Slicehost and Linode: Affordable and Reliable VPS Hosting

I know I’m going to outgrow my current shared hosting plan someday, so I figured I might as well be prepared for that eventuality. While I don’t want to go and pay 4-5 times the monthly rate I’m currently paying before I absolutely have to, it makes sense to have already done your research.

I came across the two hosts by chance, by reading an up and coming design blog (Usability Post). Noting the fast load times, I decided to see who the host was. There was a little Slicehost logo in the footer, so I clicked through.

The Slicehost homepag loaded quickly, and the clean theme greated me. The page advertised affordable VPS plans, ranging from $20/mo to $280/mo, along with a list things included in every plan. Slicehost promises

  • Full root access
  • The ability to reboot the VPS
  • A selection of distro choices
  • “4-core servers running Xen virtualization instances”
  • RAID-10 Array
  • “Guaranteed CPU share and more when available”

The starting plan, at $20 per month, offers 100GB of transfer and ten gigabytes of storage, with 256MB of reserved RAM. Their numerous packages increase fairly slowly in price (the second level, with twice as much of everything, is only $18 more per month than the first plan), and have plenty of options to suit your needs. Need 4GB of RAM and 1.6TB or transfer (with a full 160GB of disk space)? It’ll cost you, but you can have it.

So I decided to do some research into Slicehost, to see just how reputable they were. I did some Googling, and checked Webhosting Talk, like anyone should do to get an idea of a host’s customer satisfaction. While I was doing that, I came across Linode.

Linode is a similar service to Slicehost. Their site didn’t come up quite as fast as Slicehost’s for me, but respectable nonetheless. They have very similar offerings to those of Slicehost, though Linode’s plans are different. Their base plan has 360MB of RAM, 12GB of storage, and 200GB of transfer; all for $19.95/month. Linode even tells you how many of each plan are available at the moment.

Both companies look really good, and they seem to have fairly clean track records. I’ve had problems digging up any dirt on either. The best I’ve really found is that Linode’s achille’s heel is disk usage; apparently disk access is the real slow-up on their machines. And really, it doesn’t seem all that bad. Their VPS rigs seem snappy enough for most purposes. Both companies have loyal followings, and pretty good customer satisfaction.

I think I’ll probably be going with one of these services when 1&1 decides I’m using too much of what they sold me. :D I’ve considered Media Temple, but they don’t offer quite as much. I don’t know. Hopefully I’ll have plenty of time yet to decide.

A word of caution: Slicehost and Linode don’t offer any graphical control panels like cPanel or Plesk. They have something for managing the VPS, and that’s about it. They expect you to make use of your root access to do what you need to do (though you could install cPanel if you were to buy a license). Hopefully I’d be up to the challenge if I ended up on one of their servers. :D

  • http://www.slicehost.com slicematt

    Hi Matt, please let us know if we can answer any questions. Good luck!

  • http://www.usabilitypost.comH Dmitry

    Hey, it’s Dmitry from Usabilitypost.com :)

    Slicehost is the best host I’ve used so far (they didn’t pay me to say this! I promise :) It’s fast, and they have plenty of communication channels if you wish to contact them for help: forum, wiki, live chat, blog, email etc. etc. It’s a very nice and helpful community. Performance wise it’s solid — I’ve actually got it to run my Rails applications, but now run a blog on it as well.

    One important thing to note is that these guys just offer a raw VPS slice — there’s pretty much nothing on it, just the chosen OS :) So you have to log in as root, customize it, make a user for yourself and then install everything. This of course gives you complete freedom. If you want, you can install any control panel you wanted (provided you have a license) but it is fairly tough if you’re not used to this.

    However, Slicehost have a lot of very good guides: http://articles.slicehost.com/ These cover a lot of the setups you may want to have, and are easy to follow step by step. Actually, even if you know nothing about sysadmin you can still get a slice up and running using these, and there is always the reset slice option if anything goes wrong :)

    Overall, while it’s harder to use, I think the complete freedom and good performance you get justifies it. I don’t normally recommend hosts, but these guys are very different to your standard shared hosting company and have really impressed me thus far.

  • http://blogbuildingu.com/ Hendry Lee

    My experience with Linode is different. The site doesn’t come as fast because it is cfm (perhaps) but I custom build my VPS, which is Linode 360 and it works wonder.

    With extra memory I can run a few more stuff. Currently I run only MySQL and Lighttpd. I just moved that about a month ago. You may try the speed. I can’t be more happy.

    I now have 3 Linodes and none of the benchmark (UNIXBench) is lower than 250. (I use Newark data center)Can’t say anything bad about them up until now.

    I’m still with KnownHost right now for my other project, their track record is also perfect.

  • http://www.webmaster-source.com Matt

    @slicematt, I’m not ready to make the switch to a VPS quite yet. I’d like to save some money for a little longer. :D

    @Dmitry, You *sure* they’re not paying you? :D (Okay, I believe you.) I looked over their support channels before, and I agree that they look good. I hadn’t noticed the articles though. It looks like a very good option, but I’m probably going to have to read-up on managing a VPS with root access. I could probably get by, but I suppose I’ll have to look for some books on managing and securing servers. I don’t want to make any mistakes like leaving open ports or having extranious services installed. I like the idea of having all that power, and I think I could get by all right.

