DreamHost Shared Hosting and WordPress

Photo by Markus Winkler on Pexels.com

I recently moved my blog from DreamHost Shared Hosting to WordPress.com after years of trying to figure out why my blog was underperforming. I thought I had changed a setting or installed an add-on that was having a negative impact on my blog’s performance. After being on WordPress.com for about a month, it looks like the problem really was something DreamHost was doing after all. My site is snappier, and my page views are increasing again. I honestly feel like DreamHost cheated me for years, and I wish I’d never used them for hosting.

When I initially set up my blog on DreamHost, it was on their shared hosting tier, and it worked well. There was no lag. The pages loaded like they were supposed to. I could upload media with no problem. I even had a fancy theme. To top it off, I had a lot of freebies and bonuses because I signed up with DreamHost when they were trying hard to gain customers. My $120 per year included unlimited storage, unlimited bandwidth, and three free domain names.

Considering that I was running a simple personal blog, this was a great deal for me, and it met my needs with no issues. For most of the 9 years I used their service, I only had the one domain name. Every so often, I would register another for a year for a side project. It was fun and made it easy to experiment with different websites and services (ex:, just having DreamHost host the DNS and pointing the url to a Fediverse instance that I was self-hosting at home).

My problems started when DreamPress was released

My problems started when DreamHost launched DreamPress in 2013. DreamPress was essentially $7 more per month, or almost double what I was paying, with limited storage space and no free domain names for supposedly better site performance. But, my blog ran just fine at the time for what it was. I didn’t really need improved performance. And I think this was why, for no reason, my site suddenly started performing worse and worse.

First, I was no longer able to upload photos without constant errors. Then I had to disable the back-up plugin I was using because it would never successfully complete anymore, which makes sense because automatic backups were being offered in DreamPress. Right? Then, I had to switch to a super basic theme just to get the site to load. Then, I had to remove most of the plugins. Then, I had to remove all of my widgets. I honestly think that the only reason my site still loaded is because I had to hooked up to CloudFlare, because the more I removed, the worse the site performed over time. This went on for years.

I know, it’s pretty unbelievable that I just sat through worsening performance for that long, but I got comfortable and the thought of trying to move to another host was intimidating and later just something I didn’t want to deal with. I considered hosting my WordPress site at home on a home server for a while and probably would have done that, but I switched internet providers from Optimum to Verizon FiOS to get double the speed at half the cost and self-hosted servers violate Verizon’s ToS, but that’s another story. Anyway, I rationalized the degraded service by calculating the value of the unlimited storage space, bandwidth, and domain name registrations.

Eventually, though, it became such a hassle just opening the admin panel that I realized I didn’t even want to use my blog anymore. When DreamHost emailed me 30 days before my renewal this year to tell me that my yearly price had changed from $120 to $155, it was the final straw. Right after getting that email, my site’s performance improved. I hadn’t changed anything, but my site was suddenly running quite a bit better. I felt like DreamHost had improved performance temporarily to get me to accept the price jump, but given how my site had been performing previously, I wondered if they would immediately hammer me back down after getting my money. Paranoid a bit, I know, but at that point I decided to move my blog to a new host.

I realized WordPress.com was the better choice

I eventually settled on hosting my site at WordPress.com. The only thing that concerned me about moving to WordPress.come was not being able to have plugins, but by this point I had removed almost all of my plugins just to try to get my site to run. I realized that the only one that I would miss at all was wpDiscuz, a commenting plugin, but it was an ok trade-off to make. WordPress.com doesn’t allow plugins unless you have a business class plan.

Another bonus is that I got 50% off my first year of hosting at WordPress.com, so I only paid about $48. The weird thing is, I think I could have gone with the lower plan. On DreamHost, they claimed my blog was eating up 10 GB of space. I couldn’t figure out how. On WordPress.com, it’s listed at about 600 MB.

Summary

The short of it is that I wish I’d just gone with WordPress.com from the start. DreamHost progressively limited my shared hosting plan until my WordPress blog wouldn’t even load the admin panel 80% of the time and I lost interest in even using my blog. I would have saved myself a lot of hassle, enjoyed blogging more over the years, and I would have saved money. So, if you’re thinking of starting a WordPress blog on DreamHost Shared Hosting, don’t bother. I’m not sure what their shared hosting is good for, but a basic WordPress blog isn’t it.

