I’ve been using Rackspace Cloud Sites for around six months now and decided it was time to do a full Cloud Sites review. I run about 10 sites with varying amounts of traffic – from 2000 uniques/ 4000 pagesviews per month to 500,000 uniques/ 1.2 million pageviews per month. The sites mainly serve text and images but with the occasional video tutorial.
I’ve had a good chance to try out the Cloud Sites service and my experiences are below:
Signup is very easy and I was up and running with 15 minutes. The main control panel is very clean and easy to navigate, performance is good and there are no slow loading pages.
Rackspace Cloud Sites supports both Windows Server/IIS/ASP.NET and Linux/Apache/PHP . You can mix Windows Server and Linux sites on a single account although you are not able to configure the setup such as the version of PHP etc (if you need to configure the setup you should consider Rackspace Servers).
Adding a site is relatively easy although it isn’t quite a clean as it could be since the interface caters for users setting up their own sites and for resellers setting up sites for clients (if you are setting up your own site just ignore the different ‘plans’ you are presented with as each site’s resources comes out of a single pool and there is no throttling of sites which breach their plan limits).
It only takes about 5 minutes to have the site up and provisioned and ready to go.
Rackspace Cloud Sites supports MySQL and SQL Server. There is no control over the version or setup of the databases, at time of writing MySQL 5 and SQL Server 2008 (Web version) are being offered.
MySQL databases are free whereas SQL Server databases cost $5 per 100MB and $10 for 200MB. The SQL Server pricing is definitely on the high side and the size is quite limiting.
Adding a database is a snap, once again the interface is clean and intuitive and the database should be ready within a couple of minutes. Databases are closely associated with sites so you will first have to select a site and then add a database in the ‘Features’ tab.
Once setup, databases can be administered using phpMyAdmin , Rackspace Cloud Sites provides a link to the phpMyAdmin although you will have to enter your login details to access phpMyAdmin. If you prefer using MySQL administration sorftware on your local PC (such as MySQL Administrator or MySQL Query Browser) you can connect to your database. If you are using SQL Server you will need to connect via SSMS.
Monitoring / Reporting
The monitoring and reporting is quite limited. Only a single page of data is provided which provides data on the Bandwidth DiskSpace and Compute Cycles and gives a breakdown per site. However there is no costing information or a breakdown by date/time. Also no information on downtime, response time etc.
You will definitely need to monitor your sites by yourself and should subscribe to third party services such as Pingdom.
Tooling is very limited and you will need to write your own routines or utilize third-party tools (Rackspace Cloud has a listing of third-party tools on the site).
Backup is a major omission, the files are backed up and available on FTP for download. There are several backups made per day and they are available for a month, however the timing of the backups cannot be configured. Importantly there is no backup for databases and you will need to backup up your databases by writing a cron (crons are supported) or using a third party tool.
Looking at the response times of my sites (previously they were hosted on mid-spec’d dedicated box at Server Beach) they are very comparable at approx 500ms load time. I noticed some timeout issues when I first migrated to Rackspace Cloud Sites , I contacted support and they informed me that another account was running some long running queries which slowed down the cluster (really thought they would be implementing more rigorous resource throttling) but this got sorted out very quickly.
Email and live support is free (unlike with Amazon) and the quality and responsiveness was excellent. Live support was available within 5 minutes and emails were normally turned around within 2-6 hours. All problems were dealt with (although in truth I didnt have many complex requests).