Is DreamHost always this bad?
July 30, 2006 2:52 PM   Subscribe

Is DreamHost always this bad? Are they going to get better?

I've been working with a client's site hosted with DreamHost. The number of outages, network problems and so on has been really quite unimpressive. I read their DreamHost Status page and shake my head. There's a new and quite serious problem every day.

This question addresses the same issue and someone in it says they suffered from DOS attacks. But that's not what's going on now. It's just one random thing after another. Plus, there are outages and failures to connect at my end (on "charm") that never get a mention.

I like DreamHost, their prices are good and their control panel and forums and so on make sense to me. Plus the fact that they're so big and popular means there's a decent community of users. I was considering hosting one of my own projects with them.

But seriously. The service just doesn't seem reliable. Are they going through a bad patch or is it all bad patch with them? Can I expect them to improve?
posted by AmbroseChapel to Computers & Internet (52 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I had a friend who just tried to get Dreamhost to host his website, and it was just cock-up after cock-up. He gave up.

He also found Dreamhost Sucks, which is a pretty robust anti-Dreamhost site.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 3:05 PM on July 30, 2006

Hmm -- hasn't been updated since April. But it does link to the Better Business Bureau's report on them.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 3:08 PM on July 30, 2006

I've been with DreamHost for just over two years now and haven't had my site go down once (except for the time their power went out -- not their fault). I've been able to connect to my shared server since I paid for it.

DreamHost support has been great, when I've needed it.

So basically what I'm saying is no, DreamHost is not always bad. DreamHost's status page is more thorough than bad. They detail just about every issue they have. This is a good thing, not a bad thing.
posted by yellowbkpk at 3:10 PM on July 30, 2006

One of my clients sites has been with Dreamhost for about 6 months. For the first month or two it was great, but the past 1-2 months have been awful. Outage after outage. E-mail is frequently down or unresponsive and the past few weeks, there has been significant e-mail outages on a near daily basis.

The big question for me is whether this is just bad luck (hardware failing/power outages) or a result of their popularity (DOS attacks, etc...).
posted by fatbobsmith at 3:26 PM on July 30, 2006

I have about 5 Web sites in DreamHost, and other than the hiccup this week, I can't remember the last problem I had with them. Anecdotal, sure, but it's MY anecdote. I love 'em.
posted by Bud Dickman at 3:28 PM on July 30, 2006

My weblogs are on Dreamhost servers that have thought it was february 2007 already, which made for some interesting visitor statistics.

There has been something going on there, these past few weeks, which is not good, and I don't like.
posted by ijsbrand at 3:35 PM on July 30, 2006

FWIW, I've been with DH for 6 or so years now and I've never really had any problems.

I've always considered them to be top-notch.
posted by unixrat at 3:38 PM on July 30, 2006

I've had great service and excellent customer service through dreamhost as well. The last week or so has been the exception, not the rule. I only run a personal wiki and my e-mail through them, though.
posted by Gary at 3:49 PM on July 30, 2006

+1 vote for sucky.

I switched to dreamhost about 3 months ago and rarely a day goes by without some kind of outage or problem connecting.

I love the control panel (although the delay between applying a change and it actually taking place is annoying and IMHO unnecessary), the one-click installs and their support wiki/forums, and the fact I can host unlimited sites relatively cheaply.

However I am seriously considering a switch to another hosting company.

I can only assume DH is the victim of their own success. That by reducing prices to rock bottom levels their servers are now saturated with hosted sites.
posted by schwa at 4:01 PM on July 30, 2006

Anecdote: has seemed stable enough this last week. Prior two weeks, the server's been up and down, FTP, web access, and especially e-mail servers, for which the timing wasn't terribly good. So I am vaguely annoyed with them right now.
posted by furiousthought at 4:03 PM on July 30, 2006

For years they were great but the last month or two has been terrible. I don't know if they've just had an unlucky coincidence on failures or have underfunded operations but it's definitely been unusually bad.

One note, however: the dreamhost status page sounds worse than it actually is. They have a ton of machines and most of the ones listed there are systems which I've never heard of because non of my sites use them. The failure which was catastrophic was the recent filer problem - that took *everything* down (I've been meaning to ask our NetApp rep how that's possible).
posted by adamsc at 4:12 PM on July 30, 2006

Yes, service at DreamHost for the last few weeks has been rotten. It's likely a number of factors.

