Over the last few years, more website hosts have turned their focus to WordPress site management. Called managed WordPress hosting, hosting companies are vying for an ever-growing WordPress user base.
What kind of customer are these hosting providers aiming for? They’re looking to remove the pain and headaches of site owners who want to concentrate on their business, and leave performance optimization, security, and support to the experts.
In 2013, DreamHost, a longtime player in the online hosting community out of Brea, California (they started in 1997), decided to get into the managed WordPress hosting game with a service called DreamPress. In 2015, they upgraded their offerings—and especially their speed—with DreamPress 2.
Besides DreamPress 2 , DreamHost provides shared hosting, virtual private servers, dedicated servers, cloud services, domain registration, content network delivery, and more.
DreamPress 2 gives WordPress users easy site management along with premium speed and security. In a nutshell, DreamPress 2 provides performance optimization and peace of mind.
In this article, we’re going to take a close look at DreamPress 2 and the many benefits it offers WordPress users.
Note: Unless otherwise noted, all mentions of DreamPress in this article are in reference to DreamPress 2 , the latest version of their managed WordPress service.DreamPress Main Feature
DreamPress offers features that help separate it from the pack of other managed WordPress hosting services. In this section, we’ll first take a broad look at their feature set, and then take a closer look at their speed and security offerings.
• Automatic WordPress installation and preconfigured servers
• Automatic WordPress core updates
• Dual virtual private servers (one for WordPress and one for the MySQL database)
• Server-side caching (Varnish)
• 30 GB SSD storage (solid-state drives are 200% faster than spinning drives)
• PHP 5. 6 with OpCache (optional HHVM or PHP 7 for even faster performance)
• Auto-scaling RAM (dynamically scales to handle traffic spikes)
• Dedicated IP Address and pre-installed Let’s Encrypt SSL Certificate makes it ecommerce ready
• Secure shell access (SSH) from control panel
• WP-CLI from control panel (command line interface for WordPress)
• Web Application Firewall (WAF) blocks brute force attacks and other vulnerabilities
• Automatic DDoS protection
• CloudFlare (CDN) integration
• DreamSpeed CDN
• DreamObjects cloud storage (optional)
• No monthly traffic or bandwidth limitations
• No plugin or theme restrictions
• Unlimited domain hosting at no extra cost
• Unlimited email accounts (POP, IMAP, SMTP)
• Optional Comodo SSL Certificatess ($15 per year)
• Daily backups
• 24/7 support
With PHP and WordPress, it can take many calls to the database to present content. With DreamPress’s multi-layered caching, users are able to see significant speed improvements with far fewer database runs.
Providing server-side caching—at the hosting level—is where DreamPress puts its focus. Besides hardware and OS-level caching, DreamPress uses three separate caching layers for improved performance:
Layer 1: Front-End Cache
Front-end cache resides between WordPress and the Internet. It also sits in front of Apache, the web server software that DreamPress uses. In this way, content is provided with fewer PHP runs and low server loads.
DreamPress uses Varnish at their front-end, providing WordPress content from memory. Varnish works alongside DreamHost’s Varnish HTTP Purge plugin. It tells Varnish when new content is created, allowing the cache to be flushed so that the new content can be displayed.
DreamHost improved their cache rules for DreamPress, (such as caching 404s rather than generating them from scratch every time), in order to boost performance and guard against attacks or high traffic from bots.
Layer 2: PHP Code/OPcode Cache
Currently, DreamPress uses PHP 5.6 with OPcache. OPcache caches code as it’s compiled, allowing faster loading of sites because of fewer PHP runs.
Optionally, DreamPress offers HHVM (HipHop Virtual Machine) or PHP 7, both significantly faster but with less compatibility with certain plugins and themes. HHVM is a PHP alternative created by Facebook. It boosts performance by caching entire compiled files to disk. HHVM and PHP 7 are available in the DreamPress control panel. Although PHP 7 is currently more stable than HHVM, DreamHost recommends that users who are not good at debugging avoid them.
Layer 3: Application Layer
This caching layer improves upon the object caching system built into WordPress. DreamPress uses Memcached to provide persistent object cache for storing items in memory. This allows for fewer database calls and significantly faster loading times. They further optimize it by doubling the RAM and tweaking other features.
Virtual Private Servers and Solid-State Drives
DreamPress offers its users dual, isolated virtual private servers. It puts your WordPress installation on one drive, and the MySQL database on the other.
Because they’re solid-state drives, they’re about 200% faster than normal spinning drives. And because a VPS is segmented into “virtual servers”, they have less interference compared to sites that are run on shared hosting.
Content Delivery Network (CDN)
Besides multi-layered caching, DreamPress improves website loading times by offering options for content delivery networks.
