Log in to your Dreamhost account by SSH Terminal

You may need to contact Dreamhost directly, to make sure that your account will allow you to log in via SSH… but if you do, there’s a bunch of operations you can do way faster than by using an FTP client.

Dreamhost LogoWhy?  Because many of the operations you might want to perform (such as removing bunches of folders, or searching through zillions of subdirectories) can happen extremely quickly on their machine as local processes, while they would take a long time to download to your machine, and then upload back.

Make sense?  For instance, if you want to make a copy of every directory in a WordPress installation, and move it to another location, for safekeeping, and then move it back later, that could require downloading hundreds of megabytes to your home computer — and then uploading them back to the Dreamhost server over the internet.  When all you really wanted was to tell their computer “copy this from point a to point b, both of which are on the same machine”.

Telnet, or logging in via SSH (a Secure SHell) makes it as if you’re sitting at their computer, instead of your own.  So long as you don’t actually need copies of files on your own machine, this approach is like teleporting into their office — since nothing needs to travel over the internet (except the commands you type), big file operations can be blindingly fast.

If you’re on a Mac, open the “Terminal” application (which you can find using “Quicklook”, or by hitting Command-Space and typing “Terminal” into the little blue search field on the top-right of your screen).

You’ll get a window that looks like an old DOS interface (fixed-width characters, etc.), and a command-line prompt.

What a MacOS "Terminal" window looks likeYou’ll see the name of your computer, then a “tilde” (“~”) indicating that you’re in your home directory, and then a prompt (“$”) indicating that it’s ready for you to type stuff.

How do you find your Dreamhost account?  Easy. Type this:

ssh yourusername@yourdomainname.com

In that example, “yourusername” is the username you have with Dreamhost (whatever you use to log in to their web admin panel). And “yourdomainname” can be ANY of the domains you host with Dreamhost.

After you type that, the system may ask for your password, and it’s looking for the password you use to log in to Dreamhost, not the admin account you may have created on your blog or website or whatever you’re having them host.

Remember, if this doesn’t seem to work, it’s possible they haven’t authorized SSH access for your account. If you call and ask, they should be able to fix that instantly, at no charge.

When you attempt to connect via SSH for the first time, you may get a scary-looking warning about “RSA Fingerprint unknown! Are you sure this host is who they claim to be?”. If you get that message, type “yes”, and you’ll be fine.

Happy telnetting!

More posts will be coming soon on this site, showing you some of the awesome things you can do once you’re logged in.

For starters, try typing ls after you log in. You’ll see each of your domains as a directory. If you type “cd yourdomainname.com” (using one of the names you saw after using the “ls” command), then you’ll see everything that’s in that site’s directory.

Now you don’t need an FTP client; you just need to learn Linux! :)