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  1. #1

    [Review] PhotonVPS - 2 Weeks in

    Just passed the 2-week mark with PhotonVPS on a Beam 1 account. I selected them for pricing + features (as compared to my current VPS host - Lunarpages).

    Pricing - Grade: B+
    I didn't do an exhaustive price/feature comparison, or a ton of research here, but PhotonVPS' pricing seems to be pretty competitive.

    Provisioning - Grade: B
    This wasn't quick, about 12 hours, but I did start the transaction on a Sunday evening, so I wasn't expecting an instant start. After about 2 hours I sent an email to support asking for an ETA. They responded within a few minutes, but with a very generic:

    Thank you for contacting support team
    you will get the wel come mail soon
    Please wait for our reply.
    Thank you for your pateince.
    A few minutes later, the source of the delay may have surfaced: I selected Ubuntu 10.10 64 bit w/CPanel and according to PhotonVPS, this is not supported:

    We have seen that you have selected os ubantu 10.10 64 bit and cpanel.
    But cpanel does not work on ubantu but it works on centos.
    You can select os centos 5 32 bit or 64 bit.
    Please reply so we can proceed.
    OK, no problem, Centos is fine. It's about 9pm PDT at this point, so I'm not expecting the VPS to be available until the following morning. I don't have the exact time it was provisioned (I deleted the email notification after recording the relevant info as it had passwords in plain text, etc.) but it was online and waiting for me around 8am.

    Documentation - Grade: C-
    Their documentation is pretty thin. Granted, managing a VPS Linux server is fairly straightforward (and Google is your friend!), but I was expecting a more thorough knowledgebase and introduction to their systems. Their knowledgebase has 5 articles, and instructions for logging into their OpenVZ environment plans are provided on a separate Wordpress-powered blog (vps-tutorial.com) which is not very robust. To be fair, it looks like it was started in Jan 2011, but aside from a tag at the top of the screen, there's no branding or other info indicating that this is an official part of PhotonVPS. In the client portal on the main PhotonVPS site, the latest news announcements are dated from 2009. I imagine other things have happened since then.

    Support - Grade: B-
    Support on PhotonVPS is handled through email. The first 2 tickets I submitted were handled fairly promptly, and aside from typos or grammatical issues (possibly non-english speaking provider?) they were handled without incident. My third ticket had me wondering about the competency of their Tier 1 support. About a week and a half in, I noticed that my cron jobs were not running at the time they were scheduled, instead they were executing +13 hours from the server time. Long story short, it took many email exchanges over the course of five days to convey this problem and to get them to resolve it. For some reason (perhaps a language barrier?) it took over a dozen emails to get them to understand the above problem, including questioning me on how I knew the jobs were running at the wrong time. After pointing out the evidence in the crontab and log files (twice!) they finally escalated the ticket to Tier 3 and it was addressed shortly thereafter. Hopefully future issues will not require so much back and forth to resolve.

    Speed - Grade: Still testing
    I'm not ready to evaluate fully just yet, as I can't determine if some of the latency/slowness I'm seeing is a problem on my local network, website programming inefficiencies or actual provider issues. WHM/CPanel response isn't snappy, but I've not used it on many other providers. Basic behavior I see from both my work connection (multiple T1) as well as home (cable) when clicking any links in WHM/CPanel is 5-10 seconds delay between clicking a link and the actual page loading. Same goes for several Drupal-based websites I am running on this VPS, but not with every click. It almost feels like there is some lag in resolving names/urls, and once that is done, response is fairly snappy, but I'm not an expert in evaluating provider speed/throughput. I see similar response delays while working in the console as well. Part of me wonders if there some sort of connection time-out happening, and the delay is the re-establishment of that connection. Any suggestions on how to test/troubleshoot this would be welcome.

    Bottom line:
    If you are new to VPS hosting, you may want to go with a provider that has more robust online documentation and a well-established community. Aside from the nicely designed front end, the backside of PhotonVPS looks to be barebones, which seems to in line with their competitive pricing. My main reason for jumping from Lunarpages (who I love and recommend to many clients) was pricing/features on the VPS platform. Having not worked with many other hosting providers on VPS solutions, I don't have as wide a scope of experience to provide a basis for comparison, but PhotonVPS seems to offer a nice set of features at a competitive rate. Their live support, while responsive, may be a challenge to work with on complex issues, especially if you are not able to easily describe your issues in an email.

    I'll follow up with another review at the close of 3 months, assuming I am with them at that point (likely at this point, despite the latest support issue).

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Posts
    74
    Nice review!

  3. #3
    Great review, very detailed.
    Thanks

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Location
    Los Angeles, CA
    Posts
    1,513
    Thanks for the review! Glad we met your expectations just hoped we could have done better.

    Documentation - This is something within our road map. If anyone has questions they are welcome to send an email to our support team.

    Support - We have many level of tier for support. The lower tier are obviously not going to be more competent compare to someone in the higher tier, ex. Tier 1 versus Tier 3. We welcome everyone to escalate their issues to a higher level or get management involved if their support issues are not resolved.

    Speed - OpenVZ is not the greatest platform to test your speed. The spikes are there from abusive users along with the burstable feature. We recommend going Xen for a more solid speed and stability.

    For the overall priced we believed we have exceeded most of industry standard.

    If you have any problems feel free to contact me and I'll be glad to get a solution that suits your needs.
    Psychz Networks - Dedicated Servers, Co-location | GigePipe - High Bandwidth Servers | PhotonVPS - SSD Cloud
    True Layer 7 DDoS Mitigation | BGP Optimized by Noction Intelligent Routing | Asia-Pacific Low Latency Routes
    Los Angeles, CA (US West) | Dallas, TX (US East) | Ashburn, VA (US East)

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Chicago, IL
    Posts
    652
    There is nothing wrong with ticket support, just as long as they are prompt -- sounds like they are. Keep in mind just because you don't receive an immediate response doesn't mean they are not working away. Ticket's are nice because they allow the tech support time to do their job while you can relax and see the active ticket.

    I'll look forward to that 3 month review, time is the true test of any provider!

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