From Hosting Zoom (www.hostingzoom.com) to DreamHost (www.dreamhost.com) - A host which makes big promises, REALLY BIG promises. When I signed up on July 2007, it offered 500GB storage (that grows every week), 5TB (that's 5,000 GB) of bandwidth every month and five free yearly domain registrations thrown in! Plus PHP4 (currently discontinued, but possible to install as CGI), PHP5, Ruby On Rails, SSH, unlimited domain hosting and much more.
As of October 2012, DreamHost has stepped up its offering to unlimited space and bandwidth, a free domain registration, an additional 50GB space just for personal backups, free Google Adwords, live chat support and a 100% uptime guarantee!
But do they live up to their promise? The 100% uptime guarantees? Really unlimited bandwidth? Without further ado, here are the pros and cons of the service we've experienced so far as of October 2012. We continuously update this review with new changes, so keep checking back.
Recently we moved to a DreamHost Virtual Private Server, as our domains were using too much resources at times. This was done on March 2010. Without further ado, here are the pros and cons so far.
Recently we had to move some domains off Dreamhost to Go Daddy servers at www.godaddy.com which used cPanel/WHM due to the domains requiring a Asia server.
Since our last encounter with cPanel was at Hosting Zoom many years ago, many things have changed. Heck, we were not even familiar with WHM and there was just so many configuration options. The new cPanel/WHM is much better and allows configuration of DNS as well now!
You may be wondering why I left www.hostingzoom.com, known to be a reliable host from WebHostingTalk.com. I was under their 4.95 per month Zoom plan, when they had an 'all doubled' promotion going on. Since then, I have had these persistent problems which I grew tired of.
The words in italics are their support responses as best as I can recall. I believe Hosting Zoom outsources their support to India as I have been mostly seeing Indian names in live chats.
None of the above issues exist with DreamHost so far. But I won't say that Hosting Zoom sucks - as the issues I had are not the major requirements of most hosting customers who are just looking for hosting.
While we were updating this review, we noticed a new option called "Data Centers" in the navigation. Basically this page lays down where each server - database, mail, web servers and domains are physically located.
We discovered that the database was hosted in another datacenter. And then it occurred to us. That is why our database had been so slow! We were not able to diagnose why pings were more than 10ms to database servers as the VPS server we were in did not have the traceroute utility and we stopped short of installing new utilities that could mess up the VPS.
Conveniently, the page says "The following database services are stored in this data center. If they are accessed from domains or sites in other data centers, please contact support so that we can consolidate your services for you and ensure optimal performance." for the database server. It is perplexing why they did not do this automatically
During the month of November 2008, there was a major event in which Bootstrike.Com provided some useful downloads.
For that month alone, the bandwidth usage was 960GB, something that Bootstrike.Com rarely gets.
DreamHost throttled down the site by reducing the number of connections when it noticed that it was taking up too much bandwidth:
We are contacting you to inform you that we have had to throttle the connections to your site (bootstrike.com) as it was causing the apache server you are on to run out of available connection slots. While we attempt to avoid disruption of customer services in this case it was causing problems for other users so we were forced to take action. If you can redesign your site to be less process-intensive (we only throttle sites when they are causing load in the server in addition to having many connections - if you just have static content for example that's easy for the machine to serve up and we can just give you more connections) we'll be happy to review the case for you. It is also possible that you have outgrown shared hosting and are ready for your own private server...
A important thing of note is that all pages of the site were still loading very well - less than 0.01 seconds for most pages - so there were no process heavy tasks or apparent slowdown of the server. Due to the throttle of the site, many visitors were getting these messages
The server is temporarily unable to service your request due to maintenance downtime or capacity problems. Please try again later.
Visitors to the site were getting broken images and downloads that could not start for 5 hours. I tried to get a response from the technical desk. I sent them a mail at 1300 GMT +8 and got a reply only at 1822 GMT+8 - 6 hours after I sent the mail with which the throttle was removed.
A tech officer later clarified that I was using too much bandwidth, at once. I found the explanation reasonable as the site was taking about 50Mbps at once and that is considered very good for shared hosting. It was fine later on, as the site managed to cope well.
End verdict? Thumbs up for DreamHost. They did not shut down my site when it was consuming too much bandwidth. That is a very good move. Although they took quite long to reply to my mail, they did eventually lift the throttle and Bootstrike.Com was back in business.
I have been with DreamHost for about 12 months now. I can say that so far, DreamHost has been very good. I never missed the live technical support that Hosting Zoom provided as I did not have any major problems.
Initially, I had problems with Google showing URLs with PHPSESSID. This was fixed by adding the following code in the .htaccess file (thanks to m_freeman2004 from Drupal Forums)
# Fix for ?PHPSESSID in clean URLs
php_value session.use_trans_sid 0
php_value session.use_only_cookies 1
# End of fix
The other problem I faced was that PHP's performance was very slow. This has been highlighted above, and was resolved by downgrading to PHP 4 Apache module, just by adding the following in .htaccess. Dreamhost Customers, please vote for the suggestion to implement PHP 5 as a Apache module.
AddHandler application/x-httpd-php .php
Of course, this means foregoing PHP 5 support which I hope Dreamhost will support as a PHP 5 Module.
Finally, there were the occasional down times. It is a small price to pay for the huge list of features.
Nothing is perfect. There are always some negative aspects. I find them a small issue, but they may be big issues for you, depending on your needs.
Two years and it has been (and going) a smooth sailing but slightly edgy experience.
For one, despite the suggestion to "Add support for running PHP5 as an Apache module", nothing has been done so far about it.
Another, DreamHost wants to interfere in my site's private files by adding 3 files in my domain directory. Says the 404 errors are consuming unnecessary resources. True, but adding files without asking is something that could cause problems.
Finally, I have to make it a point to backup my raw log files every month due to their 30 day archival limit. Not something hard to do, but still a commitment that I have to do every month.
With all the above, I enjoyed 2 years trouble free as compared to my previous web host, Hosting Zoom.
It's more than two years since we've been with DreamHost. There has been minor hiccups in uptime but nothing major. The domain was recently switched to PHP 5 FastCGI mode as we needed the PHP 5 features. The performance was a issue, but it's something we had to give for PHP 5 features.
Working with PHP in CGI mode also created problems as it can only output data when the entire PHP page has completed its process. So all PHP buffering functions are useless.
Still, it is still a thumbs up for me. Perhaps I may move to their Private Servers (PS) service which allows running PHP 5 as a module. It is a decision I am still pondering over.
On March 2010, we moved to a DreamHost PS as we were using too much resources. Immediately, we began testing running PHP pages through the Apache module. We discovered that short_open_tags was disabled and requested it to be enabled via tech support. As it was not enabled in standard installations, the suggestion took about one month to process and implement.
Next, we wanted to make all HTML and DWT pages to be parsed with mod_php. However, we did not know what lines to add in the .htaccess to make this happen. After several sessions of technical support, we managed to figure the line out:
AddType application/x-httpd-php5 html htm php dwt
Now that this was resolved, all our domains went full force to mod_php and the RAM usage went down to below 30MB.
On June 2010, we were hosting a major event again and receiving lots of Digg-like hits. The site's memory and CPU usage was constantly monitored and it was well below the 180MB limit. We had 300MB of RAM allocated at that time.
However, visitors were reporting that the domain was inaccessible. We saw it for ourselves. We had to refresh many times to load an image, a page or PHP page. Take note, memory usage and CPU usage were normal, if not very low.
So away to the technical live chat support we went. One said that our PHP scripting had problems. Not possible, as even images are loading slow. Another told us to increase my allocated memory as he said we had little RAM left in the PS (this resulted in a little extra monetary cost for us). This resulted in a little improvement for a short time, and then the problem came back.
Finally, after about 5 chat sessions with different techs, we managed to narrow down the problem. It was due to a apache max connections limit. Apparently, our PS was set to "52 different IP addresses concurrently, with 20 connections per IP". Once this limit was bumped up, the problem was gone. And the RAM usage only increased by an extra 40MB.
So why did increasing RAM help resolve the problem temporarily? The tech explained that bumping up the RAM increases the max connections limit automatically, hence why it worked temporarily.
It was a setback experience, as it happened on the first day of the event, where the traffic was at its highest. However, the problem is now resolved and if such symptoms appear again, we would know what to do.
Questions, Errors and Queries?
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This document is Copyright(©) 2006-2010 Bootstrike.Com. Visit Bootstrike.Com (http://bootstrike.com).
Review Last Updated 20th October 2012.