Slicehost vs. Rackspace Cloud, first impressions

I thought I would save a few bucks by moving to a Rackspace Cloud Server. It was a rocky start, but so far, so good.

Back in July I made the jump from GoDaddy hosting to a virtual private server on Slicehost. While it was intimidating at first, there was a lot of online help and a responsive forum. Once I got things going, it was smooth sailing.

The biggest difference between Slice and Cloud is that the Slice folks include a pretty hefty amount of bandwidth. The thing is, I don’t use most of it. Cloud doesn’t include any bandwidth, and charges a small amount for every GB used. For me this is a better deal. It would actually cut my monthly costs in half, so I decided to start up a Cloud account. It was a bit of a rocky start.

First, when I signed up I was told they’d call within 15 minutes to activate my account. Why they need to call when I’ve signed up for far more expensive things without a call I don’t know, but it’s not a big deal. Except they don’t call. I fire up a chat session. I find out I’m #3 in the queue and will get a call shortly. Some time later I do. I wasn’t in a big hurry at the time, but in a day where most online purchases that can be fulfilled immediately are, it’s odd.

Second, the knowledge base is not as complete as Slicehost. For instance, when I looked up installing MySQL + PHP, I got a message saying that article wasn’t available.

Then I realized I could just restore a tar of my other server, so I did that.

But that left DNS, so I went to make those entries. Yikes! No edit button. No duplicate button. CNAMES require the full domain, not just the subdomain. This is gonna be a LOT of typing compared to Slicehost. So I figure I must be missing something and go to the forum (as the KB doesn’t have much) to learn what it is that I’m missing. I mean, I only have a dozen domains – surely the folks with lots and lots of them would be going nuts with this simplistic interface.

<rant>

Why is it that EVERY software or service company that has a forum requires you to register SEPARATELY from the account you used to buy their product?

</rant>

So I get into the forum and I’m very puzzled. I find that there is exactly one post. After a while I realize that there is no ‘Post New Topic’ button, and I figure my account must not be activated yet. But I can’t find anything saying so. I check my email. I check my answering machine. I check my driveway for a telegram delivery guy. Nothing.

Out of curiosity I read the one post I can see – Posting Guidelines. I expect to read the usual boilerplate, which is there, but at the top it says that if I can see only one post I should open a live chat session and get my account activated. I would have thought this would be automatically requested when I created my forum account. I guess not.

I open chat. My wait time is 13 minutes. Then a message shows up apologizing for the extended wait time, and suggesting I should open a service ticket. So I open a ticket. The text there says that if I want service quickly, I should open a chat window and mention the ticket number. Sure enough, I try chat later and after a wait I get my account activated.

I do a search for DNS edit, and find several posts from people asking about how to edit & duplicate DNS records. From March of 2009. Then I find out that they don’t allow TXT records, which are required to make an SPF record.

A few deep breaths later, and I realize that I don’t need to do my DNS with Cloud, I can do it with GoDaddy, which has a pretty darn functional interface, allows everything under the sun, and I realize I should have been doing this stuff there to begin with.

Once the DNS stuff got sorted out, and my server tarball was unpacked, all was well. I can’t tell a bit of difference between the performance of the Slicehost and Cloudserver servers, except for me the Cloudserver is a lot cheaper. Since both are owned by Rackspace, I suspect they may actually be the same server.

I’m happy I’ve made the choice, and if you’re looking for virtual private server capacity, give Cloud a look.

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