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Convenience and flexibility are the key selling points of the new 1&1 Cloud Server service. There's no need to specify and buy any hardware or commit to a lengthy contract, just sign up for a pay-as-you-go Cloud Server account and you can be up and running with your own Windows or Linux servers in minutes. You can even change the spec later according to your needs and, crucially, they're your servers to do with as you like.
According to 1&1, customers can create millions of different configurations with Cloud Server but the standard setups cover most of the bases and make getting started a breeze. Instant scalability is another plus, along with all the extras such as load balancing, private networks and shared storage – just like the big names in cloud computing but with far fewer hassles.
The web-based Cloud Panel is very friendly and easy to use, but once you've got your VMs up and running you're pretty much on your own. Which is fine until you hit a problem, where we would have liked a bit more in the way of documentation and online help. Some of this is available but what's there could do with further enhancing and updating.
Network address allocation on a Linux VM we installed manually, for example, called for a lot of searching to get right. We also had a problem with the VMware remote console plug-in used to access a VM via the browser-based Cloud Panel. This abruptly stopped working during our tests as support for the Netscape plugin API used by VMware has been dropped from the latest IE and Chrome browsers. Again, more information on the cause of this problem and workarounds would have saved us a lot of time and effort.
Some care is also needed when it comes to keeping on top of the cost, especially RAM which can be expensive.
For small companies looking for the raw scalability and flexibility available from the big names in cloud computing, but without the complexity and cost, 1&1 Cloud Server is worth investigating. It delivers a lot more than similarly priced hosting packages and is very easy to manage.
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