Stop offering 'backups'


#1

Recently, DH Justin wrote:

I respectfully suggest that DreamHost stop claiming to offer backups (Snapshot Data Backup and Data Backup).

Since they aren’t guaranteed, the lack of guarantee is not stated anywhere in DH’s promotional material nor ToS, and there’s no way for the end user to verify the backup integrity nor the date and time of the last backup, it’s basically the same as having no backup at all.

In fact, it’s worse. By claiming that DH performs backups of user accounts and databases, this instils a false sense of security which may lead some, foolish or not, to backup on their own less frequently or less rigorously than they would if they believed that DH does not provide any backup service under any circumstances.

The claim may even expose DH to legal action by claiming to offer a service which it does not actually provide.

Offering a backup service which is not guaranteed and is really just a shot in the dark is a waste of time for DH and a constant source of disappointment for customers when it comes time to restore only to find out that the backups are old, incomplete, or missing. Usually it is only at that time when DH mentions the key detail that backups are not guaranteed.

Therefore let it be resolved that DreamHost cease the practice of claiming to offer a backup service to its customers.


#2

^ +1


#3

the sad thing is that http://wiki.dreamhost.com/Backups promises them,

but when you get to the poorly written domain restores page http://wiki.dreamhost.com/Domain_Restore
you find out thats NOT the case.

Why can’t they show us in the panel what backups of the domain are available… it’s 2013… that easy to do =]


#4

That’s the real answer, IMO. Don’t stop offering backups, just make it as sophisticated as many of the other features in the panel.


#5

Make what sophisticated in the panel? The point is that the ‘backups’ that are on offer are not guaranteed which, in terms of backup, is the same as saying we don’t have any backup.


#6

I just tried out the Domain Restore feature mentioned above.

After hitting restore Panel informed me in a nice big friendly green message:

[quote=“Panel Message”]Success!
Your domain restore for sxi.sabrextreme.com has been scheduled! The completed time varies on how big your backup is, but we will notify you once it is done!
Thanks,
The Happy DreamHost Domain Restoring Robot![/quote]

“Success!”. Happy Robot!

And the email notification afterwards:

[quote=“email”]Hello,

Unfortunately we were unable to process your domain restore for
sxi.sabrextreme.com as there were no available backups!

We are very sorry about this! Howevvvvver… we actually make no
guarantees about availability of backups, and highly recommend you
always keep your own copies of all important data. Please follow the
link below for instructions with this:

Thanks,
The Unhappy Dreamhost Domain Restore Robot![/quote]

“Unfortunately”. “No available backups!” Unhappy Robot.

The majority of the content is an excuse followed by details on how to backup a website manually.

If I was restoring because my site is currently buggered then there is no logical reason for me to perform a manual backup at this stage. Granted, it’s good advice - but it was given far, far too late to be of any actual use other than educational purposes. And where, pray tell, did they “highly recommend” that I do my own backups anyway? Not during the signup process. Definitely not in the marketing spiel which states via a nice big friendly green “Yes” that they do backup data. This email might very well be the first time I even knew they highly recommended anything.

They could make “nothing” as sophisticated as they like. It’ll still be “nothing”.


#7

Wow… well now that you mention it, I don’t think dreamhost DOES backups, so you’re correct they should drop it from marketing materials.

I just put in a request for a restore and was politely told:

I wonder if ANYONE has a backup available.


#8

Thank you sXi and LakeRate for demonstrating my point so eloquently!


#9

I just tried a few more restores and was rewarded with the the same message.

A few days ago I was trying to point out to a few people at dreamhost that this page, made a promise. That was taken back, when AND IF someone actually clicked the link contained within in the sentence.

I thought just the documentation left a lot to be desired, apparently there is no such thing as a backup tho.


#10

I just tried to restore a few of my domains, choosing each of the time frames to see how many snapshots actually existed. These are 100% static HTML sites with very infrequent changes. But just as you pointed out, no backups for any of them, for any of the backup time frames.

Backups don’t exist.

Stop telling your customers that you are doing something that you are not doing. Stop advertising a service which you do not provide.

Seriously.

Personally, I have backups of the important things, for the most part. I should be more vigilant, and I will be now. But advertising that a particular service is included as part of the package that you are selling and then not providing it is false advertising and, I’m quite serious here, does expose you to legal action.

Addendum:

It does appear that databases are routinely backed up. If you want to offer only database backups, this should be clearly noted in your promotional materials and ToS. And the non-functioning ‘domain backup’ option should be removed from the panel. It does not work.


#11

I didn’t realize how bad it is since I’ve never tried to use it before. Maybe it would be better if they just didn’t offer/claim to offer it. The reason I’ve never used it before is I think of a backup as something to go to when the DH service fails - so DH should have NOTHING to do with that. Just as DH doesn’t host dreamhoststatus.com, DH shouldn’t host backups of a DH site. My website’s backups are on my laptop, another laptop, and a cloud storage service. If all 4 fail at the same time I’m not restoring the site, I’m heading for the mountains.


