DreamHost In-Depth (was Re: Dreamhost?)

Bill Marriott wjm at wjm.org
Wed Jul 12 12:24:47 EDT 2006

Based on the recommendations on the list I gave DreamHost a spin this week. 
I went with the "Code Monster" Level 3 plan, prepaid for 2 yrs. I also found 
the promo code "FLY" I found on the web, which gave me an additional $97 
off. For those of you without calculators handy, that's $11.90/month.


* Really amazing value for the price.
  - 60 GB (yes GIGAbyte) storage space, which increases by 480MB every week 
you stay a customer. They don't care how you use the storage ("as long as 
it's legal," a rep told me) and yes, you can back up your hard drive there 
and they won't care.
  - 1.6 TB (TERAbytes) monthly transfer, which increases by 16GB every week 
you stay a customer. This means you could download your entire site 26 times 
a month.
  - Host unlimited domains
  - Unlimited SQL databases
  - One free domain registration
  - Telnet/SSH access
  - No signup fee when you go with 1yr or 2yrs

* Some nice goodies
  - Directly manage your own custom DNS (e.g., map "home.yourdomain.com" to 
the IP address of your home server)
  - Ruby on Rails
  - Supports Revolution CGI
  - RealMedia and QuickTime streaming

* Some interesting support options
  - See all the tickets you have opened and all the support communications 
you've received in a central "Support History" area
  - A "public" DreamHost suggestions area where people can request features 
and vote on them
  - Very Good communication about system status, via the 
http://dreamhoststatus.com site

* Other
  - The DreamHost "rewards" program. Anyone can make these $97 off 
promocodes and also get credit toward their own bill (or cash). [No, the 
"FLY" promo code is not mine.]
  - (Hyper)Active user community. DreamHost has a very large group of users 
and they seem to be very active in the forums at 
  - 97-day refund guarantee.

* Uneven support
  - No phone number you can call. All support has to be initiated from their 
web page via the electronic form.
  - Inconsistent response time. A couple of my queries were answered within 
1 or 2 hours. A couple are still sitting there more than 24 hours old.
  - My very first request for support after opening my account requested a 
callback, and the representative who answered said that my account wasn't 
entitled to any callbacks. (Probably due to the newness of the account, but 
STILL! I'm entitled to three, and it took me writing multiple times to 
finally get someone to call me.)
  - Limit of three "callbacks" per month with the CodeMonster plan, less 
with other plans. This means that you can speak to a human being only three 
times, even if it's a problem that's their fault. I don't think that once 
things settle down that I would have to call them at all. But during the 
first month of service I think 3 callbacks is inadequate.
  - The person who did call me back was professional and very helpful.

* Transfer speed
  - My previous host maxes out my cable modem during transfers in either 
direction. Using FileZilla (excellent free FTP client) I get uploads around 
90+ KB/sec and downloads around 95KB/sec to 100KB/sec with my 8000K/768K 
Comcast connection. DreamHost never went above 70KB/sec uploading and was an 
anemic 650KB/sec to 700KB/sec when downloading.

* EMail Policies
  For several years, I've enjoyed a setup where sending mail to 
<anything>(at)wjm.org reaches my inbox. I've took advantage of this by 
registering under aliases at any site that requires a registration. For 
example, runrev(at)wjm.org, apple(at)wjm.org, and so on. This lets me set up 
email filters very easily... an organization often sends mail from different 
addresses so it can be a pain to trap for every one of them. But I can 
always direct mail sent to microsoft(at)wjm.org to the "Microsoft" folder in 
my email client. If an organization turns out to be a "bad apple" and sends 
me spam or gives my address to a spammer, I can very easily "kill" that 
address and send a complaint email. I also had used SpamAssassin to filter 
out my junk email in general.

