Changing With the Times

April 14th, 2006

Hopefully nobody noticed, but over the past week I was gradually staging the site for a move to a new host. For several days now the backing databases have been running from DreamHost, and I just flipped the switch that puts the slow nameserver change propagations into motion for the complete site move-over. Chances are by the time you read this it’s being served from DreamHost, and that’s a good thing.

Why is it a good thing? Well, I’ve been testing DreamHost on a separate, much smaller domain for several months and have been very happy with them. I had heard people rave about how affordable and reliable they were, so I wanted to put them to the test as a possible backup host for red-sweater.com.

The preparation paid off because my bandwidth unexpectedly exploded over the past couple months, after rising steadily since I started the blog last year. And my friendly neighborhood ISP wasn’t set up to handle it without passing on significant costs to me. I ended up with a $50 surcharge for March and am already looking at a $30 surcharge for April. Ouch! This blog shares a domain name with my business, but it’s a labor of love!

DreamHost gives me a whopping 1100+GB of bandwidth per month, unlimited domain names, 75 separate shell accounts, one-click installs, AFP/SMB mounting, Subversion support, easy MySQL setups, etc, etc., etc. – and all at just about their lowest price point: I’m only paying $8/month. Did I mention that I can make accounts and hand out shell access to my friends, and host their domains on my site, too? As long as it doesn’t exceed the 1100GB total we’re in good shape.

So I’m excited to make the transition, and while doing so, I can’t resist pointing out that if you happen to be looking for a new host, you could do a lot worse than DreamHost. One of DreamHost’s charming policies is a generous reward for new customer referrals. So if you’ve been looking for a new host or just want to experiment with an inexpensive domain aside from your existing one, consider signing up with DreamHost. You’ll get a great service and I’ll get a nice donation to encourage driving my bandwidth usage up even higher!

If you sign up after clicking the DreamHost link above, you’ll be automaticaly donating to this blog. But to sweeten the deal, DreamHost gives affiliates the ability to “give back” part of their referral bonus in the form of a discount. Use the referral code RSB123GO when you sign up and you’ll get $20 off whatever plan you choose. Don’t like discounts? Just sign up after clicking the above link and I’ll get the entire bonus for myself. Or strip off the number at the end of the URL and let DreamHost keep all the money for themselves.

Apologies for the blatant promotion of my own pocket-book, but I think you’ll agree it’s been rare on this blog. You’ll notice there are no ads here – I just like to share my knowledge and opinions. And in this case I feel 100% confident in endorsing Dreamhost. I’ve been doing it casually to friends for months without even bothering to ask for a referral. What schmuck!

In closing – I hope the new site works to everybody’s satisfaction – if anything is broken it’s probably a configuration error on my part. Please let me know about it!

Update: One other nice thing about DreamHost is how their support works. They are like JetBlue in this way in that they just “get right” something so obvious. When you submit a question or problem to them they have a little popup that asks you to rate your own expertise on the subject. This is like a nerd’s best friend. You can pick from a range of attributes like “I basically know this stuff but I’m rusty,” to “I totally am hot shit and I know this stuff backward and forward” (both paraphrased). And it’s not just lip service. I had a minor issue to get ironed out tonight so I submitted a request identifying myself as “comfortable with the technology” I was writing about. The response came within two hours to tell me it was fixed, gave an explanation only a nerd could appreciate, and was clearly hand-written.

6 Responses to “Changing With the Times”

  1. Jeff Says:

    I’ve used Dream Host to host The Stain (not running live yet) since January 2004, and more importantly, Here and There, my weblog, since July 2005. I love their service.

    I’ve had negligable downtime, reliable stats and customer service, and, perhaps above all, affordability.

    Glad to see you’ve successfully made the move.

  2. dvb Says:

    Woo. I *still* haven’t move omino.com fully over to DH… last hurdle is getting my handwritten mail-handling scripts to work using their MailDir format (one file per email, much easier than ye olden mbox format).

    Their web-control panel is truly AOK.

    But I am curious: How hard was it to *move a blog* over? Did you export and import the entire DB and all that? Compatible installs of WordPress? Any glitches?

  3. Daniel Jalkut Says:

    dvb: I had to move all my Procmail rules over, which I thought would be as simple as copying the “.rc” file over. In fact, there were some differences due to the way the IMAP server on DreamHost files mail. I had to change some of the formatting, but it was well described in one of their support documents. That’s one of the nicest things about the site, is I almost always feel I can dig deep in the support archives and find something useful.

    Moving the blog over was actually the easiest of all the transitions. As I alluded to in my post, I moved the database over ahead of time, so I could ensure a smooth transition. Doing this involved simply dumping the MySQL database from my old site and importing it into the new one. There was a little learning curve there but only a few hours.

    One pitfall I ran into was the first dump had a mysterious corrupted line in it, which caused a parsing error when I attempted to import. It left the database in a half-valid state so I had to learn enough SQL to delete all the tables and start from scratch. I dumped again and reimported without incident. I found out later that I could have used a dump option that automatically adds “drop table” statements for all the tables, to allow easy overwriting of existing tables.

    The question of compatible installs of WordPress was not an issue, because I just copied my entire WordPress directory over verbatim. Fortunately the MySQL and php installs were compatible enough to not raise any issues. I expect a lot of this is due to WordPress being so robust and so popular. Of course it works :) I do like about Dreamhost that while they offer convenient 1-click installs, I’m not limited to using them. So dropping my own WordPress directory in worked like a charm.

    The only hangup in moving WordPress was that I underestimated the activity of commenters on the blog. While I was moving, 3 blog comments came in, so I had 3 comments in the old database that needed to get copied to the new one. I figured out enough about the WordPress database schema to realize I could drop them directly into the new database with old unique IDs that had been assigned to comments that were subsequently deleted as spam. That way I didn’t risk doing battle with the auto-increment mechanism, however that works in MySQL. (If you hover the cursor over the timestamp of this comment, you’ll see a URL ending in the comment’s unique ID).

  4. dvb Says:

    Epic. Moved the restaurant without interrupting anyone’s meal!

  5. sjk Says:

    I hope the new site works to everybody’s satisfaction

    Might not have noticed if you hadn’t mentioned it… except I just discovered activating “Enable live preview” has no effect while typing this comment.

    If you don’t mind saying, which other hosting companies did you consider before choosing DreamHost? I’ve been looking for a low-cost provider and DH is high on my list since it seems especially service-generous compared with other providers in the same price range. And I’d be glad to use your referral code if I do sign up.

  6. Daniel Jalkut Says:

    sjk: Thanks for the tip about the live comment preview. It turned out to be a difference in the way PHP is run on DreamHost compared to my previous host. Should be fixed now!

    To be honest I didn’t consider much before choosing DreamHost. I just sort of absorbed recommendations over the course of a couple years and ended up going with DreamHost because of the generous policies. I had also heard mostly good things about Pair.com, but I did talk to somebody who ran into trouble with their policies restricting some common uses of databases such as hit counting and referral tracking.

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