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.
- 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.
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.