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A Host of Issues

May 14, 2013

I’ve been frustrated with my hosting company for a while now, but this week, we’re breaking up for good.

I’ve tried to be patient during occasional downtime, although it is crazy frustrating, and for some reason always seems to come at the worst times.  Last week, they told me my site had hit the RAM limit, although “for security reasons” they couldn’t tell me what that limit is.  {Insert eye roll}

The real problem with Dream Host is that they have a very traditional set up.  They have a bunch of servers, and they group several people onto one server, and hope for the best.  And when the best doesn’t work out, they shut someone down.  And that someone was me.  {It solved the problem for THEM, anyway.}

This week they completely disabled my site for the RAM overages.  Talk about frustrating.  I had been shopping for a new hosting company anyway, since Dream Host was suggesting I move to a dedicated server, and increase my costs from $10/month to $110 month.  Which, frankly, is not an option.  Media Temple came highly recommended, so that’s where I headed.

In my conversations with DreamHost, they suggested I disable my All-in-One SEO plugin.  I told them I am completely unwilling to do that.  They informed me that this plugin is really bad, poorly written, and in fact violates their terms of service.  I was suspicious of this info, so I did some digging of my own.  The plugin is very widely used, well known, and highly recommended, so I just could not believe it was poorly written.  My instincts were right.  It turns out, DreamHost is the only hosting company having an issue with this plugin.

So this week, with my blog throwing 403 errors to everyone who tried to view, it was no difficult decision at all to bolt Dream Host in favor of Media Temple.  I basically understand next to nothing about servers, so having a husband who is a server guy really came in handy.  He explained to me how they work, and what would be involved in setting up something really high quality that could handle traffic spikes.  It sounds like Media Temple has exactly that.  They cluster several servers together with a load balancer so that the servers share the load.

Yes, it’s more expensive.  I paid $200 for a year, versus the $120 I gave Dream Host.  I think it will be perfect for my current situation though.

Migrating the site to the new host turned out to be a time consuming proposition.  Robb ended up spending several hours Friday night, all day Saturday, and several more hours on Sunday on the project.  He said, if he had it to do over, he could do it in an hour or two.

However, the REAL VALUE in this project was that I finally learned what was making my site so heavy.

Robb: Your site is huge.
Me: That doesn’t make sense.  It should not be that big.
Robb:  You add new stuff three times a week, and you have lots of plugins.  It’s normal.
Me: IT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE!  It’s NOT normal!

Turns out I was right.  As usual.  We went digging through all the files, and discovered that my site is duplicating my photos.  In fact, I’m not even sure duplicating is the right word, since it implies a doubling.  For every picture I upload, something on my site is making copies and resizing them several times, so I end up with something like 7-8 pictures for every ONE that I upload.  Also, these are not showing up in my media center, so I can’t manually delete them inside the blog.  We will end up going in through the host, and deleting files that way.  Let’s hope it works.  I have a feeling the site is just going to re-create all the pics we delete.  UGH.

I may end up needing some kind of designer or tech guy to jump in and help me with these settings.  I have some references, fortunately, but I’m sure they don’t come cheap.  The upside to this knowledge is that I should be able to get my site serving much more quickly, and it also means I was doing a pretty good job of streamlining already.  I just didn’t realize what a humongous beast I was dealing with!

I was sad that Robb had to spend his whole weekend on this super duper frustrating project.  But I’m trying to focus on the fact that if I had stayed with DreamHost, or if I had paid Media Temple to move the site, I would never have discovered this particular issue.  So it was all worth it.



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