I like the look and feel of Rackspace Cloud

rackspace-looking
I’m still thinking about what to do concerning a hosting service for my blogs. This thinking period follows the appalling experience I suffered with DreamHost earlier this month in getting no responses from customer support when sites went down.

Days went by, not hours, before they responded to emails. I simply won’t accept that type of non-service, and that experience has completely destroyed the strong goodwill I have had for DreamHost since first being their customer in February 2006.

I’m not the only one with we-don’t-care-about-you experiences from DreamHost. Ask Bryan Person, for instance, and he’ll tell you about his over the past few days.

So I am leaving just as soon as I find a replacement service to move to. Switching your hosting service is not an act to take lightly, no matter what’s been happening.

Which one, though? Lots of helpful suggestions via Twitter, even a direct pitch or two, but I decided early on that I need to define more clearly what kind of service I’m looking for before making a jump.

These thoughts are among the many that are currently front of mind:

  • A service that says it really knows about hosting blogs like WordPress and Movable Type, and other social media content, gets my attention.
  • What doesn’t get it are those that emphasise how many thousands of email addresses you get, how to build e-commerce sites with a couple of clicks, setting up shopping carts, etc. Most seem to be like that.
  • I don’t mind where the host is located physically, just as long as they provide good and reliable service at reasonable cost, they reply in a timely manner when you get in touch with them, and others (especially in the UK) with WordPress blogs use them and say good thing about them. Not too much to ask, really.

So as part of my investigation, I joined a webinar last night offered by Texas-based Rackspace to learn about their cloud offerings, collectively Rackspace Cloud. A number of people have suggested Rackspace although I balked a bit at the $100 a month cost for one of their services, compared to the less than $9 a month I pay DreamHost.

But I have come round to see much of this as: you get what you pay for.

I was impressed with webinar presenter Mike Mozey who delivered some pretty technical content in ways I could easily understand.

From my rough notes:

readytalk
audio only with phone
q&a at end
used to be called mosso
160K apps
largest platform as a service
– Cloud sites:
not limited to a single server, but the computing power of the cloud
50 GB space, 500Gb bandwidth, 10K cycles / month
support not outsourced all from San Antonio, TX
– Cloud files:
content delivery, eg, media files
single data centre, Dallas TX, future Hong Kong, UK, Chicago

I asked a couple of questions, all of which were answered. Some were really simple yet Mike answered them in the same way he answered some complex technical questions.

One point I did want clarity on was help in understanding compute cycles. In the context of Rackspace’s deal of $100 a month that includes 10,000 cycles, it means:

Q: what are compute cycles?
A: 10k equal to about 2.1 million page views of db-driven site

I find that much better than a detailed technical explanation (which I can find on Wikipedia). And I reckon all my blogs and other bits and bobs would fit comfortably within that quantity of page views for quite a while.

I wonder why other hosting services, especially UK-based ones, don’t do a webinar. A very useful tool to support the sales process in a way that the potential customer doesn’t see as a sales support act.

Anyway, this post serves as much as a means of my thinking out loud as it does in telling a story.

On with the thinking! If you have any suggestions on hosting, or thoughts on what Rackspace offers, I’d love to hear them. Thanks.

Related post:

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

    • neville

      Given that you’re not yet a customer of Media Temple, Francois, what’s the compelling reason why you’re planning to go with them? Do you have friends’ recommendations?

      I know a couple of people with MT, but know far more on Rackspace. None of my MT friends are as passionate in their recommendations as the Rackspace ones are. You tend to notice that.

      • Francois Wessels

        Hi Neville,

        Yes I do have a couple of colleagues on MT and all of them are happy. I do also agree that shared hosting comes with its own set of problems so VPS type of service is a good option as suggested by Rob.

        Between either Rackspace/MT or as another alternative maybe Joyent you can’t go wrong.

        Cheers

  1. Bryan Person

    I share your frustrations, Neville. A few of my blogs were down for nearly 72 hours and I couldn’t answers to my specific questions from DreamHost. It took them some 2 1/2 days to respond to a help inquiry that I classified as urgent (when 3 of your blogs are down and you don’t know how to restore them, that’s urgent). While their one-click installs are great–and helpful–DreamHost’s service level just isn’t acceptable. I’ve put up it with it for far too long (been with ’em since November 2003), but now I’m moving hosts.

    BlueHost.com hosts my BryanPerson.com site and offers instant customer service by phone. It’s very reassuring for me, who’s not overly savvy database backups and such. I’ll be moving all my Dreamhost-hosted sites to BlueHost within a couple of weeks.

    Good luck with your own migration, Neville!

  2. Rob Safuto

    It really doesn’t matter what host you use if you’re on a cheap shared hosting account plan. Despite the way different hosting providers dress it up, shared hosting will have a certain degree of unreliability wherever you host. The reason is that you have many sites on a single server that are competing for RAM and CPU resources. So if one site starts taking up a lot of the resources then all of the sites on that server suffer.

    People who are serious about their sites (and I know you are Neville) and committed to hosting their own (because WordPress.com is always an option) should be willing to pay more to get better service. So the next level up from shared is Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting. With VPS you still share a server but virtualization software is used to allow for dedicated CPU and RAM for your account. A VPS plan will probably cost in the range of $50 per month but the performance and availability of your site will improve.

