Hello DreamHost

Jan 08 2011 Published by under General, Technology

As of now, this blog, as well as Art From Code, MinimalComps, Wicked Pissah Games, and my personal site (and a few sites run by my wife), are now hosted on DreamHost. Previously, I’d been using Media Temple since 2006, but it was time for a switch.

I don’t want to totally tear apart my former host, but I will explain the reasons why I chose to switch. I had signed up for the Grid Server on MT, paying $170 per year, or about $14.17 per month, though it’s currently advertised as $20 per month. For that, you get 100 GB storage, 1 TB transfer per month, 100 domains, 1000 email addresses. It sounds like that should be enough to handle just about anything I could throw at it. And per actual stats, I had at the peak, less than a dozen domains, most of which had little or no traffic, and a couple of email addresses, only one of which was really used. I used an average of 5 GB storage, and 60 GB bandwidth, with a peak month of 150 GB bandwidth (my iPad vs Kindle display post). So for all stats, I was way, WAY below any limits. Really just a small fraction of the limits. And that pretty much worked up until the beginning of 2010.

Occasionally I would get a message about a “MySQL Container Burst” but never got charged anything for whatever that was. Then in February of 2010, without my really noticing, I got put on a “MySQL Container Lite”. I’m not sure if I was not informed of this, or I just didn’t take notice, thinking it was the same as the container burst. But later in the year, I realized that I was being charged an extra $20 a month for this lite container. I finally found out what this means. When your databases start doing too many queries, they get switched out of the shared container so they don’t slow everyone else down. This is free. After a few days, they check again and if it’s back to normal, you go back to normal. But it they’re still using a lot, you get automatically switched over to the $20 a month lite container. Once you are switched to that, it’s permanent.

I also started getting the occasional “GPU overage” alert. This means that your “grid processing unit” on the grid server is using more than it’s share of processing power. At first it was just a few dollars here and there. But with the iPad vs. Kindle post, it started going out the roof, peaking at $186 in September. Since August alone this year, I’ve paid over $267 in GPU overages, in addition to $220 for the SQL container.

In short, my hosting bill went from exactly $170 the previous three years, to almost $700 this year ($676.61 to be exact), all while staying within a small fraction of the advertised limits. When I contacted Media Temple about this, they explained the container stuff, and suggested I look at a document about optimizing database tables. That was it. At that point, I started looking for other hosts.

I finally settled on DreamHost. I’ve spent the last couple of weeks transferring 7 domains, cancelling several others. So far, I really like DreamHost. I feel like I have a lot more control over virtually every aspect of server administration.

I really learned a lot in the whole switching process. Perhaps the biggest one was the final switch over of bit-101.com itself. With the other blogs, I used the WordPress export feature to save out an xml file, and when I had the new one set up, imported that xml file in. Worked like a charm. But this blog has been around a lot longer and the database was a lot bigger. No matter what I tried, the import failed. I was almost ready to just trash the old posts and start over. But I decided to roll up my sleeves and directly export the MySQL database and import it into a database on the new server. I couldn’t get this to work through phpMyAdmin, so I rolled up my sleeves even further, and SSHed into each server and did it all by hand. After many failed attempts, I got all the permissions and syntaxes right and here we are, like nothing ever happened. I was pretty proud of myself for pulling that off.

After 4 years on one server, there was a hell of a lot of garbage on there. All kinds of folders with files, many of which I have no idea what they are for. In order to not break any links, I just uploaded the whole damn thing to the new server. I’ll be going through and cleaning it up bit by bit, so if you notice any dead links, let me know.

36 responses so far. Comments will be closed after post is one year old.

  • Jason says:

    Are you using the Dreamhost PS option? I mostly use Dreamhost for Drupal installations and the biggest issue is that your database isn’t on the same server as your web server causing extra network hops. Not sure about WordPress but Drupal hits the database a lot.

    The PS (Private Server) option however is leaps and bounds better for the extra cash. You also just pay for the extra CPU/RAM when you need it. So when I know I am getting a lot more traffic I can just slide the reserved resources up for a few days and it is all good.

