I’ve been a DreamHost customer for almost 3 years now. They’ve been around for a lot longer than that though: this is their 16th anniversary. I’ll get back to that in a couple of paragraphs, but I want to start with my own history with creating web pages. I think my family got its first dial-up internet connection around that same time. I’ve been interested in creating websites for just about as long as I’ve had an internet connection. We had a program called Print Shop Pro and as part of its suite there was a page to make websites. I shudder to imagine what the coding of those pages looked like. (Memo to self: break out that old hard drive and see if anything’s still there.) The sites were also pretty ugly: the templates definitely were part of the 90s, and that was a dark period for web design.
That led me to eventually learn how to code myself though. I downloaded a little tutorial program that guided you through the basics. Of course, most of that knowledge I gained doesn’t apply today. It tought me to make text bold by using the <b> tag. CSS wasn’t common back then. Even though I had learned to use basic HTML code, it still felt intimidating. I primarily used Netscape Composer (and its successors) to create web pages, even until around mid-2007 (the year I graduated high school). From there I moved onto WordPress, really getting serious about it in late-2010 (though I had messed around with it since about late-2006, even before WordPress.com launched!). These days, I’ve started getting more serious about learning to handwrite HTML and CSS. Last fall I took a class about HTML, CSS, and PHP. Now I tutor for that class and use it on a regular basis. In fact, my latest website project is a series of tutorial articles about HTML and CSS. It’s written using Jekell on Github Pages, so it’s mostly hand coded, with Markdown making things a little faster.
That leads me to web hosting. I remember our family getting junk mail back in the late 1990s urging us to get a domain name. Yes, we got snail mail to get real domains. While I don’t remember too well, it seems like those domains were very expensive. I don’t know if they included hosting or not, but the point is that getting online cost a lot of money back then. (I think part of why we got that mail is that we got film developed and printed through an online company, and even got the photos back in digital form! That made us progressive, I think, and probably made us more likely to want a website.) Whether it actually cost a lot of money or not, it felt like there was a much higher barrier to creating websites in the early days of the internet.
Since that time, we’ve seen a serious democratization on the internet. In the early days we had tools like Geocities. Personally, my first website accessible on the internet was created using Tripod.com (hey look at that, it’s still around), based on an article I saw in Boys’ Life magazine (edit: I found the article! I think my first site on Tripod was about Pokémon or something.). Of course, those tools were restrictive. I’ve never liked restrictions. As I got more serious, I started to look for free web hosts. I don’t remember the names of any of those, and I doubt they’re around anymore (at least in any recognizable form). I also had a little web server on my home computer with a free domain redirect pointed to the IP address during senior year of high school. I had a small WordPress installation there (and a little proxy script to get around blocks at school). I knew that wouldn’t cut it for critical uses though. In fact, in 2007 for an e-commerce competition for the Washington State FBLA I got a charitable person to give me some space on their SSL secured server for me to make my entry site because I needed it to be secure and stable. Now there’s great blog tools like Blogger and WordPress.com that are easy for just about anyone to use. Social media and easy blog tools (that can be adapted to make easy websites) make it so anyone can have a voice. (Side note: I hate it when people call Blogger “Blogspot.” Small pet peeve of mine. Thank goodness the BYU-Idaho Department of Communication is pushing WordPress on us. Of course, now people get confused about WordPress.com vs. WordPress.org. Exchange one problem for another I guess.)
After my LDS mission, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to do an on-my-computer web server if I wanted a website. So I set about looking for a domain name and web host. There’s a lot of choices, and I wish I had done more research (finding a web host is something that you should research out but I didn’t have much patience for that), but I knew I wanted one that would work with WordPress. I wanted to use that for a blog, and I was planning on using Joomla or Drupal for my main website (though I eventually switched everything over to WordPress). I figured a good place to start was with WordPress’s own site. Fortunately, they had a page with some recommended hosts! I ended up choosing DreamHost. For one, their web panel is very different from the others, but in a good way. I’m fairly tech savvy, but I was new to many hosting concepts, but DreamHost’s web panel lays things out very simply. It’s intuitive and provides all the tools you need easy access to. Their one-click installs have WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal: all the things I was wanting. And the price was competitive, while offering unlimited everything: great for someone who likes to tinker with stuff (I’ve tried out a lot of web software on various subdomains). One of the most reassuring factors though was their age. They were 13 years old when I signed up with them. That’s basically ancient in internet years. They’re still going strong today.
Have they been perfect? Of course not. There have been some spots of downtime, even some extended ones, but every host has that at some point. It’s technology: it will always fail at some point. I’ve been pretty happy with them overall. They make things easy for newbies, but they’ve got the power for experienced users as well. It would be nice if, one day, my site just grows so large I have to go find some crazy expensive hosting from some specialized provider, but for the foreseeable future, DreamHost has everything I need. There are tons of great hosting companies out there, but DreamHost is up there in the top tier, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them.
Full disclosure: I am writing this post to enter a contest to get a free year of hosting from DreamHost. If you are a current DreamHost customer, you can enter to win too until midnight tonight. Keep an eye on that page though: there’s a different deal or giveaway every day, some for new customers, some for current customers, and some for anyone! The first link in this article is an affiliate link: I get some cash if you use that link. Thought you should know.