Goodbye Dreamhost – Time For Change
Recently my websites hosted on a Dreamhost VPS have been crawling to a halt. Dreamhost suggested I upgrade system RAM at extra cost, but this didn’t help. Urgent action was needed.
In fairness I have had a Dreamhost shared server account for around one year. I love Dreamhost. They send friendly e-mails, have tons of great features and a comprehensive technical library. The trouble is they have never been very quick.
I upgraded to a VPS earlier this year, because my blog as good as stopped working. I didn’t think I was over-loading the system, but upgrading to VPS seemed to fix things. Recently the VPS has slowed down – Dreamhost tell me I need more RAM, but it didn’t help. On top of this I have a shared hosting system with UK2 that runs much faster. So why not move everything back to UK2?
UK2 were my first host, back in the days when there wasn’t so much competition. Service hasn’t always been great, but moving away wasn’t straightforward. They have improved lately and are now actually quite helpful. I am happy with their performance, but can’t quite shake the past.
One of my biggest beefs was that it was quite difficult to transfer a domain away and they sometimes charged for the privilege. Dreamhost, on the other hand, make it really easy. When a company is confident in their service, they don’t need to lock you in.
I searched the web for recommendations for a new hosting company. What I learnt was
- You can find someone, somewhere who has had a bad experience with any hosting company.
- Shared hosting is cheap, but unpredictable. When I say cheap, I mean ridiculously cheap. For example LCN are offering hosting for £30 per year. An LCN hosted site I looked at recently was performing really well in speed tests. The problem is that you don’t know who else is sharing the server and whether they will drag down the performance tomorrow or the day after.
- Virtual Private Servers (VPS) offer better performance at a relatively low cost. In theory you are guaranteed a level of system performance. But I’m not sure this is true. In a recent email Dreamhost indicated that the performance of my system could impact other users. If this is true other users can impact my system.
- Dedicated servers are the most expensive option. Costs vary and are quite often not even quoted on-line. You really need some detailed knowledge to specify what you need with confidence.
- Most companies that host also act as domain registrars, provide name servers and email servers. Some don’t and claim that they play to their strengths by just offering one service. As I have found there can be problems when you use the same provider for name servers and web hosting. More on this in my next post.
- Often the new companies offer the best value and customer service. In time it seems they seem to let things slip. I suspect this is a combination of growth or sometimes company takeovers. It’s really difficult to consistently provide top quality customer service when your company is growing rapidly or restructuring. It is also worth bearing in mind that as a company grows, the number of problems will grow. Generally people are more likely to report bad experiences. This could mean that you are more likely to hear about problems with larger companies.
- Self-hosting is an option. I have some experience of this and think for most people it is a really bad idea. The cost of doing it properly is astronomical and the benefits are limited.
And the answer is …
In the end, I have plumped for a two-provider solution. I am going to use WPEngine to host the majority of my WordPress sites and I am going to select another company to provide a VPS, with a view to an upgrade to dedicated server one day. I wish the VPS provider could be Dreamhost, but am also considering VPS.net who are part of the UK2 group. Yoast (the man behind) WordPress SEO plugin thinks they are pretty cool. He also likes Synthesis, which could provide an upgrade path from WPEngine if I ever need it.
I want a two provider solution so that I can moves sites quickly if I am running into serious problems. I am realistic enough to understand that I am the tail wagging the dog when dealing with hosting companies. When they hit a serious problem with service, uptime or performance, the best thing to do is move on.
Also WPEngine is WordPress only. I think WordPress is great – for so many reasons. But it isn’t the only solution – this means I may need a more open hosting platform.
I will use a separate registrar and name server. The reason for this is to make transfer of hosting easier and as bumpless as possible. I will explain this in more detail in my next post when I share my experience of moving to WPEngine.