Posts Tagged vps

My State of Serving, aka VPS recap

So I wrote a bunch about VPSes a few months ago, and what I thought my future looked like with them. Well, a bunch has changed since then, and will going forward, so let’s go:

Full out cloud hosting

Still good for buy-as-you-need systems, still not right for my usecase. Other than reading about price drops in The Register/on Twitter, I’ll be passing over them.

Cloudy VPSes

Haven’t seen too much movement on this. I’m going to lump RamNode ( into the Cloudy VPSes section, simply because they’re at 5 locations. Sheer scale. Also, their prices are approaching Digital Ocean level. I’d still go with DO though – The cheaper plans are OpenVZ based, not KVM as DO is.

Traditional VPSes

This is probably the most significant change – instead of migrating to a Digital Ocean droplet/Vultr node, I decided to go with Crissic.

I haven’t actually had my VPS with them go down over ~1 year (yet), and the weird SSH issues resolved themselves around December, so I decided to bite the bullet and extend my existing VPS plan with them. (Or should I say him – all the support tickets have been signed Skylar, so it’s looking like a one man operation.) Crissic is consistently coming in the top 5 in the LowEndTalk forum provider poll so that was additional validation.

With Nginx/PHP-FPM/MariaDB all going, I’m hovering around 300MB of RAM used. So I have a bunch of headroom, which is good.

I also picked up a bunch of NAT-ed VPSes – MegaVZ is offering 5 512MB nodes spread around the world for 20€. So I got them as OpenVPN endpoints. They’re likely going to be pressed into service as build nodes for a bunch of projects (moving Jenkins off my Crissic VPS), but those plans are still up in the air. We shall see…

Dedicated Server?

The most interesting thing I found was Server Bidding. Hetzner (massive German DC company) auctions off servers that were setup for people, but have since cancelled their service. Admittedly, most of their cheaper stuff is consumer grade (i7 instead of Xeons), but I can’t really complain. There’s an i7-3770 with 32GB of RAM and 2x 3TB drives going for € 30.25/USD$34 right now. And prices only go down over time (until someone takes it).

That mix of price/specs is pretty much unmatchable. KVM servers are ~$7/month for a 1GB (and roughly scale linearly), so I’d be looking at $28/month for 4GB of RAM if I were to go normal routes. And that’s totally ignoring the 2x3TB HDD (admittedly, I’d want these in RAID 1, so effectively 3TB only.)

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My state of VPSes

The VPS market is really really interesting to watch. Maybe it’s just me, but the idea of being able to get a year of a decent system for the price of a pizza is fascinating – and somewhat dangerous to my wallet. At my peak, I had 4 VPSes running at the same time – and each of them doing practically nothing. So I ran TF2 servers off the ones that could support it until the prepaid year was over.

It’s just so… attractive. My ‘own’ servers, without the expense of needing to buy and pizza boxes that sound like hurricanes and are apparently good places for cat puke. And now I find myself needing to get one to power everything in the near future because I’ve been unsatisfied with Dreamhost for about 2 years, and they finally pushed me over recently. So I decided to take notes with the target of migrating to having everything of mine on a VPS in December.

My usecase can be summed up simply as a always-on low traffic webserver, hosting a personal blog (WordPress., while I look at Ghost), MySQL database and Jenkins build server (them Lightroom plugins!). Somewhat price-sensitive – I’m not made of money, but at the same time I’m not going to sweat the price of a coffee at Starbucks. Bonus points for extra space for hosting friends’ sites though. They can pay me back by buying me a drink or something.

Cloud Hosting

Cloud hosting is hard to quantify – off-hand, the big three are Amazon, Google And Azure. But I’m going to expand my definition to cloud = anything that’s on demand, per-usage charges. Which opens it up.

The big 3 are pretty much unsuitable. Amazon’s still aiming toward companies that need to spin up and down instances – and quickly prices themselves out looking at the alternatives. Even looking at the price of the heavy use reserved instances, that’s $51+ hourly fees/year for the smallest system (t2.micro with 1GB of RAM & a throttled CPU). But wait, that’s actually $4.25 + $2.16 = $6.41 per month (assuming the current $0.003/hour charge stays the same) which isn’t so bad.

Except I had a wonderful manager in the past who pointed out that it’s not the cost of the compute power that was the killer when it came to building a company on EC2, it’s the cost of the outbound bandwidth. Data out is still an extra fee. Oh, and disk space is charged per GB as well. The wonders of all those options!

