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Free web hosting (for life!) from Dreamhost

By on Mar 7, 2009 in Tech Takes | 29 comments

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Edit: Whoops! It seems like I made a mistake. Dreamhost is systematically blocking access to the plugin installer function. Specifically, it has made the directories where plugins / themes are stored as read-only. However, it does come with many good themes pre-installed. It also has some of the more useful plugins pre-installed. Dreamhost Apps thus can be a good way to test a full-install of WordPress and then make the jump to full hosting. Use MAXCASH as the discount code if you’re buying from Dreamhost.

No godammit, this post is NOT sponsored by anyone. (I’m glad that I got that out of the way.)

I don’t use Dreamhost myself. I have reasons why I don’t like it and / or use it, but that’s a different story. I’m making this post because the free hosting offer that Dreamhost is giving away is SO useful that you should take it. If you’re still feeling skeptical then you can check for yourself that the links I’ve given in this post are not affiliate links or campaign tracking links.

Dreamhost is one of the most popular and best website hosting providers. Recently, they’ve started a new service called Dreamhost Apps. Dreamhost Apps is a service which is designed to make getting started with hosting easy for new users. Even in the era of one-click installs using a normal webhost will require at least a minimum level of technical knowledge on the users’ end. Dreamhost Apps’ USP is that Dreamhosts’s backend takes care of tasks such as installing, maintaining, and keeping software up-to-date. This is a new service, so inititally they were giving away free accounts using invitation codes. Now they’ve decided to give away 10000 accounts for free. ALL people who sign up during this period get free hosting for life.

Head to the Dreamhost Apps website and signup. They’ll install all the supported applications. At first you can use a subdomain on dreamhostapps.com and then buy a domain – either from them, or buy a domain somewhere else and point it to your account. (It’s a simple procedure.) Domains are cheap – $9.95 from Dreamhost, which works out to around Rs 500 per year. If you take it from GoDaddy and use a coupon code (simply search for ‘godaddy coupon code‘) then you can get it for around $7.5 (works out to around Rs 400). You may get discounts on Dreamhost too, search for ‘dreamhost coupon code‘. Difference in price is not much and setup will be easier if domain is from Dreamhost itself.

“Is there any catch?” – Yes, there is. The free account doesn’t allow you FTP / SSH access to your web server. But the good news is that you don’t need this! If you want to host your blog on Dreamhost Apps, running WordPress then this solution is perfect. You don’t need FTP access any more since WordPress 2.7 to install themes and plugins. WordPress now comes with built-in plugin search and automated install capability. To install themes easily and upgrade all you plugins, search out and install ‘One Click Plugin Updater‘ using WordPress’s built-in updater. Once this is done, you can use this plugin’s installer to install ANY plugin / theme (copy-paste plugin URL, it will do the rest). Also takes care of all upgrades.

If you’re currently using WordPress.com or Blogger.com, WordPress (self-hosted) has import scripts which can import ALL your posts and comments (images too, for WordPress.com blogs!) to your new blog. If you want the WordPress blog to be your main part of domain, then just ensure that you install it in ‘www’ subdirectory (you’ll get to choose this when signing up for Dreamhost apps).

Shifting to ‘full’ WordPress will give you complete control over your blog. Admittedly, WordPress has lots and lots of beatiful themes, and extremely useful plugins – not to mention a rocking blog management system. I’m seriously, you guys. Don’t let go of this opportunity to shift to self-hosted WordPress – that too for free for life!

Migrating visitors from existing blogs will be easy.

  1. If you’re on WordPress.com: Import your blog in the self-hosted WordPress. Check that everything has been successfully migrated. Delete ALL your posts on WordPress.com (this is important for search engine ranking reasons). Make a post telling people about your new blog URL.
  2. If you’re on Blogger.com: Same steps. (Except that I think you can do a redirect to yout new blog using JavaScript.)

WordPress also has importers for many other blogging platforms. Also, many of you use FeedBurner, so even RSS subscribers can be migrated easily! Simply edit the source feed URL in FeedBurner…and you’re done! All your subscibers stay subsribed to your feed. (You can also redirected you brand new WordPress’s own feed at example.com/feed/ to your FeedBurner using a plugin called ‘FeedBurner FeedSmith‘.)

When signing up, I would advise you choose NOT to install whichever software you don’t want. By default, Dreamhost Apps sets up ALL the apps in your portfolio, including MediaWiki, phpBB, Drupal et al. Uncheck all the ones you don’t need; there are valid reasons for doing this.

