First DreamHost disappointment

I will simply copy&paste an e-mail interchange between [[DreamHost]] and me, with a few extra comments (some data substituted by “xxxxx”):


Dear Iñaki,

Our system has noticed what seems to be a large amount of “backup/non-web” content on your account (#xxxxx), mostly on user “xxxxx” on the web server “xxxxx”.

Some of that content specifically is in /home/xxxxx (although there may be more in other locations as well.)

Unfortunately, our terms of service ( state:

The customer agrees to make use of DreamHost Web Hosting servers primarily for the purpose of hosting a website, and associated email functions. Data uploaded must be primarily for this purpose; DreamHost Web Hosting servers are not intended as a data backup or archiving service. DreamHost Web Hosting reserves the right to negotiate additional charges with the Customer and/or the discontinuation of the backups/archives at their discretion.

At this point, we must ask you to do one of three things:

* You can delete all backup/non-web files on your account.

* You can close your account from our panel at:
(We are willing to refund to you any pre-paid amount you have remaining, even if you’re past the 97 days. Just reply to this email after closing your account from the panel).


* You may now enable your account for backup/non-web use!

If you’d like to enable your account to be used for non-web files, please visit the link below. You will be given the option to be charged $0.20 a month per GB of usage (the monthly average, with daily readings) across your whole account.

We don’t think there exists another online storage service that has anything near the same features, flexibility, and redundancy for less than this, so we sincerely hope you take us up on this offer!

In the future, we plan to allow the creation of a single “storage” user on your account which will have no web sites (or email). For now though, if you choose to enable your account for backups, nothing will change (apart from the charges). If you want to enable backup/non-web use on this account, please go here:

If you choose not to enable this, you must delete all your non-web files by 2008-07-16 or your account will be suspended.

If you have any questions about this or anything at all, please don’t hesitate to contact us by replying to this email.

Thank you very much for your understanding,
The Happy DreamHost Backup/Non-Web Use Team

My answer:

Dear DreamHost Support Team,

I fully understand your point. Though apparently sensible, a detailed analysis shows that the policy you cite from the TOS makes little sense.

Right now I have a 5920 GB/month bandwidth limit, and a 540 GB disk quota in my account, both applied to web use. My current use in this regard is less than 4 GB disk space (0.7% of my quota), and my estimated bw use at the end of the present billing period will be around 0.2 GB (33 ppm (parts per million) of my current (and increasing) bw quota).

Now, on the other hand, I have some 50-100 GB of data (less than 20% of my disk quota!!) that I want to keep at the servers (for whatever private interest, that I do not need to disclose, but I will: backup and data sharing among my different PCs). Keeping this data up to date could cause between 1 MB and 1 GB worth of transfers per day (30 GB/month at most, or 0.5% of my bw quota).

All of the above raises some questions:

1) Why on Earth am I granted such a huge amount of resources that I will never conceivably use? Maybe just because of that: because I will never use them?

2) Why am I prevented of using my account in the only way that would allow me to take advantage of even a tiny part of those resources?

3) In what respect is the HD space and bw used up by a backup different from that used up by web content? Isn’t all data a collection of 0s and 1s? How can a Hosting Service, ISP, or any other provider of digital means DISCRIMINATE private data according to content?

4) Regarding the previous point, how is DH to tell if I simply move the backup dirs to the folder? I have to assume that if I make my backups visible through the web (which I can prevent with file permissions), then it makes them 100% kosher, since they become “web content” that I am allowed to host at DH?

It seems to me that you are renting me a truck to transport people, then frown at me if I take advantage of it to carry furniture. Moreover, you are advising me to keep the truck for people and rent small vans for the furniture.

[snip irrelevant part]

Believe me, I am willing to be a nice user. I just want to be able to use the resources I pay the way I need.


Their answer:

Hello Iñaki,

1) Why on Earth am I granted such a huge amount of resources that I will never conceivably use? Maybe just because of that: because I will never use them?

