Outgrowing Dreamhost - now what?

Our blog (www.technomadia.com) has grown substantially - to the point that we are getting nearly 30k unique visitors a month.

We have seemingly outgrown the shared hosting we have with Dreamhost - our site now frequently seems to get server errors and it can be extremely sluggish at time.

Dreamhost tried to push us to their VPS service, but when I tried it and sized to the smaller memory slices the site would run out of memory constantly and get restarted. Even a 1GB slice occasionally had memory errors, and only at 2GB were things mostly stable. Dreamhost's VPS does not swap, and does not fail gracefully when memory gets tight.

And even when it was working - the VPS was not any faster than our site on the shared server.

We are willing to pay more for stability and performance - but going from $10/mo to $100/mo is not reasonable.

So.... I'm looking for advice...

Where could we migrate to in the $25/mo or less range to get better hosting? What are the best options? Will other VPS experiments be just as spectacularly bad as Dreamhost's for running Wordpress?

How can we begin to optimize our site to better deal with the load?

We've hit a wall and Dreamhost doesn't give Wordpress specific help, so we've joined WPMU and are looking to get some expert advice to point us in the right direction for where / what next.

I'm looking forward to taking our blog to the next level.

Thanks!

- Chris (and Cherie) // http://www.technomadia.com

  • Mike Price

    Sorry to say it but there is no way you should be running a site on a shared host that averages 30,000 hits a month. I may be wrong but that seems like you are stretching it and shared hosting environments will not like it.

    I dont have nearly that much and im paying for a large dedicated server with HostGator in hopes of getting big haha. Either way, I recommend HostGator and have been with them for over 3 years

  • Jack Kitterhing

    Hi there @technomadia

    I hope you are well today.

    I'm sorry to say it, but $25 a month, won't get you nearly good enough hosting ro what you require, a decent VPS would set you back around $45-70 per month, a decent dedicated server would set you back at least $80 and going to well over $100 per month.

    You may want to take a look at something like wpengine http://wpengine.com where they specialize in hosting WordPress websites, though that would cost you $99 per month, based on your current traffic.

    I personally use heartinternet.co.uk their hybrid servers are excellent, as the have the higher power of a fully dedicated server but at a lower cost, their VPS's are also excellent and can be upgraded instantly.

    Are you using any caching plugins at all? Some people like them and it does make the site load faster in some instances, personally I'm not a fan as they can cause compatibility issues with different plugins.

    One thing that you may want to look at is to minify your javascript and css files, that should increase your load times and possibly load the javascript last on your website so it doesn't have to load that before it loads the content.

    Thank you for being a WPMU DEV member and have a great weekend!

    Kind Regards
    Jack.

  • pxwm

    Hi,

    You may wish to check out offerings from VidaHost: https://www.vidahost.com/servers/overview/virtual-dedicated

    They are UK based and they are our main hosting provider and in my view offer good service at a competitive price.

    They offer a number of VPS services that may meet your needs.

    However based on your requirements suggest you would need at least the 'Virtual Dedicated 40' offering especially if your traffic is still growing.

    Please Note: You may have to add VAT to the price.

    Please let me know your thoughts and if you decide to try them out.

    Regards
    SteveB

  • pianoman

    Sorry guys but I am going to strongly disagree on the shared hosting answer and yes I do run VPS and dedicated servers with HostGator and RackSpace as well as shared hosting.

    I took a brief look at http://technomadia and it is a simple blog site from what I can tell. It is not a membership site and is not serving up self-hosted videos. Both of these make a big difference in what one can choose for hosting. I do not run membership or video heavy sites on shared hosting.

    That said I have had sites running far in excess of 30000 hits per month on shared hosting and currently have a site with more than 40000 hits per month running on shared hosting with no performance issues. This site uses Hostgator's shared hosting Business plan.

    Too often we opt for more powerful hosting when it is not really necessary. The first question is are you using a good caching plugin. If you aren't, do so and you're system performance can increase dramatically. For simpler sites, I use W3 SuperCache. Though I use other plugins for more advanced sites.

    The second question is what plugins are you using that are killing your site. It is definitely worth the time to use the P3 (Plugin Performance Profiler) plugin to determine if you have one plugin that's killing your site. If so, look for a replacement or modify the code to get rid of the performance issue.

    One thing I have found with shared hosting is that you usually have to modify your settings to allow WordPress to use more memory. Contact technical support on how to do this or post a separate request and if I see it I'll let you know what needs to change.

    Finally there is another alternative when one is running what amounts to a personal blog. If you use Google blogging or one of the other big boys, the number of hits is extremely unlikely to matter. You just simply point your domain at the blog and mask it.

    Hopefully, this doesn't raise a firestorm but frankly 30000 hits to a blog site is common place. I have found though that many shared hosting companies far overload their shared servers and do not deliver what they promise from a performance standpoint.

  • technomadia

    Thanks everyone who has chimed in so far with responses.

    A few clarifications answering questions raised in this thread so far:

    We are indeed a noncommercial primarily personal travel / technology blog that lately averages around 30k unique visitors a month, with page views I think up closer to 50k - 60k / month. A large part of why we have such a large and loyal audience is because we have not tried to "monetize" them, and we are very hesitant to do anything that would impact the positive experience our readers have.

    We do not host our blog via Blogger or on any of the other "big" services because we want to fully control the look and layout, and we do not want Google or anyone else running advertising against our content. We've had to go after RSS scrapers who were republishing us with DMCA takedowns in the past - ick!