DreamPress supports CloudFlare, a popular CDN with locations all around the world. It’s free, unless you need the premium version for TSL/SSL powered websites. CloudFlare also helps with security, by creating barriers to DDoS attacks and other security risks.
In addition to CloudFlare, DreamPress customers have the option to use DreamSpeed CDN. It works with DreamHost’s own DreamObjects cloud storage, by automatically uploading media files (images, videos, PDFs, etc.) from the WordPress media uploader to DreamSpeed.
DreamHost ran multiple tests to benchmark their traffic performance against large numbers of concurrent users. They also wanted to see how DreamPress performed with dynamic content (content that has database calls), and overall throughput. They tested the exact same website across seven managed WordPress hosts, using each hosts default configuration.
Using LoadStorm, an independent benchmarking tool, DreamPress performed at, or near, the top for peak and average response times. DreamPress excelled among the competition for traffic levels of 100 and 500 concurrent users.
With 1000 concurrent users, their average response time stayed strong, but their peak response time was disappointing. DreamHost developers determined the drop in performance was due to a need to throttle the large number of users to keep from crashing the server. But overall, their numbers were very respectable.
I appreciated the fact that they were willing to share their numbers, even when they didn’t shine across the board with 1000 concurrent users. As to their shortcomings, they said, “The tests have helped us to isolate a few problem areas and we now know where to direct ourselves next year.”
Unfortunately, the popularity and open source nature of WordPress attracts hackers. The developers of DreamPress understand this and have applied numerous features for security.
To begin with, DreamPress is configured with the proper network appliances to block Denial of Service Attacks (DDos) and safeguard against other compromises to WordPress.
They provide a Web Application Firewall that runs on isolated servers, fine-tuned for blocking such attacks as cross-site scripting (XSS) and SQL injection.
DreamPress is backed up daily and offers backup with DreamObjects cloud storage. Also, the team behind DreamPress makes sure your WordPress core is up-to-date with the latest security releases, making sure to apply them as quickly as possible.
And because DreamPress comes with a dedicated IP address and resides on isolated, virtual private servers, it’s far less susceptible to spamming and security issues that are more common to shared hosting environments.
To help safeguard visitor information, DreamPress offers optional SSL Certificates.
Setting Up and Using DreamPress
Along with managed WordPress hosting, DreamHost provides shared hosting, virtual private servers, dedicated servers, cloud services, and domain registration. Users with new or low traffic WordPress sites might consider starting with shared hosting, and then upgrading to DreamPress when they need more speed (about five times faster than shared hosting), security, and site management.
With DreamPress, a single plan covers one WordPress installation and one domain. That said, within the DreamHost control panel, you can purchase multiple DreamPress instances for multiple sites, and use other DreamHost services, as well.
Getting set up with DreamPress is a simple affair, especially if you’re already a DreamHost customer. And because DreamHost is a domain registrar, they can be a one-stop shop for your needs.
On the other hand, if you host a site somewhere else that you want to migrate to DreamPress, the process is more complicated, and something you’ll have to do yourself. Unfortunately, at this time, DreamHost does not provide assistance for site migrations from other web hosts.
DreamPress User interface
You need at least one domain on DreamPress in order to see the DreamPress Managed WordPress Hosting page/control panel.
Instead of the cPanel, Plesk, or other user interfaces that are common to hosting services, DreamHost has developed their own proprietary control panel for DreamPress.
For each domain, you’ll see options for:
Admin (for logging into your WordPress site)
Domain Settings (for managing your domains)
Change Plan (for increasing the storage on your drives)
Details (username and hostname credentials for SFTP and MySQL)
Import (for importing another WordPress site hosted on DreamHost)
It seems some users love its simplicity and ease-of-use, while other users have trouble with its lack of familiarity to other control panels. Because of its fewer options due to its focus on WordPress, I found the control panel much simpler to navigate than cPanel or Plesk.
I think it’s nice that the control panel is mobile responsive, allowing users to manage their hosting on the go.
With that said, DreamPress users will likely spend the majority of their time using the WordPress admin.
Here’s how you get up and running with DreamPress:
- Go to the DreamHost homepage and click on the Managed WordPress Hosting link. On the next page, click Sign Up for DreamPress.
- Create a DreamPress 2 account by entering your email and a password. Click the Continue button.
If you already own the domain you’d like to install DreamPress on, enter it in the field, and select I already own this domain.
Or, if you’d like to purchase a domain through DreamHost, enter your domain choice and select I want to register this domain (along with a choice of 1-3 years).
If your domain is not available, DreamHost will present other domain options.
Click the Continue button.
Note: If you’re using a domain you already own, you’ll need to change the name severs for the domain to point to DreamHost servers. You do that at the domain registrar for your domain.