Some people will. Admittedly, very few do, but to be perfectly blunt, overselling is actually a vital part of our (and ANY) web host’s business model:

2) Why am I prevented of using my account in the only way that would allow me to take advantage of even a tiny part of those resources?

That’s an exaggeration, to be honest. Anyone can use up to the entire amount of their bandwidth and space, providing they use it for the purpose intended. If we ever open DreamStorage, you’d be welcome to use that space for backing up your data.

3) In what respect is the HD space and bw used up by a backup different from that used up by web content? sn’t all data a collection of 0s and 1s? How can a Hosting Service, ISP, or any other provider of digital means DISCRIMINATE private data according to content?

Well, just as we have…there’s a ton of data in a non-web-accessible directory. That’s a pretty good tip that something’s up. By your argument, we couldn’t take down someone for copyright, or even child porn violations, as it’s just “a collection of 0s and 1s”, and who are we to “discriminate”? Our Terms of Service, which you agreed to 2008-02-22 at 3:39pm. If you didn’t agree, this simply wasn’t the service for you.

4) Regarding the previous point, how is DH to tell if I simply move the backup dirs to the folder? I have to assume that if I make my backups visible through the web (which I can prevent with file permissions), then it makes them 100% kosher, since they become “web content” that I am allowed to host at DH?

Honestly, we’re not going to let you off on some weak technicality. If you don’t wish to comply with the ToS, we’ve even allowed you the option of receiving a prorated refund, regardless of how far out from your 97 day guarantee you are. We have no desire to lose your business, but your truck analogy is almost there. We’re offering you trucks for transporting furniture…and we’re doing it at a nice low rate. But we do require you actually use them. We count on the fact that very few people are going to be moving furniture 24/7, but if someone wanted to use it to it’s fullest, they could. However, that doesn’t mean you get to rent the truck, park it somewhere, and use it as a free self-storage unit. We want the truck if you’re not using it for it’s intended

[snip irrelevant part]

Let me know if you have any other questions.


Jeff H

My final answer:

Hi Jeff,

Thanks for the kind answer! This kind of support is what gives DH an edge over other hosting providers. Keep it up.

What I say in my second point is not an exageration. It’s the plain truth: if not for backups, I will never use 1% of my quota. I mean *I* won’t. Don’t know about others, just me.

It seems a little unfair that some guy with 500 GB of HD use and 5800 GB/month of bw use is paying 8$/month as I am (I don’t recall the exact amount), while I am using 4 GB and 0.2 GB/month. Then I want to use 80 GB and 30 GB/month and I have to pay an extra 16$. That’s a total of TRIPLE that of the aforementioned guy, while I’m still using 6 times less HD and 200 times less bw.

I would love to pay for some resources, and administer them as I like, be it for web, backup, svn, or whatever. What I meant with my third point is that 100 MB of my backups “hurt” the system as much as sb else’s 100 MB of web content, so I can’t see the reason to make the user pay a separate bill for “backups”. Just make ftp traffic count against the disk/bw quotas and that’s it! You could then stop worrying about “fair” use.

But that’s pointless ranting on my side. Thanks for the attention. I will consider what to do in the light of the information you provided me.


I just want to point out how ridiculous their answer to my third point above is. DH tells me that they should be able to discriminate my data according to content (or use), because the opposite would supposedly allow me to break the law with copyright violations or child pornography. To follow with the truck metaphor, I am renting a truck from them, to carry furniture around. Since I don’t use up all the space in the truck, and I have a fridge I want to move, I put it into the truck. Now DH wants to patrol what I carry in the truck, and tell me that the fridge is not allowed, because it is not “furniture”. When I complain, and say that what I carry in the truck they lend me is none of their business, they answer that it is, because I could well be using the truck for drug smuggling. That’s really lousy reasoning. If I use the truck for carrying something illegal, then the police will sort it out, not the renting company. It is the general Law that will tell me what I can use the truck for, not the renting company.


