Linode Review

Helpful automation scripts, good documentation, responsive support, easy to use and manage

What is our primary use case?

Linode is a service that hosts virtual machines for you.

How has it helped my organization?

It is important to me that Linode offers a small, but well-focused set of cloud computing services, and there are two reasons. I've got a lot of choices because you can do a lot of things with Linode, but the core of what they offer is the ability to host your own cloud.

The size of the applications that you can use is significant. For example, you can run some massive infrastructure through Linode if you need to. The focused set of services is important because if you compare with Amazon, for example, they have AWS cloud, and it has a lot of things that get really very confusing. I understand technology, but I'm a business person more than a technologist. So, for me, the fact that they're focused means that they are working on the latest technology.

They are also practical and don't just use a component because it's there. They've got specific paths, such as migration paths, and they understand what I call fundamental IT. They understand that very well and it's invaluable. For example, one time I had to contact support because someone on my end deleted something. I phoned them at two o'clock in the morning to open a support ticket and a human being answered the phone. They said, "Oh yeah, no, we can do that. All done." Ten minutes later, the problem was resolved and life was fine. Essentially, they understand the practicalities of IT the way it should be in terms of the fundamentals. This is something that a lot of people don't understand.

An example that I'm thinking of is where you have a large call center that is located somewhere else in the world and people don't speak English, which is always a problem. They've got scripts that they go through and based on what you describe, they try to tell you the problem or ask you more questions. You'll be forced to go through a poor process, whereas Linode doesn't do that. Linode is just human beings who are IT literate, for want of a better word, dealing with you at every step of the way. That's important.

To me, it's very important that they haven't lost their focus, even though their capabilities seem to have expanded quite a lot.

Another way that Linode has improved the way my organization functions is that I don't have to have the physical infrastructure, anywhere. This means that I can work from anywhere in the world with the same infrastructure. Whether I'm in the United Kingdom, whether I'm in South Africa, whether I'm in Costa Rica, makes no difference. This is a massive advantage.

Many people think that because it's the web, and it's all-pervasive, it is just "old hat". But to have infrastructure that you can access from anywhere is absolutely brilliant. So, that's one area.

I used to host all my own stuff but I've gotten to the point now where I think I've got one server in-house, and that is full of what I call pet projects. I don't even know if I've got backups of that.

On the topic of backups, human beings don't like doing them. Also, IT people set backups and never look at them again. At least at Linode, you choose their backups and you know you've got three backups a day that you could fall back on, in the worst case. It's brilliant for me from that point of view.

Because of the ease of use, I can offer it to more clients. It's a doorway for me to customers where maybe I would have had to have a much more technical staff. As it is now, I don't have to, and it's not a deal-breaker. The customer is not saying that I don't have a server expert because I do. It's Linode.

In terms of helping me to accelerate innovation, Linode has got a whole bunch of storage options now. They've got features where you can attach data in different ways, which is something that they have addressed in the past couple of years. You can have Amazon buckets, as well as other clever things. I don't know whether they were the first to support or offer things in this way, but they definitely made the accessibility to some of these more obscure storage options easier. If you want to attach to an S3 bucket, it's always been quite a challenge, whereas with Linode, you just put in your credentials and it'll attach to the bucket for you. From that point of view, I see them changing the underlying technology constantly because you see the upgrades as they come through. Without even having a strategy to remain on top of things, Linode has enabled that for me.

If I want to fire up anything that is attached to any of the common data types, it's not a difficult thing to do at all because that is what they're doing. For example, I've just seen something new on their site, which is called a cloud firewall. It's in beta testing. So, looking around, I can see that there's going to be a new service that they're going to add back on top of all of that. It means that if I've got a cloud firewall, I don't have to worry about other firewalls on my machines. I just stick them all behind one firewall. This means one setup, one cost, etc. That's innovation for you because, one, they're making life easier for me. I don't have to set up a whole bunch of things. Secondly, they make a new income stream for themselves, which is brilliant.

What is most valuable?

The ability to fire up a virtual machine, use it, and then kill it, is quite a valuable feature for me. They have a lot of startup scripts, I think they are called stack scripts, whereby you can install something at a click of a button. For instance, you can install a whole server at the click of a button. Linode gives the users a lot of control.

Another thing that I use quite a lot is their documentation. They have documentation on how to perform tasks and often, I use that to educate a client on how to do something or on how to maintain something, et cetera. This is because a lot of customers are used to simpler systems like an iPhone, where if you want an app then you just download it from a store, press a button and it installs, or press a button and it updates.

