My experience with DreamHost

“Jalpuna asks”:http://virtuelvis.com/archives/2005/01/mt-pi#cid1727 how my move to “DreamHost”:http://www.dreamhost.com/rewards.cgi?arvebe went, and if I’m satisfied. I’ll try to answer.


h3. E-Mail
DreamHosts web mail solutions are set up automatically when you register a domain, and are based on “SquirrelMail”:http://www.squirrelmail.org/
Sure, SquirrelMail is functional, but in terms of user-friendliness it’s no “GMail”:http://gmail.google.com/ — but it’s still functional as an on-the-road e-mail client. Plus, I would have liked to see https for webmail.
As for other aspects of the e-mail: I use IMAP, and even though the route to the mailboxes at my old providers were a lot closer, in terms of network hops, my DreamHost mailboxes are _fast_ in comparison. They’re also stable. Something my old e-mail never was.
As for spam-filtering: DreamHost have recently moved to using SpamAssasin, which is great. The only downside is that the spam is actually only accessible from one particular webmail interface. I can’t log into my regular mailbox to handle quarantined mail.
h3. Shell access
It’s there, it’s stable, and I am mostly perpetually logged in. And even if I am running a whole bunch of cron jobs, nobody’s complained. It works, and I’m happy.
h3. Web Admin panel
I don’t quite know what to think. DreamHost could really use some design/markup help with this one: I find it to be rather visually displeasing, and a bit on the slow side.
On the other hand: The administrative panel is, unlike some other similar solutions I’ve seen rather intuitive: I think even the most technically challenged person could set up a MySQL database correctly, or add a Jabber server, subdomain, or anything else they offer.
I think my conclusion is: I could really turn to liking this, if they had cleaned up the visuals and the markup, to make the panel a bit faster.
I also like the fact that they offer one-click installs of the following:
* WordPress
* “phpBB Forum”://phpbb.com/
* “Advanced Poll”:http://proxy2.de/
* “osCommerce Store”:http://oscommerce.com/
Regarding phpBB: I don’t actually _use_ this myself, but I have noticed that they collectively patched vulnerable installations. Nice.
Ideally, I had also wanted to see another weblog package, or a more full-fledged CMS offered as a one-click install. “Drupal”:http://drupal.org/ or “eZ Publish”:http://www.ez.no/ would be good candidates.
h3. Technical support/Customer service
Ok. I really, really enjoy this: If anything affecting any of the servers where I have content are going through maintenance, they notify me by e-mail _well before_ they do it. I can also set the various warning levels regarding what I want to be contacted about.
The “DreamHost knowledge base”:https://panel.dreamhost.com/kbase/index.cgi suffer from the same as the web administration panel: Visual clumsiness. It’s a great deal faster than the panel though.
But, on the plus side the KB will answer your every question. Even “What Happen?”:https://panel.dreamhost.com/kbase/index.cgi?area=1065 (to which the answer is “Someone set us up the bomb”)
I have not yet had any reason whatsoever to contact their staff. Which is really how I would like it to be. I like stuff that just works.
This experience is quite unlike my old web host: I was never notified by e-mail regarding planned maintenance. I was not notified after unplanned downtime. If something went down on friday, I could not expect my support e-mail to be answered until monday. On my old host, customers weren’t even notified after all sites on one particular server were “cracked”:http://virtuelvis.com/archives/2004/02/msie-is-the-problem
h3. Speed bump
There is one small speed bump, but I’m not yet ready to determine whether it’s DreamHost, Movable Type, or just me: If I use @@ in my templates, I also _have_ to add @utc=”1″@, unless I want garbled output. It doesn’t happen on weblogs I keep elsewhere, so I’m quite at a loss to explain this. Other than that, MT is running very smoothly here, and DreamHost _are_ aware of the existence of Movable Type: I got e-mailed about the recent vulnerability in MT 3.14.
*Update:* This is a confirmed bug in Movable Type, and I have been told that this will be fixed in MT 3.2.
h3. Pricing and offers
I truly enjoy their “pricing:”:http://www.dreamhost.com/rewards.cgi?arvebe/shared/comparison.html
* I can pre-pay for two years in advance, and get a substancial discount.
* Their prices are low, and their bandwith are generous. Plus, they’re friendly with “Slashdotting:”:https://panel.dreamhost.com/kbase/index.cgi?area=2992 When your monthly bandwith is calculated, the highest-traffic day is disregarded and replaced with the average for that billing period. Which means that if you have one gigabyte traffic on average everyday, and you suddenly have 200GB on one day, you’re still home free.
h3. Conclusion?
Overall, I am satisified. This experience is miles ahead of my previous host, which I really only kept with due to inertia.
DreamHost are quite big, which means you probably will never get the personal friendliness you can from a mom-and-pop webhost, but on the other hand, I don’t have to worry that they’ll be going away tomorrow or anytime soon.
h3. Disclaimer
_Please note that I receive affiliate income from “DreamHost”:http://www.dreamhost.com/rewards.cgi?arvebe whenever someone signs up through me, so apply as much sceptisism as needed._

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2 Comments

  1. john

     /  2005-02-14

    Dreamhost has great support, and are very forthcoming in how they communicate to their user base. I will give them that, they offer competitive pricing, their features are pretty common for web hosts. Most hosts offer administration panels, they don’t give many options for webmail but I don’t use it.
    As far as the slashdotting thing goes I am pretty sure they dropped that policy that you referred to because people abused it.

  2. bq. If I use @@ in my templates, I also have to add utc=”1″, unless I want garbled output.
    That’s because Dreamhost has MySQL 4.1.x installed. MT was probably written for an earlier version. Starting with MySQL 4.1, the timestamp fields were changed so that they return YYYY-MM-DD HH:MM:SS instead of YYYYMMDDHHMMSS. That’s where the garbled output comes from since MT is expecting the later.
    I ran into this problem recently and got to your blog searching about it.