ServInt are the hosting providers we’ve been using since May 2008 – longer than any other since we started building websites back in January 2000. And we don’t plan on moving any time soon!
How did we end up with them? It’s a long story. We had an initial poor experience with Easyspace (very limited facilities, with charges for very basic extras – and for transferring domains away). Magic Moments and their successors Host Europe were a little better, but didn’t offer much in the way of options and were unresponsive when it came to support. Initially good performance from MCHost degenerated gradually as their customer base outgrew their capacity. And our last hosts, BetterWebSpace, were very good – but the number, size and complexity of our sites grew to the point where we felt we needed a virtual private server (VPS), and BWS didn’t offer those.
A bit of research threw up ServInt as possible future hosts. As opinions of them seemed to be generally very favourable, we decided to go with them.
The package (their minimum Essential package) didn’t seem excessively expensive: $49 per month, which was about half as much again as we were paying for our existing hosting. For that we got 500 GB of bandwidth, comfortably more than we were expecting to have to use across all our sites for the foreseeable future. The amount of disc space on offer was similarly generous, though to be honest I can’t remember how much exactly that was now – these days the emphasis is on server performance rather than size. (These days, your $49 gets you 60 GB of storage, 1 TB of bandwidth, 768 MB guaranteed RAM and 1.5 GB of burst RAM.)
When we signed up, their servers were based in Langley, Virginia, just a few hundred yards down the road from CIA headquarters. These days they also have data centres in California and Europe.
And if you’re concerned about environmental issues, ServInt have a solid record there – they’re actually carbon-negative, reforesting at a greater rate than the carbon their activities are releasing into the atmosphere.
The control panels
We were offered the choice of two widely used control panels: Plesk and cPanel. As we’d been on hosts using cPanel since 2004, it seemed natural to have that installed.
cPanel comes with WHM – Web Host Manager – as the master control panel for all the cPanel accounts on the server (one account per website). We were already familiar with WHM from our days running a so-called “reseller account”, which is a common way of running several websites on the same server. However, WHM on our new VPS offered far more facilities than we’d been used to – quite a bewildering number, in fact!
In addition, there’s a control panel for the server: Virtuozzo Power Panels, which has since been renamed Parallels Power Panel (PPP). There’s relatively little to master on this panel, which was fortunate – ServInt advised us to use it rather than WHM to perform basic server operations such as rebooting.
Ease of set-up
Everything seemed to go quite straightforwardly – helped by a comprehensive manual.
ServInt’s servers are based on the familiar LAMP framework – Linux operating system, Apache HTML server, MySQL database server, PHP dynamic page pre-processor.
To a great extent you can configure the server software as you want it, by installing any additional modules you need to run the applications you choose to power your websites. This may seem a bit daunting at first, especially if you’re not used to having so much control over your server space. But the process is generally easy enough, and there are plenty of instructions on how to install modules on the Web.
The one thing that was holding us back from moving to a VPS was the worry about being able to deal with technical problems. After all, if you have full control of your part of the server, then to a large extent presumably you’re responsible for maintaining it.
That’s not a problem with ServInt. Their VPSes are fully managed, so although you get to fiddle around and tweak as much as you like, in practice their support staff are there to pick up the pieces if you unwittingly do something silly.
So what happens when things do go wrong? In four years, we’ve had occasions when they do (though the number has gone steadily downwards). The answer is: put in a ticket. The problems are usually resolved very quickly, with a technician almost invariably assigned to deal with the problem within an hour.
The technicians are of a high calibre, too – not call-centre fodder whose primary task is to fob off time-wasters. Quite the opposite, in fact: on a couple of occasions they’ve intervened to stop potential problems becoming real ones.
We’ve been very happy indeed with the level of service from ServInt.
I suppose the best indicator of our views on ServInt is the fact that we’re still with them after more than four years and are happily recommending them to our friends and business contacts. $49 a month is perhaps more than many businesses might consider necessary, especially if they’re only running one website. But if you’re running several large and well-visited sites, and a reseller account is starting to collapse under the strain, then ServInt could be exactly what you’re looking for.