DreamHost Review: a Slice Simple WordPress Hosting Heaven

DreamHost (DreamHost.com) promises 100% uptime on their site, which is a very bold promise for a host to make but only underscores the company’s nearly legendary server farm and network infrastructure.

For better or for worse, the company has opted for an in-house control panel, which might make installation and modification of features a little more challenging. This is not reflected on the site’s list of supported features, which includes all the e-mail bells and whistles anyone could ask for, unlimited MySQL 5 databases, CGI, Python, PERL 5, Ruby on Rails, SSI, SSL (per IP only on some packages), and installers for many popular packages such as WordPress and Joomla!

Whether these installers will be useful when individual packages are updated is anyone’s guess, but DreamHost does seem to have a dedicated staff of competent IT professionals that are there to sort these types of problems out.

DreamHost Makes it Easy

The single shared web hosting plan at DreamHost cost $8.95 per month and offer unlimited storage and bandwidth.  The SSL implementation may not work out well for those planning on hosting multiple blogs and/or multiple online stores, so choose accordingly.  One of the more interesting aspects of DreamHost’s offerings is not found in their shared web hosting plan, but rather in their scaled VPS plan.  Referred to as the DreamHost PS, costumers currently pay a monthly fee based on a very linear formula in which $1 buys ten megabytes of RAM.  Thus, the lowest-priced DreamHost PS plan costs $15 per month for 150 MB of RAM, while the most expensive DreamHost PS plan costs $400 per month for 4000 MB of RAM.  Of course, $400 per month is extremely expensive for any VPS solution, but the unlimited bandwidth and unlimited storage may help offset this pricing concern for those with very specific hosting needs.  A $100 signup fee is currently being waived, but there is no telling just how long such a promotion will last.

Screen Capture of the Dreamhost Management Panel

Screen Capture of the Dreamhost Management Panel

While there is nothing innately wrong with DreamHost’s plans, sharp consumers might be able to find better deals elsewhere.  Be wary of shopping for bargain basement hosting services, however, as there is always the possibility that one will get what they pay for.  DreamHost customers certianly get what they pay for in terms of guaranteed uptime, but there are a few other hosts worth looking at and price comparing first.

Powerful Hardware and Powerful Options

Additionally, a plan known as the DreamHost PS MySQL exists, though finding details on the plan is very sketchy.  It is possible that the plan is outgoing, and thus the lack of clear links and pricing is understandable, but the promises of faster MySQL running on separate hardware is obviously very appealing.  On the subject of appealing, DreamHost’s dedicated hosting plans starting at just under $600 a year are also extremely attractive.  Powered by 2.6 GHz AMD Opteron CPUs, and packing 4 GB of memory, the only possible downside to DreamHost’s dedicated offering is the lack of unlimited bandwidth.  Of course, unlimited bandwidth and high-performance hardware at bargain basement prices is an unreasonable thing to complain about, but the unlimited bandwidth and storage offered by DreamHost’s dedicated and VPS offerings is certainly prone to spoil more than a few consumers.  While not necessarily a gripe, it would be nice to see Intel-powered hosting solutions as well, especially since Intel has managed to gain a significant performance-per-Watt and overall performance lead from AMD.

If the aforementioned hardware setup does not meet one’s needs, DreamHost is more than happy to develop custom solutions to suit virtually any need.  Backed by generators and countless UPS solutions, the entire network infrastructure, known as Alchemy Inc., is immune to just about everything except for acts of war/terrorism, and the most devastating aspects of Mother Nature.  This is perhaps why DreamHost offers the 100% uptime guarantee on their site, but it is important to note that all of DreamHost’s servers are protected, not just those in the VPS/Dedicated hosting clusters.  Those same clusters are backed be multi-gigabit optical networks with redundant cooling solutions that are nothing short of world class.

