Dreamhost PS activated!

Engage Warp speed…3!

I just got in Dreamhosts’ new shiny and exciting Private Server thingy after just 2 short days. In all honesty I was expecting at least a few weeks of waiting so I was quite surprised when I got an email informing me that it has been activated :D

It may have to do with me sending a question their way from the support page, to ask them a few questions relating to this. You see, I was not certain how much of a difference that would make for me, if it was worth it and if I should go for MySQL or Web Server hosting.

You see, I’m still quite a small fry at the moment and between the 3 blogs I’m hosting, I’m not averaging a lot of visitors. I always assumed that by being this small, a shared hosting plan is the best choice. Unfortunately I kept running into performance issues and even though I optimized and tweaked, they just went on and I was sick and tired of having a single page take on average 5 seconds to load and, too often for my liking, upwards of 10. I was even afraid that I was starting to get on Dreamhost’s support nerves with all the support tickets I opened for performance :(

It was at the point where I was considering moving to another hosting service (possibly on a virtual server) that my eyes fell on the new Dreamhost PS option, suddenly appearing in my Dashboard. Quite the timing. The reason why I decided to stick with Dreamhost still is that I just love the merry way with which they do business and their support has been very nice in my experience so far. I just felt I should give them another chance.

The PS option mentioned that this is by invitation only however and googling around a bit, I found a few people talking about it but none had any real experience. They were mostly saying that it sounds like a good idea but they were not going to use it because so-and-so hosting was better. Nothing tangible. Since I exchanged a few emails with Dreamhost support and I am now live with it, I thought I might write a few things about it.

Dreamhost PS Performance

I’ve only had the thing running for a few hours now so I can’t make much of a comparison. It does feel much faster for me but it could just be the placebo effect.

PHP

I did try to run my heaviest page just to see the experience: From an average of 10 seconds (due to the heavy php involved) it dropped down to 2.5 secs. This seemed a major improvement, however on a second test I did 8 hours later, the speed was 12 seconds again. Not certain if it’s affected by mysql, slow feed replies or whatnot. Nevertheless, doing a few more tests, the average seems to be 2.2 seconds. This should be in part because of Simplepie’s feed cache.

Gallery

Here the difference is much more striking. My Gallery2 installation used to be unbelievably slow more often than not. I would be lucky if I could get times below 5 seconds per page. Now the average seems to hover at around 2 seconds again and this is, frankly, a very pleasant surprise. Even The Wesnoth Journals gallery seems to have picked up unbelievable speed and that was the one that drew quite a few complaints. Awesome!

WordPress

Here the speed difference did not seem so striking initially. Average speeds hovered at around 2 seconds again which is a speed that I was reaching after my own optimization quite often. The difference now of course is that the speed seems to stay at that average instead of spiking to 5 – 10 seconds without reason. I have not seen one page actually going higher than 5 sec. Same thing persists in both the ACP (which has a heavy theme and is not theme optimized at all) and the Wesnoth Journals.

However a susprise awaited me on my more thorough testing this afternoon. For the first time Ev4r, I get sub second speeds, consistently! And this is without WP-Cache activated! If anything makes the whole page exceed one second, it is the Intense Debate comment script who’s speed is dependent on external servers, and even then the delay is never more than one more sec. This is truly amazing. With WP-Cache, the speed seems to stay consistently subsec!

The WordPress Dashboard speed, as expected, has improved considerably as well and finally I don’t have to wonder why it sometimes takes so goddamn long to load :D. Average speed of Admin Panel items seem to be:

  • Dashboard ~ 2 sec
  • Plugins ~ 3 sec
  • Automated Plugin upgrade ~ 1 sec (!!!)
  • Settings ~ 1 sec
  • Write ~ 1 sec (!!!)

The multiple exclamation marks are on items that truly impressed me since they always seemed to take a inordinate amount of time to load (around 5 secs) and the change is most striking.

Drupal

Here the speed confused me a bit. In my single Drupal installation averga speed hovered at around 3 seconds where suddenly it dropped to subsec again. Cannot really say if the server had a momentary slowdown at the start.

And with that, my little performance check ended. I think the change is quite obvious and for now I am quite happy with the results. I am still curious to see how this will fare during the more active afternoon – night hours (for me, for you Americans it will be morning – afternoon). If things turn around considerably, I will write about it.

Some Dreamhost PS Q&A

During my email conversation with the Dreamhost support, I had the opportunity to ask a few more questions about the service in order to make sure it is right for my needs. I will place the answers here in case anyone else has similar queries.

  • Q: I experience considerable slowdowns with my wordpress installation and it’s certainly not my setup. I think it might be MySQL as I don’t see anything loading for a few seconds and then everything comes up together. However every time I tried to put a support ticket for this, I see the web server under heavy load. I’m now not certain if I should request MySQL or Web Server hosting.
  • A: Go for Web Server. From my results I can see that MySQL hardly plays much of a role after all. My speed improved dramatically from just a small Web Server hosting plan.
  • Q: If I request Web Server and see that it does not make much of a difference, can I switch to MySQL and vice-verca.
  • A: When you request either a web or MySQL PS, since it must be physically setup, you are requesting one or the other and they are not interchangeable. If you decide you want either, you must visit the provisioning page to request whichever you decide you would like and if you want both, you need to request both individually at the same page of the panel-
  • Q: How do I request both a Web Server and a MySQL PS? I can only select one through the radio buttons
  • A: Request one, then go back and request the other.
  • Q: If I decide I don’t want this service anymore (say, because it does not make much of a difference) can I return to my previous shared hosting?
  • A: They won’t be able to move you back if your usage is above what is expected for a shared server account which is the base 150 level of the PS service. As long as you are below that level consistently, then there shouldn’t be a problem moving you back to shared, or at least giving you a discount on it.
  • Q: The information also mentions that I can adjust my RAM and CPU usage in real time. However, if I adjust my usage within the month one or more times, how much am I going to be charged?
  • A: You will only be charged at that rate for as long as you keep the slider AT that rate. So it’s all pro-rated. If you keep it at 150 and then move it up to 1000 for an hour, then back down to 150, you will only be charged the 1000 rate for that hour. No more, no less. :)
  • Q: I see the slider gives me the max burst I can get as double. Does that mean that if my rate is not enough I can increase the slider only up to that burst?
  • A: No, once activated you can increase your rate to the max of 2300 at any time, even if you started at 150.
  • Q: I ordered it. How long does it take usually?
  • A: No idea. In my case it took 1 day :D
  • Q: The rates are vague. How much should I order for a small site with just a few thousand per month?
  • A: Low. I have four worpdress and two gallery2 installations hosted at the moment and my load is around 100Mb of RAM. My CPU is still at 10. My biggest spike was when I disabled WP-Cache and loaded my lifestream 5 times where my RAM jumped to 155.

So, that was my initial review of Dreamhosts shiny new upcoming Private Servers. I hope I have provided you some information to make the correct choices ;)


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