I've been meaning to move one of my sites away from there for a couple months, but I'm lazy and don't want to much with it. It's probably to the point that I'll have to now.
posted by FlamingBore at 4:19 PM on July 30, 2006

I've been with DH for 4 years and they've been great. The last few months however, have been horrible. I'm seriously thinking of switching hosts after this last time. I was without email for over 24 hours and it's been horribly slow since. This is probably the 3rd time in several months that I've had my email go down for an extreme amount of time.
I'm not sure that I'll switch, but I surely am aggravated.
posted by jdl at 4:26 PM on July 30, 2006

I've been using Dreamhost for just over a month. They've been quick to respond to support issues. I had a 2 hour SQL server outage on Thursday, but other than their "our entire network is down" issues, I havn't had any. I run my sites for fun, as opposed to profit or livelyhood. I'm not paying for 5 nine's worth of uptime. I'm just wanting somewhere to put our blogs.

The consensus I've seen is that they've just had a really crappy last month, between the NAS issues, network problems, and power outages. Hopefully we've seen the worst.
posted by jeversol at 4:39 PM on July 30, 2006

Response by poster: Wow, I'm loving that Better Business Bureau page. They're rated:
F: We strongly question the company’s reliability for reasons such as that they have failed to respond to complaints, their advertising is grossly misleading, they are not in compliance with the law’s licensing or registration requirements, their complaints contain especially serious allegations, or the company’s industry is known for its fraudulent business practices.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 4:50 PM on July 30, 2006

I've been using Dreamhost for six years, and am satisfied with the service. I'll go along with the emerging consensus that it's been a bad month or so for them between hack attacks and hardware failures and power outages, and that their status page just looks bad because they detail the problems they have with their servers and systems. Just for that, I'd look favorably on them for not trying to hide the hiccups that come with managing who knows how many servers.
posted by SenshiNeko at 5:00 PM on July 30, 2006

Dreamhost "crazy insane deal" hosting is hit-or-miss, the deciding factor being your virtual server neighbors on the hardware server you're assigned. I had some VERY bad neighbors and my site would go down on a very regular basis (more than once per week). It settled down after a while but a very nice tech illuminated a possible solution to my (and your) problem:

After the very frequent outages stopped this year I setup a crude monitoring script with wget. Upon seeing a new failure in late May, I sent in a new service request and got a decent tech who actually offered to move me to a new server. I was astounded, having never thoght that that was an option. I declined but he left the offer open-ended and gave me his email should I ever need it. Asking to be moved to a new server may be your key to a less-sucky dreamhost experience. Good Luck!
posted by datacenter refugee at 5:08 PM on July 30, 2006

Response by poster: So far I count 9 "they suck" against four or five "they rock".

Anyone can have a bad patch of course, but there's enough evidence here that I've firmly decided against them.

If I have another project in a year or so maybe I'll come back and ask "Did DreamHost stop sucking yet?".
posted by AmbroseChapel at 5:09 PM on July 30, 2006

Indeed. I was in this position in '96, running a teeny little dialup IAP in Florida (40 lines in St Pete, 20 lines in Tampa, analog), and I caught shit from management for doing a detailed status blog (though, of course, we didn't call it that then :-), for the same reason: people used it to make us look bad, when we had no more problems than anyone else -- they just weren't honest enough to admit to theirs.
posted by baylink at 5:15 PM on July 30, 2006

Another vote for. My sites have been on Dreamhost for a few years, and although there've been a couple of short outages in that time, they've provided extremely good value for money, and I plan to stay with them.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:17 PM on July 30, 2006

Dreadful. By far the worst hosting company I've ever used. Here's my uptime since 01/01/06 - 51 separate outages since the start of the year. Apparently I'm stuck on a shared server with a bunch of fuckwits and Dreamhost refuse to move me despite many requests. For comparison, our Verio VPS2 has had 4 outages in the same period. And we have a telephone support number for Verio; responses from Dreamhost support usually take between 12 - 24 hours.

My advice: stay away if what you're hosting is important. I'm only still with them because they're so cheap ($20 /month) and it's only personal (i.e. non-critical) stuff hosted there. Remember that they pay $97 for every successful referral which may explain the large number of positive reviews that you see elsewhere on the web.

BTW, here's a post about the current crop of problems on the DH forum.
posted by blag at 5:43 PM on July 30, 2006

I have lots of domains (my own and clients) with them. Mostly they're great. This month, they suck ass.
posted by dobbs at 5:54 PM on July 30, 2006

I haven't had any problems since Jan 05, but I'm not hosting anything mission-critical with them, so if it goes down for a few hours I wouldn't notice.
posted by danb at 6:13 PM on July 30, 2006

For the price, they're fine. If it weren't for the price, they wouldn't be.