- On the next page, choose the monthly or yearly subscription plan for DreamPress. The annual plan is $16.95/month. The monthly plan is $19.95/month.
- Enter your name, address, phone number, and credit card information. Then, click the Place order now button.
DreamHost will automatically run through six steps to set up your account and DreamPress. This process can take over an hour, so you’ll want to take a break and come back later.
In the meantime, you’ll get an email from DreamHost saying your account has been activated and they’re working on provisioning your new WordPress installation. DreamHost will send another email when it’s ready.
- If you went with a domain you already own in step 3, and it resides with a domain registrar other than DreamHost, now is a good time to go to that registrar and point your DNS name servers to DreamHost. You can get more information about this process in the video on this page.
The name servers for DreamHost are:
- When your WordPress install is ready, you’ll get an email from DreamHost with your WordPress username and a link to set your password. You’ll also get information for SFTP setup, and more.
Click the link to set up your password.
- Once your password is set up, you can log in to your WordPress admin with your email and password.
You can also go to DreamHost and login to access your DreamHost and DreamPress control panels.
Video Tutorial: DreamPress 2 Features & Setup
DreamPress Support & Documentation
DreamHost provides 24/7 support and offers:
Wiki with instructions
Integrated dashboard help
Unfortunately, you can’t speak to them by phone without a cost, as their phone support is an add-on service.
Also, although they allow the use of any plugins and themes, they state if they cause problems, the only support they may be able to provide is to disable the plugin or theme and suggest alternatives. They emphasize to generally be aware of plugins that use PHP sessions, such as some CAPTCHA plugins.
DreamPress is available for $19.95/month per WordPress site.
With an annual subscription plan, the monthly cost goes down to $16.95 (a 15% discount off the regular price).
There are no hidden fees such as additional charges for traffic or bandwidth overages. This makes it a pretty good value compared to some of the other managed WordPress services out there.
And although you can purchase multiple DreamPress sites through your WordPress account, each site is billed independently.
Conclusions & Recommendations
DreamPress has features which helps separate it from the crowd of managed WordPress hosts.
Their managed virtual private servers with solid-state drives and multilevel caching will boost the speed and performance of your website, especially if you’re coming over from a shared hosting environment.
With VPS servers, DreamPress eliminates some of the problems of shared hosting, such as traffic, security issues, and shared IP addresses that can cause your site to get blacklisted by spammers sharing the same address.
For WordPress users who wish to start out with shared hosting, I like the fact that DreamHost provides an easy upgrade to DreamPress with just the click of a button.
For site owners who are tech-savvy, I like the option to use HHVM or PHP 7 for speed improvements.
And DreamPress also comes with a pre-installed Let’s Encrypt SSL Certificate. Combined with their dedicated IP address and a plugin like WooCommerce, this gives DreamPress users a ready-made platform for e-commerce.
The freedom to use any WordPress plugin or theme without any restrictions is definitely a plus. As is the opportunity to try out their service for 97 days with a money back guarantee (make sure to read their terms of service for limitations).
In addition, I like the CDN options, whether it’s CloudFlare or DreamHost’s own DreamSpeed CDN. And DreamObjects cloud storage is a bonus.
That said, nobody’s perfect, and there’s a few features I’d love to see added in the future, including website staging options.
And while they present a 100% uptime guarantee in their marketing, they admit that nobody can be online 100% of the time. Instead, for the opportunity to make the claim, they choose to credit one day of service for every hour of downtime (limited to 10% of your monthly payment). Of course, the guarantee doesn’t cover customer errors or things like scheduled maintenance.
In the end, deciding on a managed WordPress host is not an easy task. You’ll want a host that can meet your needs both now and into the future. And you want a host that you can trust—one with a proven history.
While DreamPress is newer than many of the other managed WordPress hosting services around, the track record for DreamHost is impressive. They started in 1997—before even Google was around. And they’ve been hosting WordPress sites for more than 10 years—currently hosting over 800,000 WordPress websites. To top it off, they’re one of only four hosting companies that are recommended at WordPress.org.
DreamHost made a significant improvement to their product when they moved from the initial DreamPress to DreamPress 2, especially in regards to site speed. And the developers of DreamPress 2 seem open and eager to keep raising the bar for WordPress users. Future plans include further performance improvements, staging areas, integrated backups, different DreamPress plans, and migration services from other hosts. Although still in beta, DreamHost has done over 500 migrations. If interested, you can contact their sales team to get in the beta.
So although they’re a relatively new player in the managed WordPress arena, they definitely have the features and experience to help remove the headaches of optimization, security, and system management. This gives you the time to put your focus where it should be— on your business, content, and visitors.
If you’d like to take a look at DreamPress to see if it meets your needs, you can do so here.