I finally found out why my WordPress is so slow on DreamHost

I’ve had DreamHost Shared hosting for about 9-10 years. For the first 5-6 years, everything was great, but then my site started to slow down. After years of trying different things, I think I’ve finally figured out what the issue was, and it doesn’t really make any sense to me, but it works, so I’m not going to complain.

When my site started to slow down, it wasn’t just that the blog itself was loading slowly when you pulled it up as a reader, though it was doing that too, it was more that it was slow when using the Dashboard or any kind of admin function. It would often time out or return a 504 error, even on a simple operation like uploading a photo. I actually started to dread using my WordPress because writing a simple post could turn into a one hour affair if I tried to upload a photo and it hit an error. I would have to use FTP to find the file that didn’t upload properly and then delete it manually. I guess it’s a miracle that the site never crapped out while I was updating WordPress, though it would often not delete the maintenance file and I’d have to manually remove that so the site would load normally again.

I removed almost every widget on the site. I went from using a complex theme that I paid for to a simple free theme that’s incredibly basic. I removed almost every plugin I was using. I used database cleaner plugins, caching plugins, and found a resizing tool that let me reduce the image file size of images that I was uploading to mere kilobytes, when in reality I should have been able to upload files up to, I think, 50 MB at a time.

None of it helped.

A few weeks ago I started thinking about moving to another hosting provider as a possible solution to the problem and I looked at the size of my blog in the DreamHost cpanel to get an idea of what sort of plan I would need. I was really surprised by how big it was. After looking at the files through FileZilla, I realized there was a second, unnecessary copy of the whole blog sitting there for some reason that was a few years old so I deleted that. Then I used a plugin to remove photos that weren’t actually being used in any posts. That brought the size down to 5 GB. I still felt like that was a little wild for a blog, even if the blog is 13 years old.

I figured, why not clear the cache and see what happens. The cache was 1.4 GB.

After clearing the cache, the site ran fine for a day or two and then went back to being really, really slow. When I checked the cache size, it was at about 1.7 GB.

I decided to just delete the caching plugin and see what happened. So, I did that and then went into Jetpack and turned on image CDN. Now the site loads really quickly both on the blog itself and on the admin panel.

It’s really bizarre to me that a caching plugin meant to speed up site performance was actually killing my blog’s performance for years. I’m on a legacy shared hosting plan that comes with 3 free domain names, unlimited storage, and unlimited bandwidth, so I’m really hesitant to give that up. I doubt I could find a deal like that anywhere else, and that’s really the reason why I stuck with the service for so long, thinking the main issue was on DreamHost’s end.

I guess there must have been a conflict between the plugin and maybe Jetpack’s caching, or CloudFlare’s caching. I have no clue. I’m just glad it’s fixed. Now that the site is running fine, I’m going to do my best to not mess with any of the settings and just enjoy blogging again.

tldr;: the wp-optimize plugin was actually screwing up my site and everything was fine once I deleted it

Migrating From Blogger to WordPress [Under Construction / Expect Errors]

Hi.  You’re probably looking for something and found this generic web page instead.  I’m in the process of transferring my Blogger blog to a self-hosted WordPress solution with Dreamhost.  Check back in a few hours and, hopefully, I’ll have this thing up and running. The hard part is over, I think.  I had a hell of a time getting the DNS records right with eNom and just getting the blog to load in a browser.  Now comes the easy part… proofreading all the posts and reposting them.

Update: I was wrong. It took forever to get a few plug-ins set up and get the posts imported.  Now I have to proofread all the posts and fix the categories and tags (Blogger only has one, not both), but that will have to wait until tomorrow.

Update 2:  It seems as though none of my images are loading properly, which means I’ll probably have to edit each and every post.  I’m glad I don’t have plans for tomorrow.

Update 3:  I’ve managed to fix the categories and tags on 24 of 33 pages of posts.  This is taking longer than expected.  Hopefully that’ll be done tomorrow so I can focus on fixing the problems with the images and formatting.

Update 4:  I’ve finished doing the categories and tags.  I’m sure I’ll rearrange them later, but for now, I think I’ve got them about where I want them.  Now I can get started on fixing the images, reinserting videos and removing formatting errors. =)

Update 5: I was in class again this week, so it has slowed down my efforts to fix picture and text errors.  Still working on it. (Friday, 6/9/2012)

 

Moving To WordPress

I’ve finally found the time and the motivation to get this blog moved to WordPress, so if you notice some funkiness over the next few days, that’s why.  Also, if you don’t see any posts from me for a couple of weeks, then you may need to update your RSS feed, though I’ll try to find a way to make my current Feedburner feed move to WordPress with me.