That said, this month has been crap for webhosting in California, not just Dreamhost, because of all the power problems. Even Myspace got hit.
posted by mendel at 6:21 PM on July 30, 2006

Another vote for longtime happy Dreamhost customer but lately disappointed.

At this point I would only keep non-essential sites hosted there and would need a *serious* explanation from them if I were to refer people to them.

(And I used to like them enough that I would refer people to them but wouldn't bother with the whole "referral" thing.)
posted by jeremias at 6:42 PM on July 30, 2006

I've used them for hosting my sites for many years, actually not too long after they left the dorms at Harvey Mudd. I strongly believe this is a circumstantial and unfortunate chain of events for them and think they are doing everything they can to get stuff back to normal.

I also recommend anyone on DH just ride it out for at least another month. If you've been doing this for a while, you'll know this is nothing compared to the fuckage other companies have dished out. It's certainly annoying having my email and sql db's intermittent lately, but it's nothing compared to stunts some of their competitors have pulled over the years (e.g., having my account wiped out and being charged to have it restored).

Also I wouldn't be too surprised if this has something to do with the recent problems:

Three employees leaving at the same time can seriously screw things up.
posted by Señor Pantalones at 6:44 PM on July 30, 2006

oops, forgot the anchor
posted by Señor Pantalones at 6:44 PM on July 30, 2006

Response by poster: MySpace, DreamHost and MediaTemple all use the same big server facility in LA, according to a link in that support thread linked earlier.

Despite all kinds of fail-safe systems, UPS, multiple generators, etc the building lost power recently, which has some people asking how it could have happened.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 6:46 PM on July 30, 2006

Señor Pantalones - yes, but the fact that things go ape shit is indicative of a poorly run company. There SHOULD be plans in place to deal with situations like that.
posted by FlamingBore at 7:25 PM on July 30, 2006

The weather is no excuse for massive failures like that. Really, it's not. Sacramento has been a lot hotter than southern CA and we haven't had data centers dropping off the net.

Sounds like the building that myspace & dreamhost live in is in dire need of some upgrades.

There is no shortage of web hosts out there. You don't have to go with Dreamhost. See if a small local company can provide what you need. At the very least, you might have better luck with technical support. :)
Finding a host with cheap prices and a clickyclicky control panel isn't that hard these days. Most of them are just using Plesk, Ensim, or cPanel and packing as many domains as they can onto cheap linux boxes.
posted by drstein at 8:19 PM on July 30, 2006

I've been with Dreamhost for about 5 years now, and they've always been 'OK.' Usually you’ll get several months of perfect service, and then a few days of awful service.

The value of their pricing plans is what attracted me to them. Lately, though, I seem to care more about reliability versus the actual cost for the service.

Not to change the direction of the thread, but can any ex-dreamhosters recommend an alternate host that has provided good service?
posted by donguanella at 9:05 PM on July 30, 2006

One additional data point: I was a Dreamhost customer from 1998-2002 and left in November of that year due to a long series of unexplained outages and unresponsive support staff. Be aware that this quality of service is nothing new.
posted by Danelope at 12:01 AM on July 31, 2006

donguanella: "Not to change the direction of the thread, but can any ex-dreamhosters recommend an alternate host that has provided good service?"

I'm not an ex-Dreamhoster yet (been with them for 4 months now, with nary a problem or complaint yet), but I would unconditionally recommend FutureQuest for hosting sites that require absolute reliability and fast, friendly, and super-knowledgable techsupport. They are definitely not as cheap as Dreamhost or other bargain-basement hosting providers, but in over 12 years of jumping from various webhosting providers, FutureQuest is the only one who I have had zero complaints about (and I've been hosting sites with them for 6 years now).

Check thier web support forums, and you'll be surprised at the near complete lack of "FutureQuest sucks" type of postings there. I can't say enough good things about them.
posted by melorama at 3:28 AM on July 31, 2006

donguanella writes 'Not to change the direction of the thread, but can any ex-dreamhosters recommend an alternate host that has provided good service?'

As I mentioned, our Verio VPS2 has been the most reliable platform we've used. Bytemark comes a close second though their telephone response times are quite a bit slower.
posted by blag at 5:23 AM on July 31, 2006

I haven't needed hosting for anythjng in a few years, but I used DH for a few URLs I kept from 2001-2004. They were nothing short of awesome for me. And their tech support was amazingly helpful and fast. They pretty much held my hand and taught me HTML and FTP. If they are slipping, I'm sorry to hear it.
posted by mds35 at 5:46 AM on July 31, 2006

I am sort of late replying here but having worked at a medium-sized web hosting outfit, I know of the sort of problems they run into. We had VPSes, Shared Hosting, and Dedicated hosting. We also had a large power outage when a hurricane remnant came through a few years back. How much you can stand these sorts of outages (which, if they are like ours occur at least once a year, with minor outages every few months).

