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December 9, 2014

Moving from RapidVPS to Digital Ocean

One Saturday morning a month ago my VPS stopped accepting mail. It looked like my server had run out of disk space, but deleting files didn’t seem to make any difference. (Delete some stuff, run df, find myself still at 100%. Grrr.) I opened a ticket with RapidVPS, and it took them a few hours to figure out that the physical server hosting my VPS had run out of disk. Not good!

I liked RapidVPS [1]. For years I’ve been paying $14.34 a month for a VPS with 7 gig of disk space, but nowadays you can find better deals with providers that give you more features. RapidVPS made the classic mistake of any company that hasn’t kept up with competitors: reminding a customer that they have other choices.

Digital Ocean is one of those competitors. Last spring they had a promotion where they gave $50 credit for signing up. They make it trivially easy to create and destroy VPSs, and you only pay for the time the server is up.[2] Digital Ocean’s cheapest server is $5 month, so bringing up a server or two for a few hours costs a few pennies.

Back when I signed up with RapidVPS in 2007, I had to pick a Linux distribution. CentOS had a good reputation, and CentOS 5 had recently been released, so that’s what I went with. The nice thing about CentOS is they support releases forever, which is good because upgrading CentOS is a pain; you basically have to reinstall the OS from scratch. Seven years later I’m on CentOS 5.11.

I’ve been thinking about upgrading for the past couple of years. The big thing that has been holding me back is setting up email again. Running your own email server is quite doable if you’re willing to do the sysadmin work, but it’s still a lot of things to set up: spam filtering, IMAP, webmail if you want it .. and if your server goes out for any reason, as mine did a month back, you’re really in trouble [3]. Making it worse, I’d done all my setup in EXIM, but EXIM packages were not available in the EPEL repo last time I looked[4]. I was looking at moving to PostFix .. but that made the barrier even higher. I actually got as far as setting up Postfix and IMAP on a Digital Ocean VPS, but the prospect of setting up and training spam filters again didn’t look like much fun.

In the end, I decided to pay FastMail to handle that problem for me. $40 dollars takes care of email for an entire year; that’s $3.33 a month, and it’s run by sysadmins who are paid to make sure it stays up[5].

Even without email, I still have a few services on my server - including this blog, so I went ahead and set up a new server on Digital Ocean. I was planning to upgrade to CentOS 6, but I delayed long enough that CentOS 7 was released, so I went with that.

The last thing I brought up was this blog. I’ve let the poor thing sit there for too long. Time to start using it again.

Welcome back to me.

  1. I even wrote a post 6 years ago about how much I liked them, but the world has moved on.  ↩

  2. This is in sharp contract to RapidVPS. I was hoping to be off their service before the monthly bill on the 3rd. On the 7th I told them to shut the server down, and asked if they prorated the bill. Not on cancellations, they said.  ↩

  3. For example, I was trying to make a change in my DNS, but I forgot the password to my DNS service. No problem - reset the password, which sends the reset message to … my email. Which was down.  ↩

  4. There are repos that have builds of EXIM, but it’s not part of EPEL, and I’ve had problems in that past enabling non-standard repos. Particular with dependencies. You ever go to upgrade your packages only to find a bunch of dependency conflicts. I have. You don’t want to.  ↩

  5. I’m a sysadmin, too. But $40 doesn’t buy that much of my time. It’s worth it.  ↩