Ellen Million (ellenmillion) wrote,
Ellen Million

Dreamhost gripes...

Okay, so here's the scoop with my hosting company.

This is a letter I intend to send to them:

Dear Dreamhost,

First off, I don't want the *actual* writer of this particular support ticket to get in trouble. I really want to stress that everyone's been super nice and friendly and helpful, and you guys do a great job and I recommend you to tons of people and I'm not ready to stop doing that.

However, I've had a tough time with this latest string of support tickets, and I'm quite frustrated. Let me tell you the story. I'm sure you can verify this through my support history.

Day 1: I add some entries and start a site rebuild. (I'm using greymatter cgi code) The rebuild stalls out, I can't reconnect to my site(s), or to panel.dreamhost for the better part of the day. I'm not too freaked out - a few weeks back I had a period of about an hour that this happened, and my support ticket was promptly answered with a very kind and apologetic: we've had an influx of new users and there are a few glitches, we're ironing thing out, please be patient, we've rebooted, things should work now. Okay, I can deal with that. Growing pains mean you're getting good business and I'm happy for you. So I figure something similar happened and don't write in to support that day.

Day 2: Site's down again... sort of. It hangs and hangs and hangs but never comes back with 'site not found' or anything. I send a support ticket explaining that this is day 2 of these problems. Instant reply! This guy (Ralph) ought to get a raise! He says - oo, our server was hanging, we've rebooted, you should be fine, we'll keep an eye on it. Yay!

Later, Day 2: Site's sort of up, but the searches are hanging and returning 500 errors. At this point, I'm wondering if my code has been compromised - greymatter has lots and LOTS of warnings about interrupting rebuilds, and the events of day 1 have me nervous. But with this recent server history, I figure it's worth a followup - I send another support ticket.

Day 3 - No reply. (Fingernails in danger of being chewed off! I poke at the code and make some minor adjustments hoping to miraculously fix the problem. I also put a 'having troubles' note up at my main site.)

Day 4 - A very nice and apologetic explanation that it was again a problem at Dreamhosts end, and that it's all fixed now. (From Brian)

later Day 4 - I request information about a backup, because inspection of some of the cgi files shows BIG chunks of infromation missing. Also, the site is still having search and rebuild problems, 500 errors and hangs. Big time.

later Day 4 - Another nice letter from Brian - asking for the path to the scripts and asking how far back I want to backup. I zing right back with the script URLs, and ask for a backup.

late Day 5 (I don't get it until day 6) - Person number 3 (Ralph) explains to me that my scripts are causing problems on your server and that DH's "process watcher script will kill it and corrupt some of your files." (So, if they weren't hosed before...) I am being moved to the 'bad dog' server. I immediately disable the scripts in question entirely so that they won't cause more problems. I talk with a tech friend who says some of the corrupted files might be causing a loop that's eating resources.

Day 6 - I write back, apologize for the difficulties, explain that I'm planning to move to a mySQL database, tell you that I've disabled the scripts so you won't think I'm a horrible, resource-hogging customer on purpose, and ask to be alerted when the site has been moved. I shortly get the auto email that my site has been moved to the doghouse.

later Day 6 - Ralph writes back asking if I want anything restored... apparently my last request got lost? I'm right back with him saying yes, PLEASE, restore this folder. Also, I don't have the 'resources' folder they say (in the auto doghouse letter) ought to be in my home/user directory so I can keep tabs on the resources my site is using and look back to make SURE that my site wasn't causing problems before these files were corrupted.

Day 7 - Person number 4 (John) lets me know that he's restored some backup files, and that I can do this myself if I have SSH.

My reply - I don't have SSH, and I ask if I can use FTP to restore things myself, also, I note that the 'backup' files are all dated from April 11, which is just 1 day past. Also, I still don't see that resources folder in my home directory.

John writes back and lets me know that he can go back further to do a restore, and that I can't use FTP to access the backup, and that he'll let the developer know about the missing resources folder. Very nice guy! I ask him to do an older backup, please!

Voila - I have that resources folder just a little later, and person 5 (Tavis) lets me know that I CAN access .snapshot via ftp, but says I have to do a change directory command. (My ftp program for dummies doesn't HAVE a command line that will accept the cd command, so it takes me another day to figure out how to do this.) Give Tavis a raise, too.

Day 8 - John does a second backup restore with the next oldest. It's still those same April 11 files! I write back in confusion.

Person SIX (Jeff) gets back to me saying that DH only has backups for 2 weeks, and if that's not far enough back, you can't help me.

I WANT a backup from a week or two, I'd be tickled pink with that, it's just that the current backups have only been a day or so back, not a week or two, so I write back and ask for that.

Person SEVEN (Jordan) writes back and tells me they've made all the backups they have for my account.

Frustrated, I finally figure out how to access the backup on my own, and yes, they are quite right - there IS no backup that far. It goes back to the tenth (Day 5), no further (possibly a server change problem??), and the resources files that were supposed to help me figure out if the code was a problem before these obvious problems (really, I have NO intention of being a problem-causing customer) only go back that far too. Pretty useless.

The meat of my complaint here is that I talked to SEVEN different people, having to explain over and over again the same problem, my backup does not exist, the logs for resource problems do not exist and it took EIGHT days to resolve this. (Okay, it's not resolved, it's still broken... but at least I finally have the tools and information now to deal with it without continuing to hassle you.) Also, if I had gotten that backup when I first asked for it (day 4) - before I moved servers, etc, I may not have gotten so far as to become a problem site and the older backup files may have still BEEN there at that point. I was being told right up until you moved me to the 'bad dog server' that all my problems were at your end, or I CERTAINLY would have made further efforts to correct my script, BEFORE it became a problem.

I really don't want to point fingers at Fred or Bob or Bill or complain about my service in general, because I've been super happy here at dreamhost and this certainly isn't enough to change that, but I'm a little miffed that this played out this way and I'm out a LOT of time and effort having to rebuild my site (that'll teach me to rely on someone elses' backups...). Talking to so many people in such a prolonged way makes me feel like I'm on hold with AT&T or my credit card company, and one of the reasons I liked Dreamhost so much is that they DIDN'T feel like one of those big faceless companies where I'm just a customer that's not really all that important to them because they have so many other customers. I'll be really disappointed if that changes.

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