  1. Super Coco said,

    July 11, 2008 @ 14:04 pm

    I see the terms of their reply very reasonable. When you signed with DreamHost, you accepted their TOS. It doesn’t matter if they are able to discriminate if your data is web content or a backup, you should comply with the rules. The prices of their hosting plans are very good, probably, the better ones on the Internet. For that money, they can not give you a backup service. I agree with that.

    We always want that the GPL and other FLOSS licenses are respected, but it is not easy at all for the programmers to detect that their code has been included in non-open programs. We rely on the license being respected only because of morality reasons.

    That’s the same with DreamHost, even if they can not detect that you are using their services for backup, you are morally obligated to respect the TOS that you agreed to.

    The entry in their blog is also a very interesting read:

    Also this one from the Unofficial DreamHost blog:

    Also, posts and usage profiles like the one shown in this post certainly doesn’t help:

    BTW: Is there any problem with OpenID authentication in your blog? If I fill in the “Website” field, I get the following error after accepting the OpenID authentication:

    Authorisation failed: Please check the entered credentials and double check the caps locks key.


  2. isilanes said,

    July 11, 2008 @ 14:58 pm

    Thanks for your input Super Coco. If you say: “The ToS says that, so however stupid, you have to fulfill it”, then I agree.

    However you have to agree that the distinction is irrelevant. If I have 5GB of pictures and I put them online to share them, then it’s correct. If I place them in just another folder of the same computer (in my account) and don’t share them, then it’s a backup, and I have to pay a separate bill for that. That’s ridiculous, not matter how you put it. I am using up some resources, be it a backup or a web content.

    I also agree that the DH service is good, and that the prices are great. I am a happy customer in general. Actually, I signed up to be billed for the “non-web” content, as they tell me to in the e-mail. I am just angry at the reasons behind, being it cheap or expensive.

    Imagine that I have an online storage service that lets people upload videos… but only if David Bisbal appears on them. If David Bustamante appears, then they ban you. If the ToS says that, then it is fair? Maybe legally, but not morally. You should pay for some space for your videos, and they shouldn’t mess in what the videos contain (assuming a legal content).

    BTW, I will take a look at the OpenID issue… when I have time.

  3. isilanes said,

    July 11, 2008 @ 16:40 pm

    As you can see from the above comment, I seem to have fixed the OpenID issue. I was able to make a test comment with my OpenID at

    I think the problem was that I had two conflicting plugins for OpenID: Alternate OpenID for WordPress 0.4 by Jerry Yeager and WP-OpenID 2.1.9 by Alan Castonguay and Will Norris.

    I deactivated the former, and kept the latter (WP-OpenID). Now it seems to work.

  4. Super Jamie said,

    July 13, 2008 @ 11:56 am

    You accepted the ToS, abide to them or cancel your account. If you don’t like the Terms of Service, you’re well within your rights to take your business elsewhere. That’s all there is to it.

  5. isilanes said,

    July 13, 2008 @ 14:11 pm

    Super Jamie, you are wrong. That’s not “all there is to it”. There exist abusive terms that are not legal, and it doesn’t matter whether you accept them or not, they can not apply. If you agree to give them your first born child in exchange for some service, you don’t have to comply. It is irrelevant if you agreed or not, because the terms were flawed.

    Also, as a company, you can not just refuse to give a service and say that the customer has the right to go elsewhere. If you offer 1$ books, then charge 2$ for them, the customer can ask to be charged 1$ and be given the book. You can not just tell him to accept or go away. And having a ToS that says “All our 1$ books will be charged 2$” does not make it any more legal.

    I don’t know about the legality of the ToS of DH. I assume it is perfectly correct (but it would not be the first one ever to be declared abusive). However, it doesn’t make it any more moral, you must agree. They allot you some resources under the agreement that you will use them in a way that will almost surely not let you take full advantage of them, then prevent you from using them in another (perfectly legal) way that would be well within the scope of the resources. If you don’t find it outrageous, then I don’t know what is so for you.

