This review of the 1and1 VPS ‘L’ package delves into some of the issues I have had with performance and website uptime, and what I tried to do to overcome these problems.
I should start by saying I think 1and1 internet are a decent hosting provider. Where I work, we have a number of VPS and dedicated servers which have experienced virtually no downtime and email and phone support have always seemed to be quick and helpful.
So when I decided to upgrade my shared hosting package to a VPS server for www.tomelliott.com and other personal sites (main reasons due to better speed and reliability), 1and1 seemed liked an obvious choice. I did shop around a bit to try and find the best deal on the market but soon arrived at 1and1, as their VPS Virtual Server ‘L’ seemed one of the best value systems when compared to equivalent packages elsewhere. I figured the ‘L’ server setup would be a suitable home for 2 low volume WordPress websites and this blog with a daily visit total of around 500.
At the time of writing, the 1and1 VPS L Linux server has 1GB (guaranteed) RAM, 50GB HDD, unlimited traffic and priced at £9.99 / month. A good deal I thought! So I transferred my sites and was initially happy with how fast everything seemed to be.
Almost immediately however, I started to notice occasional glitches with how long it took for the VPS to respond – before any of the request page started to load. It didn’t happen all the time and usually, the sites loaded very quickly.
External monitoring (via monitor.us) was setup from multiple locations to send me an email alert every 30 minutes if any of these sites were unresponsive for 5 seconds or longer. I was getting around 10 failures a day on average, for the 3 sites combined. This was frustrating, as we all know speed is everything these days. Greater speed = more visitors and, in many cases, better Google rankings. This blog, even though optimised for speed, was also getting a huge variation in Google’s Page Speed check – between 0 and 90%. Something was clearly wrong, so I emailed 1and1 support:
“I was unable to reproduce these extended load times when checked the websites, all completely loaded within 3 seconds. I would recommend running an MTR when you are experiencing the slow load times, or checking the logs on the server at these times to see if there is any indication of the extended load times.”
So then I discovered various frequently occurring yellow and red zone alerts in the VPS Virtuozzo control panel relating to kmemsize.
What was going on? Kmemsize I discovered is related to number of processes (numproc) and if it runs out, then the responses from the VPS can be delayed (sometimes for 10 seconds or more). Even though RAM and CPU usage on the server was very low, kmemsize errors still meant requests were not always being processed. So I emailed 1and1 to see if anything could be done, all the while thinking in the back of my mind that I’ll probably need to upgrade the 1and1 VPS.
Here are a few selected responses from 1and1. To be fair, they came back to me pretty quickly each time.
“If you’re hitting the kmemsize limit, you’d need to either attempt to optimize anything running on your server to make sure you aren’t hitting this limit, or upgrade to the next package up, which would increase all available resources on the server.”
I looked into services on Plesk I could turn off (the services switched on in Virtuozzo seemed essential). I deactivated DNS services and POP/IMAP which were all handled externally.
“Hitting the resource limits on a VPS when the site load is fairly low is typically caused by the services you mentioned, and turning them off should at least lower the frequency of resource limits being hit. If you have any further issues please let us know.”
Turning these services off in Plesk and restarting the container in Virtuozzo made no noticeable difference to kmemsize.. it quickly jumped backed to the red and yellow limits.
“Reaching the kmemsize limit is generally the result of a large number of processes running on the server. Usually, this comes from a high number of Apache processes due to high site traffic. If this is the case, your best option would be to upgrade your VPS to one of our larger packages that allows for more kernel memory usage.”
Although I suspected traffic usage may have been much of the cause, this was the first time it was mentioned by 1and1. I didn’t think ~500 visits a day should be back breaking for the 1and1 VPS ‘L’ server, but it was is their lowest VPS package after all and probably designed for low volume sites. So I enquired about kmemsize and numproc limits for the upgrade
“Yes, if you upgrade to the VPS XL or XXL these resources will increase as follows:”
The table above showed numproc and kmemsize limits available for all 1and1 VPS Linux packages, which is useful. I bit the bullet and decided to purchase the XXL package. Although I thought the XL package would be more than enough, I figured it would be good to have room to grow into (plus, it was on a 6 month 50% off offer). Although not entirely happy with the situation, I accept resources need to be limited on VPS systems as they are shared with other occupants.
Now I’ve been running this blog on the XXL package for a couple of weeks and I’m yet to have a single downtime alert. I have had not one kmemsize error and page speed scores seem to be fall reliably between 85 and 90%. The two sites left of the VPS ‘L’ package have had no more downtime alerts either (although kmemsize alerts are still appearing sporadically). This would seem to indicate that the 1and1 VPS ‘L’ package is operating on the edge of it’s limitations, even in a near idle state and a reasonably busy site can tip these resource limits of the server over the edge.
Perhaps I’m being picky, but I think it’s fair to expect a certain level of performance, or at least be given some sort of indication beforehand towards the kind of site different VPS packages are most suitable for. Speed is everything these days. If a web page doesn’t load within 2 seconds, there’s a reasonable chance visitors will jump elsewhere.
In summary; would I recommend 1and1 for VPS and dedicated server hosting? Absolutely. Would I recommend their ‘L’ package? Probably not, unless someone was operating on a tighter budget, had low traffic volume and resource requirements but still wanted the speed benefits of a VPS over a shared hosting solution.