  - DreamHost allows "catch-all" addresses as above, and it offers 
SpamAssassin, but not BOTH. You cannot enable SpamAssassin on any account 
which has a catch-all address! This means I'm now receiving all the junk 
email that in the past was being filtered out for me. I can tell you it's 
very unpleasant. To get around this, I will have to set up discreet email 
addresses for all those runrev@, apple@, microsoft@, and so on addresses. I 
probably have 200 of them at this point, some of which I don't even 
remember. I'll also have to set up a corresponding account within my email 
client to check each of those discreet addresses. Not only does that make it 
much harder to implement my previous scheme -- instead of just typing the 
address and knowing it will get to me, I have to type the address and 
configure two accounts, one on the server and one on the client (15 minutes 
wasted) -- but checking for email would take much longer as my client walks 
through each address/alias.
  - The previous host enabled me to see all the folders on my IMAP server, 
including the Spam folder. This made it very easy for me to check the Spam 
folder for "false positives" -- which do crop up periodically. DreamHost 
requires that I log in to their Web Mail interface in order to check my Spam 
  - My previous host enabled me to customize SpamAssassin very easily. For 
example, I have the Spam score prefixed to the subject line of messages that 
are trapped. This way I can just click the "Subject" header in my email 
client, and all the marginal spam is at one end of the list. (This is where 
the false positives tend to be.) DreamHost offers no method to customize 
  - The DreamHost mail server does not allow me to create new IMAP mail 
  - DreamHost offers only "SquirrelMail" as the Web Mail client, and no 
others. My preferred WebMail client is Horde. My previous host offered 
SquirrelMail, Horde, and NeoMail.

* Control Panel
  I've used cPanel for the last three years. It's clean, powerful, and 
consistent. I also found it pretty easy to use after a while. DreamHost uses 
its own proprietary control panel interface. DreamHost's control panel does 
offer a couple additional capabilities over cPanel, notably in the Billing 
area and the custom DNS area. However,

- The DreamPanel is cluttered and messy. It's fairly unpredictable to figure 
out where they've tucked away the feature you need.
- The "cuteness" of language in the interface is ok at first but becomes 
annoying quickly. As a user interface designer, I don't think this stuff 
belongs there. As a Windows user, I don't really need to be denigrated when 
I'm doing routine maintenance. They should stick to clean, well-organized 
standard terms.
- Multiple sections have been "decommissioned" or "disabled" when you have 
to click a link to go somewhere else. Why they keep these sections around 
instead of just reorganizing the control panel to omit them, I don't know.
- It's slow. Not to navigate, necessarily, but changes take several minutes 
to take effect. I changed my email password from the default, randomly 
created one to the one I prefer to use, and it took over 90 minutes to take 
effect. Until then I could not log into email using either the old one or 
the new one.
- Site stats are kept for only 24 hours
- It doesn't offer as many one-click install options for add-ons as cPanel 
- Does not offer access to your site backups. With cPanel I can download 
and/or revert my site to any of the backups that are available quite easily.

I'm still waiting for a response from DreamHost on my email issues, but if 
they will not allow me to have SpamAssassin *and* a catch-all on my 
accounts, that will probably be a "deal-killer" for me and I will take 
advantage of their 97-day guarantee.

I would definitely recommend DreamHost if you want to have vast disk space 
for things like system backups. I don't know of anyone reputable who has the 
same capacity for this price. I also think they are really good if you have 
the "traditional" setup of one or two email addresses that you use for 
everything. (Though it would still be nice to be able to check your Spam 
folder without logging into Web Mail.)

Hope this is useful information for the list.

"Alex Tweedly" <alex at tweedly.net> wrote in 
message news:44AE32A7.1030609 at tweedly.net...
> Dan Shafer wrote:
>> Stephen Barncard turned me on to Dreamhost over a year ago and I am a
>> delighted client.
>> I seem to recall getting Rev CGI working there at one point but as I 
>> recall
>> I had some problem doing so. Stephen may be able to be more specific.
>> But for hosting, these guys are great.
> Stephen and Dan both recommended Dreamhost when I asked a while ago - and 
> I've been delighted with them. Since I'm only doing this as a hobby, I 
> went with the cheapest plan ($7.95 per month w/ a 2-year prepayment).
> More disk space than I have on my laptop, and enough bandwidth to keep me 
> happy.

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