    We have been mostly getting by with $10/mo shared hosting on Dreamhost, but especially when we are getting spidered our site becomes unusable, occasionally so badly that we can not even reach the WP control panel. Today is so far one of those frustrating days - so finding a better solution is becoming increasingly urgent!

    Fighting off spiders like 80legs and others (like some stupid European shopping engine was requesting ever page on our site every 12hrs!?!?) has become a real hassle. Even when I do my best to block them, I can see in the logs that some spiders are still hammering on us.

    We use WP Super Cache. I have not figured out how to use a CDN like Cloudflare.

    We are looking for a path forward that is a step up from our current $10/mo, but which is not such a huge step up to $100/mo. There seems to be a real lack of options in between, at least as far as I can tell.

    The vast bulk of our readership is in the USA - so hosting on a VPS overseas seems like a less that optimal idea.

    Dreamhost does not seem to allow for a way to increase the RAM available for shared hosting instances of WordPress - the formula for how they throttle and kill the site is rather mysterious, and in large part seems to depend on unknowable traffic to other sites on the same shared server. Dreamhost support is generally great, but when it comes to WordPress they have little more to say than "You are using too much RAM. Figure it out and optimize, or switch to VPS."

    Our first experiment with Dreamhost VPS was a disaster - even with a 2GB slice our site would get spontaneously rebooted when the spiders came. I could not figure out any way to gracefully avoid serious issues when traffic spiked. For our site, Dreamhost's $10/mo shared hosting actually outperformed its $100/mo 2GB VPS!

    I saw this article posted here on WPMU that leads me to believe that affordable ($10/mo!) fast hosting is possible even with a VPS configured with minimal RAM: https://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/wordpress-multisite-wordpress-nginx/

    Is this a good roadmap to follow?

    And before I invest so much time in migrating to a complicated custom VPS setup, or to some other shared hosting provider, I want to know if I am on the right track - and if the effort will be worth it.

    I really appreciate tapping into the collective wisdom here.

    - Chris // http://www.technomadia.com

  • Alexander

    Hi Chris,

    To be honest, for something reliable jumping on something that's $10/month

    I'm also located in the US, and while my projects don't amount to the amount of traffic you're getting, I've been getting reasonable speed with Media Temple - their data centers are in California and Virginia I'm on their (ve)Server VPS. It's $30/month, but everything is completely managed from linux shell. They also have the "dedicated virtual" option which is VPS with all the management controls. Their support is pretty great too (in my experience) Might be worth checking out.

    Then you always have the Hosted Wordpress options such as WP Engine. The price is higher, but that's because they do all the optimizations and server management for you.

    And if you're looking for some unbiased discussion on web hosts, you can checkout this site http://www.webhostingtalk.com/

    Hope this helps you! You might also consider striking up a discussion in the comments of that article you mentioned, perhaps others who are reading can share their experiences as well.

  • Jack Kitterhing

    Hi Chris,

    I'm afraid I don't have a lot more suggestions with regards to actual hosts, As I haven't used that many and I'm in the UK.

    A couple of suggestions I do have though is always try to get a host that has it's servers closet to your intended audience, for example if you want to really target the UK, your servers would be best in either London or Ireland (quite common for servers to be in Ireland for UK hosts). This would mean that the whole of the UK would get the quickest speed possible, whereas it would be slower for the rest of the world, in those cases you want to choose somewhere a bit more central to your users, so in my case I might use a host within western Europe.

    I would highly recommend going with the nginx route for the quickest speed and if configured correctly you can get it to be the cheapest, the article you linked to here https://premium.wpmudev.org/blog/wordpress-multisite-wordpress-nginx/ is a very good one :slight_smile:

    This will be of much more benefit to you rather using Apache and going with a higher RAM to help, as you'd also most likely want a Varnish cache that may need 1GB assigned to it anyway, which will push up the costs.

    CDN Wise, I personally use Amazon S3 and i'm very happy with it, they have data centers around the world and the files are served extremely quickly, always make sure to offload any javascript files where possible as well to the CDN :slight_smile:

    Thank you!

    Kind Regards
    Jack.

  • Ajay213

    Amazon S3 and Cloudfront vs Cloudflare? Cloudflare is dead easy to setup, they have a plugin for wordpress, then go in and set it up, and it's free. The downside is that you only have a limited amount of control over how things are served, but honestly the default settings are pretty good.

    Amazon S3 and Cloudfront gives you a ton of control, S3 is ridiculously reliably for file storage and Cloudfront has a decent amount of datacenters. The biggest downside is that you will be paying extra on top of your hosting, I can't access your site at the moment so I can't tell what you're serving, but you could add another $10-20 a month to your bill with that kind of traffic unless you are really image/video heavy and it could go up even more.

    And I would agree Pianoman, that kind of traffic doesn't warrant a big $$$ VPS or dedicated machine. I would figure out how to optimize what you have first, even throw out an ad for some outside help if needed, the $100-200 that may cost will be saved quite quickly vs VPS/dedicated hosting.

  • Jack Kitterhing

    Hi there Chris, (@technomadia)

    I hope you are well today.

    A varnish cache is a piece of software that is technically a HTTP accelerator, I found the following links, that may help http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Varnish_(software)
    http://www.arlocarreon.com/blog/varnish/what-is-varnish-cache-in-laymans-terms/
    https://www.varnish-software.com/products-services/varnish-cache
    https://www.varnish-cache.org/releases

    I don't think there is anything that makes Amazon S3 better than Cloudfare, I think just overall I've seen a better response time for site (Hosted in the UK), with the files being served from Ireland I believe it is, makes for much quicker serving of files :slight_smile:

    Thank you!

    Kind Regards
    Jack.

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