Google Compute Engine and Microsoft Azure are pretty much the same. Google wants $6.05 for their lowest system (0.6GB of RAM & 1 “Virtual Core”, likely aka throttled CPU much like Amazon); Microsoft just states an estimated monthly price of $13/month for a A0 instance, for 1 core and 0.75GB of RAM. Here’s a nice difference though: It comes with 20GB of disk.

So the big 3 are out for me (I write, being able to look back after looking in other places). Let’s look at other providers, shall we?

Cloudy VPSes

So named because they are charge-per-use VPSes, but all the ancillary stuff is in the price like traditional VPSes.

I haven’t done a really extensive search for these type of providers. The biggest known one is DigitalOcean, and I found Vultr on Twitter. And then I found Atlantic.Net somewhere else. (I think a Hacker News thread on DigitalOcean, amusingly.)

The biggest thing for me recently was the sudden addition of‘s lowest end system ( – $0.99/month for 256MB of RAM, 10GB of disk and 1TB of transfer is pretty much unheard of. Making the ultra low price point generally available is entirely new, and it’s going to be interesting to see if anyone in the cloudy space matches it – it’s actually cheaper than traditional VPS providers for a small always on box. It’s definitely on my list to watch (and possibly get for things like a target for automatic MySQL backups).

DigitalOcean would have my vote right off the bat for that sweet sweet $100 in credit they’re giving to students (, except for the fact it’s for new users only. Which is rather annoying.

All 3 providers appear to be about the same:

  • Vultr appears to be trying to undercut DigitalOcean in the low end – More RAM/less space/same price for the cheapest box, same RAM/less space/cheaper for the next level up.
  • Atlantic.Net also appears to trying to undercut DigitalOcean, just with more space and bandwidth instead of RAM. And literally cents cheaper! ($4.97 vs $5? Mhmm…)
  • Meanwhile, DigitalOcean coasts along on brand recognition and testimonials of friends.

So cloudy VPSes are far better for the single always-on server usecase. How about traditional VPSes?

 Traditional VPSes

Tradiational VPSes and I have an interesting history. Prior to finding LowEndBox, VPSes were super expensive compared to shared hosting, eg – I still have a client/friend hanging onto his $50/month 1and1 VPS that I cringe about.

That pretty much changed when I found LowEndBox. For the ultralow low pricepoint (like Atlantic.Net), LowEndBox has had $10/year offers in the past, primarily for systems with less RAM (but 256MB has happened –

Downside of traditional VPSes are that the better prices == prepay annually. No pay-as-you-go here.

My history:

  • for 2 Xen VPSes in 2012 – I think they are one of the few who are doing Xen as opposed to OpenVZ or even KVM
  • Hostigation in 2013 – for a personal project that never actually happened
  • WeLoveServers in September 2013 – basic server for $19/year
  • Crissic in early 2014 – Ostensibly better than WLS for $2/month that I hosted a client site on

Looking at the Virpus site, they’ve dropped their prices from $10/month to $5/month. I can’t remember what I paid for Hostigation, but I rarely even logged into that VPS.

WLS was at the very least decent. I used it mainly as an OpenVPN endpoint more than anything.

Crissic is good, but overly touchy on limits. I regularly get my SSH connection closed despite keepalives being set, and I can’t figure out why.

Overselling is a thing that happens though – CPU usage in particular is really limited, and suspensions happen. So I’m leery of moving my stuff to a traditional VPS provider without being able to test it. Especially if I just paid for a year of hosting.

New to me: RAM heavy VPSes

VPSDime ( is a new-to-me provider. 6GB of RAM for $7 a month. Unfortunately, offset by only 30GB of storage and 2TB of bandwidth vs WeLoveServers’ 6GB/80GB/10TB for $19/month. Then again, I don’t really use that much storage or bandwidth.

Bonus: Storage VPSes!

The main reason I kept DreamHost for 2 years after I got annoyed with them was that their AUP allowed me to use RAW images on my photography site, and finding space for 500GB of photos was not cheap anywhere else. With the introduction of their new DreamObjects service (read: S3 clone), that changed, and my last reason for keeping them disappeared.

