Friday, 5 September 2014

New packet supplier?

It was in September of 2001 that I moved my servers; the packet supplier I'd been with had gone bust, so I had to move. I considered a site in New York (if I'd moved there, I'd have been in New York at the time of the attack on the Twin Towers), but I decided to go with Energis, because they offered me a deal that was so good, it looked too good to be true and it took them six weeks to convince me that it was for real. That's a 100 mbit link, and that's where I put the servers that had large volumes of throughput. I was the only customer they had at that time. It was a huge, echoing data warehouse; empty except for 19 inch racks (all of which were empty, except mine).

I stayed with them for several years. At one point, they looked like they were on the verge of going out of business. They changed owner (twice, I think), they changed billing systems, they lost track of me a couple of times and even though I was faithfully paying my bill, they thought I wasn't. Eventually, they lost track of me completely, and amid a flurry of idiocy, they insisted that I had to leave.

So I did, and went to Saxon Data (as was, they changed their name to Safehosts, which I think is a terrible name, because it raises the question in ones mind of safety, and they shouldn't want their customers to worry about that) because they offered me hosting at about a third of the cost of Energis, and seemed like people who wouldn't mess up on their billing.

They've been good; there's been an occasional outage (due to cocked up UPS stuff), but nothing too serious. There's been price rises, as the cost of electricity went up, and I had to start paying for IP addresses, but I've been happy with them.

I also have a line to home, where I work from. That's a 2mbit leased line. Originally, I got it from Nildram, but someone bought Nildram, and someone bought the people who bought Nildram, and now I'm getting this from Daisy. I also have three DSL lines, used for backups. I also got this from Nildram, but after the usual series of mergers and buy-outs, I'm now with Talktalk. At home, I have the servers that don't need much bandwidth, but which take up space that I'd have to pay for it they were colocated; things like name servers, mail servers etc.

And the voice lines are with BT.

My contract with Daisy expired. Actually, that happened some months ago, and they didn't contact me, they're happy to go on billing me at the existing rate. That, of course, is a sure sign that prices have fallen and I'm now overpaying. So I decided to survey the market and see what I could get.

But what about the hassle of changing, I hear you ask? Well ... a couple of years ago, Daisy told me that I had to change all my IP addresses. I have 256 (a full Class C, they're very hard to get these days) and they wanted me to change to a different set of 256. I thought that would be horribly difficult and lead to all sort of problems, but in the event, it went quite easily. That's mostly because the IP addresses I use internally are all non-routable (they start with 10. and addresses like that can't be reached across the internet). My firewall translates my internal IP addresses, to the addresses that people use to access my servers. So that means, I didn't have to change the servers, just the firewall. And what I learned from that, is that changing all my IP addresses isn't really a big deal. So a big thank you to Daisy for forcing me to find out that if I ever want to leave Daisy, the issue of having to change IP addresses isn't a problem.


It was actually BT who triggered this; I was cold-called by BT, wanting to talk about voice lines, I think, but I'm a lot more interested in the data transfer stuff, so I asked them to look into that and get back to me. They didn't, of course, and I had to chase them a few times to get anything out of them.

BT started off brilliantly (apart from needing to be called again and again), I was offered 30 megabytes throughput (that's 300 megabits) for £220/month, using bonded broadband. But I didn't believe it, and it turned out that after insisting a few times that he really did mean 30 megabytes, when I pointed out that this means 300 megabits, he caved in and admitted that he meant 30 megabits. But he said that's up and down, and I don't believe that either. A great deal, if true. But not true.

A second call to BT gave me someone who knew what he was talking about. Bonded broadband would cost me £260/month, and give me 20 mbit download, 1 mbit upload. That 1 mbit isn't really good enough.

They also offer a leased-line option, that's 100 mbit, costing £1100/month.

The reason I'm considering 100 mbit, is that if I had that to here, I could drop Saxon and the £800/month that it costs, plus I'd have the convenience of having all my servers here. But at over £1100/month, that's a lot.

Bonded broadband - that's where you have two, four or more DSL lines, and you combine them together into a single link. So the cost is N times a broadband cost, which is very low, but with broadband, you get a lot more download than upload, and I want the exact opposite.


Daisy's admin system isn't too good. The lady I spoke to about their recent outage (I was asking for compensation under their Service Level Agreement) failed to pass that on to the people who look after that. And the sales guy from Daisy failed to call me back for some days. But he did call me eventually (after I pursued them a bit).

I currently have a 2 mbit leased line with Daisy, costing around £350/month. They can replace that with 2 mbit EFM (Ethernet on the first mile) for £220; that sounds nice. 4 mbit is £256, also nice. Then we spoke about 100 mbit. At first, I was offered £1100/month, but then I explained that I had a much better offer from Virgin, and after consulting the powers-that-be, the sales guy dropped to pretty much the Virgin price.

The sales guy from Daisy tried to do a bit of blackening of his competitors quality of service, but I explained to him that I doubt if they could be any worse than Daisy, who have given me two outages that exceed the Service Level Agreement, in the last 12 months.


Talktalk are my current DSL supplier. They can offer EFM, 5 mbit both ways, for £150. 10 mbit is £240. And they haven't sent me an email to confirm.

Talktalk business offer 100mbit ethernet at "from £545", according to their web site. I've emailed them for more details.


One of the people I spoke to, mentioned that Virgin have their own infrastructure. Sales people shold be rigidly trained *NOT* to mention their competitors. I hadn't known that, so I called Virgin.

Virgin can't do bonded DSL, can't do EFM (they call it Ethernet light), but can do 100 mbit, and that would cost £700/month. And they sent an email to confirm. They include 6 IP addresses with that, and I can have more if I make a case for it (which I can). I actually need 32, I think.

Now you're talking!

That would replace my £350 leased line, my three £18 DSLs and my £800 bill from Safehosts.
£1200 comes down to £700/month, plus I have the convenience of not having a bunch of servers sitting 100 miles away. My electricity bill goes up slightly, but not by much; it goes up by the cost of running six servers, which is about 3 amps, which is 3/4 of a kilowatt. I already have the necessary UPSes after my recent flurry of re-batterying the old ones.

Final decision

I haven't made a final decision yet - there's no hurry. But if Daisy put their offer in writing of 100 mbit for £700/month, I think they'll win the business. Although the Talktalk figure of £545 looks interesting. I don't think that Safehosts can make an offer that would compete, although I'll give them the opportunity to. And ladysolly, who has been complaining about the slowness of our DSL in the evening (one problem with DSL is that the bandwidth is shared by other people), will be happy at the new high speed line.

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