Redundancies Are Good

It is worth noting that DreamHost has two separate data facilities located in the Los Angeles region, and their entire staff is entirely comprised of U.S. residents.  This means world class support without going around the world to find ESL speakers to handle basic problems, but it also means a professional support team that brings their calm and collected Californian attitude to addressing any questions that customers may have.  This outgoing and decidedly friendly attitude is part of what makes DreamHost so special, and helps separate them from the competition in a way that mere technology cannot hope to do.

Dreamhost recently announced their entry to the managed WordPress arena with Dreampress. And with Dreampress having no limits on page views and and only costing $19.95 per month while in beta, these are exciting times for WordPress users!

Dreamhost describes Dreampress as:

DreamPress is a highly optimized, extremely reliable managed WordPress service that comes pre-configured to stand up to higher traffic loads and serve up server-intensive themes and plugins.

This means it’s engineered for speed, advanced security, excellent reliability, and ease of use – all features that were created to make your lives easier!

While that sounds good, let’s break it down.

What Do You Get for Your Money?

If you purchase Dreampress during their beta release, you will get all of the following for just $19.95 per month:

  • Unlimited Page Views – At least during the beta release, Dreamhost has not put any clear restrictions on the usage of your Dreampress website. While this may change later, based on a post at Half-Elf, I would guess that Dreampress might eventually set tiers based on CPU and memory usage as opposed to page views.
  • Ability to Use any WordPress Theme or Plugin – Other managed WordPress hosts restrict plugins that can affect the performance of the websites they host. While this is meant to help speed up websites and ensure great service on these managed WordPress hosts, it has been a controversial decision at times.
  • Robot Assisted Migration – Dreamhost has created an easy migration tool to take the pain out of moving your website to Dreampress.
  • Built-In Caching Through Varnish – This is part of the technology that Facebook uses to serve billions of requests daily across the world and it is becoming the industry standard for caching WordPress websites. Rest assured that your website will run very snappy!
  • Separate MySQL and Web Servers – Dreampress will run your website off of two VPS servers. One will specifically be used for serving web content with varnish caching enabled. The other server will be used for all database requests. This is tech speak for your website will run fast!
  • And Other Goodies – Dreampress will also include an easy-to-use control panel and great support!

As of now, the $19.95 is priced per installation/domain. While you can use multisite on these installations, Mika Epstein of Dreamhost states that Dreampress currently does not have support for subdomains or mapped domains.
Dreampress from Dreamhost

Who is Dreampress For?

At $19.95 (during the beta release period), Dreampress may not be the best “starter” package. Dreampress is also not targeted at WordPress power users who are familiar with features that you’ll see in more established managed WordPress hosts (WP Engine), such as:

  • A Staging Area – for testing plugin and theme updates and uploads before making them live on site
  • Built-in CDN – for faster loading web pages by offloading static images and other files.
  • Website Hacking Protection – WP Engine will fix your website for free if it is ever hacked.

Bottom line, Dreampress is a good option for those that have outgrown shared hosting and aren’t ready to commit to $30-200+ for other managed WordPress hosting solutions.

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The Bottom Line

Those looking for a great deal on an unlimited storage/bandwidth shared web hosting plan that can use a single SSL certificate will probably find DreamHost’s core offerings great.  VPS and deciated plans are ertainly worth looking into as well for those with more robust hosting needs.  Having to contact sales to set up additional SSL certificates for multiple sites is not the easiest solution, but it is possible in some cases.  Those setting up different sites with different SSL certificates, may need to look elsewhere if DreamHost’s friendly staff cannot tailor a custom solution.  That being said, DreamHost has yet to fail to impress from a sales/customer service standpoint, so it is certainly worth giving them a call just to see what they can do to help make web hosting less of a chore and more of something that one thinks about on a creative level.

Nick Reese is a multi-passionate entrepreneur who believes anyone can transform their business and life they they’ve got guts and hustle. He’s also the co-founder of Broadband Now which aims to simplify the broadband shopping process.