The truth of the matter is that with servers and things like that, whilst people like the push button idea, it's a lot more complex than that. With these stack scripts, the people at Linode have thought about all of the things that a new user would not think about. They do all of that stuff and then walk you through it, and that's where Linode's documentation is really good. They walk you through what you have to do to secure a server, what you have to do to run a patch, or whatever.

They've got all those sorts of knowledge bases of information, which I think is invaluable, especially for clients who are uneducated in these things.

It's extremely important to me that Linode offers worldwide coverage via multiple data centers, for various reasons. One is that because we live in this global world, our customers are everywhere. Secondly, for people who need geo-redundancy, with for example a server in China and one elsewhere as a backup, it's great.

It's also nice because if they were just US-based, I wouldn't be able to use them because I would need to go through a whole process of trying to certify the data integrity in other regions. I'm sure that most people wouldn't bother with this because of all of the EU laws and the UK laws around data privacy.

The US's data privacy laws are far more relaxed than what they are on my side of the world. The fact that I can have a server in London means that I don't have to bother with all of that. My physical location of that server is in London and to me, it is really important.

When you compare Amazon, they claim to have infrastructure all over the place but I think that the bulk is centered in Germany. Even if it is in a few different places, everything gets backed up to the US, which is a problem for a lot of people.

What needs improvement?

Before they changed the dashboard, I found some of the more granular options easier to find. However, it was just a matter of getting used to the new interface.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been working with Linode for more than 10 years, since 2009.

I've got two use cases. The first one is that I use Linode to host my own personal servers that host programs and software. Some of the applications are things like firewalls, et cetera. Any offsite technology infrastructure that I need, I use Linode for.

My second use case is that when I provide my customers with solutions that are cloud-based, where it is customized software, websites, or something else that they want control over, I spin up a Linode for them and then hand it over to the customer. I'm constantly giving Linode new customers as I provide people with solutions. I normally spin the Linode up myself and then pass it on to the client. Once my relationship with that customer is over and my side is fulfilled, they continue a relationship with Linode as their infrastructure provider.

That said, the main objective is not to resell their product. What I'm doing is I'm including Linode as the hosting infrastructure in the solutions that I sell. This allows people to have a virtual machine in the cloud at a very reasonable price. For example, a lot of people use that for their bespoke websites, membership sites, or for hosting other services.

Our company makes some bespoke software for the music industry, for example, whereby they can manage contracts and things like that. When people purchase this, instead of giving them a physical machine in the office, I give them a Linode machine and my software is on that, which is how Linode gets bundled along with everything else.

I don't make any money on top of the Linode service. Rather, I just say to the customer, "You've got to pay Linode $20 or whatever it is a month to carry on using Linode." At that point, they say, "Absolutely," because they've got backups and all of the good stuff without any of the downsides, for literally a tenth, or in some cases a hundredth of the price compared to having to do it on their own site.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The overall stability is brilliant. I don't think I've ever had downtime that I wasn't in control of, for upgrades as an example. I don't think I've ever had an outage. 

There have been some DNS problems once or twice, but not a single one of my clients phoned me and said, "Hey, this is not working."

I use Linode daily. The machines serve all of my websites, some of my client's websites, some of my user applications, and some of my knowledge base stuff. I've got customers who've got critical data, such as their financial data stored on Linode. To me, Linode is like having your coffee in the morning or breathing. It is integral.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

I think that if I had to do something massive, it would be easy. Scalability-wise, if you've got the money, the sky's the limit with them. I'm guessing that if you were to try and buy some of their massive offerings, GPUs, which are $4,000 a month, I'm guessing that'll take a little bit of time to set up, but I may be wrong because I've never done that.

Basically, if I look at the options that they have, you can move from anything from a tiny one-gig configuration to something that's got 125 gigabytes or 200 gigabytes of memory. That's ridiculous. There is more RAM than you've got hard-disk storage in some cases.

There are also a lot of articles that help people. If you want redundancy, for example, you're going to go and have a look and see, "Okay, that's how I do that.", and then you've learned something. That's the beauty of it, is that they're not like all these proprietary people, everything's under a hat and you don't know until you pay your money. They're quite open about everything.

I have customers who use Linode, but I am the only person in my organization who uses it at the moment. I have one other software developer who has access to it. At the moment I've got one machine on Linode, which I've just recently made slightly smaller. It runs about 40 or 50 websites and web applications for myself and for some of my clients.

Every time I get a new project, I fire up a new Linode. I use it for as long as I need it for the project and then I kill it again. So as soon as I get my next customer, I'll be adding another Linode to my account.

My current Linode that's running now, I recently down-scaled because a lot of customers have moved away, and also, we're trying to save money wherever we can. I didn't have to go to Linode and explain that I was suffering because COVID has taken away some of the customers. Rather, I went onto my dashboard, selected to make it smaller, and they warned me to ensure that I had taken care of three steps first. I went ahead and took care of the one that I hadn't done, and the other two were not applicable to me.

Once that was complete, I pressed the button and my Linode was half the cost in less than 10 minutes. I have got control of everything that I do. If at the end of next month things are back to normal, then I'll press the button and double my usage again. I expect that I'll be adding customers to it after that. In the meantime, I have the freedom to do what I want and I'm not captured by any sort of contract. I trust the people at Linode explicitly.

How are customer service and technical support?

Linode has 24/7, no-tiered human customer support, and its flexibility and overall responsiveness are why I don't use the other major providers. They are very responsive and are quite happy to listen to what you have to say, rather than trying to rush you through the process. You get a very real and very human interface, even with their email systems and through their ticketing systems. All of that appears to be very considered and it appears to be unique to you. You're not just getting a knowledge base thrown at you and told, "Go and sort through that and figure out what's going on."

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

I also have some experience with Amazon AWS, and it is more complex than Linode. I know a little bit about the AWS pricing, where they bill according to time, at perhaps the millisecond level. I did use them in the early days but I got burned a few times where I suddenly had a bill of $1,000 when I didn't even realize that the machine was on. Amazon was quite unforgiving, at least in those days, about such things.

Linode, on the other hand, has a maximum cap that you can pay. If you use less, you pay less. I think that they're quite smart in that they worked out that cap quite well because you never really pay much less than that. It's a fixed price and whoever did those calculations has done them well.

I have no idea how much I have saved over the years by choosing Linode, but just from a management point of view, no one's time is spent having to double-check how much your bill's going to be all the time. I would estimate that would be one or two hours, of someone who knows what they're doing, a month having to do that. If you take a support person, earning, for example, $5,000 to $8,000 per month, if you consider what two hours of the month would cost, that's probably the cost of the savings. If you manage these things properly, obviously, you can keep the costs the same. Honestly, I haven't put much thought into it or wondered if anybody had better pricing because Linode does everything that I need, nicely.

Generally speaking, as I have been a customer of Linode for a long time, I don't have a lot of experience with other cloud providers. I don't even bother with them. But, I can tell you from seeing customers that have had other providers that I've got absolutely no problems with response time, in comparison.

I don't ever run anything that's mission-critical to the point where I need support in five minutes with someone. I don't have anything like that. None of my customers do because we build our systems so that there's redundancy. If something goes down, it's much like having a backup for your electricity. It doesn't really matter if it's down 5% or 2%, because you've got a backup.

That's the same with the way that we design solutions for our customers and for ourselves. If Linode does go down, normally, they're not down for long. When I say not for long, it's minutes. They communicate well and for the maintenance they do, they let you know months in advance. So, it's only your own fault if you suddenly find yourself caught in a situation where you're not prepared. Ultimately, they've got a very good balance and I think that they have got a very good future.

An example of this is that one of my machines needed to be moved to Tucson. It was a virtual machine that needed to be moved to some other hardware, which is a process that they said could take up to two hours. They said to me, if you do nothing, we're going to move it in April or whenever it was, but you can click here and move it at your convenience. I know when the US is not so busy because I'm half awake when they're still sleeping, so I pressed the button one morning and it took less than 20 minutes to move.

My machine was back up and running. Nobody knew, in terms of my users, that it had even happened. So, their response times and their options, because they allow you to manage so much yourself, are great. It's a very good balance between moving forward and balancing that with the needs of the customer.

How was the initial setup?

Linode is a virtual machine, so I'm often setting them up for the first time. I have images that I set up to be Linode in a particular format, and I can run them by hitting a button that says Deploy New Linode. It asks me what size, where, I press a button and it deploys that machine that I had deployed two years ago, exactly the same way. It means that if you're doing repetitive stuff, you shouldn't have to be doing it from scratch every time. You can just make an image and deploy your Linode from it. They've really made it quite easy.

Setting up a Linode from scratch is child's play. It's literally easier than updating your iPhone. But, it's what you have to do after that you need to consider. Depending on your choice of what you want to do, such as installing Ubuntu or some other software, that's where the complexity comes in. However, that's not Linode's issue. That's an issue with whatever it is you're doing.

The actual acquisition of a machine takes just minutes. I've got six questions to answer and when I press that button that says create, it takes approximately a minute and then you've got a machine that has an operating system installed. It's a basic operating system, whatever you choose, and a root password. It is at this point when the complications start because that's when you then have to do all the stuff that you do to set up a machine, but that's not a Linode function. That's a user function.

