For $20/mo, I get a virtual server (using Xen, which is conceptually like VMware if you’ve heard of one but not the other) with 360MB of RAM, 10GB of disk, 200GB of monthly bandwidth, a true remote console, and full root access. There’s no CPU or I/O limiter; you’re expected to play nicely but you can burst to the capacity of the hardware (which in my case is a dual quad-core Xeon shared with 39 other Linodes; the bigger Linodes have fewer neighbours). You choose your data centre from three options, too — I’m in Dallas, 2.6 ms from FreshBooks’ servers. And they don’t oversell: there’s often a waiting list for a particular size virtual server, because if the current servers are full they just don’t sell any until they get more servers.
When I moved to Dreamhost, I’d been a sysadmin on a communal coloed box hosted by a friend, and that eventually turned into a drag due to unreliable hardware and unreliable users. I’d decided that I sysadminned enough during the day and that someone else could be my sysadmin. But I was never really happy with that; the web side of things was okaaaay, but not having control over the mail server was a pain, and having hardly any visibility of what MySQL was doing was annoying.
That’s solved now! I’ve moved all of our sites except the whistle forum to the Linode, and my and Candice’s mail is there too. It’s crazy fast compared to Dreamhost (especially IMAP), and I’ve got the flexibility to play with things; one weekend I installed four or five alternative webservers and load-balancers and switched between them, just to get used to their quirks before trying them out at the office, and then back to Apache again.
But what really won me over at Linode was service. It’s a small shop — there can’t be more than five or six employees, support tickets are addressed in minutes instead of days, the userbase is friendly to each other on the forums, and a bunch of senior staff including the owner all hang out on the support IRC channel. I ran into a weird issue once and was sharing my Munin graphs with him minutes later. Even though we never tracked down exactly what happened I’m completely confident in these guys.
They offer virtual servers from my little $20/mo one up to an $80 1.4GB-40GB-800GB/mo plan. They’ve got no referral programs or discount codes; just great performance and great service, and are a great place to dip your toes into system administration, finally get that personal colo box, or even set up a remote monitoring box for critical work-related services.
Ages ago I was doubtful about virtual servers, but that was when $20 only got you 60MB of RAM; now that you can run pretty much anything you’d want to, it’s working out great.