Storm On Demand Review & $75 Coupon (Expiration Date: 10/15/2010)

To be frank, 2009 for me was the worst hosting nightmare I have ever had. The whole year.

My hosting problems were dragging me down… they had an acute effect on the quality of my life.

I was with a very popular VPS provider for most of it. You would know them, I have even mentioned them in the past on this blog, and I am not going to drag them through the coals because ultimately I am not a server jockey.
I know people who are server jockeys, or who are programmers but extremely competent server admins that would no doubt do very well with them.. and that includes some friends who do use them.

I also strongly believe that most people who succumb to their advertising, or that of their affiliates are not server jockeys either, and will end up being hacked because of it. I have even seen some of their very prominent supporters hacked recently.

I was running 5 nodes, had set the server up myself with a nice Nginx reverse proxy with Apache, memcached, APC etc.
Whilst I had done it before, I didn’t go the “whole hog” with full Nginx, PHP recompiled with php-fpm etc.

I was also using a great WordPress caching plugin which allowed for fragment caching though it doesn’t seem to be updated as often as it was.

For a guy who wasn’t a server jockey I had a fast server – tinkering consumed hours of my time, but I am a geek and at that time I was enjoying it.

It was great – page loads were reported by Pingdom sometimes below 1 second (though I have been told than Nginx doesn’t handle disk fragmentation very well, and Pingdom doesn’t tell the whole truth)

Then I was hacked.

But whilst I could clean up the damage fairly well, I had to roll back more than 1 day because the backup wasn’t available for some reason. I think they rolled back 3 days.

Then I decided to also pay a fee for one of their techs to migrate me to my own server and fix the security if they could see any holes. There were also a few things that just weren’t working how they should be.
They were meant to fix the email server but didn’t – they somehow broke PHPMyAdmin and the server was locking up every 1.5 to 3 days.

If I was a server jockey I could probably have fixed it, but I am not, and never intend to be one.

It got to the stage that even friends stopped informing me that my server was down – it became a normal situation. Sad…

Then my server was hacked again.

So I payed someone a fair amount of money for server maintenance, that then became a drain on their resources such that they just couldn’t handle the response, and it turned out that they were already moving their clients away from my host.

I then had a whole week offline… well that is what I remember of it. There were probably times when my server was online, but though my memory is hazy from confusion I think my hosting was DDOSed 3 times in a week.

And when everyone else was back up and running, I wasn’t… and the support was saying to wait.. be patient… so I was for 24 hrs with a dead server in the middle of an affiliate product launch.

It turned out I had been null routed upstream.

So it was decided that I would need to migrate along with other clients to an alternate VPS. There were a couple of choices that could be supported immediately with pre-built optimized secure images… but the migration dragged on.. and on.

Ultimately whilst the server maintenance guy was a real expert, the level of support I needed so that I could just get on with making money was too much for what I was paying.

So along comes January 2010 and I have had enough.

I woke up one morning and decided to bite the bullet and migrated everything to a Liquid Web Shared hosting account. Well… not everything, they had some strange limitations on domains, and some lack of flexibility I was used to on other shared hosting, but I wanted a shared hosting plan that wasn’t over sold, as this site can occasionally get some traffic, and at times I can get adventurous with my plugins.

Liquidweb had already announced the beta of their new Storm On Demand service – my plan was to migrate to Storm as soon as I was accepted into their beta.

Within a week or so that happened – migration from one server to another took me just a couple of hours, and Liquidweb even offered me a nice deal fairly similar to the coupon you are receiving now.

In some ways it seems to be more expensive than other VPS services, but this is how my costs break down.

$50 is the basic service for a whole month
$20 covers Cpanel and support – the same level of support they provide their dedicated hosting clients

On top of that I generally pay about $10 for backups and $10 for bandwidth.

Storm On Demand – Downtime

I don’t have any downtime as far as I am concerned – I sleep at night

When I first started I did reboot the server once, while trying to work out why I couldn’t log into my WHM or reach my own blog – it turned out my variable IP address here in Poland had been flagged in IPTables.

Storm On Demand Downtime

Storm On Demand – Performance

I have seen complaints that a Storm on Demand server

  • Can’t take high load
  • Isn’t a cloud server as there is downtime when you resize

Lets address those points

High Performance

I am running a standard installation with the addition of APC which hasn’t been modified from default settings. I have opcode caching using APC and page caching set to use disk within W3 Total Cache.
I haven’t got W3 Total Cache fully configured, and currently only video is being served from a CDN.

