What's the bottom line on dreamhost?
January 5, 2006 2:19 PM   Subscribe

What's the bottom line on dreamhost?

I know that there are a number of posts that discuss the pros and cons of various hostings. All these posts say one of two things about dreamhost: (1) they are the best thing to ever happen to the internet (2) they are a pyramid scheme and people are paid to say these things.

I'm planning on making a not for profit site using Drupal with Quicktime videos, so there could be quite a bit of bandwidth and this seems like a great deal. I've had some bad hosting experiences (filefarmer and 1&1) that I don't want to repeat.
posted by BigBrownBear to Computers & Internet (50 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Other people will give you better info. I've only been with them for half a year. But I'll chime in and say, "so far all is good."
posted by grumblebee at 2:21 PM on January 5, 2006

if they're a pyramid scheme i'm glad i got in early! i do sometimes wonder what the deal is with their amazing coupondry, though.
posted by soma lkzx at 2:22 PM on January 5, 2006

I used Dreamhost, it was cheap and worked well.

Unfortunately, I must have missed the sign-up page for the pay-for-schilling scheme.
posted by Espy Gillespie at 2:26 PM on January 5, 2006

"Why web hosting is easy" from the DreamHost blog.
posted by subclub at 2:27 PM on January 5, 2006

Er, I meant to say that that link might provide some insight into their "amazing coupondry."
posted by subclub at 2:29 PM on January 5, 2006

Response by poster: haha. glad to hear all the positive feedback so far. sometimes these things just seem too good to be true.
posted by BigBrownBear at 2:29 PM on January 5, 2006

My site's been hosted with them since May 05, I think, and so far I haven't had any problems. That said, I don't really require much technical assistance or bandwidth for that matter. I don't know where the Pyramid scheme thing comes from - maybe because they have a referral discount? Also, the monthly newsletter is tres wacky.
posted by echo0720 at 2:29 PM on January 5, 2006

Be careful. One of my client's Drupal sites grew too large and we're now moving it to a dedicated server, since the shared hosting plan (at Pair.com) didn't allow enough resources -- and pair has pretty generous allowances.

The drupal database is 1.5 GB and MySQL queries were at times over 300,000 rows. Some of this just means the db needs to be cleaned up.

You may run into a similar problem with any shared hosting account/service.
posted by camworld at 2:30 PM on January 5, 2006

I've been with dreamhost for a little over a year - I got in on their 77 cents/month promo, and I just renewed for two years at their regular price.

Generally: they're good, but their uptime isn't necessarily as good as they claim. My (hobby) site goes down for a couple of hours a month, but I usually don't notice until I get the Uptime emails.

I get the feeling they used to be very, very good, and may have been overwhelmed by a recent growth spurt. But it seems to be levelling out, and I have no problem recommending them to friends. They're much better than other hosting services that I've used.
posted by flipper at 2:31 PM on January 5, 2006

I've been with PowWeb (for about 3 days), Textdrive, and Dreamhost.

I've stuck with Textdrive and Dreamhost, and for what its worth, I'm really debating dropping my textdrive account at the end of my year, but I have a while before that becomes a problem.
posted by adamwolf at 2:34 PM on January 5, 2006

I am a Dreamhost customer for personal web and email hosting. I do not currently, and never have, participated in their affiliate referral program. Don't use my name if you sign up.

I love Dreamhost about 99% of the time. The few expections are when they have strange outages in the middle of the day or when they upgrade something that breaks a software package (Movable Type, a wiki, etc.) that I had been using.

If you use their one-click installations for WordPress, wiki packages, phpBB, and so on, the upgrade problem goes away because they actively support those packages. My experiences with other installs have been occasionally frustrating.

The downtme problem, well, their stats seem pretty good and they claim that the outages are usually caused by external factors. If 99.9999999% uptime isn't mission critical, you may not even notice it.

In terms of dollars for service, I get a great deal. I've been a Dreamhost customer since January of 2001. I don't expect to change that anytime soon.
posted by mikewas at 2:35 PM on January 5, 2006

I have all my sites as well as a couple of sites for family/friends (11 in total). I pay less than $20 a month. I am more than pleased.

The reason that most people evangalize them isn't because they have an affiliate program. It's because they have a sense of humor and they act more like a friend than a soul-less corporation. Their newsletter and their blog are often hilarious, and always written with tons of personality. That's why people forgive a couple of days of downtime.
posted by rdurbin at 2:36 PM on January 5, 2006

For web hosts there is always a Cost To Acquire (COA). A referral is essentially "free" to them, so they can afford to pay up to their regular COA as a referral bonus.

