A Call for Stability and Accountability

I love Dreamhost, don’t get me wrong, but recently the service has been absolutely terrible.

For example, on dreamhoststatus.com, there have been 14 postings this month alone. That means there has been more maintenance periods or downtimes than there are days in the month (thus far)! This is completely unacceptable for any kind of host.

Even in April, there were 11 different posts which marks nearly a post every other day.

I’m hoping I don’t need to bring up the downtime that occurred in March…

I love Dreamhost and I think the service is awesome. Dreamhost needs to take some steps to prevent this kind of downtime. May is looking like a rough month and I’m tired of checking dreamhoststatus.com as a part of my regular routine wondering when the next time my sites will be down.

For starters, I think Simon should make a point to address the downtime in the next newsletter and he should lay out definite plans to prevent downtime from happening again. Next, Dreamhost should commit to no more than 5 outages, no matter how small, to all of its customers or they receive free hosting for that month (and maybe they only do this for a month). I understand that this would be extremely risky and expensive, but hosting my sites with Dreamhost this month has become extremely risky and expensive and I have experienced and will experience more downtime and have unhappy clients.

I hope this doesn’t come across as a rant! Dreamhost needs to take some definite steps of improvement here (because I haven’t seen any).

I’ll add my concerns here as well. I’m a long time customer, the opposite of alarmist-type users that freak out anytime something glitches. I don’t think I uttered a cross word in any support tickets for the first 7 years I was here. in the past 5 years it’s been going steadily downhill on the performance side as well as support.

Back in those days I was working on web sites on dreamhost all day every day and would rarely run into any problems. If a problem was encountered, I’d contact support and they’d look into it and fix it, usually in a matter of hours, never over 24.

Jump to today where I mostly run volunteer organization sites on WordPress. I set them up, hand them over and walk away. I am not around Dreamhost near as much and yet troubles and the frustration level is markedly higher.

Yesterday I was trying to post something to a wordpress powered site and was noticing 90 second page load times (or ajax events) so I notified support after hours of this behavior. They didn’t look into it, they looked into their book of stall tactics (sorry if that’s a bit cynical) and asked me to check plugin and think about using a caching plugin. I don’t use plugins to avoid problems like this, they could have easily checked that. If I had to guess I’d look at MySQL and I reckon if they’d looked into it they’d be led somewhere like that as well. Instead, about a day later, I got the “it’s working fine now” email with a few suggestions tagged on.

Today I’m posting something to another WP site with same or worse performance issues.

A bell goes off. Come to think of it I’ve been getting no thumbnail previews when I try to reference pages from these sites for quite some time at facebook. Facebook can’t fetch a thumb from the page because the page is not loading. I of course get that sinking feeling and have to ask “how long has this been going on”?

I understand growth pains. I understand complications growing with the customer base, I understand new ownership, understand all these things. But the reasons I was signed up and stayed with Dreamhost were: 1) Rock solid performance. 2) Knowledgeable support staff that enjoyed fixing broken things and did it quick. That’s just not the case any longer and there is nothing setting Dreamhost apart from the competition for me anymore. I would suspect with a lot of the older customers feel the same.

Please let me apologize - as a 13+ year employee I have seen just about everything that has happened with the company over the years (both good and bad) and I can assure you that the folks working here with me take it very seriously (and personally) when the service is not up to par. While I hope that the lighthearted and irreverent tone of our newsletter will remain the same, that is in stark contrast to the atmosphere when working to correct service issues. We take pride in what we’ve built here and in the loyalty and passion of our customers and I realize that we have to do better. We’ve invested a lot of money in improving our network infrastructure and have been making progress but we do have to clean it up and get it right as quickly as possible. I appreciate your feedback here and will make sure it gets passed along - we’re listening, I promise.

John R
Customer Experience Manager & Technical Product Adviser
VP of Awesome
New Dream Network, LLC

Great things you’ve said but you know that as a long time customer it’s been heard before. I certainly hope you can get it done and I certainly hope I’m still here to see it. With my luck I’ll do the painful moving of a thousand assets only to watch DH turn it around, but I would still be happy to see the web host that I started with, bragged on, brought a bunch of friends and clients to, put on a pedestal, said could do no wrong, would foam at the mouth in a frenzy of positivity over, get back to that happy place.

For now however I just submitted a support ticket for the exact same complaint as above (last time they said it looked ok, and it did, for a few hours, been slow since). Just one site this time however as I’m too_damn_tired and heavy of heart to even look at the others.

We’re a long way from our happy places

Having worked for a hosting company in the past, the job that Dreamhost does for the price they charge is phenomenal. Yes, there is downtime, but they’re a big company. You hear the phrase “you get what you pay for” a lot when it comes to shared hosts; Dreamhost is one of the very few that I’ve even encountered that make it their mission to give you so much more than what you pay for.

If you’re concerned about downtime, go to linode, or heroku, or some other dedicated hosting provider. You’ll still get downtime, but you’ll probably get less free support for it.

