Eyewitness hosting reviews

Choosing a service to host your website or application can be a daunting job. This post is a wholly subjective view of some of the services that I have worked with over the years.

OVH

OVH are a French company and have long had a reputation of providing low cost services, I personally have servers with them and their cost, combined with a very good international network that has extensive DDOS mitigation built in, is attractive, especially to startups.
The Rise and Advance machines at the cheap end of their lines are good value but as requirements increases prices go up proportionately. Their low end VPSes are cheap, but their much better connected OpenStack services are less so. They are rolling out services that are comparable with the major cloud providers such as IAM and object storage.
IP address allocation is good, with a single IPv4 address allocated and additional single IP and subnets available to rent.
Their system is designed to be very automated, and it’s good advice to turn off automated interventions on a server as they can be overzealous and keep a machine out of service for longer than necessary. Their standard physical support is also business hours only, although they have an emergency phone number for out of hours notifications. If you’re dealing with physical servers and have a hard disk fail for example, that can be frustrating. On the other hand, documentation is good and easy to search for many common use cases.

DigitalOcean

DigitalOcean are a US based company with a global VM and storage network. Their VMs (droplets) are generally lower in cost than the major cloud providers but more than hosters such as OVH or Contabo. They provide a developer oriented service with team communication and tools such as built in automation and Docker and Kubernetes support as well as regular virtual machines. For hosting they started providing one click virtual machines quite early on and have a big catalogue for those things you don’t always want to set up manually. A droplet has one IPv4 address and an optional IPv6 address. Private networking is available as standard with free internal data transfer.
Support is responsive but the business is generally self serve. There have been times when the infrastructure hasn’t been able to keep up with demand, which could sometimes be seen as datacentres not being available for products, and I have seen long term uncaught problems such as underlying storage devices causing VMs to have problems.
DigitalOcean invested a lot in SEO-friendly documentation a few years ago and their guides are useful, although they don’t seem to be that well maintained any more.
DigitalOcean often provide free credit for evaluation purposes. At the time of writing (end November 2023) it’s $200 for two months

Hetzner

German hoster Hetzner are another long established low cost bulk hoster. While they only have datacentres in Germany, Finland and the US, they are a major hosting provider and like OVH, offer competitive servers and VMs with fast setup. One of their more interesting features is their [server auctions](https://www.hetzner.com/sb}, which release used servers for a fraction of their cost. Their 14 day money back guarantee is useful for testing such machines. Hetzner’s IPv4 address policy is more restrictive than some and quite expensive for multiples but they are happy to provide IPv6, including wholly non-IPv4 configurations. Support is responsive and if you aren’t too bothered about location, they can provide very flexible custom configurations.

Contabo

Contabo are another German low cost hosting provider but with a much wider global presence. Their promotion sets them in competition with other mid-range development oriented providers such as Vultr, Linode and DigitalOcean, and compared to those providers they offer a lot more resources for not a lot of money – their smallest VPS is £6.00 a month for 4 VCPUs, 8GB of RAM and either 50GB of NVMEe or 200GB of SSD storage. I’m currently testing that VPS at their datacentre in Portsmouth, It comes with a single IPv4 IP address and a single IPv6 IP address as well. Private networking is optional. I noticed when rebooting the VPS that their infrastructure is based on the open source Proxmox VM management system.
There are premiums for different locations and like Hetzner they offer second hand servers at outlet prices, but these seem mostly to be in Germany. At the moment the availability of their dedicated servers is also liimited although they show lead times for most locations.
They say that they keep their costs down with economies of scale and German thriftiness, which gives the impression of being the Lidl or Aldi of server hosting, but speaking as someone who is powered by Lidl’s Italian roast ground coffee, I see no problem with that. It’s early days for me so I will update this with my experiences.

Google Cloud

Among the major cloud services, Google Cloud is perhaps the most developer oriented. For a long time their services were best accessed through their CLI and positively runic for it. I have personally set up a multi-server project and if you persevere it becomes easier but the web console is simpler to use, and it has improved.
They have locations globally (being Google of course), including in less well served locations such Indonesia and Australia.
As with AWS, your instance will get an IPv4 address for access but it can change between reboots, so static IP addresses are rented as needed. I’m not familiar with their IPv6 setup.
I ran a migration project there a few years ago, primarily because they offered nested virtualisation on their VMs, which was relatively rare at the time. However, like the other big providers, they’re not cheap for anything other than simple things, with storage and bandwidth making hosting bills add up.

AWS

If cloud computing can have a household name, it’s AWS. They were pretty much the first big cloud provider and have been market leaders by providing the products users asked for and making them easy to deploy with CLIs and APIs. The downside to this is that so many businesses depend on it that outages, particularly at their US-East-1 facility, which is the default selection on their console. now creates global news.
As with Google Cloud, an instance gets a random routed IP that can change across reboots, and fixed addresses (called Elastic IPs) are allocated for DNS purposes, although their more flexible (and billable) Route53 DNS service allows dynamic linking of instances. I’ve never used IPv6 here either.
Pricing is more competitive than it was because there are of course economies of scale (and their scale is enormous), but for a static virtual machine like a cPanel server or a shopping, there are many other better options.

I’m not going to make any particular recommendations, and as I’m trying to sell my experience I will consider every hosting brief based on its requirements. If you need a solution, I’m happy to talk to you about it. Get in touch here.


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