DreamHost Now Hosting 300.000+ Domains

July 4th, 2006

The latest stats from WebHosting.Info show that DreamHost now hosts more than 300,000 domains and is now the 27th biggest host in the world.

Back in January I predicted that DreamHost would reach 250,000 domains before 1th of June 2006, but they passed that milestone already in April and almost grew twice as fast as predicted. Any guesses about how many domains they will host in 6 months time? Maybe I should set up a contest?

On a similar note I’ve heard rumors that DreamHost is going to purchase space from another hosting provider inside the Garland Building in order to be able to continue their growth. The Garland Building is home of numerous hosting providers and telecommunication companies including (tm) Media Temple, PowWeb and Freeway. This might be good news for the ones of you who are waiting for dedicated servers.

DreamHost Newsletter – July 2006

June 29th, 2006

News from this month’s newsletter:

  1. Create a user while adding a domain!
    Small update to the Control Panel: It’s now possible to add a new FTP user to your account, while adding a new domain.
  2. Over fifty WordPress themes auto-installed!
    WordPress has been upgraded to 2.0.3 and now includes 50 pre-installed themes.
  3. DreamHost Chat.
    After a couple of DreamHost customers started an IRC channel and a Jabber channel, DreamHost have now added their own web-based DreamHost Customer Chat. At least their is now plenty of possibilities for DreamHost customers to chat!
  4. Apache 2.0!
    Probably the biggest news this month: All new domains are now added to Apache 2.0 servers. More about this later.
  5. Charities!
    DreamHost customers donated a total of $1125 to Heifer International and $614 to the Open Source Initiative. DreamHost doubled the amount. New charities are The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and C3: Colorectal Cancer Coalition.
  6. DHSOTM
    DreamHost Site of the Month: suffocate[us]: photoblog.

DreamHost IRC and Jabber channels

June 9th, 2006

A couple of DreamHost customers have taken initiative to start both an Unofficial DreamHost IRC channel and an Unofficial DreamHost Jabber channel.

If you like to chat with fellow DreamHost customers check out the #dreamhost room on the irc.freenode.net network or join chat@conference.jabber.newdream.net with Jabber.

Hattip: Will

CPU minute restrictions removed

June 1st, 2006

From the current newsletter:

No more CPU minute restrictions!

“Crazy overselling!” What’s that all about? Well, if you like to read, http://blog.dreamhost.com/2006/05/18/the-truth-about-overselling/ will explain it all! And see that little “post-script” at the “bottom”?

Well, we’re sick and tired of people being sick and tired of getting disabled for “cpu minute” overages! ESPECIALLY when we don’t even have any real set “cpu minute” levels for plans, or a tab on our web panel where you can track your usage.

So “guess” what?! We’ve changed our “cpu minute” “policy” “for the better!” We no longer HAVE any limits on “cpu minutes”. Maybe it’s just semantics, and maybe it’s just “crazy overselling”, but as long as your site or scripts aren’t causing problems with the server, you are IN THE CLEAR!

Let’s say you’re not IN THE CLEAR though.. don’t worry! We’ll work with you! We’re adding a BUNCH of new servers to help “get” the average load per web server down, and we’ll work with high-load people to get their usage down or their butts onto a new server that can handle it. What a sweet web host.. let no one accuse US of “crazy overselling,” and we won’t accuse THEM.

It’s kind of hard to tell from the above exactly how the policies has changed, but by looking at the updated CPU Resources FAQ in the Wiki, you’ll notice that the following has been changed.

The following:

What’s an acceptable CPU minute limit?
We typically like to see our shared customers keep to about 50-60 CPU minutes per day.

has been replaced with:

How much CPU can I use?
We’re very flexible on this. Basically, as long as your site isn’t affecting the performance of the server, you’re fine!

Once your site starts to adversely affect the shared hosting server you’re on though, we may have to take action. If your site is just causing the load to creep up on your machine, we’ll try and contact you and give some suggestions on how to make your site less resource-intensive. If your site (or just a particular script) is causing the entire server to become unresponsive, we may have to take immediate action and temporarily disable whatever was bringing the machine down. Hopefully the problem was just a one-time thing that can be fixed! If it turns out to be an ongoing issue, we may need to move you to a different server eventually.

The following section has been updated from:

Can I buy a shared hosting account that can use more CPU resources?
No. Unlike disk usage or bandwidth, CPU minutes are a hard limit set by the machine’s hardware. When you have a shared hosting account, you will impact the other users on the server if you go over your limits, regardless of what kind of account you have. If you cannot reduce your usage, you must purchase a dedicated hosting package.

to:

Can I buy a shared hosting account that can use more CPU resources?
Since we don’t have hard limits on CPU usage at all, we approach each situation on a case-by-case basis. If, even after moving you to a new server, your site is still causing problems, we may try and work out some sort of agreement where you get a close-to-empty server all to yourself in exchange for upgrading to a higher plan. But again, this is all on a case-by-case basis!

There are also some interesting comments in the DreamHost Blog from DreamHost employees:

Michael writes:

The reason that plans don’t come with a specific amount of CPU is that it is not a hard limit. To give you an idea: only 3% of DreamHost users use over 60 cpu minutes. The highest for yesterday was 750 cpu minutes but I have seen as high as 1250, which is the equivalent of your own very powerful dedicated server. (say a 2.8Ghz Xeon)

Of the 3% ‘heavy’ users, 5% have been moved to servers with fewer customers to help with stability. So, one tenth of one percent of DreamHost users are on special servers due to their heavy usage, but that only means that they are moved to a machine with fewer customers while they try to optimize their site.

Jeff writes

:

Ultimately, our job isn’t just to provide stuff at a low cost – it’s also to keep sites up and running. If any customers’ site disproportionately impacts other customers in a negative way, we reserve the right to disable it immediately (usually just until the problem is fixed, ie. by changing the MySQL query to use indexes, etc). While as a matter of necessity we may not be able to give you any warning, we _should_ let you know shortly after this is done so that you have a chance to deal with it. If not, that’s not right on our part.

I think this compares favorably to many other hosts, who will just disable the account. The whole “limbo” system, while imperfect, allows for customers to get things fixed up without greatly impacting our customer basis while still keeping their sites up.

My guess is that they have removed the 60 CPU minutes guideline to avoid people conceive it as a hard rule that would get you booted out if broken. They now emphasize that if you’re among the one per mille that are moved to a new server because of high usage, you shouldn’t see it as a punishment, but as a mean to optimize and trim your site without affecting other sites on your server in a negative way, and if you take these steps you can continue hosting with DreamHost.

It that context the wiki has recently been updated with quite a few troubleshooting guides for some of the most popular software packages like Coppermine, Drupal, Gallery Image Album, Joomla/Mambo, Movable Type, WordPress, etc. with tips on how to minimize the CPU resources.

DreamHost Newsletter – June 2006

June 1st, 2006

In case you haven’t received the newsletter yet here is a short summary:

  1. Email logins with user@domain.com!
    Covered in DreamHost Test New Email Logins.
  2. No more CPU minute restrictions!
    This deserves a post on its own. Coming right up….
    Here goes: CPU minute restrictions removed.
  3. Announcement list email double-typing!
    New feature: Have your users re-type their email address when they subscribe to your announcement list to avoid typos.
  4. Bye bye .la for real!
    DreamHost are no longer a registrar of .la domains. In the future you have to manage your .la domains from http://www.la/ run by CentralNIC.
  5. DHSOTM
    DreamHost Site of the Month: Georgia Podcast Network.

DreamHost Test New Email Logins

May 29th, 2006

One of the oldest suggested features in the Suggestions section has been to allow checking mail with your email address instead of just the annoying m1234567 username.