Now I’m not certain the size of the data centre that Dreamhost is running, but even the biggest companies have outages (I remember an entire datacentre run by The Planet being taken offline for a couple of days in 2010, I think). Dreamhost is quite good at keeping things running, and they’re putting in huge amounts of work to keep things humming along.

I’m not saying that people shouldn’t complain - you’re paying customers, and you have every right to complain, but just remember that it’s nearly impossible to find a service as good as the one offered by Dreamhost for anything even approaching a similar price. They do a good job.

Its pretty normal for a Host as large as dreamhost to have some downtime. They have thousands of servers and some will fail.

I appreciate the listening but even moreso the fixing. About 30 hours or so after submittiing the last support ticket 2 weeks ago, and some hours after your response, the problem was fixed: “hung FCGI process manager thread that was fixed and now runs quickly”.

Since I received this response I’ve been monitoring the sites at random intervals for 2 weeks and am very pleased to say they’ve been performing acceptably if not fast at every check.

I remain a little concerned that it was a problem that (seemed anyway) to have been going on for months and was fixed just like that but I’m very happy with, and appreciative of, the result.

I wouldn’t know if this is true or not, I’ve only ever used Dreamhost I’m happy to say. I’ve had to develop in other locations here and there over the years but anything I ever sold and built was using Dreamhost and all the sites I still have a hand in maintaining or building continue here.

That said it’s hard to believe that there isn’t someone out there competing with Dreamhost and I was getting ready to find out. I went as far as to begin documenting all the asset configurations in prep to move.

It’s never easy to end an old, happy relationship and move on and I’m glad I wasn’t forced to. As you seem to imply, I could always end up somewhere worse.

Jake77 and bobthecheese, I never compared Dreamhost to other hosts, I compare them to themselves. They have not been up to their own standard, set by themselves.

mir/Dreamhost, Thank you guys for keeping at it and doing all you do. Keep it up and we can maybe renew our vows on a sandy beach someday in the near future. I still love you.

What ever happened to that backbone overhaul you did last spring/summer? There were a lot of major issues late winter/early spring with network stability and some of the core switches/routers. In about the May/June timeframe there were a few points of 12h maintenance (never lasted that long) where you were replacing the equipment. Has that new equipment started to fail?

I echo this statement
Customer since 2000.

I love logging into my account and running up time to see a 40+ load average

Did you open a ticket? Every time I’ve had a problem like that (which is like twice in a 5 years) I opened a ticket and the problem was resolved very quickly.

They tell me its within acceptable range. IMO anything over 6 on a shared host is too much for a 15min average.

Hmmm, where did you come up with 6? I don’t work for dreamhost and I don’t know what server you are on, but it’s my understanding that most of the shared servers have 16 core processors. If you are on a 16 core processor then 6 means not very busy.

There’s a thread around here somewhere, but I can’t seem to find it right now, with a lot of discussion over what should be normal vs high for shared.

Current machines have 8 cores (we’re using smaller, but denser, hardware now), but the same principle applies. A load average of 6 is within normal limits.

I’ve been here for 3 years and for the first half Dreamhost were the best i’d ever dealt with. I was new. I made mistakes. they helped. But the second half of our relationship has been extremely rocky with me always blamed even though Dreamhost normally lands up being the problem. Those “stall tactics” have wreaked months of havoc.

I’ve also been having up to 90 seconds page load times. One of those stall tactics would be a lack of a cache plugin blamed for a site, for example, that only turns over less than 30 pages a day (no video).

I’ve been having a problem with FB thumbnail extraction for a month.

I posted a thread now entitled Dear Simon Anderson - Service is Shocking. It worries me that i have so little faith left that i worry that Dreamhost would just terminate my site as they are always right and i’m always wrong. I have more than 40 sites because it’s been a project to further my town. The little money i do make supports my charity work and political activism. The downtime or sluggish modes recently have damaged me…and Dreamhost hasn’t seemed to care.

I don’t see any noticeable delay below Load average of 20 (for 15 min average).
Static pages show up even at the load average of more than 100, after a bit of delay.
Some of light scripts also work at the over 100 condition, while heavier scripts may time out.

Several years ago, servers used to crash after prolonged period of more than 100 load average.
But a few days ago, I saw another episode of high load average (more than 120) and the server survived and things got cooled down after a while.
Today, servers for our sites are pretty lightly loaded between 7 and 20, most of the time. Very cool and smooth.

I regularly see load average of more than 30 or even 40, but I’m not worried and our sites aren’t affected much (if it’s just high load average) as they are well cached and use relatively light scripts.
But for the heavier sites constructed with PHP/MySQL/Ajax/etc, it might be a bit different story. And there are more variables to consider (such as MySQL server).

Right now, the server for our site is heavily loaded (more than 100 load average) for more than 2 hours.

Highest mark recorded is this!
0 users, load average: 168.57, 163.56, 140.85

And the site is loading very slow, indeed.
But it’s still loading, including dynamic pages served by scripts, and the server is still alive.
It’s amazing in many ways.

So, load average of 20 isn’t problem.
When it’s more than 40, it becomes a bit slow.
When it’s more than 100, it’s very slow.
When it lasts more than 2 hours, it’s annoying.