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Leaving SSDNodes 2017-03-11


Clearly I liked enough about SSDNodes to move my digital services over there. I just didn't like it enough to leave my stuff there. To be honest, the support I got when I first joined was better than I had expected, and the price was low enough that a cheap bastard like me was willing to pay for a VPS. They even upgraded me from OVZ to KVM with no additional cost to me. The GigE network connection was pretty nice, and the CPU slice I got did not seem terribly burdened. It was pretty stable, though I can't say I have tested too many other VPS providers to compare it to. So, what didn't I like?

missingdog There is a dog in this photo.

The first thing I didn't like was that I really had no way to keep my data on an encrypted volume. I may have been able to figure out a way if I had spent a lot more time fiddling with it, but I'm sure it still would have been a half-assed workaround that wouldn't have been stable or would have required additional unnecessary management.

The next thing I didn't like was that in order to access the console of the machine, it is necessary to install Java (which in turn uses VNC I believe) on my PC. Now I understand that they are just using the default remote console that comes with the software they bought for setting up VPS's, but it still kind of sucks. It means I need to keep a virtual machine (or at least a snapshot of a virtual machine) handy here at my place so I can manage it if I need to access the console. Not an enormous burden, but irritating enough... more on this later.

I also didn't like that they do not provide DNS services for people running VPS's on their infrastructure. Now most people just use Google's DNS servers and move on, but I think that is a poor solution. Part of the reason for running a VPS is the ability to get out from under Google's wing, so continuing to use them for DNS is counter-productive. Running your own recursive DNS server does not require a lot of resources, but it also isn't trivial to configure and manage, and frankly DNS is really much more anonymous when a lot of devices are using it to mask who the true source of the query is. Finally, I wouldn't really want to run a recursive DNS server on the same machine I am using as my mail and web server, and buying an extra VPS (even a small one) is still resources that SSDNodes could have saved customers with little effort. Also not a deal breaker, but would have seemed a little more professional.

Then I had a couple of disappointing support tickets. In one ticket I asked if I could get pricing on a very small VPS, so I could run my own DNS server of course. I asked for 1 core, 128MB of memory, just enough disk to install Linux on, and located at the same datacenter as my current VPS. I was told that they would not provide a slice that small but would offer me another VPS with the same specs as I have 1 core, 1GB memory, and 10GB disk for US$30 a year. Okay, I understand they don't want to get in to small nodes because it just chops up their hardware a lot more, but it is still disappointing. The second ticket was when I asked if I could get the same deal as mine for a friend who I had been bragging to about my VPS. It took about two weeks to get a reply that said "senior management has been out on vacation for the holidays" and a link to buy a VPS with the same deal as mine. Now I realize it was near xmas, but what if my server were down? Would I still be waiting weeks to get it back up? How about days? It just didn't seem like the same kind of support I had been getting when I first signed up.

Then it happened. I received a spam email from someone at SSDNodes:

As many of you already know, SSD Nodes is just part of a bigger project to make cloud computing better, cheaper, and faster for more people. For those who don’t, it’s time to get you caught up to speed.

I’m happy to say that we’ve officially launched Strasmore, the enterprise-level companion to SSD Nodes.

The Strasmore difference offers dedicated resources and higher levels of computing power to ensure there’s never a hiccup in the performance of your webapp, game server, or big data deployment. If things go wrong, Strasmore offers support from our friendly, experienced Strasmore engineers to help get things humming again.

You’ll be able to build out petabyte-scale backups for the highest levels of safety and redundancy, and Strasmore consulting opportunities will help you worry less about IT scalability and focus on growing your business.

SSD Nodes isn’t going anywhere—much to the contrary. By delivering a different, more tailored experience to our enterprise-level customers, we’ll be able to focus more on what SSD Nodes customers need most—the fastest nodes for the lowest prices, combined with our truly personal support.

Whether you end up with Strasmore, or stay right here with SSD Nodes, I’m happy to have you among our growing list of customers doing incredible things on the cloud.

I replied and asked how I got on the mailing list and was told that the message went out to all customers as an announcement. I was told I could be unsubscribed, but that I then would not receive maintenance notices. Really? It is not possible for a business that I am paying to separate system maintence notifications from "we got shit for sale" messages? That got me a little more irritated.

So last night I started preparing to move my junk back to a server of my own control, when I seemed to be having trouble connecting via SSH to the SSDNodes server. I logged in to the web interface and checked the console access link to see if it was still the java-based thing. It is. So I fired up a virtual machine and installed Java on it, but it was barfing up some error message. I tried Java 7 (instead of 8) and it was still barfin'. So I just reset the server in the web interface (which is essentially a hard reset). It came back up and I could SSH in to it again. I'm pretty sure that I could have tried harder with getting the Java console working, but frankly by this point I just didn't care to.

So now Snorkuserve is running on a DL360/G5 server, using Xubuntu and VirtualBox to host Jessie VM's that suit my needs. I have way more CPU, memory, and disk resources available to me, and I have way better console access. All the virtual machines are on an encrypted volume, and so far everything seems to be running fine. The images on the web site load a little slower and email attachments take longer to open, but I barely notice. Hopefully nothing will explode, forcing me to go crawling back to my unwanted VPS.

Having said all that... it isn't an effort to make everyone stop buying VPS's, but it is a warning to say that before you do spend the money on a VPS, you may want to consider self hosting if you can. You may find flexibility to be the most important part of your digital service.

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