    One thing you have to watch out for is that you don’t get a static IP so if you have another service maintaining the DNS record and DH has to switch your server IP due to server reconfiguration you won’t be notified.

    I have been with them for a few years now and support has always been very responsive and helpful even with unsupported stuff. We have done quite a few releases of high traffic video sites and have had no issues with them cutting us off (awsfilmworks.com, habitatskateboards.com)

  • Jason says:

    I’ve used both Media Temple and Dreamhost a ton. Dreamhost hit a bad point a few years back but has come back fierce. It’s a solid deal and I haven’t had a problem with uptime or loading in the recent 3 years I’ve been with them. Make sure you sign up with their newsletter, they pass along some hidden gems in there. Its also super easy to set up a subversion repository. And an API that’s got a lot of great stuff baked in: http://wiki.dreamhost.com/API

    If you want to sign up, here’s a code to use: A4321 20% off plus free domain registration.

    My main experience with Media Temple comes in the DV form. I can’t complain about the DV service, never really had a problem and used them across many clients for an ad firm I worked for. My main issue with Media Temple is that the more you pay them (aka the higher tier you are at) the less responsive they get over support. It’s an enigma to me, but as you go from Grid to DV, you start getting auto-responses from support that they can’t help you with your issue. Usually it’s when your issue is software based, they claim to not support software on the DVs and up. My guess is other hosts are like this too, but doesn’t mean I have to agree.

    Enjoy the new host.

  • Matt Rix says:

    I’ve been with Dreamhost for over 5 years, and I’ve been quite happy with them overall. You’ve made a great choice.

    They aren’t always the most reliable host in the world, but they’re usually quite good, especially for what you pay for it. Their control panel is by-far the best I’ve used. MT’s is nice looking, but Dreamhost’s just feels snappier and it has even more stuff. I host most of my code+work on a DH SVN repo that’s grown to around 10 gigs over the years.

    I probably push their limits more than most. I had a *very* popular blog post back in October ( http://struct.ca/2010/the-story-so-far ) and it held up extremely well, I never received any reports of the site being down, and the load times were always fast.

    I also host the site for my iPhone game with them on a separate Dreamhost PS server ( http://trainyard.ca ) because the traffic gets pretty heavy (especially from user uploaded images). My main MYSQL DB is 270mb with 1.2 million rows in the largest table, and I’m currently using over 110gb of disk space.

    • Matt Rix says:

      I forgot to add how good the support is with Dreamhost… They have a “live chat support” thing in their panel, and it works ridiculously well. Usually someone is there to talk with you within a couple minutes, and it’s someone who works there, and in my cases it’s always been a technical person who really knows what’s going on.

  • Eric E. Dolecki says:

    I’ve got to say this site is much snappier loading. I have MT right now and even my never visited site with basic content takes a very long time to load for what it is. That’s my main beef with MT. It’s a GS account too.

    I’ve wondered about switching too.

    What you paying for the new hosting so we can compare?

    • keith says:

      DH is $9.95 per month, but discounted first year. I wasn’t really looking for bottom line pricing. I’m fine on paying a bit more for quality, just not having massive surprise charges.

      • t says:

        and actually, if you wait for holidaysm dreamhost usually has specials for $10 for 12 months of hosting (PLUS a domain name).

  • Dreamhost? Unless they have improved *significantly* in the past couple of years then I predict a very similar article to this being posted around the same time 2012. They were the masters of “oversell and under-perform” with abysmal network uptime and constant issues. So unless they’ve improved LOTS I’ve got my fingers crossed for you. Don’t go posting about the Kindle again any time soon aye? 🙂

    For the record I’d recommend either Pair Networks (http://www.pair.com), whom I’ve hosted with since 1996, and I’ve many servers with them – near faultless, top of their game. Or SliceHost, who I’m trailing out for an ElectroServer host, and they’ve been fantastic so far too.

    • keith says:

      I did a fair bit of research and saw mostly positive about DH. Actually, in the back of my mind, I had some idea that they were problematic, but apart from the occasional complaint (which you’re going to find with anything), it seemed pretty good.

