Three days ago DreamHost posted a clarification regarding their policies on the use of their services for personal storage and backup purposes. They emphasized that files uploaded to your account should be provided with the intent of distributing them to others from your hosted sites.
The main concern is apparently that DreamHost’s servers are being filled with rsync backups of entire hard drives, copies of DVD rips, music collection, etc., even when the Terms of Service prohibits this kind of use.
The post quickly received tons of comments – both requests for clarifications of the clarification and outcries from customers thinking this rule is unfair.
DreamHost insists that the policies have not been changes, and that this rule has always existed, but I think it’s easy to see why people are confused.
Terms of Service
First of all let’s take a look at the current Terms of Service:
The customer agrees to make use of DreamHost Web Hosting servers primarily for the purpose of hosting a website, and associated email functions. Data uploaded must be primarily for this purpose. DreamHost Web Hosting servers are not intended as a data backup or archiving service. DreamHost Web Hosting reserves the right to negotiate additional charges with the Customer and/or the discontinuation of the backups/archives at their discretion.
From the current ToS it’s pretty clear you can’t use your web hosting space for backups, but just a month ago the ToS read:
The customer agrees to make use of DreamHost Web Hosting servers primarily for the purpose of hosting a website, and associated email functions. Servers are shared with other customers, and as such IRC-related activities or severely CPU intensive CGI scripts (e.g. chat scripts, proxy scripts, scripts which have bugs causing them to not close properly after being run) are not encouraged. Any application that listens for inbound network connections (even if the application would otherwise be allowed) are not permitted. BitTorrent clients, IRC bots and bouncers (BNC) specifically may not be run on any DreamHost Web Hosting server. If your processes are adversely affecting server performance disproportionately DreamHost Web Hosting reserves the right to negotiate additional charges with the Customer and/or the discontinuation of the offending processes.
Although the paragraph mentions that the servers are primarily for hosting a website, it seems more geared towards avoiding abusive or CPU intensive scripts and doesn’t mention backup or archiving specifically.
It’s less than 4 months since DreamHost announced a partner deal with Bandwagon, a Mac software program that allows you to backup and sync your iTunes library with an FTP server. The deal gave every DreamHost customer a free year of Bandwagon and Bandwagon users one free year of DreamHost. The deal was still available in the control panel when DreamHost posted the clarifications, but has since been removed.
So was DreamHost actually advertising a service that wasn’t allowed according to their own ToS? Strange…
It’s quite understandable if DreamHost customers thought they were allowed to backup their music collection to DreamHost after this.
Discussion Forum and Wiki
The issue of using your DreamHost account for backups has often been discussed in the forums:
- MP3 Backup
- Does anyone use DH as a backup device?
- Using DreamHost to store backup files?
- Back Up files on Web Server?
- How to backup to DreamHost
While DreamHost employees rarely participate in the forums, there is usually a rather strict self-policing in the forums where other users will point out violations of both written and unwritten rules, but I’ve never seen anyone mention that backups would be against the ToS. In fact one of the threads actually had an employee giving green lights for using your account to backup your mp3s as long as you were not distributing copyrighted material.
Likewise the wiki used to contain information about how to back up your PC to your web hosting space. Although the article wasn’t created by DreamHost, it must have existed with their knowledge.
Why can’t we use our web space as we want to?
Basically I think the furor boils down to that it is hard to understand why we shouldn’t be allowed to use all our assigned disk space. Why are we given 500 GB disk space, if we’re not allowed to use it? What’s the difference between a backup of 20 GB of photos and an online gallery with 20 GB of photos? Why can I theoretically distribute 50 GB of different Linux ISO’s from my web site using up terabytes of bandwidth every month, but not have a 50 GB backup of my own PC, which hopefully never will be downloaded?
I guess it’s related to the math of overselling, and there is a huge difference between 0.1% of your customers using 100+ GB of storage and 1% using the same space, but wouldn’t it be better to give some more realistic storage limits that you can actually use, and then increase them on a case-by-case basis if necessary?
I’ve used DreamHost servers for a backup of my PC myself, and I really liked to have a secure, off-site backup for worst case scenarios. I wish DreamHost would see the increased use of their service for backups as a great way to differentiate themselves from other web hosting companies, or a opportunity for them to create a niche product they could sell for a premium.
Now I guess, I have to start to look for backup alternatives…