Hosting Switch – asmallorange to Dreamhost

by redshift

The Problem

An older post about asmallorange said that I was happy with their web hosting. Support tickets were resolved quickly, the team was courteous and friendly, and I really got a sense of professional respect.

Unfortunately, I can no longer give that recommendation. Several problems surfaced over the two years in which Halffull was hosted at asmallorange.

First – persistent server slows and downtime. At first, pages loaded quickly and reliably. This lasted from about August 2005 to May 2006, with one exception in December 2005. From June 2006 to May 2007, my sites had repeated and consistent downtime. Any site on the server having a spike in bandwidth would cause the whole server to choke due to poor capacity management.

Second – lack of communication. The server status forums dried up and we were left with no way of knowing why the site was down. There were no status feeds or emails. In combination with support issues, this meant that we had no recourse until the site came back up. Frustrating.

Third, and most important – deteriorating support. In two years, I submitted 20 support tickets. The majority of these were in the early days when I was still dealing with setup issues. From July 2005 to June 2006, tickets were handled fairly well, including ones for the early cases of downtime. From June 2006 to May 2007, however, I started having to pass through several layers of indirection and poorly-qualified technicians to come to any kind of a solution, and it was usually a poor one.

For example, I was told on various occasions to stop using .htaccess and Awstats. I’m sorry, I won’t do that, and shouldn’t have to. You advertise these as features.

It also seemed to me that symptoms were addressed more than real problems. I had several long conversations with techs on the worst days, when the site was down for the majority of the day, that seemed to accomplish nothing. Too many inodes in use? They might delete someone’s files, but wouldn’t think to assign more or create limits.

Other sites have outgrown the server? They’d be moved off the server – maybe, depending on whether the offender wanted to upgrade or not. In this last case, when I asked for more details on what would be done to stabilize the server, I was merely told that “as sites grow it could be [a problem]”.

70+ average system load? “A reboot or two may be necessary.”

That one deserved its own paragraph, I think.

The owner, who was so enthusiastic and helpful in the early days, was nowhere to be found. A company that built themselves on support made the fatal mistake of hiring poor technicians to fill their quickly growing team and will pay the price in reputation.

The Switch

So, as a good capitalist, I’m voting with my money. I switched to Dreamhost. It’s a bit more expensive, but I get 6827 times more disk space and 1707 times more bandwidth. No kidding. What else do I like so far?

  • They’re a huge provider, but still have that small company feel. They’re employee-owned. This also keeps the rates down.
  • They have a sense of humor. Really. Check out the Dreamhost blog as an example.
  • They’re honest. Yes, they oversell. No, it won’t hurt. They have double the capacity they need.
  • Status feeds. Oh how I love thee. You get a customized feed for your specific web, mail, and mysql servers. It’s easy to turn this into email, if you prefer.
  • The control panel. It blows Cpanel and most others out of the water. Dreamhost, if you ever read this, please make a demo of your Panel. It will bring in customers like Heidi Klum brings marital strife. It could stand to be a bit snappier, but they’re working on that as I type.
  • Faster page loads. Whether due to faster servers or better maintenance, I do not know, but it is appreciated.
  • Did I mention that I get the equivalent of a constant 18 Mbps of bandwidth? And more storage than I have at home? Yeesh.

I’m happy again. If you’d like to give Dreamhost a try, be my guest – these aren’t referral links. If you’d like to get 10% more bandwidth and storage for free, though, use the promo code “halffull”.