    • Eric E. Dolecki says:

      Pair seems fairly expensive in comparison. And their “Advanced” web hosting plan says it’s “great for beginners” — I thought that was humorous.

      • In comparison to DreamHost Pair are expensive I agree, but they don’t have a notorious history for utterly sucking behind them. They have an impeccable history. Back around 2005 there were web sites dedicated to slagging DH off, their service, support and uptime was so bad. One power-outstage in LA took their whole network down. They had a Better Business rating of an F, which is probably the first letter of the word most people used to describe their ability at running a stable web host. From the outside the company seemed to be run by people with next to no real experience managing a proper network.

        Like I said I hope they have changed. To be honest if they must have, because they wouldn’t still be in business now if that hadn’t!. But once burnt and all that.

        • keith says:

          Well, it definitely sounds like you had a bad experience, as I did with MT. Hoping for the best with DreamHost, but at least my host-switching skills are up to par now. 🙂

        • keith says:

          As for the Better Business Bureau rating, yes, it’s still an F. But MediaTemple rates an A+, so my faith in that as a true measure just went out the window.

          • 🙂 I understand, and my hatred is definitely 5 years out of date, when I made the fatal mistake of using them for a client because they wanted “cheap hosting”. Hope it works out for you!

        • dh says:

          Pair is not the cheapest, but I have found they are the best value. I’ve been with them since 2002 and find their support invaluable. They are straight shooters – you pay for expertise and quality.

  • Oh man, I was seriously planning to switch to MT today actually. But to their DV server. I’m hoping that will work a bit better than the grid server. Actually all I REALLY want to do is install ElectroServer. Gonna look into DreamHost for that. Thanks for the info.

    • keith says:

      The DV server is a VERY different product. It wouldn’t have the same issues with the containers and gpu stuff, which are very specific to the grid server. So it may be fine. I considered switching to that, since I was already paying way more than that would have cost me, but had a bad taste in my mouth by that point.

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Keith Peters. Keith Peters said: why i left mediatemple: http://bit.ly/i8triw […]

  • Marc Dennert says:

    I’ve used Dreamhost for a number of domains now for three years and have had zero problems. Easily the best host I have found so far. Wait until you get your first newsletter from them – they are so funny – I actually look forward to receiving them.

    • Ross says:

      Agreed on the newsletter. I’ve had nothing but good experiences with DH. Keith, best of lucks with them!

  • I also just switched over to DH. So far I think its great for the price. I really like the svn feature. You can create as many svn repos as you’d like. It was a huge plus for me. We’ll see how it turns out.

  • Lazlo says:

    I left MediaTemple about 8 years ago and am so glad I did. They were scammers and probably still are. Most hosting companies are scammers. It’s very difficult to trust any host when you are paying practically nothing. I am with Rackspace, and yes there is a significant premium, but my site always works and there’s no “hidden” jacking up of the price.

    I used Dreamhost in the past, and yeah, they were alright, but I found out that they host hate websites. They have the right to host racist websites, but they’re not getting my money ’cause then it would just get dirty.

    In short: you get what you pay for.

  • adam says:

    You’d better static your blog, it’s very expensive every single post requests database query for every visit. Changing hosting is not the key point.

  • Todd says:

    I have been using DH for 5 years now and I have not had any trouble with them at all. I host 5 clients, and 6 blogs on there and so far none of them complained about any thing.

    Like they mentioned above the newsletters are funny, but I don’t read them that often to get all of the jokes he talks about.

    The SVN feature is nice and I have at least 7 different repos on there, and I have never had trouble with those either.

    Good luck Keith, I think you will be fine with DH.

  • keith says:

    You know, when I was writing this post, I came very close to not saying what host I had switched to, because I know that no matter what host I mentioned, someone would come on and say they’d had a problem with them, and others would come on and recommend other hosts that they found to be better. In the end though, I knew I couldn’t stop it so just braced myself for the inevitable.

  • I use Dreamhost too! I’m going to ride my psychedelic DH bike over to my new neighbor Keith’s house.

  • (mt) Matt says:

    We’re happy to hear that you are happy with your new host, and we do appreciate your loyalty for over 3 years.