Among the list of applications to be installed, there’s just one more app you can consider installing. I don’t think anyone will need phpBB or MediaWiki. Drupal you may want to test-drive, but capability will be limited without FTP / SSH access. (This is an issue in Drupal because Drupal does not come with a built-in plugin installer.) Rest all are not need too. The one you can find useful is ZenPhoto. It’s a photo gallery software which looks really really neat and clean, and works extremely well. You can use ZenPhoto to create images galleries on a subdomain. Again, everything is auto-configured.

If at any point of time in the future you feel the need to upgrade to full-fledged hosting, you can do that in a jiffy too! Option for upgrading is present to shift to Dreamhost’s paid hosting plans. (You don’t have to, because the Apps account will be free for life.) If you buy your own domain then Dreamhost Apps will also setup free Google Apps for you – thus allowing you to have your own @example.com email IDs, your own Google Docs setup, etc.

If you need any kind of help or have queries regarding shifting to this, do ask me! I’ll be leaving town today (back on Friday the 13th) so I may not be able to respond immediately but I’ll try my best to. I’m mentioning this not because I want to promote Dreamhost and / or like it (I don’t), but because this is an opportunity for so many of you stuck right now on free blogging services to shift to the awesome power of full-featured WordPress.



29 Comments

  1. karmanya

    March 7, 2009

    Post a Reply

    Ankur, stupid question- if i have no FTP access, how can i install the One Click Plugin installer in the first place?

    • Ankur

      March 7, 2009

      Post a Reply

      Did you read the post? :) WordPress now comes with a built-in plugin search and install functionality. Use THAT to search and install One Click Plugin Updater. Although the name says ‘updater’ it can actually install any kind of WP theme or plugin for you, and maintain their upgrades. One Click allows you either upload the file for install or specify the URL to the file on a webserver (so you can directly enter the plugin’s location as shown in WordPress plugin repository). One Click also allow you to delete / uninstall plugins already installed, so you don’t need FTP for that either.

      • Srinivas

        May 15, 2009

        Pls test before you post.. Don’t disseminate false information and waste others time and your time..

        @it does come with many good themes pre-installed

        Name a full featured theme installed in it…??? Can you..???

        Plugins are all basic alone they don’t have social bookmarking , SEO or any plugin installed..

        Why to test wordpress this way try with free .wordpress which is betterthan this..

        If u publish my comment and provide a proper reply then..??? lets see ..

      • Ankur

        May 15, 2009

        1. Read the starting of the post. What does the first paragraph say? Does that answer your question?
        2. Having said that, Dreamhost Apps does offer you more features than a free WordPress.com account does.
        3. What exactly is a ‘full-featured theme’? There is no such thing. Yes, Dreamhost is blocking access to write permissions on files. Read point 1.

  2. chirag

    March 7, 2009

    Post a Reply

    hi ankur
    i want to put ads on my site and earn revenue.
    But wordpress doesn’t allow ads. Whats the best option?
    shift to blogspot?
    the thing you mentioned seems a little complex so i guess i’ll leave it for the time being
    Do suggest something
    Thanks

      • Ankur

        March 7, 2009

        Not a valid question, because when you’re hosting something the hosting provider does absolutely nothing other than provide hosting. It’s completely up to you whether you want to insert AdSense ads or not. WordPress.com specifically does not allow ads because they want people to blog for the love of blogging and not for making spam blogs. This is what Matt Mullenweg himself said.

    • Ankur

      March 7, 2009

      Post a Reply

      It’s NOT complex. See, Dreamhost Apps is the exact opposite of hosting on your own since they manage everything from install to upgrade and backups. Once installed, the only effort you have to take is to get plugins / themes you want installed. You already have a domain, so pointing that to Dreamhost is easy too. With plugins, you can easily insert Google AdSense, track visitors, offer sharing plugins and so much more.

  3. chirag

    March 7, 2009

    Post a Reply

    also will this thing stay on for a week or two?
    even i’m going vacationing and will be back on 13 or 14 of march

    • Ankur

      March 7, 2009

      Post a Reply

      There’s no guarantee whether it will be available later. There are 10000 free accounts they’re giving away and right now around 4000 or so are left (I think) but they’re being snapped up pretty fast. What’s the harm in signing up now and shifting later? You can do that too. It’s not necessary for your blog and / or domain the moment you sign up. You can do that later.

      • chirag

        March 8, 2009

        so no need to mention my own blog but a test blog, something like xyz.wordpress.com and then i can do as many blogs from one login?

        i’m really sorry abt. asking stupid questions like this and troubling you, but i have really less idea on all this….

