So I was riding the “T” to work the other day and I was reading my email as I always do during my morning commute and I see a twitter follow from a web host called AlienLayer. I go check out their site and it looks like some ultra low quality hosting provider. I was actually interested in finding an ultra cheap VPS so I could do some basic linux project testing on an always-on server. I see that they are featuring an “abduction” plan for only $19/year and the twitter account had a discount code of “low” that drops it by $5. The VPS was then only $14 a year or a little over a dollar a month. For that price, this thing could have one nine of uptime (90%) and I would be happy with it.
If you are not sure what a VPS is, a Virtual Private Server is basically a virtual server instance that runs with other virtual instances within a single physical server. A virtual hosting provider runs a Hypervisor on a standard server that allows the server’s resources to be carved up into smaller pieces that are then shared among many virtual machines that run as guests on the physical server. Each of these virtual servers runs an entire operating system and is unaware of the other virtual servers running on the same machine. It is kind of like taking a full cabinet of servers and putting it inside of a single server.
These virtual machines have some dedicated resources, and some shared resources. Usually, most of a standard server’s resources are not fully utilized during standard operation. Virtual machines take advantage of these idle resources and lead to better utilization of the server’s resources by allowing the guest operating systems to use these idle resources. Resource reservations ensure that each guest is able to use a certain amount of processor and memory, while any remaining unused capacity is shared among the guests.
The AlienLayer’s Abduction VPS package is what I would call a micro instance and provides only a very small amount of disk, processor, ram, and bandwidth, but that is perfect for my needs. The actual specs include 1 CPU core, 192MB dedicated/220MB burst ram, 19GB disk, 5mbps uplink. This is barely enough to run a small website, but should be fine for a test box, depending on what you are testing. If you are looking for business grade hosting, you will want to have much more ram, uplink bandwidth, be on a physical server that is not overloaded with guests, and be hosted with a reliable provider that operates with availability and uptime protected at all costs.
With VPS’s, you can usually chose from a range of linux distributions and typically have the choice of installing a web based control panel such as webmin, plesk, or cpanel (sometimes at additional cost), or you can simply use SSH if you are comfortable managing the server from the command line. I went with an SSH only 32 bit CentOS 5 build due to the limited memory available.
The server seems to meet or exceed all advertised specs and I haven’t had any issues with it. At the price I am paying, I would expect some downtime and little to no support. I might post again when/if I have any reliability or support issues. I have noticed that some of their site updates have included notices that servers were being restarted for maintenance in the middle of the day with a one hour notice – 3pm EST (really?) and I do not know if the server occupants were directly notified of the maintenance.