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Servage hosting review

Quick facts

With servage.net you'll get 510 GB of space, 5010 GB/month of bandwidth, unlimited mailboxes and subdomains, a clustered servers environment, redundant network links, 1000 MySQL databases, full .htaccess support (mod_rewrite included), PHP/CGI/Python/Ruby scripting support with safe_mode disabled, CRON tasks and more.
All this good stuff at only $4.90 per month, if you enter the CRA100 coupon at signup time (that will give you a 24% discount). You can find more details about this offer at the coupons paragraph.

An extensive Review

This website is hosted by Servage, a major hosting provider based in Germany.
This page is meant to be an ongoing review of this hosting company: it will be updated periodically to reflect eventual changes in their quality of service.
What you will read on this page is a subjective analysis of Servage, based on my experience with them as a customer.
(page last update: 03/28/2008)

Let's start with the raw data

Servage offer loads of bandwidth (5010GB/month) and disk space (510GB) for an incredibly low monthly fee: $4.90/month or 4.80€/month or 3.50£/month, depending on where you live (prices valid when using the CRA100 coupon code that gives you an instant discount of $1.55, 1.55€ or 1£ per month respectively). First thing to note is that bandwidth is limited to 167GB/day, but even so it should be enough for any small-medium site. A good thing to know is that they do not enforce artificial restrictions on file sizes and the total number of files you are allowed to store. Additionally, every few days you stay with them, Servage will add 5MB of space to your account.
They support most scripting languages you can find on Linux hosts (PHP, CGI/Perl, Python, Ruby on Rails, SSI), the GD graphics library, CRON jobs, .htaccess Apache and PHP configuration (including mod_rewrite).

Domains and DNS

As an added bonus you can link unlimited domains for free to your account, and use unlimited subdomains (configured as virtual hosts). One domain is included for free in every account, if you want to have other domains you can register one with them (but this isn't cheap), or buy it somewhere else and change the DNS server records to Servage ones.
If you wish you can manually adjust the DNS records from the control panel. You can create/change A-records, CNAMEs, SFF and MX records.

Servage system overview

Hosting environment

Their hosting environment deserves some attention, since it is rather different from the ones you usually see on shared hosts.
They have a clustered servers system, whose structure is summarized in the picture you can see on the right (click to enlarge).
In practice: you site is not hosted on a single server, but is 'distributed' over a set of servers. This mainly means that if a server dies, your site won't become inaccessible because another server of the cluster will take over. 99.98% uptime is guaranteed, but it is unknown how they calculate it and the type of refund they give (if any) in case they fail to meet this goal.
A side effect of this special environment is that some changes to server configuration (such as enabling .htaccess support, or enabling/disabling safe mode) will take a couple of hours before becoming active on all servers.
Another side effect is the lack of detailed log files. Servage only provides some basic statistics on their control panel, but they are rather simple and not complete.

Database

Servage offers 1000 MySQL databases. You can choose to use MySQL 5 or 4 for each database you create. MySQL 5 databases can even be made accessible remotely. All databases can be created from their control panel and managed with the included phpMyAdmin.
MySQL databases on Servage are hosted on different machines from the ones that deliver scripts, which is usually a good thing since the requirements for a database server and a web server in terms of resources are generally rather different. However this slightly introduces some latency and in the past Servage MySQL databases were rather slow, with delays of almost 0.25 seconds between the request of execution of a very simple query and the results returned to the PHP engine. This fortunately seems to have been fixed definitely, since now databases are very responsive, with levels similar of those of most other hosting providers.
If you don't need a full featured relational database management system, you can also use SQLite which is installed with PHP 5 and enabled in Servage. This will let you have a free serverless database with great response times.

Speed and bandwidth

You know that Servage offers 167GB/day of bandwidth and you are probably wondering which are the download speeds and the response times. Let's test them yourself! I've filled two files of random data and uploaded it to this site - 1MB and 5MB - try downloading one of them and compare the speed you get with the average speed of your line. Then open a command prompt and run ping toolshape.com
I get an average of 364KB/s and 35ms (my ADSL line is capable of 500KB/s maximum). I believe these speeds are not extreme but acceptable.
Keep in mind that Servage servers are located in Europe, so expect some variability in ping if you live overseas.
The amount of bandwidth consumed is measured precisely (if you have a huge file and one of your visitors starts downloading it and then abort the transfer after a few seconds, Servage will count only the amount that was actually transferred).

Support

They claim to be available 24/7/365 and respond within 30 minutes: this seems to be the case. Support representatives are very polite and write in good English. Not always their first answer is immediately 100% related to what you asked, but with your subsequent clarification they get it right. For instance I contacted support a Saturday afternoon asking for permission to install a particular script: a support representative replied 8 minutes after and demonstrated he read very superficially my enquiry, completely missing the point. I rephrased my question, hoping he could get it right this time... and after 13 minutes I got a reasonable response.
They set-up my account in 3 hours after payment: I opened the account on Sunday and paid using PayPal. This timing seems reasonable.
Servage recently added support in German, Swedish and Danish: this is available only during business hours.

Control panel

Due to the nature of the clustered environment, standard control panels such as Plesk and CPanel are not available at Servage. They made a custom control panel that will let you adjust most aspects of your web site(s). I find it rather simple to use yet powerful. Creating a new subdomain, enabling/disabling PHP safe mode and acceleration, creating FTP accounts... are very easy tasks.
The online file manager is rather simple (you can apply actions only to a file or directory at a time). The allowed actions are: protect with password, change permissions, change owner, move, rename, create symbolic link, extract .zip/.gz/.tar files. Curiously you can't copy or download the files. Another feature missing is the possibility to compress files (to download them more easily for backup purposes).
A positive aspect of the control panel is that it is accessible on the standard SSL port 443, so you can administer your sites even if you are behind a firewall that blocks everything but HTTP and HTTPS requests on standard ports.

Reliability

Continuity of service is not bad, but can improve. The most common problems are sporadic downtimes that last up to one minute: these occurred to me two months ago in an erratic pattern and happened rather frequently (once or twice a week). However, since they were so short, they didn't impact much on my visitors. As regards major downtimes, only once my site has been unreachable for a whole hour.
There were no configuration errors at setup time.

Coupons

If you decide to host your site on Servage you can use the "CRA100" coupon code that will give you an instant discount of 1.55€ per month (or $1.55 or 1£, depending on your currency).
Another coupon is available: with the "specialpromotion" coupon you will get 25GB of additional space for free (bringing it to 535GB).
You can use only one coupon per new account, so pick the one you like most.
Once you become a Servage customer and feel satisfied with their service, you can start referring your friends and earning free hosting too.

Conclusions

So far I'm rather impressed with Servage. Their price is very good for all the stuff they offer and everything seems to work as promised.

The review does not end here: I will keep it updated to consider any new issue I may experience with them, and any other positive aspects I may discover.
Let me know
if you are interested in other aspects I did not analyze here: I'll be glad to include them in the next update.

 

Other hosts

Here are other hosts with similar prices/features you may find interesting (not yet reviewed):