Tag Archives: virtual

Review: South West Broadband – VPS Hosting

If you’ve been following my tweets lately, you’ll know that I recently moved GEEK! to a brand new VPS server. I did this for many reasons – but primarily because I felt that I was ready to move on from shared hosting and onto something where I’ll learn a little more about how webservers work. GEEK!’s been running well over three years now – and I’ve been through many web hosting providers during that time. I was beginning to get tired of hoping other people on shared servers wouldn’t jeopardize your uptime stats – there always seemed to be some kind of resource hog!

Nonetheless, I went on the hunt for a cheap-ish yet good quality VPS provider (I might have stayed with my old provider HostParcel as, in fairness, they were pretty good – but sadly they don’t offer VPS services) and was pointed to South West Broadband. They seem to be pretty new in VPS services, but I was interested in their good value and seemingly honest services.

So I signed up to their lowest price package to see what was what. For £8 a month, I was given a VPS with 256MB RAM (although I’m told this will soon become 512MB), 10GB storage, 300GB bandwidth and a Linux flavour of my choice (I was recommended to Debian). Pretty neat, I thought – and very good value nonetheless! They also offer a 12 month prepayment discount – giving you 12 months for the price of 10, if you’re happy to commit.

And to be totally honest, so far I’m really impressed. The customer support is superb – better than I’ve ever seen in a hosting provider. You get access to online support via Skype or a ticketing system – as well as an emergency telephone number which isn’t premium rate (this is something I really like to see).

The server they assigned me seems to work very well. You get full SSH access (which you’d expect) and you are allowed access to all the controls and commands that you’ll ever need. Response times from the server are incredible – from my college in Oxford I can get a response from the server just outside London in just 4ms – pretty darn good!

As for value for money – I’ve never seen such value. I’d always considered VPS services very expensive – but £8 a month is hardly expensive for the system you get.

So really I haven’t got many (if any) complaints. For decent value, high performance VPS servers with decent customer support, I couldn’t think of anywhere else to recommend you!

Oh, by the way – SWB aren’t actually offering their VPS packages on their website yet. However, if you contact them via twitter they seem to be happy to sort you out with a package. They also offer a decent range of shared and reseller packages, so if a VPS isn’t your thing, they’re bound to have something that is.

Which virtual host do you choose for virtual machines?

I find this to be a very difficult decision. There are quite a few pieces of software that will, essentially, do the same job. However I seem to believe that some are better than others.

In this post I’m going to try and show which piece of virtual machine software I prefer any why I like it.

If you’re looking for free software (which I generally do – who doesn’t?) you’ve basically got three choices – VMware Player, Microsoft Virtual PC (which seems to be getting outdated, but still works fine), and VirtualBox.

Here’s the order in which I would choose them:

  1. VirtualBox – I have to say I like VirtualBox the most. It’s fast and has a very tidy interface that is easy to use. I tried all three pieces of software on the same machine and it was noticeable that this piece of software was most responsive and most effecient – especially when using Windows guest machines. It doesn’t have the handy quick install feature that VMware has, but the speedy performance definitely makes up for that. Sadly it doesn’t support FAT32 file splitting, which is a shame if the hard drive you want to run it on is FAT32 as you wont be able to make virtual hard drives bigger than 4GB. However, I do think that it does work most efficiently and has the best interface.
  2. Microsoft Virtual PC – Despite the fact that Microsoft seem to be trying to phase this out (with the launch of XP Mode in Windows 7) it is still a very good virtual machine host. It not only has a clean interface, but it’s native virtual disk format supports FAT32 file splitting, so you’ll be able to run virtual hard disks on drives that run FAT32 without the 4GB file size limitation. However, I find it to be quite slow. Even when you are performing simple tasks (such as clicking the Start menu in the guest machine) it can take ages to respond. Also, it seems to be designed more for Windows guests, as it’s “Other” host option is very vague. I like Virtual PC more than VMware, but I’d still choose VirtualBox any day.
  3. VMware Player – This is my least favourite piece of software. Despite it being a very popular company who makes VMware Player, I still think it really isn’t up to regular virtual machine jobs. The main thing I can’t stand about VMware Player is the interface – I find it so clunky and unhelpful. I also find it the slowest of the three in terms of performance. It seems to cope pretty well with most operating systems, but the lack of speed makes VMware annoying at times. It does have the Easy Install feature – which is designed to make OS installation much more simple by automatically running through the process, but I’ve never found that particularly useful.

So there you go – if you want a decent, free virtual machine host I’d recommend VirtualBox to you.