... making kittens cry since 2001

Update: SSD Nodes VPS 2017-03-10

Well, I did it. I moved my mail and web server back to my place. I'd like to think I was pretty fair, and decided that SSDNodes wasn't quite what I needed. I have made a full post here to explain.

Update: SSD Nodes VPS 2016-09-04

Well, I did it. I moved my mail services over to the SSD Nodes server on Friday night and it has been okay so far. Microsoft had the new IP banned from delivering mail for some reason and I had to put on a dress and jump through some hoops for them, but it seems to be working now. Their SNDS bullshit is a total hassle but I admit they did reply relatively quick (for Microsoft that is).

I'm pretty happy with how stable the server is so far. I leave an SSH session open all the time and "tail -f" my mail and web logs in it. I usually wake up to find my session still open, even with my crappy home connection. Even the processor slicing seems to work pretty good. Like the firewall script runs even faster than it does on my home PC (which is just an old crappy P4 by the way). Anyways, I couldn't find enough to complain about to keep me from doing the mail migration, which is pretty kickass.

SSD Nodes VPS 2016-08-05

Some folks just love the idea of "cloud servers", but I am not so sure that I am convinced yet. As of today my mail server is installed on an encrypted drive, so even if the PC were ever to be stolen, the data would still [very likely] remain undisclosed. I also have control over every little aspect of the mail server, which is not always possible with hosted servers. I also don't like the pricing on hosted servers. A mail server can be run on a 15 year old Pentium 4 computer with a Gig of memory or maybe even less. It can also be run on a not-so-fast Internet connection, though if you have to download a lot of big fat picture-laden emails from it you may find yourself wishing for a faster connection. Basically, if you're willing/able to run your mail server from home you may well find that the biggest cost is the electricty to run it, and if that bother you then you could always try running it on a Raspberry Pi (though getting it to boot from an encrypted drive is not exactly trivial).

image A shot from Gulliver's Travels.

Having said all that... my mail server was inaccessible for a while recently because its Internet service was down. No explanation, no apology, no pro-rated refund, nothing. To be honest, a few hours here and there isn't that big a deal, but I was irritated enough to start looking at VPSs again. Now I had tried a few VPS providers in the past like CloudAtCost and DeepNet, but their machines seemed unstable and eratic. What's worse is that their customer service was on par with Rogers or Bell Canada (which is really bad in case you hadn't guessed).

This time I had [another] look at LEB, and came up with Host4Fun and SSD Nodes. I got a monthly paid plan VPS from Host4Fun, but SSD Nodes' stuff was a one year commitment... however, they offer a 14 day money back trial period, so I got one. I ended up asking Host4Fun if they had a trial period, and the fellah who answered me said he could give me a 24 hour money back deal. The specs for both were about the same... 1 CPU, a Gig of memory, and 10GB (SSD Nodes) and 50GB (Host4Fun) drive space. One of the things I didn't know I would care about was that Host4Fun offered KVM based machines while SSD Nodes was an OpenVZ based machine. Finally, they both had WHMCS based management panels, and both were in Canada.

I assume that paying on a yearly basis is going to suit me best for the foreseeable future, and SSD Nodes was cheapest on an annual basis, so I put the most effort in to them first. In fact, I was kind of a support nightmare for them. My first support ticket was to ask if there was a way to access the console without Java. I think Java sucks, and I don't think I'll be changing my mind any time soon. Turns out the answer was "no"... I guess I kind of have to expect that since it seems to be common with the WHMCS interface. My second call was about port 25... turns out they block port 25 by default in an attempt to limit spam. The reply was simply to provide some details of my reasons for wanting port 25 open and they opened it for me. My third ticket was to have a reverse DNS entry made because mail servers are frequently evaluated on their rDNS. A quick explanation and the PTR record was in place.

Next up was a tougher one. By this time I had migrated some of my web site stuff over to the VPS and was working on getting it setup, but the firewall rules were barfing. I use iptables and ipset rules to block big chunks of undesirables from the site, such as China, Russia, and IP's listed at StopForumSpam and my ipset rules were simply not working. Turns out OpenVZ has issues with ipset rules inside containers. So I tried the rules on the Host4Fun box and they worked. I figured that maybe I would just drop the SSD Nodes machine and switch over to the slightly higher price (and increased drive space) of Host4Fun. I opened up another SSD Nodes ticket to ask about what needed to be done to ensure I would get my refund for my less-than-14-day trial of their services. The support guy replied by saying he could offer me a KVM based machine with the same specs for the same price, and still keep my running 14 day trial. So I took it... and the ipset rules work fine now. The site seems nice and responsive, downloads from the server max out my home connection at 300-400kBps, and my SSH connection for monitoring log files does not seem to be any less stable than my crappy home Internet service.

So now I am paying US$30 a year for a [KVM based] machine that certainly appears to be able to handle the job of running my web site and my mail server. The downside is that the hard drive is not encrypted, and that still bothers me, but there does seem to be a "install custom OS" option in the management interface that I have not tried yet. I'm not sure if I am able to upload my own custom ISO's to boot from, but that may work. If I try it I may do it on another [possibly temporary] VPS so that I do not disturb my currently running services. The bottom line is that I have been pleasantly surprised about my VPS experience at SSD Nodes.

I should also note that I have since found out the Host4Fun has discounted prices if you pay for a longer period of time up front. A similarly spec'ed machine, with the 50GB of drive space is US$32 a year, which is maybe a little cheaper than SSD Nodes when you consider the drive space difference. For now I am sticking with SSD Nodes anyways, just for the elevated level of support they seem to have.

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