As is the case for seemingly everyone, DreamHost was my first web host.
Although the value proposition is subject to frequent debatable, their price is unbeatable.
With a full discount from a friend, I think the first year only cost $30, including
a free domain registration (my first). I installed WordPress, chose a default theme that
seemed pretty stylish at the time, and I was up and blogging.
So began my honeymoon with DreamHost. I was writing grade B tripe, and
enjoying it. Then I wanted to host a Django. DreamHost is very flexible about
allowing users to do most anything, and a quick email to their tech support lead to modification
of my user permissions to run fcgi Python processes, and after two or three attempts I
was able to get Jeff Croft's Django on Dreamhost instructions working.
I was hosting a Django project for less than $3 a month.
Except, it wasn't exactly flawless. I had to use database or flatfile caching because I couldn't
run memcached, had to use MySQL instead of Postgres, and the performance and reliability were
a bit inconsistent. That is, I think, where some people get whipped up into rigtheous rage at DreamHost.
How dare you kill my persistent processes? So what if they use a bit of memory!
My customers are leaving me because you can't serve my app reliably! And, and,
my server crashed and was down for hours. You guys are the worst host, ever!
Let's set some basic expectations for hosting which costs $3 a month:
No one is actually paying for what they get.
Your dynamic process will not reliably sustain any level of load.
Even if it works today, tomorrow is not today.
Your server will completely inaccessible for 24-48 hours in the coming year.
Your mail will bounce for a period of 24 hour in the coming year.
If your mail bounces, your customers will think you are unprofessional.
If they discover you're hosting on DreamHost, then they will know you are unprofessional.
If it's important, you can afford to pay more.
If you can't afford to pay more, then it isn't important.
After a few months of using DreamHost, my needs began to exceed what
their shared hosting could reliably provide, I signed up for SliceHost
(they had a waiting list back then, not sure if they do these days),
got started with server administration, and enjoyed being able to
host Django apps on my slice while still throwing simple static and php
projects onto my DreamHost account.
A year later (last year) it came time to pay for a second year at a somewhat higher
rate (about $10 per month), and I was more than willing to ante up for the continued
convenience that DreamHost was providing. Despite my efforts to the contrary, my
slice's installations had grown sufficiently convoluted and confusing that I didn't
want to mess with it much. And what's $120 a year, anyway?
Recently as I reworked my Slice, the configuration became much more
organized and my mental entrophy at managing multiple sites receeded. I began by
over the course of a few days all of my domains were transfered to my new slice.
Stability and performance have been quite good, and that quickly it became pretty
clear to me that I didn't need DreamHost anymore.
My yearly renewal was coming up in about twenty days, so I went ahead and transfered
my domain registrations to another registrar, closed my account and ended an era.