#12

Thanks very much for bringing this to my attention!

I apologize for the lack of follow up so far (we had a lot of people tied up in meetings yesterday). To clarify, the backups absolutely should be working - it’s not that we’ve stopped providing them or turned off any feature; however, we have found on occasion that specific machines aren’t properly getting into the rotation or the like and there have been instances where backups were not available. We do of course try our best to monitor but if you’re not seeing these please contact support through your account so that we can find out why your backups are not available. While we do attempt to provide the backups, the reason we have all of the warnings is that we’re not a company that has specialized in that particular feature and we definitely don’t want to be the reason one of our customers loses something vital.

That said, I will look into making sure we’re providing plenty of warning about proper local backups of anything vital as well as speaking with our admin and support teams so make sure we’re not seeing abnormally high failure rates in collecting backups. We are also looking into other options for backing up your files that you may be interested in once they’re ready to go.
[hr]
Update: One bit of feedback already from the managers of our TS team - we are in the process of migrating a large number of customers to our shiny new data center in Virgina. For those who have been recently migrated there will be a brief window during with you have no backups (as they have to start building up on the new backup servers in the new data center). We can of course look for backups at the old data center if there is a problem during that window.


#13

Thanks for the update. I’ll open a ticket for the issue on my individual account.

For the Record: I’ve been on the same server for a couple of years and have not moved.

The problem also is there is no way to tell if backups are even being attempted. For mysql backups the backup sets available are populated into a dropdown and you can clearly see what is available. However for server backups you actually have to request a restore in order to be emailed that no backups where available. How about listing possibly available backup sets in the panel, so we can see what might be available, if everything works right.

MOST IMPORTANTLY: When the user gets the email from the restore process telling them No backkups are available, that is WAY TOO LATE. There most be a way for a customer to be diligent.


#14

Thanks for your reply.

I think, however, you have missed some key points that have led me to my suggestion above, notably that ‘backups’ which can not be verified are worse than no backups at all. You suggest that we contact support if we notice that backups are missing, but there is no method of checking the existence nor integrity of these ‘backups’ short of requesting a restore. And who is going to do that? Only someone who has already lost their data.

If you compare the information provided in the database restore area of the panel, we can see instantly that there are five days of backups and, if your database has been increasing in size, you can see that increase reflected in the size of the daily backups. This still doesn’t prove the integrity of the backups, but does allow most users to confirm that a) they exist, b) they are x days old, and c) they are probably good.

No such mechanism exists to verify the the existence, age, nor integrity of the server backups short of attempting a restore.

Are you asking every DH customer to attempt a restore every day via cron to ascertain the above information?


#15

Thanks for the follow-up, mir, it’s very much appreciated!

In my case I was migrated in December last year, so the window seems to have been left ajar in my case, and from what Lakerat has posted above his window might not have ever been opened in the first place.

I think it’s safe to assume that those posting in this thread are users who understand that backups are our own responsibility - and we accept that fact without question. The problem is with the claim which is advertised via big friendly green checkmark that backups actually do happen, when it is apparent that at least under some circumstances, they do not. This could give some users a false sense of security, which seems to have been the case with at least a few DreamHosters of late.

Personally, I’d be happier if backups weren’t provided by default (especially on the shared systems) although I understand that might be a matter of contention marketing-wise.


#16

Opened the follow ticket via the panel:


#17

Evidently the solution is not simple!

Support claims backups are being made, it’s just the restore function that is broken.

This came back from support about 48 hours after I opened the ticket.

Since they closed the ticket, I guess that is the last word until there is a problem. It’s not very re-assuring at all, but then again they are only “courtesy backups” as we recently learned in another thread.

Hopefully “when the admin team along with the development team” gets this sorted out we will be able to see what “courtesy backups” via the panel, much like we can see what mysql backup exist via the panel.


#18

Protip to DH development teams: Test-driven development.

Your customers are not your tests. And if you think they are, then stop blowing off their complaints because it’s clear that they are pointing out real problems with your service but most of them are not willing to create enough sustained noise to rise to the level that you’ll notice.


#19

I apologize, we shouldn’t have closed the ticket without the issue being resolved. If you would like to email me (john@dreamhost.com) one of your domains hosted on the account (or from the contact email address) so I am able to find the support history I should be able to track down the bug and see if it’s completed (or provide an update and keep track of it until it’s resolved).


#20

Ticket #5587814 / reply #69241901

The reply basically made me aware that backups are available, just not restorable through the panel. Not very re-assuring.

The domain restore function should work much like the db restore function, where you can see in the panel what backups are available.