Disappointed with Dreamhost

June 15th, 2006

I’ve been using Memset for many years to host my websites, Darcs repositories, etc. They provide virtual private servers. I’ve been happy with them overall, but as my RAM needs increase, things have been getting slower. As adding RAM to VPS plans is expensive no matter who the provider is, I decided to look for some other options.

I decided to try Dreamhost. They are a web hosting company with a clue. I don’t get root on the box, but they do give me the next best thing. ssh access, a decent suite of preinstalled packages, and clueful admins. I signed up earlier this week and started rsyncing some things over. They have a $10/mo plan which gives 1TB of monthly transfer and 20GB of disk space. Much nicer than the going rate of about $40 for 40GB of monthly transfer and 5GB of disk space for a VPS.

The web side of things worked fairly smoothly, and the system seemed to perform well. Until today, that is. I noticed my site being extremely SLOW this morning. I logged into the system to see if it was some problem with my configuration. It wasn’t, but the system load was — get this — over 100. I watched it for awhile and then fired off a support request. The load had been hovering between 20 and 80. It’s now 9.5 hours later, load is hovering between 11 and 30, things are still somewhat slow, and I’ve not heard back from them.

Then, later today, their server started refusing connections on port 80. Turns out this was a sitewide outage, and seems to have lasted for 30-60 minutes. I signed up to receive an e-mail when it was fixed, but I never got it.

Also, their e-mail hosting has never worked for me. At first, it was bouncing my mail. I sent a support request about that, and the next morning they said they fixed it. Well, it was no longer bouncing mail, but it wasn’t actually *delivering* it either. I told them that this morning, and still haven’t heard back from them.

Now, with my memset account, I can’t remember the last time I’ve had downtime. I’ve had slowness — rivaling what dreamhost is having — but actual downtime is exceedingly rare. And they seem to respond to trouble more quickly.

And the scary thing is that from all I’ve read, Dreamhost is really one of the best web hosting companies out there.

So, what do you all think? Should I continue going the “do it myself” route and host my site with a VPS (either with Memset or with JohnCompanies, another clueful host I’ve dealt with)? Or try to stick it out with Dreamhost? Or are there other clueful web hosting companies out there?

Right now, I’m of the “if you want it done right, do it yourself” mindset. Being able to save money, and also time by trusting someone else to keep the host patched and working only saves me angst if I can actually trust them to do that. Right now, I’m not so sure I can trust Dreamhost — or any other web hosting company.

Categories: Technology

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Comments Feed16 Comments

  1. Joshua

    Take a look at http://www.textdrive.com Founded by geeks, extremely responsive support, and very good communication their their community.

    Reply

  2. Stephen

    Having used DreamHost for probably two and a half years, I can say I’ve been pretty happy with them. They have occasional outages, but none that I’ve really noticed. They won’t provide 99.999% uptime, though, so if that’s what you’re looking for you probably will want to just go with a VPS.

    Reply

  3. John Goerzen

    Thanks for the suggestions. I took a look at textdrive.com. They do look like a very clueful sort. Unfortunately, do get the amount of disk space I’d need, I’d actualy wind up paying slightly more than with a VPS.

    I am deleting the comment recommending hostingle. It appeared to be spammy. And I noticed while hostingle’s site was loading that they had hidden all sorts of irrelevant keywords in an alt tag for an area. I don’t want to give them a link.

    Reply

  4. Andre Luis Lopes

    Hi,

    I’ve just recently started on this VPS thing and I went with RimuHosting (http://www.rimuhosting.com). They use Xen as the basis for their VPS plans and seems to be clueful.

    However, I don’t think their prices are as good as the ones you mentioned. Anyway, it’s worth checking out.

    Reply

  5. gary ng

    may be tektonic ? I used to have a VPS with them running woody

    Reply

  6. Kai Hendry

    Dreamhost do have a clue. I’ve used other Web services. I’ve run my own. Dreamhost do it better.

    Outages happen and they’ve thankfully rarely affected me. I wish they updated http://dreamhoststatus.com/ even more regularly.

    With mail, you should forward to Gmail first. So you get spam filtering and if something is wonky on Dreamhost, use Gmail instead.

    Reply

  7. Anonymous

    Try unixshell if you want a good VPS.

    Reply

  8. mako

    I have used 4 different services so far. The only one that I feel comfortable recommending to others is Rimuhosting. You get their “high performance” Xen based systems and they run great. They were the only people I found that didn’t overload their UML boxes either. I’m on my third machine and Mika has one there as well now.