    Your explanations are fair and concise, but there were two things that raised a flag when I read the article. First, was that after 3 years with no problems you began to see a reoccurring issue. Secondly, you mentioned in your final paragraph that your site had “a hell of a lot of garbage” on it.

    Just like a car, websites and servers need to be maintained constantly for premium output. Things like GPU usage not only stem from traffic, but from bad scripting, dead link, etc. In fact, the leading contributor to GPUs is 404 errors. We offer multiple knowledge base articles for our customers to help explain and troubleshoot issues like GPU’s. We offer advice, like optimization, due to experiences we’ve had with other customers, wherein a change of a script or a clean up of plugins fixes the problem. Now that you are moving to Dreamhost, and things are being cleaned, I would hope and expect for your site to run quite well.

    In no way am I trying to get into a finger pointing contest here, I just wanted to provide a counter to your point. We know that we are not infallible, just like any company. We are going to have issues that will affect our customers. I would not argue that some of the problem you were having were a result of something on our side. But, on the other hand, we just wanted to point out the other possibilities as to why things went awry.

    (Sidenote: I already posted this response on a blog that had scraped the articles onto theirs…apologies for repetition.)

    • keith says:

      I appreciate the comment. I’m glad you saw my post as “fair and concise”, as that’s what I was aiming for. I have no interest in vilifying MT or starting a campaign against you. Just wanted to report why I was switching. Other than the above, I have no real complaints about my previous years’ hosting. To be honest, had I gotten a more pro-active response to my support request, I probably would have stuck around. But as a fairly long-term customer who just paid 4x my usual rates this year, I felt the response was pretty brush-off.

    • Xavier says:

      Hey Matt from MT,

      I will stay with you guys for now (GS), but PLEASE, HIRE MORE PEOPLE FOR YOUR SUPPORT – waiting 20 hours to get feedback isn’t really what you expect from hosting company.

      Its almost as long as it took you to reply Keith post 🙂

      Except this I am quiet satisfied with your service, however my websites have low traffic.

      • (mt) Matt says:

        Thanks for the input from both of you. We are well aware of where we fall short, both in service and product, and are working to get things back to a higher standard. Posts like these are what help us change for the better.

        Thanks and Good Luck

  • sascha/hdrs says:

    I gotta give Dreamhost a try! MT has become really to slow even for my low traffic blog. Besides I can install trac there without additional cost. That sounds good! However it’s funny how some providers advertise their hosting plans … unlimited storage, unlimited transfer, files are hosted forever etc. For the record: Nothing is unlimited and nothing is forever! Even if the whole globe is covered inch by inch with servers, that’s still not unlimited! If in ~10^40 years the universe collapses that means nothing is forever, even if it takes a rather long time till then! To make it short: Providers please don’t try to bait people with such words! We’re not stupid! Somewhere there’s a limit for everything.

  • Daniel says:

    I was switching some stuff around not too long ago and when it came to the MySql stuff I’ve used heidisql http://www.heidisql.com/ to export and import (need the ssh access) It has saved me a bunch of time when editing tables. I only wish I could use it to edit an SQL db.

  • Seems like MT was charging you VPS prices, because your sql needs necessitated the overages. I bit the bullet and got a VPS at Wiredtree and even though it’s about $50 month , it is worth it to have total control over the software stack and their customer service is astoundingly good for the tons of crap I don’t understand.

  • […] Linux portion of this whole thing got rekindled recently, in my switch over from MediaTemple to Dreamhost. I was messing with DNS settings and MX records and SSHing into both servers and running SQL […]

  • zeh says:

    I’ve been with DreamHost for 7.5 years. Couldn’t be happier. I think it’s a good move. I don’t have bad things to say about MT, but it always struck me as odd anyone would even compare them, since the cost-to-benefit ratio seems to be so much better at DH.

    They’ve had a succession of bad luck a couple of years ago with server outages and such. I guess that’s why a lot of people don’t like them — that single experience. But I’m happy I stayed with them – they’ve put themselves together and are as good as before, and always getting better.