sites? Warm regards

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>