    I will abide by their rules, but this is the kind of thing that makes me unhappy. Another thing that makes me unhappy is how we, the customers, bow to the companies and accept any shit from them, convincing ourselves that it is “correct” because a ToS says so.

  6. Super Jamie said,

    July 13, 2008 @ 14:33 pm

    Unfortunately, my friend, this is the internet. There is no legal regulation of sales or terms or products. Quite possibly you are bound by the fair trading laws of the US state where Dreamhost reside, however a Terms of Service or License Agreement or EULA enter into it, and legally disputing this would likely have you end as the loser, and cost more than purchasing and collocating your own server hardware, so let’s just assume that Dreamhost are in the right, as far as a court would be concerned.

    I agree wholeheartedly with you that their rules are ridiculous, disappointing, unrealistic and that their sales structure is possibly advantageous and even immoral – however – YOU are the one who agreed to them when you purchased your web hosting. If you didn’t like them, you should never have purchased the hosting to start with.

    Personal preferences aside, I have previously sat on the other end of this agreement, clients wishing to use one of my company’s products for that which it CAN be used, but SHOULDN’T be used, or is not ALLOWED to be used, based on our terms of service. Often for illegal purposes. And I’m the one who has to say “No”, and the customer legally must agree, or have their service cancelled, as they agreed to it when they entered into the service contract.

    I do not enter into “truck” or “book” or any other analogies in regards to technology, as they are almost always inaccurate in regards to the nature of product they represent. The fact is: you did not purchase a personal online backup service, you purchased website hosting, for specific use of serving webpages to the general public, and nothing more.

    If you wish to use a remote internet-connected file storage service for personal file storage, either get a free shell account with data storage (and likely a terrible transfer speed), or pay for a collocated server (at an inflated cost to your web-only hosting), like everyone else does. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

  7. isilanes said,

    July 13, 2008 @ 18:23 pm

    Thanks, Super Jamie. I must concur with the whole of your comment :^)

  8. tinpot said,

    August 6, 2008 @ 12:05 pm

    I agree that Dreamhost has the right to do what it is doing. As customers, we have the right not to be happy with it. Whatever motive is driving Dreamhost’s policy, to us it is confusing and misleading. Therefore, I appreciate this discussion of the downside from the customer perspective.

    Some of you are saying: “If you don’t like it, go somewhere else. Shut up. Stop complaining.” I think the most useful aspect of threads such as this is that they discuss exactly what it is that is bad (and good) about Dreamhost, and what the alternatives are depending on which of Dreamhost’s shortcomings it is that is affecting us.

    Super Jamie, you lay out two possibilities and remind us there are no free lunches. Still, there may be more than two types of lunches in existence? And this thread is about where we can find a good deal on lunch. Surely that might exist?

  9. DreamHost makes me happy again: free backups | handyfloss said,

    September 15, 2008 @ 11:38 am

    […] Perhaps you are aware of my first (and last so far) gripe with DreamHost: as I wrote a couple of months ago, they wouldn’t let me use my account space for non-web content. […]

  10. Tipper said,

    April 15, 2009 @ 18:53 pm

    Isilanes: try, this is a good service for what you are looking for, IMHO, and it’s free, so maybe you can save some bucks with DH.

  11. isilanes said,

    April 16, 2009 @ 8:56 am

    Thanks, Tipper! Perhaps you mean [[]]. I will take a look at it, and at others mentioned in the Wikipedia page (always full of info!). However I must confess I ended up fixing the issue in some other way. I actually use a pendrive to sync computers, with a custom-made script. The con is that you have to carry the pendrive always with you, but the pro is that the “bandwith” is huge, and the process very fast, regardless of the internet connection (or lack of it) the subject computers may have. Also, you don’t have to rely on third parties, which is great.

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