I know, I know, they’ll have some pat script responses to try and cover this all up when I post this, if not just outright delete it from the board. But it needs to be said: I am not the world’s greatest website designer or IT manager, but I am not a complete newb either. And frankly, Dreamhost’s service has completely bewildered me with its level of clumsy, ungainly ineptitude and flat-out failures to provide even the most basic of hosting stability compared to many competitors.
For you new people who are most likely here because something’s already gone wrong with your site, or you can’t get any real help from Dreamhost’s ‘support’ system, I have to sincerely warn you: go to another host. HostGator, FatCow, somebody other than Dreamhost. The hosting services out there are way too plentiful and inexpensive and well-run to settle for this place. Just Google up ‘dreamhost reviews,’ and you will find not only plenty of great, glowing reviews (clearing scripted by SEO folks of Dreamhost employment), but you will actually find WHOLE WEBSITES, not just reviews on other site forums, dedicated to how much this host blows.
You want to know how bad, how truly, really, horrifically bad Dreamhost is?
I WASN’T EVEN A CUSTOMER OF DREAMHOST.
Oh yeah! Believe it. I was hired by a friend and client of mine to design his new sites for him. He’d set up a very basic website years ago and set up hosting and registered his domain through Dreamhost. Like many of you, he was new to the web and it wasn’t his main pursuit, he wanted a presence on the web and otherwise was just focused on his real business. He signed up, got his stuff going, and that was all he wanted to bother with it at that point.
So I came along and got his information, got all settled in, and began to design his site and manage his online affairs for him.
And Dreamhost has been a f**king nightmare. Or at the very least, a pathetic host to try and work with.
Let me try and give you a few ‘highlights’ (or ‘lowlights’) of my own experience with Dreamhost (and I imagine the name comes from the idea that if you can host with them successfully, you must be dreaming). And bear in mind again: I HAVE NEVER EVEN BEEN A CUSTOMER OR CLIENT OF DREAMHOST, I’M SIMPLY TRYING TO WORK WITH THEM ON BEHALF OF A CLIENT/FRIEND WHO WAS.
1. No live support chat. Virtually every other single host service out there worth two bits has this already. I’m not kidding. Go look them up. Virtually. Every. One. They also have a phone number you can find and call too, by the way. For crying out loud, Dreamhost, you don’t even have to use an in-house service, they outsource this crap all from the same 2-3 companies, all these competitors of yours are using like the same guys, so it can’t be so pricey that you can’t try and offer it! Step up the game a little, guys! Seriously, and your current support ticket system is a real joke. Pick out of a limited menu of options that never seems to match the issue, then ultimately that leads me to…a friggin’ contact form? That’s your big support method? Email forms like a guestbook from an old Angelfire site in 1999?? Dude, if it’s just gonna be an email form at the end, just have it at the front and we can skip the bullcrap dosey-do you’ve got me going through clicking on “Other” over and over to GET to the same form as every other category of problem I could report.
Your support Wiki is about the strongest thing you have going for you, and again, that’s not saying much. A Wiki is all well and good, but what does that help me if it’s incomplete? Perfect example: your sections on EPP keys fail to mention that none of the ‘helpful’ links included are going to work if you’re canceling your account (meaning that you’ll disable the manage domains options in the cPanel backend, rendering the leaving user helpless to try and smoothly get the hell away from you people as fast as possible).
Hey, I want to give some proper respect, however, in all this ranting: when I filled out the form for the last issue I had with Dreamhost as we said goodbye at last to them, they WERE prompt and competent in replying. The shame is, if they were half this good anywhere else, we might not have been forced to go elsewhere to begin with.
2. Sites hacked so easily you’d think it was being done by Dreamhost administrators themselves. Don’t believe me? You don’t have to–do a search for ‘hacked’ just in these forums alone, you’ll get enough evidence of my statement.
