DreamHost In-Depth (was Re: Dreamhost?)
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
>> 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
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