Where to host your Web site

UPDATE (3/17/05): In light of the recent troubles CT is experiencing due to Dreamhost, I should add that the following recommendation only holds for sites with modest traffic (i.e. less than thousands of visitors/day).

Recently several people have asked me whether I have recommendations for a hosting service. I have blogged about this before, but am happy to post another note. (No, I don’t expect all of my friends to be reading this blog religiously, really.) I use Dreamhost and have been quite happy with it. (Truth in advertising, if you sign up through that link I get rewarded. So if you do sign up with them after doing your bit of research, please consider using that link.)

Dreamhost offers three hosting plans. Their basic plan should meet most people’s needs. (People whose needs would not be met by their basic plan would not be asking me for hosting recommendations, that’s all I’m saying.) The basic plan comes with a free domain registration, which is nice. I speak from experience when I say that Dreamhost is quite good about domain registration and domain transfers. This is relevant in case one day you decide to change registrars.

Regarding their hosting services, they offer more goodies than most people – again people who would be asking me for hosting recommendations – will ever need. But it’s nice to have the options, and they still charge less than many other companies that provide fewer services. Their responses to customer support questions are quite good and usually within 24 hours. They offer one-click installation of WordPress (the blogging software this site uses) and phpBBForum plus some others.

With the basic plan, you can get up to 600 (!) POP/IMAP email accounts. You can also create an unlimited number of email aliases. (The latter is great for controlling spam.) You can also create an unlimited number of mailing lists and announcement lists. (The former is for discussions, the latter is for one-way communication with a list of people.)

They have a St.Patrick’s Day sale right now, which triples the amount of disk space and bandwidth you get. (The former has to do with how much space you have to store material, the latter involves the amount of traffic on your account.) This comes down to 2400MB of storage space and 120GB of bandwidth. Although it’s true that we can never have enough space, 2400MB is a LOT of space.

For the geeks in the audience, I am also happy to say that Dreamhost is one of the few hosting services that gives you shell access and supports Pine. Yes! It’s awesome (I know, I’m such a geek).

I suspect many of you reading this are thinking: “That’s all very nice, but I don’t need such a fancy plan.” I understand. However, as I said above, simpler plans are rarely cheaper, in fact, they are often more expensive. I did a lot of research last Spring to figure out where to host my sites and Dreamhost came out on top.

I should add that if you just want to reserve some names and redirect a URL, Active Domains is a somewhat cheaper option at $10/name. However, since a basic plan at Dreamhost comes with a free registration and most people who are not quite at my geek level are fine with that, this may not be very helpful. Also, I once experienced a significant outage with Active Domains so I’ve shifted all of my important domains over to Dreamhost. There are probably options even cheaper than this, but that’s really only for reserving a name without much else.

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