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Review: Half a year later of Hosting on Vultr
Gravatar is a globally recognized avatar based on your email address. Review: Half a year later of Hosting on Vultr
  Rick Strahl
  All
  Jan 25, 2019 @ 02:01am

It's now been a little over a half a year since I made the move from my own dedicated, hosted, physical server to Vultr using a hosted VM for all of my personal sites. I have nothing but good things to say about Vultr, and not because I get anything special from them but it just works very well for me.

I thought I'd share some thoughts on the experience since a number of people ask me of where to host their sites.

Hesitant and Pleasantly Surprised

I was a little hesitant to move off my physical box because as I was originally looking for a VM solution the pricing for Virtual Hosts actually was worse for the same level of performance of even that ancient old box I had been running. Vultr was the only service at the time that was competive in price to performance. With hosted VMs you never know though - over time things can get slower as you get a noisy neighbor or the VM gets moved to a new machine etc.

I've seen none of that and the hosting has been rock solid for this half a year. Performance is excellent and most importantly it's very steady. There are no slow stretches and there has been no down time. There are excellent tools for remotely restarting/stopping and even logging on to a Web based startup terminal that lets you literally maintain the VM install as if your were there. In fact this is a bonus over my old physical box which I had to 'kick start' a few times over the years which required calling somebody at the host and have them physically restart the box. Now I can log on to the console. I had to do this once last week during a Windows update that stalled out and it's much better I get to fix this than some tech that knows nothing about my machine setup!

Before settling on Vultr, I spent quite a bit trying a number of different services and I ended up settling on Vultr because they provided by the most bang for the buck in terms of performance for the price. Not only is their VM pricing better than most providers, their VM specs actually performed much better than the VM specs with other services (especially Azure which was nothing but slow).

I'm running all of my personal sites on a single box basically and I use the following configuration:

This 8gig of memory, 4 core, 100gb disk works well to host 5 Web Connection sites, and 12 other .NET Web sites including my blog, this message board, my Web store, various samples (some of which get hammered by robots and bad actors so they are actually quite busy). There are a couple of small customer apps, and one of Sylvia's sites I built for her. There are also a number of internal apps and services for bug tracking and software registrations etc. The box runs a local SQL Server, MongoDb for a couple of other apps and it's barely using any CPU. The high usage you see in the screen shot has to be the related to the dashboard panel as remoting into the box generally shows it running below 10% of CPU even during peak times of the day. IOW, the virtual hardware lives up to the VM specs that it's supposed to emulate.

All of this costs me a $56 a month which is ridiculously cheap compared to many other providers.

I priced out a similar setup on AWS and Azure and it was approaching $300 for similar setups. Things would be a lot easier if FoxPro wasn't in the mix because I could work with just App Services instead of a full VM, but still given this setup I'm very happy with this VM setup given the performance it provides which blows away what you get with low level services from Azure or AWS that would be anywhere in the same performance ballpark.

Ironically when I set up that box originally I planned on upgrading to the next level up which is 6 Cores, 16gb memory and 200gb of disk which runs $96/month. However, I sticking with the lower level setup because it provides plenty of horsepower to run my work load.

The only possible reason to upgrade would be the the disk space which is getting a bit tight (80gb used with 3-4gb daily backups), but for now it'll do. I have to keep an eye on disk space and make sure I regularly clean out log files, backup and temp folders - I run a few scheduled tasks that take of that for me once day.

I do wish Vultr had more control over individual components. It would be really nice to have the current setup but be able to either add a second disk (for backup) or bump up the disk size. 120gb or 150gb would go a long way for a more comfortable amount of disk space for me. Instead when the time comes that I can't get around the 100gb limit I'll have to upgrade to the next higher VM level which nearly doubles the pricing (but it does add quite a bit more hardware).

Backups

On my old box I used to have 3 drives one of which was dedicated for backups. With Vultr you pretty much are stuck with a single disk - the only options you get are creating a separate dedicated machine with additional space. I was considering setting up the cheapest $5/month Linux box for file storage, but that seemed like a big hassle.

Instead I ended up putting some of my MSDN account Azure credits to use and backing up my data to the local drive then pushing the backups into Azure Blob Storage (cold storage) every night, which costs next to nothing. Azure blob storage for the 10 gigs I use works out to something like 50 cents a month 😃

I have 3 rolling backups that I send up each night, plus one weekly backup which actually saved my ass just the other day as I accidentally nuked all the Web Connection blog posts when I decided to update the Web Connection samples to the recent v7.0 release. Oops. I was able to pull down the last backup (a 4gb 7zip file, and quickly pull out just the blog data and restore it in a hurry).

