Many people wonder why we have chosen to host The Cauldron: A Pagan Forum's ecauldron.com web site with Dreamhost even though there are other companies out there who advertise heavily and offer more web space, more bandwidth, and/or a lower price.
There are many considerations that go into selecting an affordable hosting company. Price, bandwidth, and web space -- while important -- are not the only things one must consider. One must also consider the fit with the special needs of the web site, one will be creating. This is especially true for a Pagan web site -- or any web site that deals with a subject that some vocal groups think should be banned.
The webmaster of The Cauldron has designed and hosted a number of sites for clients and his own use over the years. He has run afoul of weird interpretations of content restrictions in web hosting companies' terms of service a number of times in the process. For example, he was working with an author who had her web site cancelled by her hosting company because they claimed the gif of the cover of one of her romance novels violated their no-nudity rule. The book itself was on display in bookstores across the country without problems (and the woman on the cover wasn't even really nude -- she was wearing a body stocking which was obvious on a full size version of the cover), but these folks canceled her contract and her lawyer had to threaten a lawsuit to get them to refund her large advance payment. Another web host made a client pull a book review because they thought the title of the book was "obscene" (it used the word "screw" as in "screw you").
Unlike many web hosting companies who take an "offend no one attitude" and cancel accounts if anyone complains about their content, Dreamhost has a very laid back view on content. If it is legal in California (and is not obviously porn), customers can host it on their servers. This alone is enough to make Dreamhost a primary candidate for anyone who supports free speech strongly. The Cauldron moved to Dreamhost a few years ago when our previous host told us to take down our "pornographic" review of the book Sexual Secrets: The Alchemy of Ecstasy. Click here and you can read the review of this book that upset them so -- not a word or picture has been changed. Go ahead, this article will still be here when you get back. Did you see anything "pornographic" -- or even offensive -- in that review? Neither did we, so we voted with our pocketbook and changed hosts. We selected Dreamhost because they had many loyal customers who had hosted with them for years and because we discovered they were willing to host sex blogs (blogs where people describe what they did in bed). I figured if they had no problems with that, nothing a family-friendly Pagan site could do content-wise would be a problem, no matter how many fundies complained in an attempt to get the site taken down.
Dreamhost's hosting plans are darn good -- even if they don't always appear to beat out some of the well-advertised low cost hosting providers (such as 1&1, Dot5Hosting, iPowerWeb, Lunarpages, and midPhase) in the numbers game. While Dreamhost does not always offer the most for the least, they do offer quite a bit for a low price. As of January 2006, their basic $9.95 a month plan allows hosting of unlimited full domains and unlimited subdomains with 20 gigs (20000 megs) of disk storage, 1 terabyte (1000 gigabytes) of bandwidth, 675 email accounts (up to 75 of those can have ftp/shell access), unlimited email addresses and mysql databases, and all the features one could want on a unix hosting account (php4, php5, zend optimizer, cgi, fastcgi, ruby on rails, crontab, ssi, webdav access to your disk space, log files, pop3/imap/webmail access to email, spam filtering, announcement lists, discussion lists -- hosted by mailman instead of outdated majordomo, and much more). Dreamhost has a very nice (if slightly slow) custom web control panel, so even though you have shell access to your account, you will probably never need to use it. Dreamhost's control panel provides "one-click" installation of Wordpress (weblog software), phpbb (forum software), advanced poll, Media Wiki, Joomla CMS, Gallery Image Album, WebCalendar and oscommerce (online shop). Dreamhost does not limit your web site to these, of course -- you can install just about other php or perl software your web site needs manually. BTW, email does not count against bandwidth at Dreamhost, so their allotment of bandwidth goes much further than it might sound. Dreamhost is a very good deal money-wise and feature-wise, although not always the lowest cost and most feature-packed deal available.
Another plus for Dreamhost is great tech support. When we've used their support ticket system with problems or questions, we've always received a helpful reply tailored to our level of knowledge on the subject in question. Yes, they ask about your experience on the support ticket form and the choices range from "Please explain everything to me very carefully" to "Not to be rude, but I probably know more about this than you do." Problems with their service have been few and far between (unlike with some of the other hosts we've had). When they occur, however, they have always been corrected as quickly as possible and explanations provided on their announcement system.
Their $9.95 a month "Sweet Dreams Insane" account does not have telephone support, it only has email/ticket support. The Cauldron used this level of account for over a year and never missed telephone support. Our current account level, "Code Monster," does provide for telephone callback support (they call you back at a time you request), but we've never had to use it. Their normal support ticket system is simply that good. Dreamhost staff can also be found in their support forums and they produce a wonderful -- and funny -- monthly newsletter.