For things like minify I am still occasionally using Autooptimize.

There is lots of room for improvement, but this server even now could probably take some reasonable hammering.

Cpanel is a system hog, but it comes with the full support package – the full support package is what allows me to sleep at night so it is a necessary evil.
As you will see later I am nowhere near capacity, everything runs in RAM.

You always have the option to go bare metal, clustered, hardware load balanced etc.

Vertical Scaling

I have seen complaints that if you want to resize your server there is downtime, and that somehow Rackspace is better.
With Rackspace you have exactly the same downtime for resizing, because it is handled in roughtly the same way. Reprovision on another server, move data which in my case is 10 GB+
That takes time.

If you want to be able to scale vertically, you have to really scale horizontally first. Have at least 3 servers, maybe 4 if you also need to be able to scale MYSQL servers to a higher capacity with no downtime.
But once you have that setup, you might as well just add a 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th server on the front end.

Storm have an API, but it is in beta and you need to request access.

Storm On Demand Speed

Your server has to be online to be fast.

I have no idea whether Storm is faster than competitors, but I haven’t been hacked in 6 months that I know of (touch wood) and I know of incidents with every other popular VPS service.

The best I can offer is some stats

Storm on Demand - Performance
If you click the image then you will get the full daily and weekly stats.

The funny thing is within those stats you probably won’t spot on which day I decied to switch to using wp total cache, or the days I had 1500 visitors instead of the usual 700.
There is hardly a difference – the server is never under any real load.

If some day I have a really busy day I will post some updates.

Storm On Demand Support

I have used Storm on Demand support for some really silly stuff such as fixing my IPTables or making small exceptions in mod_security (I had a blog post that used the word “select” too many times – seriously).

They have never expected me to do anything, always polite, alway there when I needed them

I haven’t tested them when something big happens because there hasn’t been anything catastrophic – when they wanted to migrate my server to new hardware they gave plenty of notice, and even asked when it would be most convenient.

I love their support system – they don’t automatically close tickets as soon as they have given an answer like some services… a reminder notification is sent through asking if everything is resolved, and whether the ticket can be closed, stating it will be closed in 24 hrs if no response.

I realise that tickets can always be reopened, but the difference from a “feel good” caring perspective is psychologically different.

My Biggest Complaint About Storm On Demand?

They don’t currently have an affiliate program – this review currently has no affiliate links though it may do in the future, but only if it would allow you to have the same deal as is currently available.
If I had to make a chice between offering a coupon, or making some money – I would offer the coupon.

This review was prompted by Liquidweb sending a coupon that could be shared with friends, so I decided to share it with my friends, my readers. In a number of places I have already written about how happy I am with Liquidweb & Storm on Demand, I suppose posting it on my blog makes it official.

Knowing my luck everything will go downhill from now… it has happened without fail the previous times I have suggested to friends that I like a particular hosting company. Maybe this will be 3rd time lucky.

Storm On Demand $75 Coupon

Have $75 Free On Me!

From: Andrew Beard

Expiration Date: 9/15/2010
(This is not an affiliate link)

You do need to provide them with a credit card to cover overages and continued use. My choice would be to go for their Cpanel with support offering, so you would expect some overage from bandwidth and backups even the first month.
If you went with their bare metal offering, the coupon might cover bandwidth but no guarantees.

Why Not Shared Hosting

Just look at the number of files I have on my server, and I am hardly pushing it – that comes from all the caching plugins, additional backups etc.
I really should use this server for a lot more sites.

Shared hosting just can’t cope effectively with it – 10+GB of small files, an it is best to have space to make a full backup.

If I had a traffic surge either one I created from a launch or a popular article, the server would just blow up.

Why Not Dedicated or XYZ VPS or ABC Cloud

You won’t get a similar performing dedicated server with this level of support for anywhere near the same price point.

I think you would be really hard pushed to do it with any VPS plan as well. It might be different if I was using a lot more bandwidth, but then I would offload static content to a CDN, so I seriously doubt bandwidth cost would ever become a major factor.

If I have a server problem I know I can just submit a support ticket to get it fixed – most places even with “good” support the best you would get is suggestions about how you should fix it yourself.

So there you go, that is why I am currently using Storm on Demand, and as far as I know the $75 coupon is the best deal currently available.

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