Published: 31.03.2021 | Edited: 31.03.2021 | Tags: 100daystooffload

VPS opinion: Contabo

Linode was my first choice as a VPS for at least 8 years by now. Back then when I started purchasing virtual server instances there weren't so many choices as there are today. Today, it looks like everyone who does something remotely associated with computers offers Virtual Private Servers (VPS), or just cloud if they do not want to bother the customer with the technical mumbo-jumbo too much. Yeah, just call everything cloud, it will definitely cause less confusion, whatever.

I mean, 8 years ago is no that long, but the industry moves still faster and the rapid acceleration was started by the social distancing and the massive demand for the digital content it brought in. I have also had an opportunity to manage some instances over on the Azure. Sure, it is a giant backed by a huge company. But I did not like it. There were simply too many switches and icons for my taste. Maybe there already was or at least now is a command line interface for Azure that would allow me to spin up a storage, an instance, a container or anything else related, but I have used Azure three years ago and I remember I had to do many clicks for everything, the classic microsoft-esque way. Also, the Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) was not considered a stable release back then, so there weren't too much opportunities for Microsoft to promote CLI tools. As a side note, the sable release was announced in 2019 as WLS2.

The other aspect of the Azure is the price. It is not cheap at all, quite the opposite. Sure, there are customers that are fixated to the biggest vendors on the market, be it software or hardware. I have natural aversion against Microsoft for a very long time, so my view on the subject is definitely skewed really bad. Take this with a (rather big) grain of salt. My option on Azure persists as a product that many use but not many enjoy using. Still, if you are in the game for the money, this is definitely one of the worthwhile investments.

Enter Contabo

I have stumbled upon the Contabo VPS provider in the Arch wiki VPS page, mentioning it as the only place to get 400GB for 6 EUR, the statement that immediately caught my attention. The reasons were twofold. First, I am running Linode for personal projects and the Linode for 5 EUR offers 25GB of storage. It is not too little, but also nothing really to brag about. Also, the storage there is the limit a keep hiting the most, not the RAM or CPU power. Secondly, I am considering running a Peertube instance and videos take considerable amount of storage.

My experience with the Contabo so far is quite mixed. From the technical point of view, spinning up an Arch instance (I use Arch btw) really took just a few clicks during the ordering phase. The admin interface that greets me is a little bit rusty and does not provide many features, but also everything important is present, including multi-factor authentication (2FA). It reminds me of Namesilo - the domain registrar.

The pricing has a quirk that is clearly presented on the ordering page, but still present. I am required to pay for the initialization the price roughly equivalent of the monthly running fee. This means the experience is quite different from the Azure or Linode - you can spin new instances on demand, without initialization cost there, which promotes experimenting. On Contabo, one should either have a plan in mind or a deeper pocket.

The monthly prices are very welcome on the other hand. I am not sure how there could be so much more RAM, CPU and storage available, and users on Reddit speculate that they could be possibly overselling, because the math does not add up too much. But the service is definitely working for a hobby / non-critical projects for many people.

The affiliate program the offer is something I cannot wrap my head around. I have tried to join multiple times, but there is simply too much work just to be enrolled. It requires to fill up multiple forms, each consisting of a plethora steps and questions. For now, I have given up. But the rewards they claim to offer for promoting them successfully are still tingling somewhere in the back of my head, so I might give it a try once more.

The last thing is a customer service. I had an invoicing question: Can I fill my VAT ID somewhere? As it turned out, it is not readily possible. The option they offer is to create a separate, business account (it is possible to choose either personal or business account during registration). This requires using a different email address. Also, every email in the support thread is answered by a different person. To their defense, the responses come back quite fast, even during the evenings or weekends, so not too much problems here.

Yet the fact that there is no possibility to add/change/remove VAT ID in the administration interface really bothers me, as it is quite a commonplace these days. For instance Linode and Porkbun (another domain registrar) have this option nicely integrated. Contabo replied, that they se this as a "change of contact", yet I do not really understood what that meant, so keep this detail in mind.

To defend them further, they offered me a way to switch to the business account for once time only by signing a paper. Not too convenient, but I must say they really tried to be as helpful as possible to my wishes. I would not try to ask them for this option too often. The same probably holds for asking a refund. It is not an automated process there.

Conclusion

I would recommend Contabo for non-critical projects. Saves some bucks every month.

This is a 21th post of #100daystooffload.