Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Inexpensive and Powerful VPSs

Major Cloud Services

Whenever I look around online at premium cloud services, such as Amazon's AWS or Microsoft's Azure, I always feel like a kid at a candy store. All the cool stuff like cloud computing, cloud storage, media services, and more are there. I have experimented with both of these major cloud services and found them very fast and very powerful.  However, these services do cater to the corporate world, so the prices are more like what you would find in a more expensive department store than in a candy store. So, as an individual, I am like a kid in that department store, turning out his pockets but not finding quite enough change to buy that desired toy.

The Dime Store

When I was a kid, there were stores called "dime stores". They were "mom and pop" stores that were like a general store, or a convenience store that stocked many necessities, but they also had an aisle full of cool stuff for kids. Need a sling shot or engines for your model rocket? You could find it at the dime store. They had a lot of neat things that didn't cost that much. You could bring your change that you've been saving up to the dime store and come home with treasure.

Now days, the dime store is extinct. Sure, we have "dollar stores" today, but they are not the same. Dollar stores are essentially chain stores full of industrial waste from China.


There are VPS and cloud services out there that do cater more to the "little guy". One of my favorites is DreamHost. DreamHost has had VPS offerings for a while now and they are reasonably priced as long as you keep your memory allocation small. It makes it possible to run decent higher performing websites and web applications without breaking the bank.

However, one disappointment I have with DreamHost VPS is the uplink speed (in relation to the server). My most recent uplink speed test with my DreamHost VPS showed that I was only getting about 30 Mb/s. This can be a limiting factor where scalability is concerned and for certain types of applications, including broadcasting.

There are some new VPS stores on the block however, and one of those is VPSDime (ah, the dime store is back!). For very low prices, they offer high memory VPS solutions. As long as you choose their Dallas or Seattle data center locations, you can also take advantage of SSD storage and a 10 Gb/s Internet connection. It almost seems to be too good to be true. However, I checked for online reviews and all seemed to be good, so I decided to try them out. So, for $14 per month, I got a VPS in the Seattle data center with a whopping 12GB of memory and 60GB of SSD storage. I also added a free "add on" called "Offloaded MySQL", which means your MySQL databases do not use up your SSD storage.

VPSDime does offer the CentOS 7 template that I am interested in, so I selected it for my VPS. Within a few minutes, my VPS was ready. One of the things I noticed right away was the SSD speed. Installing updates using YUM was extremely fast. Running "TOP" showed the available memory that I was expecting. So far so good.

The next test I ran was the speed test. I wanted to see that 10 Gb/s connection in action. I ran the speed test a few times and I was getting uplink speeds between 300 and 400 Mb/s, which is more than 10 times of what I get with my DreamHost VPS. Very impressive, indeed.

One thing to keep in mind however with VPSDime VPS is that it is un-managed. This means that you are not going to have those "one-click" installs that you have with a managed server, like you would have with DreamHost. You can opt for some managed capabilities with VPSDime if you pay more per month for one of the control panels that they offer. However, I am going to set up everything manually and save some cash.

Stay tuned for my next blog post when I start setting up this VPSDime server for running some Joomla websites. I can't wait. :)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

New "Worst Passwords" and Keeping Your Strong Passwords Safe

In the new list of 25 worst passwords, "password" moves from #1 to #2. The new #1 worst password is "123456". It is sound advice to not only use strong passwords (which contain a combination of letters, numbers and symbols), but to use different passwords for different websites.
Another really good reason to have different passwords for different websites is that you will know exactly what got hacked. Once a while back, I had the same password on Skype and GMail. It was a password that wasn't real strong, but I thought it was strong enough because it contained both letters and numbers. I was wrong. It was somehow hacked and posted on some website in another country. Fortunately, I was tipped off by a warning from a fellow software engineer in that other country before any major damage could be done. Having the same password for both, I could not know which site was the source of the hacking. Was my password hacked on Skype first, or was it GMail?
As computers get faster and more sophisticated, it is more important than ever to keep passwords unique and strong. Of course, SplashData recommends their product, SplashID Safe, to keep track of your passwords so that you don't have to rely on your "wet computer" to remember all those strong passwords. However, I also recommend KeePass which allows you to categorize your passwords. It also works well with having the password file saved in your cloud space and shared among more than one device. For instance, if you add a password on one device while you have your password file open on another device, you can still add a password on that other device and save it. It detects that the file was modified and merges the changes made by both devices so that you don't lose any added passwords.
It also has another nice feature where you can double click to copy your password to the clipboard and paste it into the password field of a website or application without revealing what your password is. It automatically removes the password from your clipboard after a specified number of seconds (default is 12 seconds).  This comes in very handy when you are doing online presentations and need to copy/paste a password without revealing it to your audience.

Stay safe.