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Fasthosts Cloud Server review

Fasthosts delivers clustered Hyper-V cloud servers for maximum uptime

Servers
Price
From £16 per month ex VAT
  • Guaranteed high availability; Simple server creation; Choice of OSes; No minimum contract; Fast verification callback
  • Large cloud servers comparatively expensive

Business may be spoilt for choice when it comes to picking a cloud server hosting service, but reliability isn’t so easy to gauge. Formed in 1999, Fasthosts is one of the UK’s largest hosting providers and aims to stand out from the cloud server crowd by offering a guaranteed 99.99% uptime.

To achieve this, Fasthosts has built a completely new cloud platform based around Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V high availability clusters. Each cluster is made up of sixteen Dell PowerEdge servers each equipped with dual 8-core Ivy Bridge processors and a meaty 256GB of RAM.

Each cloud server runs within a designated cluster and if any physical server fails, Fasthosts will migrate it to another cluster member. Clusters use enterprise-grade SSDs provisioned using Microsoft’s Storage Spaces and Fasthosts manages the whole kit and caboodle with Windows System Center 2012.

Fasthosts offers compensation in the event of server downtime, with the exception of scheduled maintenance. If downtime is shown to be due to any of its service components, you’re entitled to claim back one day’s service fee for every hour of downtime.

Deployment

All this wonderful infrastructure is completely transparent as servers are provisioned and managed from the standard Fasthosts customer portal using the Cloud Server administration panel. We found them very easy to create as we used the slider bars to choose the amount of processor cores, RAM and disk space.

For the OS Fasthosts offers Windows Server 2012 R2, free CentOS 6/7 and Ubuntu 12.04/14.04 LTS Linux distributions. If you opt for Windows or Ubuntu, you can also add the Plesk 12 management software. 

We plumped for Windows and were offered a good range of add-ons. We could upgrade the network connection to Gigabit Ethernet, add extra IP addresses, enable the optional daily backup service and have SQL Server 2014 preinstalled.

Call me

The Fasthosts dashboard provided a running tally on costs so we could easily see what we were spending. The next step requires a little patience as Fasthosts will not make the server available until it has called you back to verify your details.

Fasthosts told us that it does this for security reasons to ensure the servers are not being used for nefarious purposes such as spamming. After our order was completed, the dashboard advised us a representative would call back within the hour on the number specified in our account.

Fasthosts was true to its word. After ordering our first cloud server, we were called back 30 minutes later. The representative asked us to confirm our identity and address, asked what the server was for and then made it available 5 minutes later.

We tested responses by creating two more servers and in both cases they were ready for use inside 25 minutes. Night owls needn’t worry as Fasthosts says its call back service runs 24/7.

Ground control

On first contact with a new server, the portal displays its login details along with default passwords. Fasthosts doesn’t store these details so once you’ve viewed the screen and recorded the details, it will ask you to confirm removal of this page.

The portal listed all our cloud servers, their current status and assigned IP addresses. From the Manage panel, we loaded up an analytics page which revealed CPU, memory and network utilisation graphs ranging from the last 24 hours to 30 days.

The monitoring service is passive as Fasthosts doesn’t offer custom alerting facilities. 1&1’s Dynamic Cloud Server, for example, allows us to create monitoring policies with processor, memory and storage thresholds. If any of these are exceeded, then email alerts will be sent. 

All remote access is via Microsoft’s RDC. We had no problems with it and found response times to be very good. Firewall policies can also be applied to groups of servers to control access for specific protocols, ports and services.

Uptime and price comparisons

As long-term 1&1 customers, we were able to directly compare Fasthosts Cloud Server and 1&1 Dynamic Cloud. We tested the Fasthosts service for two months and during this time we had no problems with our cloud servers. That said, our 1&1 dynamic cloud servers have been up and running for over a year and haven’t let us down yet.

Prices for minimal specifications are in line with 1&1. A Fasthosts server with 1 virtual CPU, 1GB of RAM, a 50GB SSD and Windows Server 2012 R2 costs £20.59 ex VAT per month whereas 1&1 will do the same for £19.99 per month.

Move up to larger specifications and Fasthosts gets pricier. Requesting 8 virtual CPUs, 16GB of RAM, a 500GB SSD and the Windows OS brought the total for Fasthosts to £319.59 per month. Specifying the same package from our 1&1 control panel gave us a total of only £218.80 per month.

Conclusions

1&1’s Dynamic Cloud Server service is more versatile as it offers a pay-per-minute billing scheme and extra features such as shared storage, load balancers and active monitoring. However, Fasthosts Cloud Server is just as easy to deploy and manage and although it can be more costly, we think the extra outlay is worth it to get that guaranteed uptime for your business-critical apps.

Verdict 

If you can’t afford any downtime for your cloud servers then Fasthosts and its guaranteed availability is worth the extra outlay.

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