Choosing a FreeBSD ISP
For many years I have run my servers over at RootBSD. now it is time to move on. This documents my choices.
You should also check out the excellent article: Who Offers FreeBSD Hosting.
And the more detailed, but less engaged: Cloud Hosting Showdown – DigitalOcean vs AWS vs VULTR vs Linode vs Azure. Really if you are choosing a new FreeBSD hosting provider you want to read all 3 articles.
First some history, then the state of the art.
Freebsd was around before Linux. And then it offered jails which were a great technology for sharing servers among multiple users. It ran many of the world's largest websites. But since then the world has moved on. Linux has an increasing market share. There are various virtualization technologies, that allow you to run multiple Operating Systems on the same hardware. And there is the whole cloud stuff. Azure, OpenStack and AWS. But it all starts with what you need.
While there are reasons that many people still prefer FreeBSD, the key issue for me is training. I now know it pretty well. Why bother learning Linux?
My needs are simple First of all keep it simple. KISS. I run this company single handedly. The more complexity the worse it is. My key requirement is to scale. It would be great to be able to scale up my servers before a presentation before 1000 people. And scale them back down again afterwards to save money. I am okay being down for a minute or two. I do not want a very complex solution. And then snapshots are a super idea. I can do a snapshot, try to upgrade, but roll back if there is a problem.
The solution that looks best is Digital Ocean. The sales pitch is just exactly what I want. Just their performance is terrible. They have a very focussed approach. A beautiful interface. Gorgeous documentation. Super attention to detail. When I provision a new server, click here to copy the IP address. Brilliant. But it takes over an hour to compile emacs. Give me a break! There is lots of software I have to install.
Linode also sounds great. A really simple model. Buy a server, scale it up or down, snapshot it. They also have a traffic tracking solution. But sigh. They do not really support Freebsd. Sure you can install it, but what a mess. I have way way better things to do with my time. And what if there is a problem. So I ditched them.
Vultr deserves a mention. But they are cheaper and I keep reading complaints about service. I really do not need 19 data centers around the world. Do you?
Joyent is another interesting choice. They run Triton based on OpenSolaris. Triton supports FreeBSD VPS's. At one time Sun invested heavily in upgrading Solaris. It supports Zones with much better control over resources in each Zone than FreeBSD offers. So when Linux Containers came around, they were able to modify their software to support LInux Containers. Each with its own network stack, way better than the regular containers on Linux. So lots of great technology here. I went to their website to check it out. Sadly the pricing is quite expensive, more expensive than RootBSD. Way more expensive than OVH. Pity. I think that triton is a way better solution for me than OpenStack.
And then there is OVH. OVH is an interesting company. They have no venture capital. All self funded. A three letter domain name says they got an early start. They have tons of different services. None as polished as the Digital Ocean offering. All a bit hard to navigate. Even very hard to find. You want the Public Cloud option. Just $28 for a 7 Gigabyte 2 core server. (Feb 2017). Plus $10 / month for their cloud services account. Everyone says great things about the amount of hardware you get. And bandwidth is free! Maybe that is how it is supposed to be. Frankly I do not like the complexity I have to mess with to get what I want from them. But I really have no other choice. And the upward growth path is awesome.
OVH is the 3rd largest ISP in the world. And the leading European Vendor. Which means they get multi-country. The US vendors do not. You can get multiple ips for your server, one in each country, so Google thinks you are local, and gives a higher page rank. Linode and Digital Ocean do not offer that service.
OVH is the only company I know of that offers Anycast servers. Brilliant! Without going into details that means that the backbone routers figure out which of your servers is closest to the client, and directs traffic to that anycast server. I do not know anyone else who does this for servers. Just $13/month/ anycast ip.
They have the best DDoS defense software. Wikileaks uses them. And they offer a ton of other services. Too many in my mind. Unless of course you need one of them.
The OVH local language websites often offer cheaper prices. I speak Polish, and live in Poland, they have a development center in Wroclaw, their engineers show up at the local meetups. Perfect!
And finally a word for RootBSD. They did just great by me for many many years. Sure I paid a bit more for them, but I got great technical support in return. They did not fix things for me, what they did is point me to the right software, or answer my questions, all very fast. For a certain stage in a startup's life, they are still a great choice. In fact I am keeping an account there.
I will mention AWS also. Reputation is that they are both complex, they take time to learn, and expensive. not for me.
I hope this helps.