500 Internal Server Error- paralyzed

Super frustrated that my site has been down since 12pm yesterday, and all support suggestions are completely useless since I can’t access my wordpress website, get to my ftp server. The only suggestion I have not tried is moving to Dreamhost VPS, which is not addressing what is my root problem.
history below:

Excerpt from dreamhost: "I’m sorry that you are encountering these issues. It would appear that
the sites that are running under your user " " are
occasionally hitting our shared server’s memory limits. This is why your
site is seemingly slow, and the 500 errors are directly related as well.
Here is an excerpt from the log kept by our Process Watcher, the daemon
that is killing your troublesome php5.cgi processes:

“…killed for uid ram”

They go on to describe Procwatch daemon

then, "can often be a bit of a trial-and-error procedure, but I will provide as much information as I can to aide you in this process."
Common Cause for high memory usage: Plugins, database,

then looking at database via phpmyadmin

maybe spike in traffic, abusive IP, .htaccess,
You might as well want to try looking over the suggestions offered at our
wiki pages on this matter:


Implementing the above suggestions more often than not will fix the
ProcWatch errors, but if you are still finding that your sites encounter
the same problems, you might want to consider moving to a VPS
(http://wiki.dreamhost.com/DreamHost_PS) or dedicated server where you
can reserve sufficient RAM for your own processes to run!

I am sorry if this news is discouraging, but I felt it was important that
you have the full benefit of knowing what is occurring here so you can
make the appropriate decision to meet your needs for this site.

If you have any other questions, or if I can help you further, please let
me know! I hope you have a great day!"

I write back I can’t even try any suggestions cause the 500 Internal server error won’t allow me too… can’t access FTP, can’t even do shell access to look at error logs,

2nd dreamhost response: "It looks like you’re going over your memory allocation limits for shared
hosting. Please keep in mind this has nothing to do with traffic but RAM
consumption. It looks like wordpress is the issue. You can use this wiki
as a guide to fine tune your wordpress installation:

Let us know if you have any questions about this after reading the wiki
above, let us know we’ll be happy to help.

Or, you can enable the VPS for a one week trial period to see how that
works out for you?"

[b]So… This doesn’t help as my site has been down completely, it isn’t intermittent, I can’t access wordpress admin, no ftp, and the only solution from dreamhost is to try VPS???

I’m open to a VPS once i figure out what is wrong, but I can’t access anything!! I’d really like to know what is the root cause, disable plugins that may be hogging the RAM, try a caching plugin… before I jump on board to a VPS. [/b]

I don’t see where in dreamhosts response it says your only option is to jump to VPS. In fact they are really quite helpful with other suggestions. It’s possible to work around the problem but it may not be quick and easy, there is no magic fix button.

As I see it you have 3 choices, start reading and studying, start looking for someone that has a better understanding of the details (either unpaid friend or hired professional), or move to VPS to get more resources. I don’t recommend the last option in the least, until you prove you site needs it based on traffic.
As bobocat has pointed out many times, dreamhost is like the power company, but your asking it to repair the toaster. What you need to do is either repair the toaster yourself, or find a toaster repairman.

All the suggestions they have offered are only helpful if I can get on the site to do them. There are no instances of uptime that I can access any the wordpress dashboard
my ftp server
Putty (to access error logs)
I would LOVE to troubleshoot but how can I if I can’t get to any of the proposed methods?
This is my problem.

The 500 error is an http status code. Specifically it’s not letting you in the front door, which the front door includes wp-admin.

If you are unable to log into ftp, phpMyAdmin, or ssh(putty) that is in fact a different problem (ftp and ssh don’t use http protocol) and you should contact support to help you troubleshoot that.

Someone will be able to get this figured out without root access to the server, which is the only thing dreamhost has that you don’t.

The fix may be multipart such as find plugin#1 that is outdated conflicts with main theme, brute force delete the plugin via ftp, which might cause other errors that have to be resolved before your back online. … or maybe find settings to change in the database so that you can get in and uninstall something.

I realize this is not straight forward and clear cut, but it can be resolved with the tools you have available to you (and anyone you find to help you along the way).

Thank you so much LakeRat, this at least helps me understand this is a multi-part problem, with a multi-part fix. I will use this to open another ticket in parallel.

situation resolved!!! whew, what a relief!!! (thank you to Lakerat for educating me on the broader issue of a 500 error, i was close to the end of my rope)

outage was about 20 hours total… it may be time to move to a VPS. but if anyone is curious thought I’d post the concluding message from dreamhost. By the way my traffic ranges from 7k to 40k unique visits/month. If anyone has feedback if this warrants a vps or doesn’t , would love to hear it. I personally don’t like the idea of having to share a server now, especially with the chance of this happening again… .

thanks heckman for getting to the bottom of my issue!! excerpt below from the final resolution:

"I’m very sorry for the confusion, frustration, and difficulties this
event has caused you! It appears that last night, when this problem
started, your server was experiencing unusual load on it due to some
users (not you) excessively using shared hosting resources. Our admins
went right to work and started moving those users off the server.
However, in that process, your user/domain started malfunctioning and our
sysadmin and technical support teams were unable to pinpoint the exact
problem (hence the previous messages about procwatch kills which turned
out to be inaccurate). When the moves were finished, our admins took
another look and realized that the entire shared server needed a reboot.
Once that reboot was complete, your site started loading again! Hooray!

I apologize again for the problems you’ve had with us recently and ask
that if there’s anything else we can assist you with, just write back to
us and we’ll do our best to assist you! :slight_smile:

Note - I’ve also gotten permission from one of my managers to credit your
account $5 (the value of hosting with us for two weeks)!"


I tweeted you earlier, but I also wanted to follow up with you here :slight_smile: I’m happy to see everything got resolved, with the help of LakeRat and Heckman! I’ll be sure to pass the gratitude on to him :slight_smile: If you have any questions about our VPS hosting, feel free to ask! And of course, if you need anything else, we’ll be happy to help.

[quote=“njplaygrounds, post:6, topic:59169”]Note - I’ve also gotten permission from one of my managers to credit your
account $5 (the value of hosting with us for two weeks)!"[/quote]

Now that’s a nice ticket response! Awesome stuff :smiley:

I have been very impressed with DreamHost’s support so far. No, they don’t always have the answer you want to hear, but they usually are giving you the straight up … even if it is, “Our bad.”

I agree. Dream host customer service rocks and they have ben very helpful to me for the past 3 years, at least that’s how long I think I’ve been with them.