    They are a bit more expensive than many competitors but offer a free software developer discount and have a policy of putting less hosts on a single piece of hardware than the vast majority of other hosts I’ve used. If you plan on actually using your machine, they are simply a better deal.

    You can send messages and they respond to prompts 24/7 without minutes and are hugely clueful. They are worth spending a little more.

    In almost a year now, I’ve had about 10 hours of unscheduled downtime (one day, a machine died) and they refunded my whole months payment without asking. They rock.

    Reply

  9. Jamuraa

    I have to second that you should pretty much not ask for email back from them on stuff – they aren’t incredibly responsive but they do update the status blog somewhat regularly. I am with dreamhost now, simply because for what I do it’s about 10 times cheaper than any of the alternatives. Because they are so cheap I don’t complain if my site is down for a couple minutes. There is a bit of getting what you pay for. Fortunately every dealing I have had with them has been very good, and they even offered to move me from a server which seemed overloaded to me (it was actually just some guy’s process hung). They are actually one of the best situations that I’ve come across for no-hassle setup of websites, email and domain management. I can’t say that I wouldn’t do things differently if I still had my dedicated server though.

    One thing – usually if you troll around some of the web server forums, you can find some really good ddeals on dedicated servers. I haven’t paid more than $100/month for a dedicated server with 1TB of bandwidth in years.

    Reply

  10. sdf

    “root” servers are so cheap in germany, i recently switched from plain old hosting to my own server. alturo.de had 14,99 euro/month servers back then (they are apparently sold out at the moment… they sell the old 1&1 server for cheap whenever 1&1 upgrades)
    it’s not that fast (celeron 1200, 256mb, 80 gb), but i’m alone on it.

    perhaps finding a cheap server would be the best solution…

    Reply

    John Goerzen Reply:

    Wow. I’ve done some checking and there really are quite a few cheap hosting companies in Germany. Do you know of any other reputable ones?

    Reply

  11. Scott

    I can’t imaging how one can downgrade from being root on a VPS to merely a normal shell user account on a shared hosting :)

    There are many budget VPS around that offers good price on big resources. I can recommend unixshell but they don’t allow any signup at the moment. You can also get cheap VPS at vpslink.com (part of Spry.com) like $20 a month for a 512Mb OpenVZ VE. Or ServerAxis.com – $30 a month for a 512Mb RAM + 1Gb sway XEN VPS.

    But note that they are unmanaged VPS. Not so good if you don’t want to manage your Linux VPS yourself, but good if you don’t want their engineers to mess around with your setup :)

    Reply

  12. The Changelog

    Thanks to all of the helpful comments people left in response to my last post about hosting. I got some really helpful hints from them — including the one I eventually followed, to VPSLink.

    I wound up going with VPSLink. Their prices are amazing and

    Reply

  13. Dave

    Well, I signed up for Dreamhost the past June 19. Never a problem…

    Until yesterday. A fileserver hosed up everything – I’d have thought they knew about this thing called, uh, redundancy.

    No site. No FTP. No mail.

    It’s been 24 hours. Yet somehow, statistics can be had to report they have had no outages yesterday, and overall have had 99.6% uptime in the last 36 months?

    Don’t know others, but I see a full day of outage in 27 days and counting. (Their “administration team” is headed to their data center to “perform the steps” to recover from the crash. Again, I’d have thought that this team would have been working on that single point of failure about, oh, 24 hours ago.)

    Thankfully I paid by credit card, and am within the 97 day refund period. Now if they would be so kind as to transfer my DNS to a more professionally run outfit in the next few weeks, I’ll be gladly on my way.

    Reply

  14. tdo

    Dreamhost goes down literally everyday for me. From anywhere from 5 to 60 minutes or more. Usually 3-5 times a day. If you are looking for something even remotely reliable I would NOT RECOMMEND dreamhost. They are super cheap becuase thier product is crap.

    Reply

  15. darren

    You can check out Austrlaian servers at rapidhosting.com.au – their website is incomplete (new one is up at the moment) – but you can drop them an email and they’ll response and talk to you about their servers.

    RapidHosting is about speed – so they don’t allow 1000+ users on a single machine. Ever. Shell Access, PHP4/5 msql, python etc.

    Have an online chat system you can talk to them at – if not, leave an email. =D
    Cheers

    Reply

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