Admittedly, theirs is a pretty penny compared to most hosting providers, but it still works out for them in the long run.
posted by FlamingBore at 2:38 PM on January 5, 2006

They have a referral program so customers are kind of motivated to recommend them with their referral link. It's a bit of a stretch to call them a pyramid scheme on the basis of that.

They're cheaper than other hosts, from what I can tell, and I've heard stories (similar to camworld's) in terms of having insufficient resources allocated, and their outages are well publicized (mostly due to the sheer number of clients they have, I suspect). But they're reasonably good at explaining what happened (if after the fact), which I appreciate.

I've been using them for 4½ years with only minor and periodic complaints; of course, I came to them from Webhosting.com, which was complete and utter hell.
posted by mcwetboy at 2:39 PM on January 5, 2006

I was frustrated with them for a spell -- if the package they sell hadn't been vastly superior to anyone else's, I probably would have switched. But the best thing about dreamhost is that you can actually see them making progress. Incremental improvements get rolled out (like their new status checker) and aren't left for years as "to come" or user requests.

If you need lots of support, go elsewhere. If you want five nines, go elsewhere. If you want good, reliable hosting for a web presence without the need for perfection, I can't recommend them any higher.
posted by piro at 2:39 PM on January 5, 2006

Been at Dreamhost since September '04. Nothing but good things to say: good uptime, intelligent access (shell accounts), and and incredibly responsive and friendly staff. Dunno about any kind of pyramid scheme. Just seems like a great web host to me.
posted by xmutex at 2:40 PM on January 5, 2006

Their service has been great. I'm on one of the more basic packages and they keep giving me more and more bandwidth and webspace for free. Also, the few times I have required tech support the answer was either in their faq already or given by a very prompt e-mail.
posted by Gary at 2:40 PM on January 5, 2006

To quote their blog, We are the Tony Montana of web hosting.

You gonna argue with that?
posted by xmutex at 2:43 PM on January 5, 2006

Response by poster: can't argue with tony montana. i don't care about 100% uptime. not going to make any money off this site anyway. i just didn't want to get screwed. sounds like dreamhost is a good way to go.
posted by BigBrownBear at 2:50 PM on January 5, 2006

I've used them since 2002. I have their cheapest plan; I believe it is called "Crazy Domain Insane," and I've got five or six websites hosted there. I have had a great experience with them, no complaints. Their web-based account management system is excellent --- since I have never used another web-hosting service, I don't know if other webhosts have comparable systems. On Dreamhost, at least, you can manage pretty much every aspect of your account (adding MySQL databases, adding new domains, adding subdomains, password-protecting directories, etc.) through a very easy-to-use interface, which is good for someone like me who knows nothing about the underlying technology.
posted by jayder at 2:53 PM on January 5, 2006

The "pyramid scheme" accusation probably comes from the ability of current dreamhost customers to build customized referral codes. You can get people certain bonuses adding up to not more than the amount they are willing to discount in total. Then, when someone signs up with your code you get the difference between the value of your discount and the max value.

So, they do get people to market for them and it is possible people who come with discount codes in hand are not being totally 100% forthright about how dreamhost is the greatest thing ever and and if you sign up with code x it's only so much sweeter. That's not to say that it's a pyramid scheme though, as there's no impending collapse because its worth isn't contingent on propagating the discount codes and there is an actual value service exchange.

Compare a free ipod referral scheme: no actual value service exchange, just entry into the workings of the referral system, which in itself is useless to you if you don't propagate your referral code.
posted by moift at 2:58 PM on January 5, 2006

I've been with them for several years and have never had a problem; I guess there are occasional outages but my site gets very little traffic so that's not a problem for me. I've referred a couple of people and they came through with the money as promised. On the rare occasion I read the newsletter I've liked it. Basically, I've had few interactions with them but those I've had have been pleasant.
posted by lackutrol at 3:04 PM on January 5, 2006

I've been using Dreamhost since January 2002. I like them a lot, and I've never had any serious problems with them.

They often upgrade accounts for free. For example, I liked the look of the deal BigBrownBear linked to, and they'd already applied the deal to existing accounts.

