Pre-purchase questions

Hi All,

I’m considering DreamHost, but I’ve got a few pre-purchase questions…

My hosting background: I’m used to operating on a private box with CPanel/WHM and the ability to get my admin to install PHP modules and whatnot whenever I needed. We don’t have super advanced needs, but the flexibility is nice. The hardware is old and my admin no longer has time to maintain the uptime I require, so I’m scouting new hosting.


  1. I plan on hosting a bunch of domains (8+), does this work very well on DreamHost? The “1 FTP” account thing seems a bit strange organization wise for me, I’m used to having essentially a “reseller” WHM panel for creating unique accounts for each of my sites. I see that I can give FTP users access to certain folders, I guess each site gets a folder? How convenient is running lots of websites via DreamHost?

  2. Can I create custom nameservers? ie.,

  3. Can I modify the httpd.conf file?

  4. Can I use “wildcard subdomains” ie. **** without having to setup each subdomain manually (setting this up in CPanel/WHM required a DNS zone tweak and httpd.conf modification, see:

  5. Is the GD library for PHP pre-installed?

  6. It looks like I have the option to entirely compile my own install of PHP, so this might be a silly question, but can I add modules I choose (like GD if it weren’t installed, or others…)?

  7. What’s the uptime/reliability REALLY like… I’ve seen some complainers on the forums, but I respect that every once in a while a bad situation happens and you hear about it, so how about on the masses? Are we looking at 95%? 99%? 99.9%?

  8. Are the servers generally pretty quick, or if I start pulling decent traffic will I lag it up big time?

  9. What’s some big reasons why DreamHost is better than the competition? Try to give something with a little meat, and skip the boring price discussion… not that I’m on an unlimited budget or anything, but i’d prefer a quality web host over an extremely affordable one.

If I think of anything else, I’ll add it to the end…

Thanks all!

You are allowed to run multiple domains. You have to pay for the extra domain names. So you get 1 free domain name with unlimited domains. You also have unlimited sub domains.

No. Not that I am aware of.

No. to this as well.

I do not think so, but could be wrong.

Yes it is preinstalled with the php version 4 and 5 that are also preinstalled.

Yes you can install your own version of php and its add ons, if you know how.

My site is up majority of the time. There were some set backs that DH had to overcome. Most of them I feel were out their hands. such as power failures and bad servers or drives, etc.

I think they are but then I don’t have alot of traffic. If you have high traffic, or are depending on a fairly high income, then a private server may be better for you though. Just my opinion.

I’ll let someone else answer this one as I don’t have any experience with other service providers.

Good luck and hope you find what you are looking for.

My website

There is a base web folder per domain, but the big difference here is that you can create real linux users and each web folder can be put in a separate linux user’s home directory. Alternatively you can just have one giant user with a bunch of web roots under that home directory.

I think the answer to this one is yes, though I’ve never done this myself.

Mostly, no.

Yes, though you have to get support to do this for you. Note that you have to give them a good reason. I told them it was in order to use Wordpress Mu with one subdomain per blog.



There have been some systemwide issues in the past - or clusterwide, in the case of Blingy. These plus “bad neighbors” account for the majority of downtime. You can guage the impact of the Blingy problem yourself from the complaints. The “bad neighbor” problem seems to die down after a while as your server “ages” and the CPU/memory abusers get their accounts turned off or learn and your server gets filled up with nice, reasonable neighbors. :slight_smile:

Well, looking at my wife’s server, it’s running with a load average of 2 and 55% idle cpu.

I think the DreamHost setup is comparable to most other quality shared web hosts. I think they distinguish themselves with:

  1. A superior web panel, which is mostly good for unsophisticated user (like me, most of the time).
  2. SSH access, which is mostly good for the sophisticated user.
  3. A logical setup of web directories in the linux home directories of whichever users you set up, which makes much more sense to me than the “cpanel way”.
  4. A company that cares about their customers and is ethical. They are transparent and admit mistakes. This doesn’t mean they don’t make mistakes - and some of them big ones.
  5. They’re pretty fun to work with.
  6. Their NFS setup creates performance problems for some apps, but makes their servers easier to manage. This is a not-insignificant tradeoff, I think.

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This is an tough task for any hosting company.

To have a valid name server, you have to register your server with your registrars. Otherwise no one is going to know that there is a new name server in the world.

Not all the registrar allows that. You will have to check this with DH sales.

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Your site being a mess doesn’t represent Dreamhost’s uptime. I monitor a site that went through the long downtime of a cluster move and even that is still at 99.7%.

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Ya, most people don’t realize that 99% uptime is still about 4 full days/year of downtime… hopefully it shows up as a couple hours here and there though, more than 1-2 days of solid downtime is somewhat unacceptable.

Thanks for everyone’s responses so far… I’m pretty satisfied with the answers to:


#2 isn’t too big a deal, but it’s a nice-to-have

#4 is cool, assuming Lensman is correct that we can case-by-case set this up for certain sites

#7,8 is a little in the air, but it’s a hard question to get answers on I suppose

#9 is always still interesting to hear

Does DH any have “large” reference customers to impress me? I’m not huge by any means, but still…


I have noticed excellent uptime and speed, both through MySQL and web. If there’s any significant issues (like the Blingy incident), DH is very generous with the account credit - 3 months worth to all involved.

And I’ll tie in #9 - DreamHost uses separate web, MySQL, and mail servers. I find that specializing the servers makes them even faster. I mean, altair takes care of my webs, and bugs can deal with my databases. The only caveat is that “localhost” doesn’t work for MySQL connects - you need to connect to a custom URL (which can be any subdomain you want, provided you own the domain), so you need to be sure to change that on any apps.

Like previously mentioned, I love the Linux setup. I have a user “spearfish” on altair, whose home directory has access to all my domains. So you should be able to manage all 8 just fine.

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Thanks to everyone for their helpful responses, I did decide to give DreamHost a shot. There weren’t really any show-stopper reasons to say no, the flexibility DH provides seems pretty nice, I’ll take the server stability on faith for now… I was also fairly impressed with the responsiveness and dedication the “DH community” provided on these forums, it’s nice to see users that care, so thanks!

So far I’ve been pretty happy with everything… the control panel is easy to adapt to and has some really nice features. The FTP setup is simple to work with, the DB setup a breeze, and integration into Google App/Gmail seems pretty neat too.

I really hope I’ve made the right choice, because I’ve forgotten how huge a pain it is to move websites over… file transfer, config file/root path updates, DB setup, DB import, email setup, chmod, bug fixing minor differences in “PHP as a CGI”, etc. Ugh! Time consuming, but so far no problems…

Anyway, thanks again! :slight_smile: