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DreamHost Review

DreamHost Review
(as of 7/4/2008)


        While reading this review, keep in mind that I update it from time to time as my view changes or Dreamhost changes their policies and I find out about them. On a episode 184 of Binrev radio StankDawg and Booter were talking about web hosting options and I figured this would be as good a time as any for me to review my current hosting provider, DreamHost. By buddy Hagbot from HackLousivlle turned me onto it. I'm currently on at one year prepaid L1 plan which would have cost me $119.40 ($9.95 per month) if was not for Hagbot's discount code. In the end it cost me about $30 for my first entire year, now with the rewards I get for referring others it's essentially free for me. Since I got service with DreamHost the L1 deal has gotten better than when I started (more storage and transfer bandwidth), but they automatically put everyone at the new level of service without any extra charges. They no longer even seem to refer to it as L1, just the base Dreamhost service you can add "Account Upgrades" to.

        All in all I've been very happy with them, other that a few gray spots when it comes to service interaction (which I mention later) and user connections. I want the review to be unbiased, and I don't want people to accuse me of giving a favorable review just to get more money from referrals (though that is nice). The following lists some of the services I get with my one year prepaid plan along with my thoughts on each feature (If I've tested it, full details can be found here: http://www.dreamhost.com/r.cgi?155413/hosting.html ):

Content Restrictions

        DreamHost has never given me any problems with my "hacker" content, and I know Hak.5 and HackLouisville have used them in the past. They also seem to have no problem with "Adult Sites " with legal content. Just to be sure you may want to check out their TOS: http://www.dreamhost.com/r.cgi?155413/tos.html


DNS Stuff

       
You get one free domain name registration when you sign up for service. I already had my main domain name registered through GoDaddy, but pointing my DNS servers to DreamHost was easy enough. I later used my free domain name, plus added another domain later for an extra $9.95 per year. Apparently Whois privacy is included with your domain name registration if you want to use it (a nice extra I wish GoDaddy had when I signed up). You can also host as many other domain names and sub domain names as you want and get to customize your domains DNS entries as you wish. I mostly only use my root domain name, but I have set up subdomains like hackme.irongeek.com and they seem to work fine. All of your domains and sub-domains count against your bandwidth and space limits.

Disk Storage at signup

        As of this writing DreamHost gives 500GB of storage when you first sign up, and then gives you an extra 2GB per week that you are with the service. I know in the past they have honored this since I've seen the growth, but my control panel currently says I only have 334GB of storage I can use so something is up (I emailed them, maybe they forgot to bump me up when they modified the plans). I'm only using 5GB of that so I've not tested this thoroughly. Still, that a lot of space for the price.

Monthly Bandwidth at signup

        In theory you get 5TB (as in terabytes in case you think I mistyped) of transfer per month, and it increases by 40GB per week. I've not tested this to the limit yet either, as my current bandwidth usage is between 300 GB and 600 GB per month. Videos really suck up the bandwidth. There was one problem I had on back in March of 2006 (to be clear, since then I've not had issues with them). Visitors downloading the videos I had caused me to receive the following message from DreamHost (in spite of the fact that my total bandwidth usage for that month was only 296.49 GB) :

Hello,
Unfortunately, I was forced to temporarily disable your irongeek.com/videos folder by renaming it to videos_disabledByDH. The connections to the files inside were monopolizing the apache webservice, and other sites couldn't be loaded.

Please don't re-enable it until you make check your code and restrict the connections to your files.

Sorry about having to go this route, but we can't have this happen on our shared machines. Please note, that repeated temporary disablement may result in disabling your domain and your account, for violating our Terms of Service (dreamhost.com/tos.html).

Let us know if you have any questions.

Thanks!
Andrea

At the time I was paying for 1 TB per-month transfer so I didn't see how I should have this problem. I communicated some more with the folks at DreamHost, and expressed that there should not be a problem since I was under my bandwidth allotment and there should be nothing in the TOS against what I was doing. Here is on on the emails I got back:


  Did you read the TOS?

MATERIAL PRODUCTS


7.


"...and if your processes are adversely affecting server performance
disproportionately DreamHost Webhosting reserves the right to negotiate
additional charges with the Customer and/or the discontinuation of the
offending processes."


You DO get a TB of transfer a month, but bandwidth usage has nothing to
do with the problem. Shared hosting servers only allow up to 250
connections at a time, and your video files were using up most of those
(and not letting go until the download is complete). So that means that
nobody elses site on the server was able to send out information until
some of your sites downloads finished (and dropped the connection). You
can take a look at what avi files were hit the most in your site stats
here, but todays information won't be available until tomorrow:


http://irongeek.com/stats/


If you reenable the videos directory without taking steps to limit how
many concurrent downloads can be processed it may take up all the
connections again. If that continues to happen we'll either need you to
upgrade to your own dedicated server or move you over to an evaluation
server (or even disable your account if it continues for too long). If
you have any further questions, please let us know.


Thanks!

Dan


First, that's a bad attitude to take with a customer, but maybe I'm reading too much into the email. The folks at DreamHost said it was not the bandwidth but the number of connections that was the issue (which is somewhat disingenuous since to suck up the 1 TB of bandwidth per month the number of connections is likely to be high). I took some measures to keep the connections down and keep folks from wgetting all of my videos at once. Since then, my month bandwidth usage has gone up to the point where in September I hit 676.77 GB total transfer that month. My guess this the problem has been resolved. Over the next few months I had some problems with outages of my site, and my understanding from my buddy PhlyingPenguin is it's because DreamHost oversold their share hosting somewhat. Since then (in early 2006) this seems to have been resolved with new hardware and everything is running smoothly, and has been for the two years since the problem. Even with the little bit of downtime, it's still been worth what I paid.

Control Panel

        DreamHost does not use cPanel like so many other hosts, but use their own control panel. It works well for the most part. Installing "One-Click Installs" with it is easy, and email configuration and reading seems easy enough. I just have my email set to forward to Gmail. The web server stats page kind of sucks since you have to enter your password and that section does not use SSL like the rest of the control panel does. Since I have shell access to the box I've set up a cron job to run AwStats for me and just use it instead.

Development/Web Apps/Databases

        You can write web apps/CGIs in C, C++, Perl, Python, PHP, Ruby on Rails and other platforms. Obviously some restriction apply, and some of PHP's more risky functions have been disabled. The biggest problem I've ran into are my cron jobs for doing web stats timing out. Then again, I get a lot of hits so that's not unexpected and I've over come this problem with a little adjustment to how my jabs are ran. I've done some PHP development on DreamHost and most things seem to work without issue. You get unlimited MySQL databases, but I've only had about three at a time. Some of the pre-rolled apps you can install with the "One Click Install" feature are WordPress, phpBB, Advanced Poll, ZenCart, MediaWiki, Joomla, Gallery, WebCalendar.


File and Shell access

        Apparently base access gives me the ability to create shell and FTP users (the limis use to be 75, I don't know what it is now). I only use one. FTP access passes passwords in plain text by default, but since I get SSH access with DreamHost I just use SFTP to put my files on the server securely. Most Linux boxes come with an SFTP client, and Windows users can use Filezilla.     

Discount Code

        If you decide you want to use DreamHost I've set up the code IRONGEEKCODE so you can get the discounts listed below. Just for the sake of honesty, I have to admit that I made the code in such a way that I would get some money per person that signs up, but I made it the maximum discount allowed by Dreamhost. Yea greed!!!

Payment Period Cost Max Discount This Code's Discount
Monthly $60.90 $50.00 $40.00
Yearly $119.40 $50.00 $87.00
Two years $214.80 $50.00 $87.00
Three years $286.20 $50.00 $87.00
Five years $417.00 $50.00 $87.00
Ten years $714.00 $50.00 $87.00

You will notice that the "Max Discount" and the "This Code's Discount" fields do not match, that's because I made this code before the $50 limit. For most plans the code should only knock off $50. Go to http://www.dreamhost.com/r.cgi?155413/hosting.html to see all of DreamHost's service plans.

Conclusion


        All in all, DreamHost is worth what I pay for it. I've not found a cheaper shared hosting provider, considering the features I get. Other than my problems back in early 2006, service has been good as well.

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