The only criticisms I have are that the control panel is pretty overwhelming for people who aren't very technically-minded, and their technical support, which is e-mail only, usually doesn't respond very quickly. These haven't bothered me, though, because I can do anything I need to through the control panel, and I've only needed technical support about three times.
posted by kirkaracha at 3:11 PM on January 5, 2006

Yeah, I've used Dreamhost since sometime in 2000. They've always been as helpful as I needed them to be. Their uptime has indeed suffered a bit with their growth, but it's still a heck of a deal for the price. I'm giving them all of 20 bucks a month, and what I get for that is amazing.

As far as the pyramid thing goes, I've never felt like it was that big of a deal, like it was their primary business.

The only issue I ever had that I didn't like was that they used to have Samba and had to turn it off because of all the virus attacking when people had them linked as network drives, and what are ya gonna do?

Other than that, they have a huge knowledge base, and they do usually apply whatever sale deal their having to their existing users... waking up to find an email saying you now have 1.8TB of bandwidth and 65 gigs of storage is pretty awesome.

Seriously though, if you're gonna sign up, email me for a referral code, k? ;)

posted by Silent Thomas at 3:25 PM on January 5, 2006

I host about 27 domains on DH (for me and clients). I think they're great and have had very few complaints about them over the past... I dunno, 5 years or so I think I've been with them.

For reference, in the past 12 years I've used (for myself and clients) 1and1 (worst internet company I've ever run across), verio-hosting, Bell (Canada; pure shite), Highway Tech, and a few others whose names I forget. Dreamhost has consistently been my favorite and I now no longer work with newbie clients who want to find their own host (no prob with non-newbie clients choosing, though). It's not worth the headaches. (I'm the same way with CMSes--I will only work with Expression Engine after trying many others and getting annoyed.)

I have used their referral service via the links section on one of my sites. However, when referring friends and clients, I kick back 90% of the referral to them when it comes thru via Paypal.
posted by Manhasset at 3:40 PM on January 5, 2006

I've been with DH since 2002 for my personal site. I also use it for a business site and a mailing list I run. As said above 99% of the time I love them. Sometimes they have issues and support can be slow, but once you have their attention they're great. And the one-click installs are lovely.
Hmph, but I've never made any money! I've referred a few folks and I think I got a couple dollars off my bill, but that's it.
posted by jdl at 3:50 PM on January 5, 2006

Response by poster: 1&1 is horrible. I signed up for some free two year trial and always knew they would find a way to screw me out of money. They did.
posted by BigBrownBear at 3:50 PM on January 5, 2006

Oh, forgot to say this: if you're designing a site for a not for profit (can't tell by the wording) DH has this great button you can put on your site whereby people can donate to pay directly for your hosting. We used it for the list I run and it saved us the time of setting up our own PayPal account, etc.
posted by jdl at 3:52 PM on January 5, 2006

I have about a dozen sites with them. My only complaints have been some minor downtime and slow SQL response.

I've had dedicated servers in hosting facilities since 1999, but I'm not in the hosting game anymore. So my expectations are much higher than most. If it means anything, all of my personal sites are now with Dreamhost.
posted by bh at 3:59 PM on January 5, 2006

I think they are generally great. They provide everything I could possibly need at their lowest service level. I have never done anything with their referral plan, although I have heard it is quite lucrative.

The one thing I really frown upon is that they don't seem to publish their outages very well. You get notified of the outages that affect your sites, but you don't see all the outages. And you see nothing if you aren't a customer. I feel like it's hard to judge how reliable they really are. Compare to pair.com, which airs all their laundry. And honestly, if pair.com has that many outages for a pricey host, DH must have quite a few. (DH does have this but it's missing outages I saw notices in the control center for, so not worth much)
posted by smackfu at 4:06 PM on January 5, 2006

You can also use your referrals to give to charity.

I have been with DH for almost 6 years and have no complaints, especially since they periodically upgrade accounts with more disk space and bandwidth for no extra charge. Just today we were notified that disk space had been quadruple, and bandwidth octupled. That's just cool.

Also they allow for unlimited domain hosting.

Have fun.
posted by terrapin at 4:18 PM on January 5, 2006

Besides some strange but short downtimes they've been good to me so far; super cheap, and ridiculous amounts of space and bandwidth.

The one thing I've heard, and can't claim to know about really, is that your processor use is limited (more than usual?), and that can cause problems if you start actually using your 1TB/month bandwidth, unlike me.

