Review: Cloud at Cost

Cloud at Cost Main Page Screenshot Cloud at Cost is a new company offering very low cost virtual servers. For their first 10,000 nodes, they’re offering a $35 one time setup fee to get a virtual server for life (of the company). There are additional $70 and $140 one time plans for slightly larger virtual servers, or the option for $1, $2 or $4 per month. I decided to give one of these virtual server plans a try. There were quite a few hickups. I wouldn’t say they’re production ready quite yet, but if you want a server to play around with, the price is right, and their services are certainly worth that price.

Their front website looks pretty well designed and it’s pretty obvious the cheap servers are a means for them to quickly raise a lot of initial capital. Once you get an actual account and login, the user interface is pretty bare-bones. Your root password is e-mailed to you in plain text. This wouldn’t be so bad as you can change it, but it’s also the password to get into the admin console for your VM and cannot be changed. It’s also in a disabled text input field so you can’t even select it to copy and paste it without modifying the website with Firebug.

I also noticed that if I rebooted my VM, it completely reset everything. At first I though it was actually erasing the VM, but it turns out only the configuration was being reset due to a provisioning script, /etc/rc3.d/S97-setup-run.sh, not being removed after installation. There was a notice on their support board indicating the problem. It had the wrong path listed (/etc/init.d/S97-setup-run.sh), but the support page did allow comments, so I posted a response correcting it.

Cloud at Cost Support Ticket Screenshot I assumed the company was Canadian as their rates were in Canadian Dollars, however the GeoIP lookup of my VM showed it to be in a Utah, disturbingly close to the infamous massive NSA data centre. I realize power for large endeavours in this region is much cheaper, which is most likely the reason for the location, but it’s still a little creepy. ( Update: Apparently I wasn’t using a good GeoIP service. According to the comments, a traceroute places the data centre in Canada) Other things I noticed were that there wasn’t a DNS interface, no IPv6 support and you don’t get a list of operating systems until you actually start to make your purchase. They have a very limited selection too: CentOS, Ubuntu LTS and Debian.

Their support also leaves a lot to be desired. I noticed the configuration issue and submitted a ticket. Although I discovered the solution on their support page and updated the ticket before they could respond, it’s still been several days and the ticket has not yet been closed. Also, their support ticket system does ask you for your VMs SSH user and password. Why would they even need this information? Other services like Linode simply offer support for making sure your VM environment is sound, but the operating system itself is always your responsibility. They shouldn’t even be asking for peoples’ passwords at all.

Using tespeed, I saw download speed peaking around 30MB/s and upload speeds averaging around 15MB/s, with a few results in the 25MB/s to 50MB/s range. The speed test also showed latency to be average around 70 ~ 90ms.

IP: 162.xx.xx.xx; Lat: 40.296800; Lon: -111.676100; ISP: Neighborhood ISP
Loading server list...
Looking for closest and best server...
Testing latency...
74 ms latency for http://speedtest.fiber.net/speedtest/ (Fibernet Corp, Orem, UT, United States) [1.98 km]
192 ms latency for http://vision.neighborhoodisp.com/speedtest/ (Neighborhood ISP, Orem, UT, United States) [1.98 km]
76 ms latency for http://speedtest1.veracitynetworks.com/speedtest/ (Veracity Networks, Provo, UT, United States) [2.74 km]
70 ms latency for http://speed1.sumofiber.com/speedtest/ (Sumo Fiber, Salt Lake City, UT, United States) [29.65 km]
91 ms latency for http://sto-utah-01.sys.comcast.net/speedtest/ (Comcast, Salt Lake City, UT, United States) [29.65 km]
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Upload speed: 5.66 Mbit/s

As far as the one time prices go, $35 for life seems like a good deal until you realize that at the monthly rate of $1, it would take 2.9 years for you to actually save any money. It’s the exact same with the $70 one-time vs $2 monthly for the second tier and the $140 vs $4 for the third tier. If you select the one-time price, you’re basically betting that the company will survive over three years and that you’d still be using them after that time.

So, just to recap, here are a list of issues I have with CloudatCost:

  • No IPv6 Support
  • No DNS Services
  • The company charged you in Canadian Dollars, yet the GeoIP of the data centre is in Utah, USA ( See comments below )
  • Limited Operating System Support (CentOS, Ubuntu LTS and Debian)
  • Supported distributions listed nowhere on the site until you go to purchase section
  • Configuration wiped on reboot (fixed)
  • Very slow support response times
  • Monthly plans are cheaper than one-time plans unless the company lasts longer than 2.9 years

The positive side:

  • Hosting plans are cheap
  • Download and Upload rates seem to top out around 30MB/s ~ 50MB/s

Overall, it’s a service that seems right for the price. Most services bank on people utilizing nowhere near all of their allocated VM space. Many will over provision nodes and keep the low-usage/idle VMs packed onto one cluster of servers and migrate other more highly utilized VMs onto more powerful servers. I suspect Cloud at Cost is banking on this underutilization for their initial influx of capital.

Cloud at Cost is a bare bones VM playground that is the right price for developers and those that like to tinker. It’s be a great landing zone for small scripts, scheduled tasks and development servers. However, for anything production grade other than basic monitoring services, I’d suggest using something a bit more reliable such as Linode.

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