No Longer Happy with DreamHost

03 Nov 2009

I haven’t been blogging much lately because I’ve been looking for a new web host in my spare time. I’ve been with DreamHost for years, but recently their service has become unforgivably bad.

My main complaints are:

1. My site was hacked while at DreamHost once. (One time is forgivable)

2. My site was later hacked again, which was probably due to outdated web app installations (and not the previous hack). But DreamHost proved amazingly unhelpful in shutting out the hacker. I thought I had shut him out once, but I was wrong. The best solution in this case, then, is to back everything up, make sure it’s all clean, then wipe the original installations and start anew. But if I’m going to do all that, I might as well move to a new host that offers better service and better security.

3. Last weekend my site was down for three days, and DreamHost support never replied to any of my tech requests. I eventually got the attention of a tech support person via live chat, and that person let me know that the security team had actually just moved my site to a different location on the server. Moving it back was trivial. They did it because DreamHost’s WordPress automatic upgrade script creates a backup of the old install (good), but it has a bug which places that directory in a predictable, public location, leaving previous versions’ security exploits online and vulnerable to attack (bad). I was a victim of this bug when I upgraded my WordPress installs, so DreamHost pro-actively (for once) took security measures by moving my entire site’s public directory. They just never told me, and refused to answer my questions. Amazing.

I understand what’s going on here. Basically, I’m the victim of the 80/20 rule. I’m one of those demanding customers who runs multiple sites, and has special needs. It makes a lot more sense for the business to focus on the “easy” customers who have one website that consists entirely of a WordPress install. (Never mind that I’ve brought in lots of referrals over the years, which means more business.)

Anyway, I’ll soon be moving on to a host that still cares more about customer service, and that will be happy to meet my needs. I think I’ve found a good one, but if you have any suggestions, I’d be happy to hear them.

(Incidentally, the first one I tried was Media Temple. The server they randomly assigned me was blocked in China, and when I asked to be switched to a server not blocked in China, the support staff promptly directed me to the refund page. Unbelievable.)

Share

John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.

Comments

  1. GoDaddy advised me to request that the Chinese government unblock me, they weren’t even so cool to offer a refund for cancellation.

    I still have them though… oddly enough… after some months my site started working in China.

  2. I had the same problem with a group named Parcom. They gave me every reason in the world to do as little as possible to acually live up to their agreement.

    Currently, I am on Media Temple and Liquid web (I, like you have multiple sites), and I am happy with both… although I find Liquid Web much easier to work with if you have multiple domains to manage.

    Also, consider getting a VPS service for 40-60 USD a month. You have a lot more space, can manage your own settings, don’t have to be worried about being on a server that gets stacked with too many otehr sites, and when things go down they listen….

  3. I love that they suggested you ask Beijing nicely. Once I was playing some Xbox online and due to my slow connection speed (thanks GFW) someone sent me a message telling me to ask my embassy for a faster connection.

    Because that was totally the issue. Thanks dude.

  4. “GoDaddy advised me to request that the Chinese government unblock me …”

    Is there anyone who has actually been good about making sure hosted sites aren’t blocked. I hate that I can’t show friends in China any of my blogposts (though I don’t know if my blog is really a big-enough deal to move off wordpress.com and pay for hosting).

  5. Hope I could give you some good advice but all I can do is say good luck, you provide some interesting and relevant content for us expats living in China.

  6. I use 1and1.com, and I have for several years. Hosting is pretty cheap, and I can get at my blog/WP install (yeah, I’m an easy user) from within the GFW, no problems.

  7. I’m one of your referrals, John, so it makes me wish Dreamhost would listen a little better. I don’t want to go searching for new hosting yet, but I’m all ears about what you find. It’s good to have a backup option.

  8. it seems you get what you pay for. i’ve been quite happy with webfaction for the past year, and would recommend it. for those with more intensive applications, some friends of mine definitely recommend slicehost. but i don’t know if any of these are blocked in china, so they might not be relevant.

  9. try blue host. i’ve had no problems with them.

  10. I’ve generally been pretty happy with Bluehost. They moved me to a new server when it was GFWed once, and they have decent phone support.

  11. Don’t use Dreamhost or 1&1, they both suck:

    http://elliottback.com/wp/1and1-sucks/
    http://elliottback.com/wp/dreamhost-sucks-at-hosting/

    If you can shell out for it, try Cari.net’s dedicated.

  12. I use bluehost and am quite happy with their service and support…..highly recommended

  13. Thanks for the recommendations, guys. I’ll let you know what I decide.

    I’m not going to go with a VPS, though, because it’s too expensive.

    I looked into BlueHost and HostMonster (seems like it might even be the same company), but they both looked like carbon copies of DreamHost, offering too much for too little, and I really can’t reasonably expect to be happier with them than I was at DreamHost (although they might be fine for most sites).

  14. Hosting is a nightmare. I am definitely in that 20%, and deal with hosting more than most, and I’ve no love for it.

    Shared hosting for any sort of resource hungry site is a joke, but you wouldn’t know it looking at the average hosting company’s pricing plan. They tout unlimited bandwidth, storage, e-mails, MySQL databases, etc… but rarely if ever mention the amount of processing power and memory you have access to.

    And most customers will never ask about it. But what good is unlimited bandwidth and/or storage if as soon as you become even remotely popular, and you might actually need such large amounts of space/bandwidth, your site starts consuming too much memory and CPU time and you get shut out.

