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

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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  • I tried dreamhost before as well and they have the absolute worst customer support. The reason why they don't talk to their customers and they make snarky blog posts regarding billing errors is because it is owned by something awful goons. "Goons" are known for being social misfits and generally horrible with business matters.

    I used to be a member of their forums and they think they are all automatically smart for paying $10 to talk on a internet forum when in reality they aren't the sharpest tools in the shed.

    • Mike Davis

      I don't remember ever hearing it being owned by SA members. I know quite a few SA that were putting up banner ads to make commission, but hadn't heard of any owning it. Are you sure about that fact?

      Regardless, they're a terrible host that causes nothing but trouble for the hostee.

    • Robyn

      My husbands site never works since we transferred it to dreamhost. we should have stayed with the hosting that operated my site…I havent had any trouble with them, they always answer the phone and respond in a timely manner, they even have that live talk thing during business hours. Click Here. I reccommend it to all my friends now. My parents each have a site there. And price-wise, nearly the same as dreamhost. I dont understand why people stay with this host with other options out there. Not all hostings are expensive, especially if you just want to do a blog site or something hobbyish. Anyway, click the link to see my recc for a good, affordable hosting.

      • Robyn

        Sorry, link should be "". They have several different plans, starting at 5 bucks a month I think. I pay 10 bucks a month, have 5 domains and sites currently, use their wordpress and mySQL database features. Only thing I do, is use Filezilla to upload and manage instead of their control panel. It's good, but I like to do directory uploads, I have no patience for file by file uploads. :-) Good luck getting out from under this Dreamhost debacle of a business everyone! Spread the word!

  • We have been using Rackspace and find the service worth the price!

  • Try HostGator man, they are much better – Gobala

  • It's always the case with companies growing too big and being unable to manage. They forget their customers and then again, why bother about the small ones? They aren't giving them too much money.

  • I'm currently on 1and1, which hasn't been too bad for me over the couple years I've been with them. I've been looking at Linodes' and Slicehosts' VPS rigs lately though.

  • I'm currently on 1and1, which hasn't been too bad for me over the couple years I've been with them. I've been looking at Linodes' and Slicehosts' VPS rigs lately though.

    I've always avoided DreamHost myself. I've seen two "billing debacles" in the past, which is reason enough for me to want to stay away…

  • A friend of mine used it for a little while and it was a little frustrating. To configure anything 'abnormal' in the hosting package, it had to involve emailing the admin until they broke down. Made me sad in pants.

  • It has been my experience that most hosts are fly-by-night operations that sell and consolidate on an almost annual basis. The company you loved this year will be a different one next year.

    I had this happen with Web2010 which morphed into Hostcentric

    I read about this happening in many other instances as well

  • I had a similar nightmare with a firm called (or was it I forget), giving my own sad tale on this page. Most web hosts will test your patience sooner or later; none are problem free. I have gone through 4 or 5 myself over the past 10-years-plus.

    So far, I have to agree with Shaibani: Surpass does a pretty good job. No phone contact, but they are pretty quick with the tickets (an hour or two as opposed to a day or two), and outages are not too frequent. If you get constant problems because of someone on your server hogging resources, you can raise a stink and demand to move to another server–they did it for me at least.

  • unhappy

    wish I had read this sooner…
    check out he latest at DreamHost, with many sites being down for over 4 days now, and support has been nonexistant.

  • If I was you I will go to that company server and drop a nice bomb to it. :]

  • I hate DH more than anything on the planet. Things were great when I first hosted with them and never contacted them because my sites were too small to bother them. They got their money without having to actually do much of anything. In the last year, I have watched their service fall off a cliff. The technicians (I refuse to call it customer support) are abusive and condescending on their best days. My horrors are too long to detail here (or anywhere for that matter). I look forward to the day my contract expires. They won't miss me at all. The feeling is entirely mutual.

  • Shelly

    I've been with bluehost for 2 years and they also shut my site for copyright violations but there was NO copyright violation and they didn't just shut down one site, they took down all my sites! Bluehost also said they'd delete all my databases in 15 days if I didn't fix the problem. The problem wasn't a problem at all, some guy from a competing site thinks he owns exclusive rights some generic keywords "electronic toy shop". He doesn't have any trademarks in the US or Europe and can't prove anything but feels since he's been using the keywords for 2+ years they belong to him. What an idiot! I'm now looking for a new host.