DreamHost 2.5 Year Review

DreamHost Screenshot
DreamHost screenshot circa 2007 from archive.org

I got a DreamHost account back in June 2007. I had hosted some small static websites in the past (a long, long time ago) with pair Networks, but this time I wanted to run WordPress.

I liked the fact that it came with huge amounts of disk space and bandwidth, though I realized CPU resources wouldn’t be unlimited. In reality, I found that I used less than 5GB of disk space, and typically less than 5GB of monthly transfer.

The plan I signed up for included 5 free domain name registrations, so it was almost like getting the hosting for $70 year ($120 – $50 for the domains). I know it’s better to keep the domain name registrations separate, but at the time, it was worth it to me because it was a good deal.

As you probably know, DreamHost uses their own custom control panel, and it worked well for me. They provided ssh access, too, and I used that often.

I was just running some small websites, using WordPress and a CakePHP app called Cheesecake Photoblog.

Overall I was happy and satisfied with the service during most of the 2 1/2 years. I know now that I probably could have done better, but I could have done worse, too. I don’t regret using DreamHost.

I did have one incident where the CakePHP app I was using was hitting their mysql server hard. A query was returning a cartesian product while trying to find related tags. They disabled the site because of that, though they left my other websites running. I ended up disabling the realted tag feature to work around the issue, and then enabled the site again and let support know I’d resolved the issue. Not a big drama, and I don’t blame them for disabling the site.

The server I was on had a pair of dual-core CPUs and 4GB RAM. They had separate servers for MySQL and email, so this was just for the webserver.

(cat /proc/cpuinfo)
processor       : 0
vendor_id       : AuthenticAMD
cpu family      : 15
model           : 35
model name      : Dual Core AMD Opteron(tm) Processor 175
stepping        : 2
cpu MHz         : 2194.153
cache size      : 1024 KB
processor       : 1
vendor_id       : AuthenticAMD
cpu family      : 15
model           : 35
model name      : Dual Core AMD Opteron(tm) Processor 175
stepping        : 2
cpu MHz         : 2194.153
cache size      : 1024 KB
(free -m)
             total       used       free     shared    buffers     cached
Mem:          3989       3381        608          0        353        941
-/+ buffers/cache:       2086       1902
Swap:         6165       1070       5095

I noticed the load would often get pretty high. Here are a few load averages I started taking one day after the load got really high, my sites went down, and the server got rebooted.

20:26:52 up  1:05,  2 users,  load average: 3.90, 4.03, 4.47
03:13:05 up 5 days,  7:52,  1 user,  load average: 9.91, 10.15, 10.59
04:04:57 up 5 days,  8:44,  1 user,  load average: 28.57, 26.93, 24.95
05:02:35 up 12 days,  9:43,  4 users,  load average: 19.49, 22.74, 23.84
15:00:36 up 13 days, 19:41,  5 users,  load average: 9.45, 8.01, 9.84
06:11:49 up 14 days, 10:52,  2 users,  load average: 28.77, 28.69, 28.90
00:47:29 up 16 days,  5:28,  3 users,  load average: 16.67, 20.11, 16.40
01:03:38 up 29 days,  5:45,  1 user,  load average: 24.42, 16.72, 14.82

Despite the high load, my sites seemed to function fine most of the time, at least well enough to satisfy me. After moving off DreamHost, I discovered my websites became faster, though. I didn’t know any better at the time.

Toward the end of my time with DreamHost they added a backup service, which included 50GB of backup space with rsync access. I tried to use it, but ran into problems after I accidentally overwrote some files I shouldn’t have. After that, I couldn’t get the keys for a passwordless rsync to work anymore, and tried to work with support to get my backup account reset. Unfortunately, they were never able to get it to work right after that, and then they began having other problems with their backup server that were going to take a long time to resolve.

DreamHost Status: Ongoing Hanjin (backup) server problems

It was around that time that I switched to a new service, though I kept my DreamHost account until May 2010, just before my third year with them was up. I didn’t use it much the last 4 months.

I switched to a small dedicated server, and later to a VPS. But that’s another story.

Want to see how much faster my sites were after I moved from DreamHost to a small dedicated server? Here’s a screenshot from Google Analytics for my photoblog (voxph.com). Can you tell when I made the switch?

DreamHost Analytics

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