That’s right. My friend is a super guy, but he was so new to the net, that the first site we did for him and put on Dreamhost was literally just basic HTML. That’s it. Nothing more complex than hyperlinks. All classically hard-coded, hard-updated, page by page. He wasn’t comfortable yet with using any CMS, so we did everything the old fashioned way. Meaning: NO CMS. No PHP, no PERL, not even a MySQL database. Not one thing that supposedly could be backdoor hacked or exploited by hackers. It was literally just a handful of simple .html files and .jpgs. THAT’S IT. Yet time and time again, my friend would call me up and tell me “There are these Viagra banners all over the pages.” And guess what else happened, friends and neighbors?
The site didn’t just get hacked with some Viagra ads put up on the pages, oh no. It actually got REDIRECTED through a proxy address that THEN sent traffic to my friend’s domain. Which meant Google searches for my friend’s website came up instead with all these redirect-generated fake links and hits for said Viagra peddlers.
That’s right. The DOMAIN NAME was redirecting to the hackers’ specifications. HOW COULD A HARD-CODED, SIMPLE HTML WEBSITE WITH A HANDFUL OF HTML FILES AND JPGS SOMEHOW BE HACKED THRU A NONEXISTENT CMS AND SOMEHOW ALSO PERFORM A COMPLETE DOMAIN NAME REDIRECT?? How could someone hack the site via the end-user’s fault, if there was no htaccess file, no password file, nothing whatsoever hosted there except basic HTML? It’s not like me or my friend went and put up ads online sharing his account login info.
Methinks Dreamhost’s security is more than bad: it’s probably getting PAID a kickback by these hackers, it’s so revolving door. I kept uploading back-up copies of the files to the server and reporting the hack to Dreamhost, and what did they do about it? Sh*t-all, is what they did. Absolute zero. Every few days: upload the corrected pages. A few days later: hacked again. Ridiculous.
The domain redirection and Google SEO screwing, by the way, didn’t stop until, oddly enough, we changed the nameservers and transferred the domain completely away from Dreamhost’s hands. Go figure, it’s a miracle!
3. Back-end management layout is cluttered and pathetic. Not to mention rather confusing and non-intuitive for even a novice or relatively experienced web-user. Again, c’mon, guys at Dreamhost, get with it! Other host companies use cPanel and it doesn’t look like someone added your logo to a vomit version of phpAdmin or borrowed some old Fantastico interface.
Clean up the act, fellas. That backend is text-based and so blah. For particularly new users, a table layout of icon-based options works more effectively, and leave the side navbar spaces for fixed info like IP and nameserver and server uptime status, stuff we can use at quick glance wherever we go elsewhere in the system options.
The functionality also just stinks. Just trying to do relatively simple things like redirects, mailbox setups/forwarders…clunky and slow, and half the time would take a ticket to tech support to even work, never mind trying to DIY using your ‘control panel.’
Look, all-in-all, Dreamhost might’ve been great shakes back when Tripod was still offering free webspace and banner exchanges were hot-sh*t for advertising your site. But nowadays? It’s clunky, funky, and pretty junky as a host.
Trying to do the most basic, common tasks even for someone like me fairly familiar with a number of other host service configurations was awkward and ridiculous, most of the time simply time-consuming and unnecessarily frustrating.
The quality of service being paid for was dubious when considering that even a simple HTML site with no leaks or cracks in its setup could still be hacked, with impunity, day after day with no response or reaction from Dreamhost support or security on the matter. I hope Dreamhost is at least getting so many bucks for every sale of Viagra and Vicodin that those Chinese and Portuguese website hackers made by hacking my friend’s old site.
Nowadays? We’re over at HostGator, lock stock and barrel. Absolutely nothing at Dreamhost whatsoever, and happily so. I regret that my friend fell into dealing with them even just early on before he knew better. Again, remember in reading all this: I WAS NEVER A CUSTOMER, I was simply a guy who came along to help and set up a new website for my friend, and discovered the chaotic, unsecured swamp that is Dreamhost’s server farms of nightmare.
Until Dreamhost demonstrates significant updates and improvements, I would suggest do exactly what my subject title suggests: new to the internet? Run like your hair was on fire and your *ss was catching to another host. Already signed up with Dreamhost? Well, they have a pretty straightforward cancellation policy and procedure, at least. It’s apparently the thing they’ve had the most departmental practice at doing and have gotten that much down pat.