  4. Ankur

    March 7, 2009

    Post a Reply

    Whoops! My bad. It seems like Dreamhost is systematically blocking access to filesystem for WordPress plugin installer. So this won’t work as a production system but can be used for testing. Thanks to Karmanya for pointing out the error. I’ll update this post when I’m back in Delhi.

      • Darthjunjun

        March 25, 2009

        sorry missed that. thank you anyways.

  5. Aditya

    March 31, 2009

    Post a Reply

    Read this post only now. Sorry for the late comment, but people like me who do not have their blogs hosted on a domain, will have a HUGE URL, won’t they? I tried making one, and it turns out to be blog.crystalunicorn.wordpress.com. Big, eh? Plus. Will those who access crystalunicorn.wordpress.com be redirected to the current URL? Might be a crazy question, but my knowledge in this field is relatively limited, because I am a newcomer.

    • Ankur

      March 31, 2009

      Post a Reply

      During the install you could’ve chosen to put WordPress in root (crystalunicorn.dreamhosters.com). That’s one. Redirect is a trickier question. It might be possible using JavaScript but WordPress.com probably puts restrictions on that. Deleting all contenting (after migration) and putting up only one post giving new URL could be done.

      However, due to the reasons mentioned in the edit (i.e., Dreamhost is not giving full access) it’s best not to go down this path as a serious alternative to free WordPress.com hosting.

  6. xa2

    May 5, 2009

    Post a Reply

    Same here. I’m not able to install any plug-in. It seems that the plug-in directory is read only.

  7. Srinivas

    May 13, 2009

    Post a Reply

    Does getting a domain name got anything to do with downtime of site or it only depends on the hosting provider..??? pls reply as soon as possible and help me.. I registered a domain @ a silly site manashosting.com just because it accepts debit cards.. but i am not able to acces it frequently.. My domain address is http://www.crimechamber.com and hosting is using dreamhost apps… thank you..

    • Ankur

      May 14, 2009

      Post a Reply

      Domain name providers are generally NOT the cause of downtime. In your case, it’s probably the fault of Dreamhost – maybe this is restricted to Dreamhost Apps because it’s still a product in testing stage. You should check out Dreamhost Status for further information on when your site is facing downtime.

      • Srinivas

        May 15, 2009

        It was dreamhost apps which caused downtime.. Now its runningg.. Am planning to switch to freehostia any sugesstions……..???

      • Ankur

        May 15, 2009

        If you are truly serious about hosting a website, then you need to go a for a paid webhost and not a free one. Free webhosts have limits on script execution times, they also have long downtimes, less storage. Many of them also require you to keep logging into your account periodically and / or make posts on their forum. It’s best to go in for paid hosting – GoDaddy is the cheapest reliable host you can get.

  8. Perry

    May 22, 2009

    Post a Reply

    Hi,
    I am currently hosting my site at blogger. However for the part few days, have been thinking of moving to wordpress. I was searching for some kinda free web host and stumbled onto your site. What i want to know is whats the difference between dreamhost paid hosting and dreamhost apps ? Can i use dreamhost apps to host my site using my own custom domain name ?
    Thanks

    • Ankur

      May 22, 2009

      Post a Reply

      You can host a custom domain name using Dreamhost Apps, but it does not offer you full functionality, i.e., uploading plugins / themes etc which is what most people desire in the first place. If all you need is a custom domain name, WordPress, 70+ themes and a selected few top plugins – then consider signing up for WordPress.com instead, and take the $15 custom domain name upgrade. As I mentioned in comments above it simply isn’t worth going in for any free webhost because they put multiple restrictions – all of them. You can check out supported plugins on WordPress.com itself for that WordPress hosted option.

      If you are much more serious about blogging then you need to buy your own webhost. There’s no running away from that – you’ll have to do it sooner or later. However, if you just want to blog on a custom domain then go for WordPress.com

  9. Tabitha

    September 11, 2009

    Post a Reply

    Hi there. I’m working on a new website/blog idea and signed up for a trial run with Dreamhost. I’ve been trying for the last two days to set it up so that the domain name I chose will work with the WordPress one-click installer, but I can’t seem to get it to work because once I’ve installed the plugin to the domain name, I can’t go back and “host” it at Dreamhost. And vice versa, if I start with the domain name hosted, it won’t let me install WordPress to the domain name itself; it wants me to add something.website.com. Can you help me with this?

    • Ankur

      September 11, 2009

      Post a Reply

      If it’s asking for a subdomain, you could enter ‘www’ as subdomain. That should solve the problem.

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