My first eight months of DreamHost hosting was fine. Almost no downtime at all. Then… well, what I refer to as “the streak” started.
For two or three months, lots of servers went down almost daily. Sometimes due to “routine” errors – normal outages, cases of machines or RAM or hard drives failing as part of a normal process when you have a large bunch of servers. But quite a lot of the outages was due to a large, lingering and growing issue with the core network in one of their datacenters. They had support issues open with Cisco for some routers, which tells you everything you need to know if you know the least bit about networks.
The problems mostly subsided, but they never got entirely down to “first eight months” levels. And then a few weeks back, a datacenter had to perform another power outage and had to take all equipment offline for a short duration, and after that there have been some issues with a file server.
Right in the middle of this, Josh Jones, CEO, posts this gem on the company weblog. Some pent-up rage of DreamHost customers is being released as scathing balls of criticism.
Well, I think I should say in fairness… bullshit. Most of the time I enjoy reading the DreamHost weblog. Most of the time it’s also “a little bit too much”, too kooky, too unserious to be written mostly by the CEO of one of the top 50 hosts in the world by open accounts. And I certainly took offense, and will continue to take offense at the badly timed post. Josh isn’t kicking on people, but even this level of joking (while being par for the course for the DreamHost weblog) is too unsensitive for people just gaining back their trust in DreamHost.
But it’s not something to quit an account over.
Well, rather, almost every time you quit an account, it’s because you’ve had enough. If you quit an account over this, it is very likely that DreamHost has been the wrong host for you for a long time. DreamHost, like many companies in its price class, uses a range of data centers and has reasonable levels of backup, but sometimes equipment is going to fail, like the routers this past summer, and sometimes a power cable will be chafing against an edge inside a rack and the laws of nature require that you put the equipment offline or the laws of nature will make sure that the equipment is put offline by applying the laws of nature. When an electrician flaps his wings…
What it boils down to is that you’re paying – probably – around or less than $10 per month on web hosting. I’m not saying that because DreamHost is cheap, but I am saying that because there are limits for what kind of hosting DreamHost can build you for $10 per month.
If you need this web hosting to service your customers, your priorities are fucked if you’re not paying at least $50 per month for the extra value. If rock solid uptime and minutes in downtime over a year is a very primary concern, you’re looking at something that needs maybe its own datacenter and its own staff, and a whole another level of trained staff, and that boils down to a larger price tag. Just beware of those that price themselves higher not because they provide a better service but because they are engaged in price fixing.
Solidness also means a less flexible service structure. If one thing has never flinched during this experience, it has been that DreamHost puts an effort in to offer up new technologies. (Ruby on Rails may not run exactly smooth on DreamHost, but Ruby on Rails is reasonably hard to just set up inside a folder on an existing server, too.) DreamHost definitely has the technical competence that I want them to have.
So, in the end, I think I’ll stay on DreamHost for the forseeable future. Am I pissed at them for pulling the customer’s nose at a time like this? Fuck yes. But the particular downtime they were referring to was not a product of their incompetence, or maybe not even a product of their datacenter’s incompetence but just of an electrician’s incompetence. I have never lost a file on DreamHost. I have never had significant email downtime. (Significant meaning loss of any incoming mail or being unable to fetch mail for over an hour.) I am very happy with the features that they are offering, most of which are direct results of their own development. And inquiries to support have always been promptly answered, even if about something relatively petty in the midst of a larger issue.
For what I’m paying them, I am very much getting my money’s worth, and I don’t feel a pressing need to upgrade to, say, TextDrive, which despite being kickass in so many ways seems to restrict me to 5 or 25 “websites” and cost 50% more. I just don’t have those kinds of needs.
I am happy with being hosted by “a bunch of drunken kids in LA”. Their technical solutions are way beyond what I’ve seen this far on other hosts in this price range. Don’t tell me men who can set up Plesk, wear suits, ignore support and obscure their technical difficulties instead of being honest about them are going to do better.
Update: Just to clarify. The last sentence isn’t describing TextDrive. It is however a shoe-in of maybe 60% of the web hosting companies out there. Looking professional has nothing to do with actually being professional – or reliable, for that matter – in this business. DreamHost’s no-bullshit attitude is refreshing, even if it means, oh horror, that you may see an employee not wearing a suit in the company weblog.
I consider TextDrive a sort of DreamHost in their segment, in that TextDrive also do a deal of custom development for their own network, and provide many features at a reasonable price. Most other reliable hosts (like Pair and MediaTemple) carry less features in order to better account for stability, but TextDrive can pull the extra effort off.