Dreamhost tells it like it is

In my overnight email last night was the latest customer newsletter from Dreamhost, the hosting service I use for this blog, and with whom I started a relationship in February.

One of the things I like a lot about Dreamhost is their frequent and relevant communication. Not so much the email newsletter but rather the way in which this company approaches keeping customers in the picture about overall service and, importantly, what’s happening when things go wrong.

To that end, there is the Dreamhost Status blog which, during the past few weeks, has had daily entries talking about wide-ranging issues they’ve been grappling with and which have had significant and negative effects on service. Outages, mail not working, you name it and it has been happening.

It hasn’t affected every customer, though. I’ve not experienced anything alarming other than the occasional time when this site just has not been available, usually for a very short time and often late night my time. Liveable-with, so to speak. Still, I do make daily backups myself from the server.

The email newsletter I mentioned has a link to an extraordinary post on the Official Dreamhost Blog that chronicles in exhaustive detail what’s been behind most of the quite serious service issues the company has experienced in the past few weeks:

As I’m sure most of you already know, we’ve had nothing but troubles, large troubles, for pretty much the last three weeks. A lot of these troubles were our fault, a couple of them were at least ostensibly beyond our control, and they all compounded each other.

Whether you’re a Dreamhost customer or not, you have to read this account. And see the allegorical pics. A terrific example of openness, honesty and clarity in communication. With over 180 comments so far to that post, this is how to engage with your customers.

Other hosting companies and services – take note.

In June, I wrote about Dreamhost, saying that if you’re looking for an excellent host, these are the people to go with.

I’ll say that again: if you’re looking for an excellent host, these are the people to go with.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Rob Safuto

    What a saga!

    I’m a Dreamhost customer as well, running several sites from a single $9.95 a month account. I’ve always wondered how they deliver such great features at such a reasonable price.

    The events of the last couple of weeks have made me think about moving to a new host. But which host? I’ve had some problems with every host I’ve ever been with. And it’s difficult to find the mix of features (especially the great one click installs) that Dreamhost offers.

    I appreciate their candidness. So I’m sticking with them for the near future to give them an honest chance to get it all sorted out.

  2. neville

    That’s exactly my thinking, Rob.

    I have to say that, even though I’ve not really been affected by any of the issues DH talk about, I have been getting quite alarmed at reading the stream of posts in the status blog.

    It’s almost like too much communication might not be good!

    I wonder how I might feel if I had been one of those seriously affected. Might be looking around. But you’re right – which alternative? My decision to go with DH was greatly influenced by a couple of people I trust who are DH customers.

    So we have the detail of the disasters on the past few weeks. I think such candour deserves support so like you, I’m staying with Dreamhost.

  3. Simon Wakeman

    Hi Neville,

    I blogged this too – on balance I’m sticking with them. Other than the outages the service has been far superior to my experience elsewhere. The last host I took reseller hosting with didn’t support htaccess (“too much of a security risk”!?), so as Rob says – what alternative?

    I think the key thing will be whether they can learn from the recent problems and ensure they’re not repeated.

    With open communication about problems (the “hands-up approach”!) I think companies get one opportunity to put it right. If it happened again the open approach to communication about the initial problem would be turned against them, and that’s when customer loyalty will be really hit.

    I know their prices are very competitive, but they’re so competitive and their service offering so strong (bar outages) that I can’t help thinking that they could get away with charging a bit more than they do and still be competitive. That said I’m not privy to their business model so I don’t know if that would actually work.


  4. neville

    Good point re one opportunity, Simon. Dreamhost have bared their souls, as it were, and are reaping enormous customer goodwill as a result.

    When I wrote my post, there were 182 comments to their post. Looking just now, the total exceeds 260. The vast majority of commenters are highly supportive.

    Reminds me of the serious issues with TypePad last year and a big contrast with Dreamhost and how Six Apart communicated about their issues. Lots of goodwill and willingness to support them, but when those issues happened again early this year, you could see that customer loyalty slipping away.

    Being open in communication is great, but if you still don’t fix the problems, don’t expect blind commitment.

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