Let me start by saying I have been a loyal DreamHost customer for 10 years. And while they’ve suffered through a few growing pains during that time those seem to be behind them. By and large, my service and support have been stellar.
Recently DreamHost brought DreamCon to Chicago which featured some of the DreamHost big guns presenting new DreamHost services and tips on how to get the most out of your service. One of the main new services they were pushing was DreamPress: DreamHost’s managed WordPress hosting which features Varnish caching, unlimited storage & bandwidth and automated backups. All really great features.
Let me back up a bit and mention that quite a few of my clients use MediaTemple as their web host and they have their own managed WordPress hosting. While MediaTemple’s service is called Premium, it definitely was made for more basic WordPress sites with limited options, small upload sizes and no way to make any adjustments to the php server environment. All that said, both me and my clients are happy with Media Temple: the shared Grid Service hosting and support are fantastic.
So, when I heard more about DreamPress I was definitely excited as it gives you many features of a VPS plus Varnish caching which isn’t currently possible on DreamHost’s VPS service. Thus I wanted to give it a go and see how it performs compared with my VPS service for vizualrecords.com.
To set this up I had to create a new test subdomain: dp.vizualrecords.com. I then used the 1-Click WordPress install as this is recommended by DreamHost when upgrading to DreamPress. Once that was done, I went to the DreamPress page, clicked the upgrade button and then just waited for the DNS to propagate and I was good to go.
Or so I thought. Once I got all my content copied over to the DreamPress server and database imported, the site loaded and it was relatively fast. With some help from Mika, DreamHost’s WordPress guru, I was pointed to http://isvarnishworking.com/ to check to see if vizualrecords.com was being cached. In short, while Varnish was installed and running, my site was not being cached. Why not? It turns out that a couple plugins create cookies which prevent Varnish from caching, namely Cart66 and Last Viewed Posts. Disabling Cart66 was not an option as a session cookie is needed to keep track of what is in the user’s cart.
What’s more, I use Ajaxize to keep certain parts of vizualrecords.com dynamic even with caching like the shopping cart and the login plugin. For one reason or another, Varnish was not playing nice with Ajaxize — the ajaxized divs were just not loading at all, even after the Varnish cache was purged.
Furthermore, Mika informed me that Varnish can’t work with WP Super Cache nor https which I need to use Stripe payment processing. Both of these facts would have been good to know before I started this process so that is why I am mentioning them here.
DreamPress caveats: DreamPress won’t work on https and does not play well with dynamic caching
To be fair, since I was not able to see Varnish in action I can’t really say if DreamPress is faster than my VPS setup. Yet, I spend quite a bit of time making performance tweaks for vizualrecords.com on the VPS and right now it is pretty damn fast.
All in all, DreamPress seems like a great solution for managed WordPress hosting: it’s fully customizable and has a lot of killer features. In fact, I might move this site to it as joshuaiz.com doesn’t have any of the secure hosting and dynamic caching requirements that vizualrecords.com has. But at least for now, it’s just not the right fit for vizualrecords.com.