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March 19 2009

Why I Left DreamHost

dreamhost logoIf you’re considering using DreamHost as your web host… don’t.

Back in August of 2007, I wrote a post singing the praises of DreamHost, and how for the first time I ever I had actually stayed with a web host through an entire contract.  I was really happy with them, and I was acutally renewing my contract for another two years of service.

Well, that ended up being one of the most frustrating decisions of my life.

The Bandwagon Debacle

Previous to that post, I had written about DreamHost partnering up with Bandwagon to allow you to backup your iTunes libraries to their servers.  It seemed like a fantastic idea, and I for one couldn’t wait to give it a try once there was a version of the software for PCs.  They were even giving a free year of hosting away if you signed up for the service, that’s how into this idea DreamHost was.

Well, at some point shortly after that (I can’t find the exact date), DreamHost said this was a violation of their Terms of Service, and you would not be allowed to store your files there.    Never mind they had promoted this idea, and told all users it was okay, but they were suddenly reversing their decision, and any and all files on their servers had to be served to the web or it would be considered a violation of their ToS.

Fine, I hadn’t done the uploading yet, but I did think it was a rather poor decision on their part seeing as they had promoted it.  I had saved other files there over my time with them, always with the understanding it was allowed, but now, suddenly, it was no longer that way.  They have every right to enforce their TOS, but to get people to sign up for one thing, and then strip it away with no grandfathering of those new accounts just seemed sleazy to me.

Strike 1

The Billing Debacle

In January of 2008, DreamHost was upgrading their billing system, and somehow messed up the date, telling the system that it was in fact December of 2008.  The system kicked in automatically, and all customers were billed for 12 months of hosting in one shot.  Those who had credit and debit cards on file were automatically charged for one year of hosting.  Seeing as I had a business account with them that was nearly $100 a month, I woke up to $1200 missing from my debit account I used just for paying bills.  This completely drained my account and made several charges not go through, causing me to be overdue on some bills.

How did they handle the situation?  By writing multiple snarky blog posts about it that laughed it off in a “Oh, our bad” tone.

True, DreamHost had always had a joking tone to their blog posts, but when you’ve completely drained people’s checking accounts, caused them to miss other bills and made us jump through hoops to make sure we got our money back, now was not the time to be making jokes.  I did eventually get my money back, but not before numerous headaches and troubles.

Strike 2
dunce

The DMCA Debacle

On April 18, 2008, I posted G.I. Joe Cast Pictures from the upcoming movie.  As these had appeared on several websites, I believed them to be okay.  On April 21, 2008, I received a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) from Paramount Pictures informing me they were in violation of their copyright, and to remove the images.  Within 45 minutes of my receiving that email, I had the pictures removed from the site and server as they requested.

Feeling I had satisfied the request, I was shocked to find my site closed down by DreamHost shortly after that, and it remained closed until the next morning.  I made multiple attempts at contacting DreamHost to discover what was going on, but I had to submit them via their support desk as DreamHost refuses to supply a phone number where you can actually call them.  Yes, I could request “call backs”, which I did multiple times through out the night, but I received no calls or replies.  Never mind the fact I actually had two accounts with them, and was paying them well over $100 a month for hosting, I couldn’t get them to say so much as the word “boo” to me.

By the next morning, I still had not heard from them, and I went so far as to call the lawyer from Paramount who had sent me the DMCA.  He was very understanding of the situation, and he felt DreamHost had over reacted to their letter.  He sent them an email, which he copied me on, telling them that Paramount was satisfied with my compliance and they saw no reason for my site to be down.  Dreamhost still would not reply.

I finally got a terse email from a man in customer service telling me I could reinstate my site and they hoped I had learned my lesson.

I fired back with an admittedly angry email which resulted in me being lectured by the same DreamHost employee, and essentially telling me how I should consider myself lucky they didn’t do worse to me.  He also informed me that my “righteous indignation” was misplaced, and he hoped I had learned my lesson about respecting copyrights.

Don’t get me wrong, yes, I violated a copyright, albeit unknowingly.  That, however, does not give you the right to speak to me like a child and scold me.

Strike 3… you’re out.

A Total Lack Of Communication

I already mentioned that a DreamHost phone number is non-existent, which is bad enough, but when they won’t even reply to support requests for a simple answer as to what happened, that’s too much.  I am writing this post nearly a year after the mess because I still had data on their servers, but that is now all gone.  As I parted, I wrote them a lengthy email about why I was leaving… and not one word of response.

While my anger had cooled over the past year, and I had not planned on saying anything about them publicly, their lack of even acknowledging my complaints just fueled me up again.  If you’re looking for a host, I would recommend that you look at options other than DreamHost because, from my experience, they apparently couldn’t care less about their customers.  I pulled two hosting accounts and dozens of domain name registrations I had through them, and still not so much as a word from them.  And if they make a billing mistake, that ends up costing you money and troubles, they think it’s okay to make snarky jokes about it.  Changing TOS in mid-stream of a promotion?  No problem!  DreamHost phone number?  Oh… er… well… small problem.

I ended up moving to BlueHost, whom I have been very happy with thus far… course, complimenting hosts seems to lead to problems, so maybe I shouldn’t say I’m happy with them… -knocks on wood-

Oh, and by the way, when you leave DreamHost, they prorate what you’ve paid them and keep the unusued portion “on credit” with them should you ever choose to come back.  HA!  Oh well, there’s some money I’m not sure I would ever even want to see.

I think they may have been victims of their own success.  I think they always had some problems, but as they grew more and more, the problems with their customer service were just that more exasperated. I have no clue if they have fixed any of these problems, or their horrendous attitude, but seeing as there is still no customer service phone number, unlike pretty much every other web host in existence, I somehow doubt it.

Of course these are all just my personal experiences with them, and I am sure some people have had flawless runs with them, I just wasn’t one of them.  Based on my time with them, and how it so quickly degenerated, I wish I had thought twice before signing up with them.




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