In the spirit of transparency, there was a time in my freelance career when I started to explore other hosting providers. As a web designer, I find my clients don’t understand / wanna deal with hosting. They trust that I’ve done my homework and landed on the best option available. I wanted to make sure that assumption was true. I tried a handful of the big players out there. A couple were decent—most were offensively bad—like pulling hair out in clumps, disbelief they’re still in business bad. The road always led me back to DreamHost. To better illustrate what made the competitors so unpleasant, let me tell you what makes DreamHost such a… dream.
Okay, so here’s a 10-second primer in how web hosting platforms operate. The provider buys physical servers, which all come with essentially the same bland software for managing settings and such. As customers, we don’t see that nerdy back-end stuff because the provider builds a “pretty” interface on top of it. Make sense? All hosts allow you to do pretty much the same tasks once logged in (connect domains, edit DNS, setup webmail, add FTP users, create databases, etc.) The difference between them is all about user experience.
The DreamHost dashboard is like Steamboat Willie joyfully whistling without a care in the world. No other hosting provider I tested offered such a friendly, intuitive interface. Logging in is pleasant, inviting, and not at all intimidating. It’s easy on the eyes for beginners while still being functional for expert-level power users.
Sure, well-designed account management is great but what about performance? After all, when you are hosting several websites, clients only care about two things: uptime and speed. Even DreamHost’s bottom-tier shared plans seem to buzz along quite nicely.
I wanna be 100% real with you here. I did have an issue where my shared server was having problems one time (it was around the holidays too). My sites would go down for hours and be super slow when they came back up. A few of my big e-commerce clients were losing patience as it took over a week to fully resolve. This is a very rare occurrence, though. In fact, I don’t anticipate it happening again in this decade, personally. I have since ponied up the extra cash for a VPS plan and things have been flawless. DreamHost has this cool page where you can see if any of their systems are having problems in real-time.
A DreamHost feature that I really grew to appreciate was the one-click SSL certificates. They’re free, installed for you in minutes, and renew automatically. I can’t even begin to explain how complex this (very necessary) process is with many of the other hosting providers.
For me, one quality puts DreamHost in a different stratosphere than their competitors: customer service. I tinker a lot. I experiment. I make a ton of mistakes, and I tend to need some hand-holding. Hosting and DNS is complex stuff and I’m merely pretending to know what I’m doing here. If you skimmed this page, pause and read carefully… DreamHost Support is my savior! They have gotten me out of countless jams over the years. The ability to live chat them anytime, day or night, is like living next door to a fire station. We’re not talking about unskilled, overseas call center, “check our knowledge base” service here. These agents know their stuff and are always thrilled to help on the spot.
Fellow freelancers, if you don’t have a hosting partner on your side who is invested in solving problems with you, it’s a rough road. Support is EVERYTHING!