VPSDime has interesting storage VPS offers. 500GB of disk for $7 is $2 more than Amazon Glacier (not accounting for the fact that I’m unlikely to get to use all 500GB), but offset that against the fact that it’s online (no retrieval times) and I don’t have to pay retrieval fees. Maybe I’ll get to ditch one of my external drives…

Runner up: BuyVM – more established, but about double the price for the same amount of space 🙁


I’m inclined to see what Vultr’s 1GB/$7 month plan is like to host my personal stuff. Also thinking of getting a 1GB WLS VPS to be an OpenVPN endpoint/development server. Possibly Atlantic.Net‘s cheapest service instead, but an extra 58 cents per month isn’t going to break the bank and I have the advantage of not needing to give Atlantic.Net my credit card details. In the worst case I can walk away from WLS without worrying about my credit card being charged.

Yay for backups and Ansible making it possible to deploy a new server in minutes once I get the environment setup just right.



TF2 on DigitalOcean

Or how I spent 3 cents on Digital Ocean to play MvM with my friends for 2 hours.

Maybe the MvM servers were having issues, but 4 different people trying to create a game didn’t work (or at least TF2 kept on saying ‘connection error’ – for everyone.

So I decided to try and spin up a server, like I used to do on EC2, except I decided to use the $10 of credit from Digital Ocean that I got when signing up, simply because Digital Ocean seemed a lot easier to use than Amazon’s Spot Instances.

Used Digital Ocean’s 1GB/1CPU node ($0.015/hour) in the Singapore location, no complaints about slowness/ping issues from the people in Singapore/Japan, but my ping in Ontario was ~330ms.

One line command, untested:

sudo yum -y install wget screen less vim && sudo service iptables stop && wget && tar -xvzf steamcmd_linux.tar.gz && mkdir tf2 && ./ +force_install_dir tf2 +login anonymous +app_update 232250 +quit && mkdir -p ~/.steam/sdk32 && cp linux32/ ~/.steam/sdk32/ && cd tf2 && echo "hostname famiry MvM
rcon_password tehfamiry" > tf/cfg/server.cfg && ./srcds_run -game tf -maxplayers 32 -console +map mvm_decoy

See also: – TF2 server config generator – list of what each config option does – Valve’s official guide on running TF2 servers. & – fancy systems for automating setup & running of TF2 servers

Why Digital Ocean: In terms of money, 3 cents a week isn’t going to kill me. But I still have some Amazon credit, so it’d be nice to use that up first.

Looking at the prices (as of Jul 20), Digital Ocean is definitely cheaper than Amazon – the cheapest instance that looks like it would work is the t2.small instance, and that’s 4 cents an hour. (I’m pretty sure a t2.micro instance won’t be good enough) More interestingly, a m3.medium instance is ~10 cents an hour.

The m3.medium instance is interesting because it has a spot instance option – and the price when I checked it was 1.01 cents/hour. However, I’m pretty sure the OS install + the TF2 files would be larger than the 4GB of storage assigned to the instance, so I’d also need an additional EBS volume, say ~5GB. Those are $0.12/GB/month, so for 5GB for ~2 hours, so the cost would be pretty much negligible.

However, there is one final cost: data transfer out. Above 1GB, Amazon will charge 19 cents for a partial GB. Assuming I play 4 weekends a month, I’m pretty sure the server will send more than 1GB of data (exceeding the free data transfer tier), so I’d be charged the 19 cents. Averaging this out over 4 weekends, I’d get charged ~5 cents a weekend. Thus, even with the actual compute cost being lower, I’d still get charged more than double on EC2 than Digital Ocean.

But this is still only 7 cents a weekend.

The $10 of credit from Digital Ocean will last me approximately 6 years of weekend playing, assuming no price changes. I have ~$15 of Amazon credit, so it looks like I’ll get 10 years of TF2 playing in – and I’m pretty sure we’ll have moved onto a new game long before then.

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VPS Playtime

So… I found a cheap VPS for me to play around with on LowEndBox after a few weeks of lurking on their site.

$12/year for 256MB ‘guaranteed’ RAM, 15GB of disk space and 300GB of bandwidth. I am pleased.

Except for the fact that it’s an CentOS OpenVZ instance, and I have had bad experiences with OpenVZ.

But other than being unable to run HLDS (runs out of RAM, gets killed by the host), nothing else has had problems. Got nginx, mysql & php-fpm on it following

I was pretty surprised though – First login showed only ~15MB of RAM used. WITH Apache running. (But no PHP or external modules.) But still. 15MB.

Now, as for uses of it… well, that’s yet to be established. I’ll probably be moving my IRC bot over from EC2, because the credit on that is running out end of October.

As for more configs: looks like it has a bunch of tutorials on getting nginx and the like set up

And has stuff on minimal installs.

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Postfix & poplock.db

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