Should I stay or should I go?

Not that anyone will have noticed, but I recently moved my web hosting from the excellent Sound Solutions Internet to DreamHost. The move was prompted by changes Sound Solutions were making to their servers, which would have stopped me updating my site, or at least made it rather difficult. I’ve been hitching a free ride there for a number of years though (thanks again, Ade!) and completely understand that paying business has to come first, so no hard feelings there. And anyway, I’d been looking at hosting options for a new project of Gemma’s, so the timing couldn’t have been better.

Two things drew me to DreamHost – cost (they offer a lot for a very low cost: no-one else seemed to come close) and personal recommendation (a friend has used them for something like 10 years, without incident). First impressions have been good – registration was straightforward, the control panel seems comprehensive, and my site transfers were seamless. So far so good.

And then something¬†happened that’s made me wonder if DreamHost really is for me. I’ll summarise here in case you didn’t follow the link: one of DreamHost’s servers experienced serious hardware issues that took it out of action. For more than four days! Yes, you read that right. Four days the server was out of action, taking every site hosted on it down with it. I’ve no idea how many sites were affected, but I’d guess we’re talking hundreds, based on some of the comments that have been left on that page.

Now, for anyone who doesn’t know me, I work in the IT industry. The company I work for produces a web-based project management system, and for most of our customers we provide hosting of that system too. Having seen our customers’ reaction to their systems going down for an hour or two, I shudder to think how a four day outage would go down.

And really there’s no excuse. DreamHost aren’t a young company still finding their way – they’ve been in this game for 14 years, hosting well over a million domains across 1500+ servers. Why was there no switch to a backup server? Even with the probable loss of data this would have brought, I’m sure it would have been a much more acceptable solution to those affected than what actually happened. And all this while the CEO tweeted what a wonderful time he and his team were having at a WordPress conference in San Francisco!

Fortunately I wasn’t one of those affected by the Lansky server being down (4 days, remember). And even if I was, I’ve not really got anything riding on any sites I’m hosting there, although that might change in the near future. Another friend WAS affected though, and having seen the (lack of) response she and others experienced – you can read about it here – has made me question whether or not I want to stick around.

Fortunately I’m still within my “money-back guarantee” period so it won’t be too much hassle to move. And who knows, maybe I’ll decide to stick around after all. I’m definitely re-considering my backup strategy though (ie don’t rely on my hosting provider!) in case I do have to move elsewhere in a hurry.

Not that anyone’s likely to notice if this site suddenly vanishes. But that’s hardly the point, is it?

This autumn I'm running/cycling in a 30km duathlon and a half marathon, to raise money for Breast Cancer Campaign. You can read more about my challenge here or support me here. All donations, however big or small, gratefully received!

6 thoughts on “Should I stay or should I go?

  1. My favourite thing about this post is that it makes it sound as if the problems are over – they’re still restoring everybody’s sites, meaning that any changes which weren’t part of the backup haven’t been restored yet. It seems to be moving at the rate of 2% an hour.

    I should probably clarify that the server itself was down for two days, rather than four. It was the knock-on effects that kept my blog down, which makes me even angrier – when somebody who actually had a clue read my support request and realised what my problem was (on Sunday morning) the blog was back before I read his response.

    • Two days, four days… the fact we’re even talking in DAYS instead of hours is what concerns me here.

      Well, that and the fact that their level of support sounds like a lottery based on who happens to read your request.

      Might have identified a suitable alternative, that may even be cheaper for what I want…

  2. Mmmm…topical one for me Richy (I am actually starting to look into this for the first time for myself) so an interesting, if worrying read.

    DreamHost? Bit ironic don’t you think?

    The surprise for me isn’t a lack of substantial backup, its the lack of a server farm that I assumed all of these hosting providers would have. Last year’s girl, it sounds like the problem is with data then, correct?

    • This is the bit I don’t understand – from their website they’ve got over 1500 servers, so you’d expect some hardware redundancy or spare capacity somewhere.

      The initial problem was a faulty RAID controller, which seems to have been replaced relatively quickly before a seemingly neverending cycle of disk checking ensued. Meanwhile everything hosted on the box (1m domains / 1500 servers is getting on for 700 domains!) is out of action.

      From the error message on Lis’ site over the weekend, the later problem was either a mis-configured PHP installation or a complete absence of MySQL. Either way, it knocked out WordPress – ironic given the jolly the DreamHost folk were at!

  3. I’ve used UKWSD direct for years and they’ve been brilliant (http://www.ukwsd.com) – they do regular backups of the sites too which you can access and rollback to which has saved my bacon a couple of times! I’m surprised at Dreamhost though, usually the feedback about them has been almost universally positive.

    • Cheers Steve,

      UKWSD look good, as do EVO Hosting (a similar offering) but I’ve found someone cheaper who seem to offer pretty much everything I’m looking for (which isn’t much!) with no minimum contracts and no up-front fees. I emailed them last night, around 9pm, and got a reply within 3 minutes answering every question I’d asked. Impressed. I’m still trying to find the catch, but I think I’ll be signing up with them today.

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