Dreamhost's basic $9.95 a month "Sweet Dreams Insane" account would do fine for 95% of the Pagan sites I've seen -- if fact, it probably has more bandwidth and disk storage than they will ever need. As upgraded this year (see the next paragraph), this basic account might even do for The Cauldron for a couple more years. However, before the feature upgrades back in 2004, we would have probably outgrown our "Sweet Dreams Insane" account within a year, so when Dreamhost put their normally $39.95 a month "Code Monster" account on sale at 50% off, we just could not resist upgrading while the upgrading was good.
Dreamhost also regularly adds new features and other upgrades to accounts -- with no increase in price. Almost every monthly newsletter announces some new feature. Most of them are minor, of course. Some, however, are major -- like the additions in the summer of 2005 (php5, fastcgi, ruby on rails, mysql 4.1, zend optimizer and the bandwidth and disk space that grows slightly every week you host with Dreamhost) and the huge web space and bandwidth increases of January 2006 and again in the fall of 2006.
If you are looking for an affordable web host for a Pagan web site, you really should take a good look at using Dreamhost as your web host. It's a very well run hosting company with a Pagan site friendly attitude.
Dreamhost Questions & Answers
Does Dreamhost have a guarantee?
As of this writing, Dreamhost is offering a 97 day money back guarantee (one of the longest I've heard of). From Dreamhost's web site: "If you decide - within the first 97 days of your time with us - that DreamHost isn't for you, we will gladly close your account and refund any payments you've made to us within those first 97 days." There is, however, an asterisk on this line leading to a footnote which reads "Credit card and Google Checkout payments only. Excludes domain registration fees, bandwidth overage charges, and dedicated server payments."
Does Dreamhost oversell?
Almost all inexpensive web hosts oversell in that if every customer used all their bandwidth and disk space allotment they would not have enough. That's how they are able to provide the prices they do as they know most customers will only use a fraction of the total. What really matters isn't if they oversell, but how they handle those relatively rare customers who use everything offered. Most hosting companies seem to find some reason to kick them off. Dreamhost simply adds more servers and rebalances their load.
An excellent example of this is what happened in late 2004 when Dreamhost decided that each domain's busiest day of the billing month would not count toward their bandwidth usage. A few of their customers saw a way to take advantage of this. These customers set up 31 separate subdomains, each of which served huge files one day of the month -- for free. While Dreamhost revised their policy after a couple of months (upping overall bandwidth and eliminating the free day), they did not punish the customers who took advantage this loophole by canceling their accounts.
Does Dreamhost offer Windows Hosting?
No, all of Dreamhost's shared hosting services run Debian Linux. Unless you need to run .Net software as part of your web site, this really will not matter to you. You do not need to be running the same system on your home or office computer as your web hosting company runs on your web server. Nor do you need to know Linux to use Dreamhost as you can control your Dreamhost account from their user-friendly web control panel. You don't need to touch the unix command line (although Dreamhost provides access to it for the unix geeks).
Isn't Dreamhost customer support slow?
Dreamhost prioritizes support tickets. Support replies for sites that are down or having server problems is very fast, 15 to 60 minutes in my experience. Questions about how to do something are generally answered within 24 hours. This is been fast enough for me -- especially since the answers to "how to do something" questions are tailored to the amount of experience the questioner has. They can be fairly detailed when needed and those take time to write. Overall, Dreamhost has the best customer support of any cheap web host I've used. If you are looking for near instant response times, you really need to be looking at higher end hosting options, but be aware that high price does not always mean fast or good customer support.
If you would like to consider some more affordable web hosts (or even a free web host), read our Affordable Hosting for Pagan Sites article where we link to some popular web hosts and to several free hosting indexes.
About The Author
Randall is the founder, webmaster, and Co-Host of The Cauldron: A Pagan Forum.
Dreamhost offers high-quality, low cost web hosting with a dedication to free speech.
· unlimited web space
· 50 gigs personal file space
· unlimited bandwidth
· unlimited email boxes (POP3/IMAP)
· unlimited ftp/shell accounts
· unlimited domains/subdomains
· php5, cgi, python, fastcgi, ssi
· zend optimizer, ruby on rails
· unlimited MySQL 5 databases
· announcement lists
· discussion (aka mailing) lists
· Jabber server, Custom DNS
· Crontab and Shell access
· Web-based Control Panel
· One-Click installs of the Wordpress blog & others
· 1 free domain name
· helpful tech support
· 100% Uptime Guarantee
· and much more!
All for $10.95 a month with a $49.95 setup fee (pay for a year in advance for $9.95 a month and there is no setup fee). Pay two years in advance and the price drops to $8.95 a month. (And there is a 97 day money back guarantee!)
Click here to read why we've hosted with Dreamhost.
Do you have questions about web design or web hosting? Would you like to talk with fellow Pagans about web design? The Cauldron: A Pagan Forum's message board has a special folder set aside for discussions about
Computers and the Internet
(Click to Join Us. It's Free.)