Their referal scheme is interesting, if someone is willing to make you a code that nets them $0 (at least when I hopped on with them) that will get you a full year of the cheapest plan for $10. And there's other codes floating around ... :)
posted by 31d1 at 4:40 PM on January 5, 2006

I must also sing the praises of dreamhost. I've been very happy going on 5 years. I love how every month it seems they give you more space and bandwidth [although I still don't come close to using it all... but it is nice to know it is there]. I think my plan started with 20MB of space and now I have 60GB. The bandwidth is up to 1.8TB for the same price. I didn't realize these numbers grew so much! This will make a nice little place for backups. The mail [IMAP or POP3 and web interface] with infinite accounts is pretty rock solid. One time they gave me 3 months of service for free when I beta tested their Spam Assassin implementation.

I also love the newsletter that comes out late every month by tradition and the writer's sense of humor.
posted by birdherder at 4:49 PM on January 5, 2006

Other than the cited bizarre but short outages, dreamhost has been perfectly fine for us.
posted by Medieval Maven at 5:03 PM on January 5, 2006

You probably have enough testimonials by now, but I'll chime in to say that I have been with them since 1998 (I think it was like three guys and two servers back then), and am extremely happy with them. The one-click installs are useful, and their tech support has been helpful when I've run into trouble installing my own scripts. They host all my websites and I've recommended them to many.

Email is in profile if you have any specific questions.
posted by mikepop at 5:35 PM on January 5, 2006

Sometime last winter, my DH sites and mail started having outages on a startlingly regular basis. It was, at the time, very unlike them. I've kept uptime monitors on HTTP and SMTP since last spring, and can confirm that outages of 15-40 minutes at a time happen consistently at least once a week and more often around 6-8 times per week. At least once a month, mail goes out for several hours. My sites are spread across 3 different accounts running on 3 different servers, so it's not just one bad machine at fault. DH has shown little interest in the downtime reports in the past, and virtually none of my outages get acknowledged in their public reports. The new outage verification feature does at least agree that my service has been known to be down for a half hour or more before I logged into their control panel to report it. I've never experienced such poor downtime anywhere else, and have had to reluctantly give up and start migrating the sites elsewhere. It's a shame, because they really do have an attractive package in many other respects. I so wanted to believe it was just temporary growing pains, but the reality is that the situation has not improved.

DH also periodically does "scheduled maintenance" in the middle of work day (we're in the same time zone), on a couple hours' notice, usually announcing it right *after* my service has already gone down. My other ISPs have always given several days forewarning of scheduled maintenance, and selected a time in the wee hours of a weekend morning to minimize the effect.

There was also a deal-breaker incident recently in which they messed up a client's DNS very badly and were very slow to respond.

Clearly there are lots of customers whose can attest that their uptime and service experience has been quite different, so hopefully the odds are in your favor. DH has a generous MBG period (91 days?), so if your site isn't mission critical you can at least give them a test drive at little risk.

The One-Click Apps are nice.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 5:52 PM on January 5, 2006

I'm also pretty satisfied with them. Pretty much my only complaints are all email-related. I will list them here. :)
  • Mailman mailing listserver addressing is annoying and convoluted. To such a degree that I'm still running mailing lists on my own machines at home.
  • Mail-only accounts can't have user-defined names. (Although you can set up incoming-mail forwarding under whatever name you want.)
  • Incoming mail has been delayed by an hour or so a couple of times recently.
  • The webmail interface, while functional, is annoying. (Squirrelmail)
  • One non-mail complaint: databases are assigned to different servers semi-randomly. It's not possible to pool multiple databases for multiple domains on the same server (by choice; it can happen by chance).
Everything else has been pretty dandy. I prepaid for two years of service and have been very happy to see the increases in storage, bandwidth, and number of domains hostable for the same discounted price I paid.
posted by xiojason at 5:53 PM on January 5, 2006

Response by poster: how do i go about getting the $10 deal? is that by a referral through someone?
posted by BigBrownBear at 7:04 PM on January 5, 2006

DreamHost is awesome. The best host I've used by far (so far I've used Interland, iPower, and ICDSoft). I can't think of why it'd be called a pyramid scheme other than the fact that they give you a lot for referrals. No one ever gets screwed, since the price is great already and hence you don't need to refer to get a good deal; most or at least a good deal of people don't. So if you ever hit the bottom of this pyramid all that would happen is you wouldn't get paid anything, but the initial price is well below market.
posted by abcde at 7:24 PM on January 5, 2006