It comes down to you get what you pay for. I tried hard to get generators installed - any "class" hosting outfit would not stand for power outages. Really for mission-critical hosting, you should have all of your bases covered, including power, network, and whatever other "act of god" events occur.

Also, it seems like with DreamHost as well as my ex-company, the level of uptime you see really has more to do with your server-mates. We had servers that would never go down, and then we had servers which went down all the time because some reseller (or domain owner) would run some high traffic site on a shared account.

Anyway good luck with your search - and check out WebHostingTalk before you go with a host. Do a search on their name and you will come up with whatever good/bad posts they have and make your own decision.
posted by aurigus at 7:04 AM on July 31, 2006

I host several sites with Dreamhost, and though none of them are high-traffic enough for downtime to be that much of a crisis, I haven't had any significant problems with them. They've always responded very promptly to any issues I had. I think Dreamhost really stands out for the level of control they offer users. Try going to GoDaddy and asking them for SSH access to your account. They'll tell you that SSH and SFTP are disabled "for security reasons."
posted by owen at 8:29 AM on July 31, 2006

You do have a 97 day moneyback garantee with dream host, and you might be able to find a promo code to reduce your costs.

Globat are also ok (I've just moved one of my domains from there to Dream Host), except they don't offer some features that I wanted. imap & webdav being the main ones.
posted by dantodd at 8:52 AM on July 31, 2006

Even given the events of the last few weeks, I'm still deleriously happy with Dreamhost, and (having intimate knowledge of the inner workings of several other hosting companies) know them to be far, far more reliable and trustworthy than anyone else out there.
posted by dmd at 9:25 AM on July 31, 2006

Current stats on my business' Dreamhost site:

top - 12:17:29 up 2 days, 22:19, 5 users, load average: 24.84, 21.95, 18.63

This will make the sysadmins in the audience cringe. A good load average for a web server is in the single digits--'round about 10 you start to look pretty seriously at what kind of additional server you're going to get. A load average of 20 should be triggering pagers. This is stupid.

Me, I'm getting the hell off Dreamhost. It's been a goddamn nightmare with them. I'm getting my own VPS, but that's because I'm comfortable configuring and managing Linux.

Big. Red. Goddamn. Flags.
posted by Coda at 12:21 PM on July 31, 2006

I've been with DreamHost for five years, and it has never, in my experience, been as bad as the current clusterfuck.

Coda: My server's down right now (sigh) so I can't check load averages, but earlier today my server was showing load averages as high as 50 to 70.
posted by mcwetboy at 1:07 PM on July 31, 2006

What a strange thing to say, dmd. You've seen the inner workings of a few other hosting companies, they weren't as reliable as Dreamhost, therefore nobody is as reliable as Dreamhost?

If Dreamhost are as reliable as it gets, God help the internet.
posted by blag at 2:16 PM on July 31, 2006

mcwetboy: Wow. I'd always heard load levels like that entertained as a theoretical possibility, but always in the gallows humor way I imagined Oppenheimer and Fermi wagering on the chances of atmospheric combustion.

That's uh... wow. I'm having a hard time making my brain interpret that correctly. That should be setting off pagers both at the data center and at the local fire department.

For those of you at home, here's a chunk from Wikipedia on load averages:
For example, a load average of "3.73 7.98 0.50" on a single CPU system can be interpreted as:
  • the CPU was overloaded by 373% during the last minute.
  • it was only busy half of the time for the last fifteen minutes
Rather, this means that this CPU could have handled all of the work scheduled for the last minute if it were 3.73 times as fast (or if there were 3.73 times as many more CPUs), but over the last fifteen minutes it was twice as fast as it needed to be to keep up.
Your server was between 5,000 and 7,000 percent slower than it needed to be at that particular moment.

posted by Coda at 2:20 PM on July 31, 2006

Just to add my sticks to the pyre. I'm killing time, since I can't email anyone from my company account on Dreamhost.

It's always been spotty. This is unacceptable. We, and the five other companies we are housed with, are all switching hosts shortly. Any recommendations?
posted by cloudscratcher at 2:22 PM on July 31, 2006

Your server was between 5,000 and 7,000 percent slower than it needed to be at that particular moment.

