Switched to aliyun international today. It’s incredibly fast compared to DigitalOcean in the same region. Monthly charge is reduced by almost 50% [1]

Blazing fast

Compared to what I previous used, network performance exceeds my expectation. My DO vm was in the same region. Very often I had to wait 3-10 seconds for my blog to load. After moving to aliyun, the site loads in under a second. Sorry but I’m too lazy to do some scientific benchmarks.

Reluctant to migrate

I was reluctant to do any migration but it’s actually not that difficult once I’ve decided to do it. It took 2 hours to migrate all services to the new environment. That includes all my sites, database, email and a number of services. It’s a simple server and I should have migrated earlier. Now I get better service at lower cost. One rare feature available on aliyun is console access. Not just read access but a full blown console access via VNC. Very handy if I accidentally lock myself out.

Fishy marketing

For new signup, they offer a $300 prepaid credit good for 60 days. The ECS instance covered by this promotion are almost 3 times more expensive than the regular ones. So it’s only good for beginners to learn about the platform. If you’re like me looking for hosting a few web sites on the smallest instance, the prepaid credit isn’t very useful at all.

Port 25 blocked in and out

Another problem is with SMTP. Aliyun blocks incoming port 25. The doc mentions how to open outbound smtp traffic but nothing related to incoming. I did filed a request to open port 25 but haven’t received any feedback at all in 3 days.

Do I need “Direct Mail” service to receive email? Well I couldn’t get Direct Mail to work. My postfix refuses to work with SSL relay. Ali is asking me to connect with SSL but not the more commonly used TLS.

I ended up sending outbound mail to mailgun, and reflect incoming smtp via¬†ghettosmtp. Bizarre I know. But it may not work forever. It’s only a matter of time before someone finds out I’m doing email on a well-known, alternative port.

Ambiguous charges

ECS snapshots used to be free before March 2017. Looks like it’s still free outside mainland China, but there is no mentioning of how much it will cost when they start charging.

[1] More I look into the details, I realize the cost saving may not be as high as advertised. The cheapest instance they offer does not seem to come with elastic IP. Getting one costs US$4.32/mo plus traffic charges. Bandwidth is capped at 50M in the first tier. Similar deal for adding a SLB. Workaround is to use the cf-ddns script to update my dns record periodically.

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