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Out with Dream Host, in with Rails Playground

Well, well, well, almost a year after signing up with Dream Host, after going through many turbulent times, trying to fix things up myself, and again, surviving an unannounced, and not so welcome upgrade, after hoping for mongrel support, it really came down to a severe case of overselling. Performance had become abysmal, database connections hard to come by, site was down for longer and longer periods of time. Sometimes several hours without much I could do to revive it.

Don’t get me wrong, not all overselling is bad as long as it is managed properly. In my case, it came down to cpu and resource usage (database, memory). I mean, a rails application like typo is no small app. It routinely had 3 fcgi processes, each 70Mb plus, which on a 4 Gb machine is over 5% of memory, ouch! A good thing that not everyone there runs typo! But I don’t think that was the problem though. On average, the load of the machine was between 10 to 20, which is high but could be sustainable if it wasn’t for the fact that cpu usage seems to be above 90% all the time. This does not give much for a little boost when needed. And on that front, Dream Host needs to make some improvements quickly!

To be honest, this does not seem to be a big issue to run something like wordpress and my other sites on the same machine seem to be doing just fine and I don’t plan to move then anywhere anytime soon. I mean, it is hard to beat the amazing storage space and bandwidth allotment.

So with all that in mind, it was time for a new host! I knew what I wanted:

  • mongrel support
  • ssh support
  • no need for extravagant bandwidth
  • no setup fee, reasonable month to month cost

To find the best contenders, I used Google and the Hosting page on

The best fit: Rails Playground. This post is hosted there, and so far, so good. For $12/month, that looks like a very competitive plan for a rails app. Granted I can only run one app with 2 mongrels, but that will do great for now.

The transition went really smoothly, all things considered.

First thing was to export the database, and I hit a first snag trying to get the data. I could not get a database connection to dump the data, fortunately, I was able to do the export using phpMyAdmin.

On the Rails Playground side, it came down to setting up a database, importing the data, setting up Capistrano, and putting out a request for mongrel setup. Less than a couple hours works and the request for mongrel setup was completed overnight.

Then the only thing left was to switch dns (so the old site was still up, at least as much up as it can be while the dns change propagates), and that’s where the only hitch happened. I ran into a perl error on the Dream Host control panel. Nothing their support couldn’t solve, and an hour later the whois database was updated, and dns servers all over started to pick up the change, and Voila! Rails Playground, here I come!

I now have the distinct (ahem… cough) advantage of having the 2 biggest processes running on this new machine but shush, don’t tell anyone…

And what a difference this makes. Average cpu usage seems to be below 5% and so far, not dreaded 500 error page :)

Note: if you read this via RSS, this may get delayed because as I write this, FeedBurner is still polling the old site. Hopefully this will update by tomorrow.


  1. Kieran, are you saying Steelpixel is better or worse? Do you know if they support mongrel? I could not tell from looking at the site.

  2. Dagny, i can relate to your problems. I did indeed check out hosting rails, and they were on my final list. For mongrel support with this site, I would have had to go with their platinum plan ($19.98). Each mongrel is way over 50Mb each, so that put them at a much higher price than Rails Playground.

  3. Jim,

    Media Temple has always been on my “watch” list. Unfortunately, with 64Mb as their entry level, which does not even accommodate one mongrel in my case, l, they can’t compete with $12/month.
    Plus I hear they are only running ruby 1.8.2 but this may not be true any more.

  4. Dr Nic, it has been over a month since I switched to railsplayground, and things have been great :) No more processes getting killed, fcgi hanging or 500 errors and response times are great.

  5. I am using more hostings as I work on more different projects and I liked very much velnet and clausweb. In case you need their links please let me know. Also, they are quite cheap. I work more with ClausWeb as they are from Romania and its easier for me to call when I have a problem.

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