If you get a standard managed dedicated server we treat the box like 'one of our own' and we do all the same software upgrades and changes that we do on our own shared hosting servers. Things like WebDAV (for instance) are automatically added when they are added to our shared hosting servers. Likewise, the web panel works pretty much exactly like it does for shared hosting accounts. There are a couple of things that behave a little differently and there is an extra section of the web panel giving you some access to server functionality that would not be appropriate for shared hosting.
We automatically do all security updates though we don't always automatically do other non-security software updates. We can do those for you upon request as long up to the most recent provided by the release of Debian Linux installed on the machine.
All of this is provided for all dedicated servers regardless of the 'DreamCatcher' plan you opt for. With the highest level of DreamCatcher, we also treat the box like one of our own when it comes to system service monitoring and debugging. If the load is high we will get on it and try to figure out why. Some people don't want us so involved with their servers, but some people don't want to have to worry about it at all and they prefer to pay us to do it. We can work whichever way you prefer.
We do maintain root access so we can get in to do these management functions and we can also give you 'sudo' access upon request. We like to give you a quick server security tutorial before enabling it so we require you to ask for it when you need it.
All of this assumes you just want to manage your website and let us manage the server. If you would rather manage some or all aspects of the server yourself we can set it up as a fully unmanaged or a hybrid partially managed server. In the case of an unmanaged server we don't do anything to it ever but we deliver it you with everything pre-installed and configured still. In the latter case we do something like still manage the user accounts and the mail server while you manage the web server, for example. You just have to tell us how you want it set up. There are sometimes some setup issues at the beginning when people do not understand how we do things but we always work it out. The more information we have up front the better, of course!
Does that answer all the questions?
- DreamHost Head Honcho/Founder