    The Rackspace offering looks good to me as well but I think those plans are geared to people who are running multiple high traffic sites or people who want to resell hosting space. One possible solution to make Rackspace more economical would be to host you’re site there and convince a few friends too add their sites to your account so that they could help to offset some of the $100 monthly fee.

    • neville

      Undertood re VPS, Rob, and I have thought about that. But my experience with the outage earlier this month and no response from DreamHost for days is such that my confidence in DreamHost has entirely disappeared. So I’ve decided to take my business entirely elsewhere.

      Rackspace Cloud looks good but I’m still looking at other options including Media Temple and a few here in the UK.

      • Rob Safuto

        You can get VPS hosting from a number of different providers. GoDaddy, for example, has VPS plans starting at $30 per month. Whoever you go with the key is to have dedicated CPU and RAM. Anything else is just shared hosting dressed up to look like something better. It looks like Media Temple offer plans that have those features starting at $50 per month.

  3. Steven Haddox

    I’m in the process of migrating all my sites to Rackspace Cloud currently. I’m running with cloud servers though rather than cloud sites as I can handle (and prefer) to setup and manage my own systems. At $10.50 / mo (+ depending upon scalining) and only 8/22 cents per GB of bandwidth it should drastically reduce my hosting bill ($85/mo for a dedicated box, my first bill with 3 VMs was only $19!)

  4. PanosKontopoulos

    Neville I am an absolutely happy customer of Rackspace (UK) for more than 6 months now using their dedicated hosting services.

    Fanatical support is the name of their support service and I confirm it is!

    They are not cheap, but they are the among the most professional and responsive people I have worked with. Either by setting up an urgent request in 2 working days, or preemptively reviewing and providing valuable suggestions or calling me on my mobile on a Saturday evening having trouble accessing their control panel.

    Not sure how they behave in their lower cost offerings but I definitely recommend them!

  5. Michelle Greer

    Hi, Neville. That’s a bummer about your experience with Dreamhost. People often don’t understand the cost/benefit analysis of when your site goes down. I am glad you got value from the webinar and will make sure to recommend it to others.

    I am now the Community Manager for Rackspace Tools. Since you are using Cloud Sites, what I do doesn’t really affect you, but it does affect coders. Just know that you can always ping me or @rackspace on twitter should you need assistance.

  6. Ben

    @Francois

    As a user of dreamhost, mediatemple and RackSpace Cloud, I can give a fair review.

    They all have great panels. RackSpace is the most simple, but DreamHost offers ease with hosting and redirecting domains and 1 click Google Apps installation.

    DreamHost is cheap, quick and easy, but it has a lot of latency issues.. and when they go down, they go down for days it seems. As for customer support, it’s been great, but I’ve never had to call or email them. A friend of mine works in Support, so he’s always been able to fix my problems within a few minutes via IM or TXT. DH is always great for a backup site, or place to store your domains and redirect them as needed or point to RackSpace. DH is great for people with a simple blog, low traffic b2b site or personal website. But for critical business websites, e-commerce stores, or to make your viral content Digg-proof and Oprah-ready, RackSpace is my choice.

    MediaTemple is pretty quick (or so it seems to me since the DataCenter is in my backyard) but according to an independent test, it was only slightly faster than DH, and slower than RackSpace at the time they were tested.. When reviewing them myself, I often hear reports the site is down.. and usually the site resolves quickly and loads some elements slowly. As of now, I’m moving my sites from MT to RackSpace for the main reason: Accessing support on MT is a freaking hassle, you have to wait forever on the phone and then they put up so many road blocks to answering a question. The clincher though is no automatic backups. Recently a site was hacked on MT, and instead of getting support to restore a backup or virus scan the site.. I just told them of my interest in moving hosting companies, there’s response was “that’s fine, whatever.”

    With RackSpace, the site resolves slowly but once it does the site loads instantly. They also make it easy to offload the site’s media and images to the CDN network for even faster loading. The best part is the automated backups.. so you can easily roll back to an hourly or daily backup if something goes wrong (or the site gets hacked). I’ve never had a problem with the site being down for an extended period of time, but occasionally they have load balancing issues where a site may load slowly or not load one minute with a “No Suitable Nodes” error, but load the next minute. While this can be frustrating, the site is usually for the most part still accessible and the problem is fixed within hours, not days. On DreamHost when performing maintenance the site is not accessible. On RackSpace when performing maintenance, the site still works, only the panel is not accessible. What I like most about RackSpace is their support. The 24/7 support from not just American Citizens, but total geeks, people who know what they’re talking about. Being a total noob, I’ve had to call them a number of times.. I always get ahold of someone right away via Phone and LiveChat. They don’t hassle me with tons of security questions and password requests, and answer my questions quickly or take care of problems quickly. When my site was hacked on RackSpace I called them and within minutes they were scanning my site for viruses and identified malicious code and files. They eventually restored my site to a few hours before the hack and identified the origin of the hacker and method. Afterwards I received 3 follow up calls from the security team and support supervisors.. and this was on a Saturday afternoon. Definitely an improvement from my experience on other hosts.

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