Don’t Use Dreamhost

By | September 23, 2006

To everyone I have ever referred to Dreamhost for all your web hosting needs, I offer a sincere apology, and I promise to never do it again.

I didn’t mean to lie to you. The fact is, for the first 18 months I was with them, they really were great. Sure, their support was slow and lousy, but I figured, if I never need support, who cares how slow and lousy it is? Unfortunately, no one NEVER needs support. And boy oh boy, have I ever needed support the last few months.

It all started a few months go, when a sever power outage in Los Angeles shut down Dreamhost’s entire system. I told myself, “It could happen to anyone, and it’s not likely to repeat itself.” (We will pretend for these purposes that I am not smart enough to know that they should have had offsite redundancy.) And if that one glitch had been it, I would still be happy.

But alas, that was not it, not by a longshot. Since then, things have been terrible, and they have been blaming everything on residual problems from that initial power outage. (I’m not saying these problems WEREN’T caused by the power outage; I’m just saying that I don’t give a rat’s behind what causes the problems, I just want them fixed.) One thing after another, an hour downtime here, a half-hour there, etc.

So finally, almost two weeks ago, Dreamhost announced that they would be doing a massive, all-encompassing hardware replacement, swapping out all the hardware that has been causing these problems for fully functional stuff. They were confident, they said, that these fixes would solve all the problems of the last few months generic paroxetine. They did the fixes, and they eventually said everything looked good.

Then two straws broke my back.

On Thursday, September 21, our database server died. It took them two hours to fix it or replace it or whatever they did. That annoyed me, and I could feel my back breaking.

On Friday, September 22, the entire server went down. Every single site hosted by Dreamhost went down. For those of you who aren’t aware, it is quite an accomplishment to kill that many servers all at once, but they pulled it off. Here is the message they posted at 1:06 p.m. Pacific time:

We were making adjustments to our network that didnâ??t go as planned unfortunately so a number of you have noticed downtime or site/mail slowness again. That issue has been resolved. Sorry for the late announcement, the change was supposed to have no affect on our services. Everything is back to normal again. This problem started a little over an hour before this post and was set back within 20 minutes once we noticed we made a mistake. Sorry about the scare. If you feel you are still experiencing problems from this outage please write to dhstatus@dreamhost.com.

As you can tell from reading this message, the downtime began at noon Pacific time and was done by 12:20. Unfortunately, what happened in real life is this: the downtime began at noon, and it ended at 5:30 p.m.!!!!!

Now, over five hours of downtime is a bad thing, regardless of when it happens. Five hours in the middle of the day on Friday is the worst possible time for it to happen for us. Why? Well, the main site hosted on this hosting plan is my brother’s site. Eric’s site has two major features: a weekly humor column that comes out on Mondays, and reviews of every movie that hits the theaters. Friday is, of course, the day that new movies are released, which means that he has thousands of people coming to his site to find out if the new releases are any good. Friday afternoon, the time that everyone in the world is making their Friday-night movie plans, is a terrible time for Eric’s site to be down.

But wait, there’s more. I also host a message board that used to be on Eric’s site. It is now located at http://board.jeffjsnider.com. Well guess what? Even after the rest of the server was back up, the message board didn’t work. I sent an email to Dreamhost telling them the problem. Then I sent another email. Then I stewed some more. Then I got fed up with waiting for them and decided to use Google to see if anyone else had had this particular problem and been able to fix it on their own.

If you put “bad_httpd_conf” in Google, the first five entries are about Dreamhost, including the first one, which is from the Dreamhost Wiki. This gave me a tip on how to fix my problem, and it worked. (Dreamhost is aware of the problem; the solution is on their Wiki; they have a menu option when you are email support specifically for this problem; and yet, they have not fixed it.)

Within 15 minutes of my solving my own problem, I got this email from Dreamhost:

I just checked board.jeffjsnider.com and it’s up now, I apologize for the
outtage.

I wrote the guy back immediately and told him how convenient that he checked it right after I had fixed it myself.

I’m probably just rambling at this point, but at this moment, I hate Dreamhost with the fire of a thousand suns. They announced on September 19 that they had FINALLY found the real problem, and that all the lingering issues had been resolved. Then we had two of our three longest outages within three days. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me 847 times, shame on me.

I am actively searching for a new host. It is hard (probably impossible) to find one that meets our needs the way Dreamhost theoretically does for the same low cost. It is likely that we will have to spend more on hosting, which becomes a pain due to the fact that none of our sites actually make any money, so any money we spend on hosting is money that should have been spent on diapers for my kid or something. So we’ll see what happens.

The moral of this story: don’t use Dreamhost. Have I mentioned that?

3 thoughts on “Don’t Use Dreamhost

  1. Jason Wright

    I sure am glad that I never believed you when you told me that it was a good webhost.

  2. j. brotherlove

    I am conflicted about it. I’ve been with Dreamhost since 2000. As you mentioned, the space and price they offers is very hard to beat. I can’t really afford to spend a lot of money on hosting. However, the latest outages have been extremely inconvenient.

    I know sh*t happens, but it just seems to be happening too often as of the last couple of months. I’m not ready to jump ship, but I am suspending my recommendation of Dreamhost unil they can get stable for at least 6 months.

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