I’ve tried many Web hosting services over the last 13-or-so years, and although the landscape has certainly changed, once I found DreamHost I never looked back. There was always something annoying about each host I tried, and although some of the issues and limitations have probably have been cleared up, they were deal-breakers at the time and surely many remain.
For both casual website designers or hard-core developers, these are the features which from my point of view distinguish DreamHost from the rest:
- Superior account management control panel, developed in-house. DreamHost is big enough and have the in-house developer talent to have rolled their own system, and it’s far and away superior to the “cpanel” junk which just about every other host uses. I had the “privilege” of configuring a Windows host recently (using the Plesk control panel), and I don’t know why it was just so much more complex and painful to even accomplish very basic configuration tasks. I’m also no stranger to having had to email other hosts’ support staff to make simple DNS and other additions on my behalf because the control panel didn’t expose those settings, something I haven’t once had to do on DreamHost.
- DNS is fully customizable for each (sub)domain through the above control panel. I can add any weird settings (custom MX records, aliases, et cetera) I want.
- Allows SSH (and SFTP) access with no limits on port-forwarding, so I can use MySQL GUI tools on my local machine to administer my remote MySQL databases, or develop local applications against a remote datastore. Usernames and machine names are clean (e.g., no numbered logins like 1&1 [ugh!] has): I just ssh to “rockstar.dreamhost.com” and log in with any of the usernames I’ve created through the control panel.
- PHP can be used as both an Apache module and a CGI, at my option. Generally supports newer versions of PHP and MySQL quickly. (Contrast with 1&1, which only had PHP4 years after PHP5 had been released.)
- Provides virtually unlimited “stuff” (until you make it really really big): MySQL databases, domains, subdomains, traffic, disk space, etc. “Quantity” isn’t something you need to worry about, now.
- Allows me to create as many logins as I want below my master account. Each (sub)domain I’m hosting treats one of these logins as its bucket. This keeps things organized, and lets me create custom logins to give out so that others (friends and clients whose domains I’m hosting) can administer their own content below their own domains and only their own domains.
- Allows me to create as many extra control panel users as I want, and give those users privileges on a relatively granular level to administer specific aspects of the domains I’m hosting for them.
- Suggests and easily configures Gmail and Google Apps For Your Domain to handle email and other services for domains you host. That’s better than Squirrelmail or even Outlook Web Access (compared with Windows hosts) or any other free webmail solution. You can (perhaps with difficulty) configure this on other hosting services, but the fact that DreamHost makes it the default is a testament to them being pretty forward-thinking.
- For the few times I’ve had to email their support staff, I’ve gotten an astoundingly quick response. Their reps have always been knowledgeable and helpful, and never assumed I didn’t know my stuff.
- Kickback system for referring others, where you can create your own promo codes to give out and decide how big a “piece” of the kickback you’ll give away. To be perfectly honest, that’s a small part of the reason I’m publishing this. But because I want DreamHost to grow and succeed, and because I’m grateful for the hard work their staff puts in and their overall vision in creating an actively-developed hosting service with a level of configurability and reliability which continues to impress me (long sentence, whew), I’ll skew it way in your favor.
This takes the maximum kickback I can earn, $97, and nets me $2. You get $95 off a year or more of hosting, and $50 off monthly hosting.
Promo code: MIKOOL.
Sign up page.