I've used a handful of cheap web hosts since starting this site in 2000, with some rocky moments:

  1. Internet Design 2000 (InetDesign2k) (2000-2001): $20/month for the epitome of awful boom-time basement hosting operations. At the time, I didn't know any better.
  2. PHP Web Hosting (2001-2005): $10/month for decent service that eventually turned horrible. This seems very common for cheap web hosts.
  3. WoolNet (March 2005): $7/month for a lot of downtime and a "support team" that communicated mainly in l33t-speak over AOL Instant Messenger and wasn't able to actually do anything, directing me every time to the owner.
  4. DreamHost (April 2005 - February 2006): $8 for my first year ($8 total, not $8/month), then $10/month afterward. The "777" coupon code I used has since expired, and now it's up to $20-30 for the first year with other coupons.

But I'm switching away from DreamHost to R1 Hosting. Why?

DreamHost's features and specifications are far above those of any other host I've ever used. I have full SSH access, I manage my entire site and database from a Subversion repository, I use my own custom-compiled version of PHP 5 with all of the modules I wanted (they allow this and even give instructions in their support-Wiki), and I have more disk space and higher monthly transfer limits (often incorrectly called "bandwidth") than I've ever been able to use. The largest constant use of my bandwidth is someone's MySpace profile leeching the 3-minute video in my Ocean's Twelve review.

You may have seen ads or spam about them. They offer a commission whenever someone refers a new customer, so you'll usually see people posting DreamHost signup URLs containing "rewards.cgi" or "r.cgi". Recently, DreamHost started allowing customers to create their own coupon codes, so people have started to spam those everywhere too. I find it dishonest for people to sell others on DreamHost without disclosing their potential financial gain, so here's mine: My coupon code is "MARCO", and if you use it, you'll get the first year for $29 and I'll get about $6. It probably won't work after I cancel my account, so another popular one is "SUPER777", although I'm not sure who owns it and benefits from its use. There are many similar coupon codes out there. No links in this review contain any referral information. Anyway, back to the review.

You're not going to find anything better for a price anywhere near theirs - but only if you use the coupon codes. The regular price of $10 per month is unimpressive, and unless you create a second account (which you can do if you don't mind your site being down for a few hours while you transfer it), you'll have to pay the regular price after your discounted first year.

I don't have much to say about their support. I'm not a typical shared-hosting customer: I've never contacted DreamHost's support to ask how to "set up my Outlook" or install a blog or forum package. Based on reports I've read from others, they're average in that regard. When I've contacted them about advanced matters, such as incorrectly configured code libraries on the server, they respond with moderate capability, but it takes at least a few days before the problem is actually fixed.

Nothing can offer 100% uptime, but DreamHost has given reasonable uptime compared to other hosts in the same price range. Recently, my database server has been down often, but "often" still isn't for more than an hour every few weeks.

I've never used a cheap host that was significantly better, but DreamHost seems to be gradually worsening. Most of the past year has been issue-free, but the problems and outages started in December and are slowly becoming more frequent.

I'm keeping a (new, cheap) DreamHost account around for hosting large files, so I can get a lower-bandwidth plan with a more stable provider. This seems to be a pretty decent trade-off - my new R1 Hosting plan is only $6 per month, and I can just make a new DreamHost account every 11 months for whatever ridiculous deal they're offering at the moment.

Because most people don't need the bandwidth and disk space that DreamHost offers, I can only recommend them for sites and email service that can acceptably be unreachable. They're great for your great-aunt's photo gallery for her new digital camera that will be visited by 2 people every 6 months, but they're not reliable enough for anything that matters much.