    It’s a ploy. Ditto with multiple domains. Unlimited space, unlimited bandwidth and multiple domains makes it seem like there’s no boundaries for your site-loving desires… but whereas those three might be unlimited, the amount of resources you’re allowed to consume are finite, as they’re shared among all the others on your node in the “shared hosting” setup. You could easily set up 100 blogs, with 100 domains, but if they ever start actually getting traffic, you’re done.

    Sorry, a bit of a rant there, but I really feel like most hosting companies play off the ignorance of their customer-base. I’m with AllRoads in that anyone looking to have multiple sites in a single hosting package should be looking at a decent VPS setup. Unlimited domains, guaranteed resources on a sliding scale for your needs, etc.

    But you’re right John, it is pricier, and if it’s just going to contain a relatively small and tame collection of sites, there’s not much point in spending $50/mo. on hosting that you’re not really using.

    When I do need shared hosting, or need to recommend it, I generally suggest Siteground. I don’t have any strong sense of loyalty to the company (nor any hosting company), but I like that they don’t run custom control panels like other cheap hosts – they simply give you straight-up access to cPanel, and also allow you to see where you’re at with resource usage (CPU/mem) so you can plan ahead a bit if you need to migrate to a bigger setup.

  15. Avoid DreamHost. Their software is out of date. The do not run the latest version of PHP, and the version of Subversion is way too old. Old things like that must be a security risk.

  16. I can’t recommend WebFaction enough. I’ve been with them for over 2 years and the service has been excellent.

  17. I am with Hostgator and have spare server space if you need help with it?

    I whole heartedly reccomend Hostgator they also have 24 hour live tech support.

  18. I must agree with Ryan and Rich, VPS is simple and resources are dedicated. I use Rimuhosting* who offer a range of plans from $20/month. A VPS offers less bandwidth and disk space than a shared hosting plan, but as Ryan mentions shared hosting limits on CPU and memory make this useless, while a VPS is blisteringly fast serving something like WordPress. I like Rimuhosting because they have excellent support.

    • That is a referral link which gives me $15 of hosting credit, it’s the same price with or without.
  19. Hostgator.

  20. We use livingdot.com. They are pretty expensive, but really really good and because they are relatively small, you minimize the risk of being caught up in the GFW, as so often happens if you go with one of the big boys. They used to even give a China discount (if you request it) and they still may.

  21. I know you said you don’t want a VPS, but I’ve got to second RimuHosting. Excellent and responsive service, fairly priced, and they only do monthly billing (so no getting stuck with a host you don’t like for year).

    We switched to them at the company I used to work for after getting the run around with our other host, and had nothing but speedy and excellent service from them. They pride themselves on providing that, and it shows.

  22. Oh, I should also mention that tech staff at Rimu are also familiar with issues users in China face, and said they’d be able to move us to a different IP if our site was ever blocked (although it never happened). They can also help set up your own private proxy on your VPS so that you can get around the GFW without any hassles.

  23. John, I look forward to hearing your final choice (and why). the “too much for too little” problem seems to be rife. Anyone that can offer unlimited resources for only $2/month has to be cutting corners somewhere.

    Personally, I’d be happy to forgo all the bells and whistles for decent reliability and good (multi-user) command line access. It seems hard to come by.

  24. John – We used bluehost for sinocidal and I have continued to use them here in the US. There support is phenomenal.

  25. Hi John,

    I recently got hosting from Godaddy, and I’ve had hosting with them in the past. Their customer service is amazing, 24-hours, 7 days a week, very professional and helpful. They did put me on a server than is blocked in China. And they told me that there are no guarantees, of course, if and when another server might suddenly be blocked by the government. BUT they had a simple solution I’m very happy with: my own personal IP address, which just costs me $3 a month, and is well worth the peace of mind!

  26. I host some sites on Dreamhost (including my main blog on VPS) – I’ve had some dreadful problems in the past as well as a huge amount of good service too – as someone else said above, you really do get what you pay for with them.
    Since moving to DHPS it has been smooth, but it does depend on how much you want to spend.
    Am I also the only one who thinks Rimuhosting sounds a bit weird?

  27. […] but I’ve still been working on this site. I finally chose a new web host so that I can leave DreamHost. The new host is WebFaction, and so far it’s excellent. It’s not quite that simple, […]

  28. Hey John,
    So you are not using DreamHost any more, right? Did your site was hacked due to DreamHost’s mistake or you are not just happy with the customer support because they didn’t help you in cleaning and fixing the hacked site. I am sorry that you had to left DreamHost. May be DreamHost is not suitable for your requirement. Anyway, seems like you have found your Dream Hosting company, WebFaction. I just hope you stay happy with them forever.

  29. Hello,
    I’m curious if you were able to find a service similar to Dreamhost inside China? I have a company inside china and I’m looking for a low cost solution to serve my website and mail and need it inside china to avoid uncontrollable blocking.

    My website in the USA is hosted by yahoo and was blocked many times. Our IT guy in China did “apply” to somewhere and they would unblock it. The cycle continued many times over the years but in last months it has not been blocked ever again. I attribute it to being hosted @ Yahoo.

    ANy suggestions on low cost and reliable hosting inside china would be appreciated!
    Thanks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *