The Day That Dreamhost Died

Yesterday, our website was out for roughly 24 hours. Tragic? Certainly not. But maddening and disappointing it was.

A Harsh Dose of Reality at Koh Samui's Immigration Office - Thailand
Hopefully a website outage doesn’t mean this…

If you attempted to visit yesterday, only to be rewarded with dead space and cryptic system messages, we apologize.

We thank Dreamhost, our website hosting provider, who in its infinite wisdom decided to schedule a move of our website in the middle of the day without informing us before throwing the kill switch. In a perfect storm of technical misfortune, our website move also coincided with a handful of other system-wide outages at Dreamhost.

While we wish we could say this is the last bit of instability we’ll see, nothing is guaranteed. We are currently working on ways to improve the situation before we depart for Central America. We invite solutions – from the technical, “you should changes hosts to XYZ” to the sublime, “I’ve found these wicked prayer beads that seem to stabilize WordPress installations.”

Uncornered Market Coverage on Other Sites

As Murphy’s Law would have it, the outage also occurred just as Uncornered Market was profiled on Travellious and Connected Peace Corps. We thank these websites for sharing our story.

Vagablogging also featured a piece that contemplated our earlier post, Travelers as Diplomats.

If you haven’t seen these articles yet, check them out. We very much appreciate the attention…but only wish that our website was working properly at the time.

Thanks for sticking with us through these technically tough times.

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  1. says

    Do travel blogs have such a thing as a “middle of the day”?! One man’s 12pm is another mans 4am is another mans 3pm.

    I host with Dreamhost, and find their downtime to be a lot lower than I hear of others, and in fact I usually praise them for their fast and effective solutions. Jeees… I sound like a DH mole, but I’m more than happy to confirm all this via my URL’s email!

    The thing I’ve learned with outages is that sometimes you just have to ride the storm, it’s built on technology and we all know technology isn’t ever perfect. Have you hosted with DH since the beginning of UM (2006)? How many times have they put you through this mill?

    Either way, totally feel your pain. You convince yourself that was the day 4 million readers were coming your way and it’s all DH’s fault! Fingers crossed, touch wood and all that malarkey that it all stays on its feet from here on in as I love the style you guys carry.

  2. says

    You should move hosting companies. I have only heard bad things about dreamhost. Media temple or hostgator are the way to go. I’ve been with hostgator for a year and for all but 3 minutes during the middle of the night my site has been up the whole time.

  3. says

    I have a site on Dreamhost and another on MediaTemple and I go back and forth in which service I think is worse. Dreamhost seems to have more short-term unexplained outages and glitches and slow page-loading issues; I consider MediaTemple more reliable day to day. But when MT grid service fails, it fails hard and it can be very difficult to get any information or customer service during what can seem like an endless disruption. I’ve heard from several people who run robust sites that MT dedicated virtual service is the way to go with them, so I’m considering upgrading. I haven’t made the move only because dv requires subscribers to take more responsibility for server maintenance and I’m not so sure that’s something I want to worry about. The web host I’ve been happiest with is Intelligent Hosting, which I use for one small site now (but previously used for two others 2000-2007). It’s a small operation — I’m pretty sure it’s just one guy and a dozen servers — but downtime is rare and customer support is always prompt and helpful.

  4. says

    Ah yeah, Dreamhost! I’m with them also for the last 3 years and had so far 3 major outages with 24-48 hours. Mainly one per year, never shortly before the contract was up for renewal, but 1 or 2 months after I renewed for another year. But that was maybe only a coincidence.

    If changing providers wouldn’t be to cumbersome, I would’ve done it already by now, probably to Bluehost, keep hearing good things about them.

    Cheers from Goa,


  5. says

    Thanks everyone for your comments. The upshot is that we were up and down (and essentially out) for more than two days. We have moved to Hostgator. Individual replies follow…

    @Ant: Well, no, there is no middle of the day. But there is a statistical sweet spot depending on where most of your users are browsing from. We also happened to be doing some work and in conversations with potential clients in our time zone. Unfortunate timing when your site is the point of the discussion.

    We’re OK with an hour outage here, or an hour there. It’s shared hosting, after all. And for what you get, it’s pretty inexpensive. But the recent outage was for all intents, two days long. The final straw was that Dreamhost support was somewhere between unenlightening and unresponsive. We’ve already made good use of Hostgator’s service already. It’s nice to know we can reach a human being – even if by chat – when we need to.

    @Matt: Inexpensive shared hosts are the whipping boys and girls of the online world. We were deciding between Inmotion and Hostgator. Am not a fan of the odd directory structure that cPanel forces, but things are so far, so good. Thanks for the recommendation.

    @Jessica: Your comment about MT and DH (deciding which one is worse) made me laugh. Your experience with Dreamhost – unexplained small outages and ever-slower page-loading matches ours. And, in the end, dedicated virtual is probably the way to go. I’ve got another project about to go online and it will be hosted on a virtual dedicated box. But I do worry about managing the server and core system maintenance (OS, PHP, MySQL, etc.) in the dedicated server world. We will see. Thanks for the tip on Intelligent Hosting. I’ll keep them in mind for the next project.

    @Chris: I wonder how much timing is a coincidence. As we are basking in fairly speedy page response times now, I wonder how things will look after the 45-day money back guarantee date lapses.

  6. says

    We ave ~200 sites on Hostgator (shared virtual!) and have been pretty happy. No noticable outages and the support is OK too. They have a prettly lively user forum too, were we have gotten most answers…


  7. says

    @Robert: 200 sites on the same shared virtual account? Theoretically, I know it’s supposed to be possible, but I have often wondered.

    Our experience is still so far, so good. And live chat support has been pretty spectacular…and very patient.

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