Not long ago, I started to try and help out other freelance writers by giving them some pointers to the good webhosting sites out there for writers to use. As I mentioned then, I don’t have a lot of experience with too many hosts, but the way web hosting companies hand out huge commissions for incoming links that convert to sales, there are just too many websites out there listing the “Top Web Hosts” or “Top Web Hosting Companies” that actually couldn’t care less about who you go with for web hosting as long as you do it through one of their affiliate links so they can make some money.
ArcticLlama, and some of my other websites including a parenting skills by Dad site are hosted with Dreamhost on one of their basic types of accounts.
Recently, all of my sites were down. This is a big problem, and a good way to see how good of a host Dreamhost really is.
I filled out a support ticket as soon as I noticed the problem and got a response within a couple of hours.
That first response said that someone else was doing something that was eating up a bunch of memory and that the admin had killed those processes and laid some smack down on the other user. The response also said to contact him if I had any further trouble. However, there was no email address or other contact method provided.
Whatever was done fixed all but two of my websites. Having no other way to contact the same tech support person, I submitted another ticket. This time, I was told that it was MY processes that were causing the problem and that they were being automatically killed because they were using too much RAM. He then provided a couple of links to help ME figure out what the problems were. These links involved running some unfamiliar shell commands to see if I could eventually spot what the trouble was. He also recommended that I keep my WordPress installs and plug-ins upgraded to their latest versions.
He also said that perhaps I should upgrade to a Dreamhost Private Server account.
Here is why I am now cannot recommend using Dreamhost for a professional writer website, although I don’t feel ready to recommend against anyone using them yet either.
- I asked in a follow up message if there was a monitor I could set up to notify me if there were problems like these on my sites again. I was told no. That doesn’t seem right.
- The “solution” to figure out what the problem processes were involves a whole layer of stuff I know nothing about, including setting up shell access, running Unix commands, and then sorting through a bunch of gibberish looking for the trouble process. The kicker is that according to the article, I may or may not see what the problem is right away, so I’ll have to keep looking. If the server is killing my processes, shouldn’t it log what it is killing and shouldn’t I be able to see that log? Then I wouldn’t have to jump through all these other hoops.
- The recommendation for a Private Server upgrade really rubs me the wrong way. Read through every word of Dreamhost’s site about what you get with their regular web hosting, and I dare you to point out even one sentence that suggests that a couple of small-time websites will be too much for regular hosting. I run just 6 WordPress blogs, none of which gets even a thousand hits. The plug-ins I run are all well known, widely used plug-ins. I didn’t find any unusual WordPress plug-ins on my own. Every single one of the plug-ins I’m running I found recommended by a large, well respected WordPress site. So, I’m not sure just how little power I am actually allowed to use on my account.
- For all the talk about disk space, transfer rate, bandwidth, and so on, I never once have seen anything about what my memory limit is. In fact, no one has still told me what my maximum memory usage is. Is it so low that it would be embarrassing, or does no one know? Based on which sites I have hosted on Dreamhost, it would seem that the limiting factor in their plan is the maximum amount of allowable memory usage, and there is no way to monitor it. Not that it would matter, since they don’t tell you what the amount is you have to stay beneath.
It all adds up to me wondering if I am not getting good hosting from Dreamhost. However, without trying another web hosting provider, I don’t feel right about condemning Dreamhost for what might just be standard business practices and my own ignorance.
I have signed up with another web host provider and will be moving some of my sites there to see what it is like. If they play nicer and provide more, or better service, then I will switch away and let you know who to avoid and who to try out for the best writer website web hosts.