Homebrew

If all of this sounds decidedly homebrew you're probably right. This isn't exactly DevOps style handling, but when I work with customers I often get to see how they work with complex automation of deployment and system management services and it's ironic that THAT actually ends up causing all sorts of problems on its own.

My setup is basically the same as I have been doing for the last 20 years except now it's running on a cloud hosted VM. While I wouldn't mind moving to more modern processes in the cloud for most of this personal stuff I'm doing, the cost of doing so and the additional complexity is simply not worth it and I surely would end up spending significantly more money on one of the big services for a worse level of performance. For me at least after a lot of deliberation and consideration this is by far the best choice on how to run my apps.

Summary

Circling back to Vultr - the experience has been great and I couldn't be happier about the move by now. I was not sure what to expect and the move was definitely one way since the old box I was running on was starting to have hardware issues. Having a VM that is snapshotted frequently is a surefire way to ensure even if the VM stops running tomorrow, I can be back up and running in a few hours max.

Anyway if you want to check out Vultr - I can highly recommend them based on this experience.

Vultr

Disclaimer: The following is a referral link, that gives you a $50 credit on Vultr and it pays back $25 to me, if you end up signing up for an account and bill for at least a full month.

Gravatar is a globally recognized avatar based on your email address. re: Review: Half a year later of Hosting on Vultr
  Keith Hackett
  Rick Strahl
  Jan 28, 2019 @ 08:19am

I totally agree with you, Rick. I've been using Vultr for about 3 1/2 years now and have had only one significant outage period. It was for about 28 hours as I recall which could be catastrophic for some. They did some hardware upgrades that went horribly wrong. I would venture to say it was a fluke that they took steps to ensure wouldn't happen again. It's been smooth sailing since.

Speaking of having additional drive space, I've also found that to be the only downside with them. Have you looked at adding Block Storage? I've seen the option but never fully investigated.

Anyway, I just wanted to echo your positive experience with Vultr!

Gravatar is a globally recognized avatar based on your email address. re: Review: Half a year later of Hosting on Vultr
  Rick Strahl
  Keith Hackett
  Feb 3, 2019 @ 02:13pm

Took a look at block storage and yes it looks like that will work once they get that going properly. Right now it looks like it's experimental and only work with New Jersey hosted servers.

But by the looks of it you can attach block storage as a volume and then format it as a Windows drive.

This should work for overflow storage like backups, and large storage files like images etc. But wonder what performance will be like - it'll be in the same data center but likely not on the same box, so like local network access, rather than local drive speeds.

Keeping an eye on it. Pricing looks good - $1 per 10gb of storage is fair enough.

+++ Rick ---

Gravatar is a globally recognized avatar based on your email address. re: Review: Half a year later of Hosting on Vultr
  Keith Hackett
  Rick Strahl
  Feb 4, 2019 @ 07:11am

Since I've also had the same questions about Block Storage, I opened a ticket asking about it. I explained that the achille's heal for Vultr is the lack of a configurable storage option for servers. I received the following response (in a timely 15-minutes!):

Unfortunately, we don't have any concrete ETA on when block storage might become available outside our NY/NJ data center.

In terms of performance, block storage does not match the local SSD throughput. The backend for block storage uses a redundant network storage cluster, which requires transfer over the network and multiple distributed writes generated for each incoming change. Naturally, this tends to be notably slower than single writes to a local disk.

We appreciate that some customers could use more storage space and consider this in new product development. (Storage instances were one past solution, but demand for a smaller amount of fast SSD I/O was much greater than for a larger amount of slower HDD I/O, so that product is in decline and may be discontinued entirely.)

Hopefully, they'll decide to offer larger/configurable primary storage options in the near future.

Gravatar is a globally recognized avatar based on your email address. re: Review: Half a year later of Hosting on Vultr
  Rick Strahl
  Keith Hackett
  Feb 5, 2019 @ 01:18pm

Yeah that's pretty much what I figured. Surprised they haven't rolled it out elsewhere though since this is likely a popular feature given their limited storage space in the lower tiers. For me adding 20gig would help a ton towards removing my backups and some other low access storage...

The other option is to set up tiny Linux image and use that for file storage, which comes out to about the same amount, but you wouldn't get direct Windows file system support (I don't think).

+++ Rick ---

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