DreamHost have now implemented this much wished for feature and are now looking for beta testers to test it out and help them work out the kinks, before they can make the official announcement. All you have to do is switch your m1234567 username to you@yourdomain.com. Be aware that this is work in progress so you might have to switch back at some time, while they’re working on it.

By looking at the current feedback in the discussion forum it looks like it works for most people (only two-three problems within the first twenty responses) and the update is very much appreciated.

More Tips for Secure Communication

May 26th, 2006

Previously I’ve written about how to use SFTP, SSH and SSL to secure your web surfing experience. One of the tips was to use PuTTY as your SSH client to create an encrypted connection to DreamHost’s servers.

thinkholelabs now features a great tutorial about how to use PuTTY to create a secure tunnel in order to secure Firefox (or any other browser) and your Instant Messenger sessions.

In fact the SSH tunnel technology allows users to perform various internet tasks including browsing, email, database management, etc.

Django on DreamHost

May 24th, 2006

djangoDjango is an increasingly popular web framework for Python with focus on rapid development and clean, pragmatic design. Django is for Python, kind of what Rails is for Ruby and the two frameworks has often been compared.

If another web development framework sounds compelling to you, maybe you should read Bruce Kroeze’s Top ten reasons to use Django for your web framework or Jeff Croft’s Django for non-programmers.

Jeff has also written an article about Setting up Django on DreamHost as a supplement to the Django installation guide in DreamHost’s wiki.

 

All The Cool Kids Use DreamHost

May 22nd, 2006

Recently I discovered that a majority of my favorite web designers and bloggers are in fact DreamHost customers.

Write a comment if you have any additions to this DreamHost Hall of Fame.

DreamHost Support Queue

May 16th, 2006

From time to time people complain about DreamHost Support in the discussion forum. When I started this blog about 6 months ago there had just been another long thread about the size of the support queue, so I started to track the number of open support requests in the, to see if the queue was really ever increasing and to see if there was any pattern in the queue size.

submit-support-request
DreamHost Control Panel > Support > Contact Support

Unfortunately my script broke about 3 weeks ago (I changed my control panel password, but forgot to update the script), but I still have a bit more than 5 months of data from the 11th November 2005 to 22nd April 2006 (totally 3880 observations).

Average Open Support Requests
Daily – Last 6 months
support-queu-year

The graph shows how the support queue has evolved over the last 5½ months. It started pretty high in mid-November with an average of around 800 requests in the queue and even surpassing 1000 a few times.

Since then it has hit the 800-mark just before Christmas, down to the 70’s at New Year and back in the 800’s in mid-January and in the beginning of February, where it even reached 1054 open support requests for a few hours.

Since mid-February the queue has been noticeable shorter, which the following chart clearly shows.

Average and Maximum Open Support Requests
November 2005 – April 2006
support-queu-month

While the average number of open support requests in November – February was between 500 and 600, the average in March fell to 258 and 213 in April. The maximum of open support requests has also fallen from between 900 and 1100 in November – February to 701 in March and 614 in April 2006.

Average Open Support Requests
Weekly
support-queu-week

Another interesting observation is how the support queue changes over the week. There’s clearly a weekend effect with fewer requests on Saturday evenings and during Sundays (or at least fewer requests per employee). It’s also evident that the queue is longest around noon each day and shortest around midnight.

It’s important to notice that the queue size doesn’t tell anything about average response time and it’s impossible to derive anything about response time from the data I have. DreamHost states that they strive to answer all emails within 24 hours, but obviously had troubles fulfilling this goal last fall, because of the recent growth.

When taking in to consideration that the growth has continued and the number of hosted domains has grown from 160.000 to 260.000 in the last 6 months (60% growth), I find it impressive that they at the same time has been able to shorten the support queue. DreamHost honcho Michael recently revealed that 55% of support questions are now answered within 2 hours and 95% are answered within 24 hours. The more difficult the question, the longer it takes to find a resolution.