Dream turned to nightmare

What's down there? You might have noticed the last couple of days that my blog (and some other of the dozen sites I run) was not always available. You might have experienced time-outs and Error 500 messages. I apologize for that. Let me give you a brief overview of what I went through between last Friday and now.

My (former) hosting company Dreamhost began having intermittent problems one week ago. Some of my sites would go down and then up again. The Dreamhost Status blog talked about “Sporadic brief network outages” and promised to fix them, so I waited. Then, by the end of last week, suddenly all my blogs started going down with the “Error 500: Internal Server Error” message. I got emails from friends to warn me, but thanks to my Montastic account, I had a pretty good idea of when they went down, and up again, and down … A friggin’ Christmas tree!

I sent mails to the Dreamhost support service, some of which were answered within the advertised 24 hours (but not all), but none of them any helpful. “I just checked and the blog/site is working correctly” (I’m sure it was, in between downtimes), “The machine was just restarted so all the apaches were still loading” (the restart didn’t help), “Is it possible a script in your code that’s taking longer than it should?” (how about you tell me?) “possibly people are hotlinking your pictures so it’s causing your site to go slow?” (No, all my pictures come from Flickr). “It appears some of the scripts on your site are being killed by our process watcher program” (no kidding!? which ones? what site?).

After 4 days of asynchronous communication it became clear that: 1) the problems weren’t going away, 2) Dreamhost was not able to tell me why they were crippling my server, 3) after reading dozens of articles on the Dreamhost wiki, disabling most of my sites, disabling scripts, I had no idea what I could do about it. Personally, I think another customer/process on the shared hosting was gobbling up the CPU/memory and left nothing for the rest of us. Even a simple SSH terminal session would time out, leaving only FTP and phpMyAdmin for basic management.

Thoroughly fed up with the lack of support, I decided to bite the bullet and migrate the hell out of there. I contacted OpenMinds in Gent, who I know through Barcamp and also highly regarded by Bart. They gave me a good offer for the busy multi-blogger that I am, and I started migrating yesterday. Currently, blog.forret.com, barcamp.forret.com and brusselstangofestival.forret.com (a placeholder for the Brussels Tango Festival blog) are up and running again.

Unfortunately, being stressed and hurried makes you do things without thinking them through. In order to be able to point blog.forret.com to the new hosting account, I had to delete the ‘blog’ subdomain from my Dreamhost account. On the mySQL database linked to that, I had my blog.forret.com WordPress database, which I backed up and restored to the new hosting. Regrettably I also had a number of other databases, for other blogs, that I did not back up. So I seem to have lost the database for winadmin.forret.com (don’t bother to go and look, it’s quite desolate). For some random reason I did back up the video.forret.com database, so that should come back online soon (when the DNS changes are OK). There will probably be other corpses in the closet (the odd Wiki here and there), but I hope to migrate all my sites by the end of this month, and then leave Dreamhost. Welcome to an Open Mind!

7 thoughts on “Dream turned to nightmare”

  1. So what does decent hosting actually cost? I took on Dreamhost as a temporary solution, because I needed a php/mysql host fast. I paid 22$ for a full year, but the downtime is giving me headaches. I want to switch over to a Belgian hosting provider, but the market is full with promises and I can’t seem to find a host that is highly regarded, but still competitive in pricing.

  2. Let me compare some of the Belgian Linux hosts :

    Besite “M” hosting: 165 euro/yr
    250 MB storage – 15 users – 10 GB/mon – 2 mySQL DBs

    Combell Linux Plus: 289 euro/yr
    750 MB storage – 100 users – 40 GB/mon – unlimited mySQL DBs

    Hostbasket Linux Advanced: 216 euro/yr
    500 MB storage – 25 users – 10 GB/mon – 1 mySQL DB

    Nucleus Linux Bronze: 216 euro/yr
    250 MB storage – 10 users – 8GB/mon – 3 mySQL DBs

    OpenMinds Pro hosting: 216 euro/yr (excl)
    500 MB storage – unlimited users – 10 GB/mon – 20 mySQL DBs

    Why did I take OpenMinds? I know the people behind it, they’re used to serving geeks (SSH, RubyOnRails, Lighttpd) and they have good customer support. And they gave me a good offer for an enhanced Geek hosting (e.g. 25GB/mon).

  3. I might switch to Openminds too, 18 EUR/month is pretty doable. I’ve been using Openminds servers to test website slices and they seem to deliver a pretty good service.

    Plus, I trust Bart (Netlash) in his choice of hosting 🙂

  4. Wow, what a fiasco! What about Bluehost? Do you still use them for anything? And if so, for what? Would you recommend them to someone who is in America and looking for a place to host a website (html, flash, mp3s, and a wordpress blog or two)?

    I LOVE your blog by the way; it has great content and style.

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