That's exactly what it felt like.
posted by mcwetboy at 2:46 PM on July 31, 2006

I'm frankly astonished that you could even run top. That's well past the point most servers have something important go "sproing." I'm getting a mental picture of a lone server fighting against all odds to just... serve... one... more... page...

You may have witnessed the web server equivalent of the Battle of Thermopylae.
posted by Coda at 2:52 PM on July 31, 2006

Here is the status page for, which is good and expensive. Plenty of downtime when all the servers are listed, but very little downtime for any given server.
posted by smackfu at 3:55 PM on July 31, 2006

Jesus, you're all talking through your teeth on the load average business.

Always double-check what you read on Wikipedia elsewhere. The load average is the length of the run queue -- the number of processes that are waiting to execute -- not the % utilization of the CPU. Processes sit in the run queue waiting for CPU, but they also sit in the run queue waiting for disk IO, or network. It's also per-CPU, so a machine with four dual-core CPUs is only fully utilized at a load of 8, not 1.

Even then, unless you know what is happening on the box (and you don't at Dreamhost, since you can't see anyone else's processes), the load average is a particularly unreliable way of knowing what's going on. As an example, I've got a cluster of 4-way machines at work whose load peaks at the top of the minute with jobs that take 10-15 seconds to run, and then is idle. The CPU utilization is at 100% for that first 15 seconds and then closer to 10% for the other 45, but those 50-60 processes that run at the top of the minute keep the load average up in the 15s, even though the real utilization of the machine is closer to 35%.

All of this talk of "7,000% slower" and "astonished that you could run top" makes no sense at all. These aren't desktop PCs with a single CPU running GNOME. Busy, yes, but not even outstandingly so.

If you've heard of load averages like that as "theoretical possibilities" and you think it's the "web server equivalent of the Battle of Thermopylae" then you need to learn a lot more about Unix.

(Even then, right now the 15-minute load average on the machine I'm on at dreamhost (4-way Opteron) is 0.97.)
posted by mendel at 6:41 PM on July 31, 2006

Compare and contrast with the previous DH thread.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:35 AM on August 1, 2006

Hmm. I'm on the dreamhost shared server "orbital", and I've never seen the load go above about 4. Maybe I just lucked out and got on a lightly loaded machine?
posted by dmd at 10:42 AM on August 1, 2006

Okay, mendel, let's get picky.

The load averages are actually exponentially damped moving averages of the total run queue length during a particular time series. The Wikipedia article whose accuracy you're challenging (site unseen, it appears) is based on this article, and Gunther's a greybeard from back in the PARC days. I'd say he's a reputable source, especially since he's referencing the CALC_LOAD macro in sched.h. Challenging the legitimacy of a Wikipedia article makes for good rhetoric, but only works when the article is crap.

Apparently you took my hyperbole for actual fact. The number of zeros in "7,000%" should indicate that it's not a real number, but rather a back of the envelope guesstimate--most programmers don't get load averages, and I certainly don't expect it of the average wondering-why-Dreamhost-sucks-now MeFite. Next time I guess I'll have to be more explicit about this, or I'll have my computing knowledge insulted--I know I'd rather die than have you rip the "UNIX Geek" patch off my blazer.

My comments about what a load average should be were pretty well situated within the context of talking about web servers. The server my business' web sites are hosted on is not a node in a bioinformatics server farm. It's not modeling subparticle interactions, or evaluating climate models. It doesn't run high-availabilty J2EE servers. It's not even a database server. It's running PHP scripts which throw around a bunch of strings, and the occasional Rails application which do the same thing only slower and prettier. That's it. That's not hard, and that's not CPU intensive, and it's certainly not something which should push the 15-minute load over 15, definitely not for weeks at a time, which is what I've been observing. Even doing multi-day load testing on web apps on one of our local web servers here--usually topping out at around a thousand requests a second--I've never seen the 15-minute load top 20.

I'm not comparing your render farm at work with my GNOME workstation, I'm comparing Dreamhost's desperately oversold server with all of the other web servers--hosted, VPS, and standalone--that I've worked with over the years. I'm happy to hear that your Dreamhost server is working wonderfully--awesome for you! I hope you can appreciate that other people's experiences have been just a smidge bit divergent from yours.

(The load on both crenshaw and lucas has dropped down to reasonable levels right now. Let's hope it stays that way.)
posted by Coda at 11:14 AM on August 1, 2006

Dreamhost describes the recent events
posted by dmd at 1:48 PM on August 1, 2006

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