Prepaid or not, this seems a remarkable deal. Frankly, I’ve been waiting to see some informed discussion of the service. For my own usage, it is a potential replacement for unmanaged VPS services. I’ve read a couple of caveats/concerns around the web about the network but is there anyone out there with experience of the service or willing to pipe in here with your own thoughts?
Hopefully the thread serves as a placeholder for any discussion on the topic. At least my own periodic searches should come up with a single hit now.
Personally, I think our dedicated hosting plan with Alchemy is a pretty screaming deal - it’s damn hard to get a dedicated server of any variety as low as $60 a month. But I may be biased.
Offhand, here are the most important “gotchas” to keep in mind before jumping on it:
[list] These servers are COMPLETELY UNMANAGED. This means that the Dreamhost panel will not recognize them, and you will need to do all the server management (setting up the web server, creating user accounts, backing up your data, etc.) yourself. If you are not familiar with Linux server management, this deal is not for you. On the other hand, if you are comfortable with running your own server, this might be exactly what you want.
 I mentioned it earlier, but I’ll say it again: because these servers are unmanaged, there are no automatic backups. If you have a hardware failure which results in data loss (say, your hard disk crashes), Alchemy’s responsibility is limited to replacing the hardware.
[*] Since this is a dedicated server, you do not have unlimited resources. In particular, you get a 250 GB hard disk, 4 GB of memory, and 1 TB/month of bandwidth. Alchemy may be able to arrange for upgrades if necessary, but they will cost you.
You touched on one of the concerns that gives me pause. The resource limits. As you point out, there is no hard disk redundancy so network backup will be necessary. Even using an incremental system, I’m slightly concerned about how much of that 1TB one would use just on system maintenance. Not to overplay that concern, but it serves to remind me of the monitoring challenge.
Does DH have a 1st time (over the limit) forgiveness policy when it comes to the bandwidth policy. Or any kind of real time reporting they share with customers? I know there are any number of tools available to me as a Linux administrator but I want to have confidence that my numbers are the same as yours. I don’t like surprises.
It’s probably obvious to you that the resources used for backup depend a lot on the specifics of the site you’re running. If the site is primarily staticly published, you could imagine that no backups are necessary since your “backups” are in source control. The same would go for the case where your site is a server application (except for the data). Regarding data from a CMS or various and sundry items entered by or uploaded by users, by definition if you’re running efficient incremental backups this must be less than the bandwidth used by your site itself otherwise how could the data have gotten in?
Another consideration here is discovering how bandwidth usage is implemented. For many web hosts, only http traffic is measured. I’d guess that this wouldn’t be the case for a dedicated server because of the wide variety of network-listening applications that you could host on it.
Remember that the dedicated hosting is actually provided by Alchemy Communications. Dreamhost in this case is acting as a marketer for Alchemy and Alchemy is fulfilling the service. Here is a link to the Alchemy dedicated hosting FAQ: http://www.alchemy.net/faq.php#dedicated
Note that the FAQ does mention the availability of onsite backup starting at $30 a month for 30GB.
You’re smart to wait. I’ve been stupid, it seems. I’ll let the email I just sent to Alchemy do the talking:
[font=Courier]Your company promises a 100% uptime guarantee. Can you please explain to me, then, what in the world just happened? Our server ([company name, IP]) simply “disappeared” about 13 hours ago. It did not respond to pings…simply nothing. I sent email requests to support from noel@-----.com and --------@gmail.com. I received NO response. About half an hour ago, I called your NOC. I reached the downtown NOC. It took him several minutes to find out that my server is in the LAX NOC. He tried to call that center but no one picked up the phone!!! I asked him if he was able to remotely monitor the servers there and he said no, citing the physical distance.
Suddenly, within a few minutes of my call, our server reappeared. The logs show no indication of any shutdown or malfunction. I can see that the server itself was unable to resolve name lookups as of 13 hours ago. It would appear that someone simply messed up something routing-wise in a big way. Please explain to me how this fits in with your 100% uptime guarantee. I would think that my one year prepayment for services would entitle me to better treatment than I have received thus far. This is the second time, since becoming a customer a week ago, that I have had a severely disappointing experience with your level of service.[/font]
I cc’ed Dreamhost’s support and sales addresses, but I’d like to know who else to send this to at Dreamhost to let them know that what they’re advertising (and bought a stake in!) seems to be having some real problems.
Sure, you can manage the server yourself if you can connect to it. In my case, there was no route to the server at all. It just “vanished” from the network. Presumably I could pay an extra $35 a month to have a KVM connection to the console. But since I haven’t received any explanation as to what happened, I don’t know if even that would have helped.