For what I do, if I start from scratch, without my pre-installed stuff, it could take me anything from 15 minutes for a basic system to about four hours for a complicated one. But, that's after the Linode set up. For example, setting up a Laravel dev environment probably takes me about three minutes, because I just pop an image and I say, "Deploy this image," and it just goes and does it. If you take a look at their marketplace, they've got apps that you can use to set up various machines.

In the marketplace, there are apps available to help you set up a cloud server, an open VPN, Jenkins, LAMP, or anything. You just say, "This is what I want," and that script runs for you. Another example is Minecraft; if you want the Java edition of Minecraft, you can go and set that up and it'll take you five minutes. Any customer can do this and you don't have to be a tech guru.

What was our ROI?

It is tough to determine what my return on investment is. I think there's a cost benefit more than a return on investment. When you look at an organization in terms of infrastructure setup, I've had a much lower cost than I would have, had I used the traditional bare metal or hardwired approach.

Compared to a traditional method with a server, plus someone running it, and all of the administration that comes with it, my cost savings are literally a hundredfold or a thousandfold. Moreover, without Linode, I probably wouldn't have been able to offer some of the services to some of the markets that I have in the past because of the pricing.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

The monthly cost depends on your requirements.

The pricing is absolutely spot on. I think whoever thought about how their pricing should work and how their sizing should work, clearly understands the use case of their customers. I'm a tiny customer of theirs, but, I'm loyal to them because they constantly deliver and they do things that make sense.

I'm not paying any more now than I was paying in 2009. As a matter of fact, I think I'm probably paying less now than I was then, yet I've probably got 20 or 30 or 40 times larger resources available to me. Every time they upgrade their infrastructure, they don't say, "Oh, we've got new equipment, now we're going to charge you more." Instead, they say that they will carry on charging you the same or less, yet, we have better stuff for you. That is just a good business model, which has stood them in good stead.

What other advice do I have?

Because I am such a happy customer, it is difficult to point to an area that is in need of improvement. I've not had a use case, and none of my customers have said, "Oh, we would have loved to have used Linode, but they don't do X." What they do is more than adequate for what I need. In my view, you'd have to go a long way to find something. I don't use the API, although I've seen a lot of documentation on it. I'm guessing that the API is an area where people would want different accessibilities, but I don't know enough about that to be able to comment.

They changed the dashboard quite a while back, but there was a while when you could switch between the classic and new one. The classic one had some different granularity, which was nice, but I've now found that with the new one. It had looked like some of that granularity had gone away, but it's just in other places. Ultimately, it was just a matter of getting used to what it looked like.

I think the new interface is more modern-looking and probably a little more user-friendly. However, when you've used something for a long time and then it changes, you think, "Oh, what's going on?" But I've not found myself sitting and wondering what is happening in different parts of the solution. I would say that now, it's fine.

Quite a while ago, they moved away from one particular underlying technology that is used for the virtualization of machines. There are two types of virtualization, and they moved from one to the other. I'm not sure of the details but there was a massive improvement as a result. I could tell because I only moved some of my machines at the time, and left some of them on the first platform. There was a noticeable difference and it was big. Whatever they did in terms of the backend of their virtualization, when they moved from one of the main ones to a better one, that was a good move.

The biggest lesson that I have learned from using Linode is that you can be human and still provide a good service. I don't know anybody in the company and I don't particularly follow any of their leaders, they're not even on my radar. That said, every single interaction I've had with Linode has always had all of my core values in there. Integrity is an important one.

I find that often with tech companies, they lose humanness for the sake of efficiency, or other reasons. Banks have also lost it. A lot of people have lost that human touch and whilst I don't think Linode in any way have ever said, "Oh, we're the company with a human touch.", I can tell you that they definitely, you can feel the love and the fact that people know what they're doing and they care about what they're doing.

My advice for anybody who is thinking about using Linode is to know what you want, and if you don't know what you want, ask Linode because they'll know what you want. Often with these sorts of things, you tend to do your research first and then go to a vendor and ask them, based on your research, what you want. I would be very comfortable suggesting to any customer of mine that they ask Linode.

I am confident that they are not going to try and figure out how much you can afford and then nail you with that. They'll give you the options. They're very transparent. That way, you end up buying what you need as opposed to buying what someone's trying to sell you or what someone thinks you need.

In summary, Linode is a good product and I love them.

I would rate this solution a ten out of ten.

Which version of this solution are you currently using?

**Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor.
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