    @Hendry, Your comments on performance are noted. Is blogbuildingu.com hosted on Linode?

  • http://www.linode.com/ Tom Asaro

    Hey Matt — thanks for the mention.  We’re almost always available (in addition to the 150+ other members) via IRC if you have any questions or concerns about administering your own server: http://www.linode.com/irc/

  • http://blogbuildingu.com/ Hendry Lee

    @Matt: Yes, I just moved it to Linode a month ago. Zero downtime so far.Linode has pro-rated plan, with 7 day money back guarantee. I firmly believe you will like the member’s administration features. It is the best I’ve seen so far.

    I’m talking about deploying multiple distribution at a time just by pointing and clicking. Great for experiments.

    With that said, if you never manage a VPS from shell, you may brush up your skill first. Part of the small footprint and performance I’ve gained is because of the optimization I made such as using qmail to send outbound email, lighttpd for web server. The only opening ports are SSH, HTTP and MySQL (bound to 127.0.0.1).

    The support is not the best I’ve seen in the industry, but the IRC channel tasaro talked about is superb.

    I suggest you experience both of them first before deciding.

  • http://www.problogdesign.com/ Michael Martin

    I looked at Slicehost when I was choosing my host, but running my own VPS still seems a bit more work than I want. :(I went with MediaTemple, and have since had to buy a MySQL “container” so that I can stick with them looking after the technical bits.Have you seen http://www.dreamhostps.com/ yet? In theory, it looks great! DH’s reputation is for cheap hosting though. I’m not sure how they fair on more high-end stuff like this. :(

  • http://www.webmaster-source.com Matt

    @Tam Asaro, I’ll keep that in mind. (Dang, it’s going to be hard to choose between Linode and Slicehost when I’m ready to switch.)

    @Hendry, Thanks for the further info. I probably will need to read-up on that. I’ve never managed a server via shell before, though I have some *nix command line experience.

    @Michael, I don’t mind the additional work too much. I’ve looked at Media Temple a bit, and they look like a good option, but they still do things like limit the number of subdomains, and things like that, right? Plus, I like the idea of having unfettered access to configure things. As for Dream Host… :P I’ve heard so many horror stories about them they’d have to be offering a lot better deal for me to even want to try them. Both Linode and Slicehost appear to be offering better value than DH. $20 for under 200MB of RAM ($15/mo+$5 “shared hosting fee”). And as you tweak the “Scale” slider it gets more expensive real fast.

  • http://www.techzilo.com Sumesh

    I would absolutely recommend Slicehost. Three friends of mine, all with high traffic (500k+ hits per month) have moved to Slicehost and love it. Besides, some of the biggest blogs (PSDTuts, Zenhabits etc.) are hosted on Slicehost and get dugg every week without even flinching.As for getting the server setup, there are some folks who do it for free – provided you use their affiliate code to sign up. They get a small commission, which is their earning for setting it up. One of my friends does it, and I’ll probably call him up when my traffic grows :) Hit me up on IM or mail me if you need me to put you through to him…

  • http://blogbuildingu.com/ Hendry Lee

    Like BlueHost, DreamHost has huge user base, so you will hear horror stories now and then.

    But work with them! When I signed up a bit more than a year ago, the load of the server could shoot up to 70 and one of the support team told me there was one domain getting digg-ed. But it happened for a few days, so I demand to be moved to a server with lighter load.

    And they did grant me that request. I’m a happy camper since then.When you took the coupon code, DreamHost offers one of the lowest hosting with good performance.

    @Michael: For me, nothing is better than feeling in control of my sites and tune them to run faster. Besides VPS gives me a feeling that I own the entire server, although I’m not.

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  • http://thedrumr.com thedrumr

    I have to agree 100% with the title, mine was a simple new site http://thedrumr.com, slicehost and linode were my top choices for vps. eapps was my other choice but the bandwidth was too less for the $20 plan that I tried. I’m currently with linode, more value for the money.

  • http://www.vps.net Ditlev

    we've launched a service at vps.net that we'd like to think fits right in there between the developer heavy slicehost/linode approach and the limited resources of a shared hosting account…let me know if you'd like to try it out.

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/redwall_hp redwall_hp

      I've come across your service before, fairly recently actually. It looks like an impressive service, though a bit pricier than Linode. I have given it some consideration though. I have to admit that I'm leaning towards Linode at the moment, but you never know, that my change before I'm ready to make the switch to a VPS.

      Oh, and nice domain name!

  • http://techzilo.com Sumesh

    Interesting to look at the conversations over a year ago….

    Looking at current opinions, Linode is better in performance. And their offerings are more powerful for same price.

    VPS.net is good too, though again, their pricing is a bit on the higher side. A +ve I’ve noticed is that their affiliate commissions are better than Linode.