Web Hosting: My DreamHost Experience

I seem to have taken a step up in the world by moving my webhosting and domains from GoDaddy to DreamHost . This is an outline of what this move has taught me. As I run a small, but growing website this looks at the share web-hosting in particular.

Biased Reviews

When I first started to look at hosting with DreamHost I was impressed with the numbers of good reviews that it seemed to have. Only now do I realise that all of these reviews were biased.

All customers of DreamHost are able to become affiliates of DreamHost. What this means is that when current DreamHost customers link to DreamHost they will use an affiliate link. When someone clicks this link and signs up, DreamHost pays them between $1 and $97. The more positive a review is, the more likely people are to sign up and the more money the reviewer gets.

The affiliates (existing customers) can also offer you promo codes that you can use to get discounts or free things. These promo codes are also known as coupon codes or discount codes. The more the code gives you, the less the affiliate gets paid. To make things easier for you, I have provided the best promo code for each type of freebie.

DreamHost Promo Codes
Code Description
DHCHEAPEST Provides the maximum discount possible

Provides the maximum number of free domains possible (5 extra domains)

DHMAXIPS Provides the maximum number of free IPs possible (3 extra IPs)

System Resource Limits

People like to compare web-hosts based on:

  • Disk space
  • Data Transfer (Traffic/Bandwidth)
  • Price

With all the cheap web-hosts around there is not much difference in these areas any more.

  • They all offer unlimited disk space, as long as it is within "Fair Use",
  • They all offer unlimited data transfer-, as long as it is within "Fair Use",
  • They all are only $1 or $2 apart in price.

What people do not tend to warn you is that shared web-hosts like to keep your system resource usage to a minimum to maximise the number of websites hosted on each server. Such limits are:

  • Web connection limits
  • Database connection limits
  • CPU time limits
  • RAM / Memory limits

You are bound to hit one of these limits before disk space or data transfer becomes a problem and price does not have any relation to system resource limits.

GoDaddy has a large caching proxy server that will cache anything it can. This introduces another layer of complexity and another thing that can go wrong. On my GoDaddy site I was getting intermittent 500 Internal Server Errors that I finally attributed to a lack of support for the Last-Modified header.

With DreamHost I found that there are many limits. PHP had a memory limit of 100 MB, and a script would stop working if it needed more. There was also a CPU time limit that will stop and background processes that has been running too long. DreamHost also does not like to tell people this limit.

Depending on what you use to run your site will determine how much your site can handle before you hit the limits. Although many scripts like WordPress may be written to go gentle on resources, it is often 3rd party plug-ins that cause issues. A lot of ex-DreamHost customer reviews that I have read complain about issues relating to system and resource limits. People will throw more money at getting a host with more resources and not consider that it is likely their website / script that has the problem.

You many be now thinking that more system resources is better, but it is not that cut and dry. If every website on the same web-server gets higher system resource limits, that does not mean that there is more system resources to go around. It just means that when other websites have a lot of traffic it is going to cause problems on your site as well.

Static HTML cache

As I prefer to stay on a cheap web-host, I have written my website to be as easy on resources as possible. All static content is written to HTML files. These files are all updated when a page is changed. Static HTML files is the closest thing to a sure-fire way of curing any system resource limit problems.

No web-host is perfect

No web-host is perfect, no matter the price. A good web-host informs you of any problems and reduces the risk of them occurring. When comparing web-hosts, you may look at:

  • Speed, but this will come with lower system resources,
  • Uptime, but this will come at the expense of new software versions or the rate at which versions are updated,
  • Cost, but at the expense of everything else.

I find that DreamHost is balanced on all of these which I quite like.

Software Versions

The main problem I have with DreamHost at the moment is that they are not the best at running the latest version of software. They are currently running a very old version of subversion and are not running PHP 5.3. At the time of writing PHP 5.3 has been released for 2 months, but DreamHost says they are waiting for 3rd Party PHP libraries to be updated.

Try them out

The best thing that I can suggest is to try DreamHost out.

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