I'm in the Dreamhost rocks category, too. No issues at all thus far, and I've made enough bucks on referrals to pay for my own hosting next year.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 7:56 PM on January 5, 2006

* Great price for the first year with the coupons
* Great control panel
* Unlimited domains
* Up to date with the latest techologies
* Good for buying domain names
* Ridiculously large amounts of bandwidth/diskspace
* Continuous multiplication of bandwidth/disk space

* Way way too much downtime.
* You only get 60 minutes of CPU time per day (e.g 10000 page views of my MediaWiki site that only took about 150MB of bandwidth already went over that CPU limit), although they didn't suspend my site for it. See also
* Changes to E-mail aliases/accounts take 1-2 hours, MySQL databases about 10-15 minutes. That might be standard though.
* No low end plans for people who don't need 1TB of bandwidth.

It was great value for 9$/year, but there's no way I'm going to pay 120$/year for what I need.
If you don't mind the downtime, go with it
posted by Sharcho at 8:15 PM on January 5, 2006

Price for services offered: pretty much unbeatable.

Admin interface/ability to configure everything yourself without having to wait for someone to respond to a request: excellent.

Responsiveness to support requests: quite good.

Nice feature if you expect to get Slashdotted or something: bandwidth throttle so you won't invisibly exceed your bandwidth limit (their limits are incredibly high to begin with) and get billed up the wazoo.

Uptime: borderline unacceptable, and only acceptable when weighed against the above.

I've had pretty severe issues with SMTP in particular.

Based on my own experiences and a few others I've seen firsthand, my suspicion is that they have certain "lemon" servers that have substantial problems, while others run without a hitch. If you do have trouble, ask them to move your account to a different box.

I wouldn't put a client with a mission-critical app on Dreamhost, but I use them for my own sites, friends and family's personal sites, etc.
posted by staggernation at 8:29 PM on January 5, 2006

how do i go about getting the $10 deal? is that by a referral through someone?

I believe the currently-useable 'special deal' code is 'super888'. Give that a try, if you want to sign up.

Like many other people, I'm offering deals on Dreamhost new accounts through my site, if that discount code doesn't work. I won't link it, but you can get there from my profile, of course, if you're so inclined.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:07 PM on January 5, 2006

The only day to day problem I have with Dreamhost:
The mysql servers seem to be very slow. It's not a big deal for something like wordpress, but it makes my gallery2 installation almost unbearably slow.

YMMV, of course.
posted by madajb at 9:23 PM on January 5, 2006

I have had pretty good luck with Dreamhost, with a few hiccups. The bandwidth and storage is nice, but as someone mentioned above, there is a limit on CPU Cycles which are hard to quantify. That's one gotcha that I think is a bit misleading and hard to figure out before you sign up.
posted by jonah at 9:31 PM on January 5, 2006

So long as you don't expect blistering performance (especially where MySQL is concerned), they'll be fine for most needs.
posted by jedro at 10:13 PM on January 5, 2006

i'm with you on Gallery2 being slow, even though DH lists them as being supported. It works, but very slow.

When we first installed Drupal and Gallery2, we were getting CPU time notices constantly. But they recently increased CPU time, and we've had no issues.

One other thing nobody has mentioned about DH is the random service upgrades. I signed up for 9 gb per month, and we were just upgraded to 40gb, and our bandwith octupled to over 1tb... very nice.
posted by quibx at 6:21 AM on January 6, 2006

My biggest complaint is the time lag on the control panel. You try to create a new database or change an email password and you're told it could take 10 minutes, an hour, a day.

Still I say they're good hosts but you'll really reap the benefits if you know shell commands and want to install your own stuff. Not many hosts let you do that in my experience.
posted by miniape at 9:26 AM on January 6, 2006

staggernation writes "Nice feature if you expect to get Slashdotted or something: bandwidth throttle so you won't invisibly exceed your bandwidth limit (their limits are incredibly high to begin with) and get billed up the wazoo."

DH's throttling service won't save you from an expensive slashdotting if it starts early in the day.
Note, throttling is only updated once a day! So even with throttling on, it's still possible for you to go over your limit if you suddenly get a large abnormal spike in traffic in one day.

posted by Mitheral at 11:24 AM on January 6, 2006

They've just updated the official DreamHost blog in their characteristic fashion: Anatomy of an ongoing disaster
posted by adamsc at 5:17 PM on August 1, 2006

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