DreamHost review

If you want to build a Linux-driven website, DreamHost should be one of the first places you look. The web hosting service has a rich feature set that meets many personal and business web hosting needs by offering shared, WordPress, virtual private server (VPS), cloud, and dedicated plans. Besides, the website building software provides webmasters with simple tools to create attractive, flexible sites. This is our DreamHost review.

Getting started

The DreamHost website mainly does a decent job by explaining what is offered in each plan and how much you are expected to pay. The site still lacks in some areas, for example, by mentioning that email accounts for budget shared hosting are ‘available for purchase,’ but not giving any indication of how much they cost or pointing us to where we can find out.

DreamHost review

DreamHost scores well for its overall price transparency, where the site allows us to see the monthly, one- and three-yearly prices on the main page with one click. This is a significant improvement over other hosts who might tell you that a plan is ‘$5/month’ but force you to click ‘Buy’ before seeing the length of the subscription and the renewal price.

We started with an order, and under the usual options (and a single email address that costs $1.99 per month on the baseline shared hosting account), the site gave us the chance to pre-install WordPress and its WordPress Website Builder for free. Most web hosts offer automated WordPress installation features, but no doubt ticking a box on the order form makes it even more comfortable. We have accepted both the WordPress and Website Builder options.

Payment is accepted via card and PayPal. We have handed over our money, and the site has led us to the DreamHost web dashboard. Our account wasn’t activated immediately, but the process only took a few minutes, and then we were ready to go.

DreamHost Review: Creating a website

DreamHost’s capable web dashboard opens with a ‘Build Website’ panel that offers multiple ways to start your web project. A WordPress Editor option launches BoldGrid’s excellent site builder. With just a few clicks, you can choose a template website, begin editing the content and then configure it with your data (name, email address, social media links, and more.) Click on Install, your template website is set up, and you will be redirected to the conventional WordPress Dashboard, ready to manage the site as usual.

If you already have a WordPress site or an experienced WordPress user and would like to build a site from scratch, you can bypass BoldGrid and log in directly and use WordPress. DreamHost also offers installations of concrete5, Joomla, MediaWiki, phpBB, and Zen Cart with one click. That’s welcome, but it can’t compete with platforms like Softaculous, offered by many hosts, making it possible to install hundreds of top apps.

Elsewhere, although DreamHost cPanel does not bundle with its shared hosting, you can access similar features from its custom control panel. A file manager allows you to upload an existing site or work with files installed by other applications.

This is based on Monsta, an excellent web-based FTP-based file manager, easy to use but with some surprising extras. (For example, you can’t just copy, rename or delete files – you can edit them in a full-screen editor with full syntactic highlighting). There are even more tools to manage email (if available with your plan), domains, MySQL databases, SSH, Cron Jobs, and much more.

It is a decent set of site management features, reasonably easy to use, and with some welcome touches, such as the editor. However, we still prefer cPanel because it is even more capable and experienced and does not have to find its way to another interface.

DreamHost review: Performance

Shared hosting generally does not deliver incredible speeds, certainly not on the budgetary side of the market. However, some providers can surprise you, so we wanted to see what DreamHost can do. We started by signing up for DreamHost’s most basic shared hosting package; then, we uploaded a very simple static website.

Then we had Uptime.com monitor our site’s availability and the response times of multiple locations worldwide. Checks were carried out every five minutes over seven days, with a total of more than 2,000 individual samples. Our site achieved 100% uptime, no downtime at all. That’s what we would expect in a short test, but it’s still good news.

Response times average 274ms. Very wide, other budget shared hosting products we’ve tested manage 200-400ms, so DreamHost is fractionally faster than average, but not by enough that you’ll probably notice. Our results were also generally very consistent, with a range of 235-465ms. And although our one-week test period is relatively short, our last review returned a similar 295-414ms, indicating that this is the kind of result you can expect in the long run.

DreamHost Review: Shared hosting

Shared hosting starts with the Starter Plan, which gives you 50GB of storage space, automated daily backups, unmeasured bandwidth, free SSL, a free domain (with free domain privacy), and automated WordPress installation. Already using WordPress? The company now offers a free DreamHost Automated Migration plugin to help you import your site. The plan also includes an optional WordPress Website Builder. BoldGrid powers this, and enabling the builder gives you access to BoldGrid’s Premium tools and themes, which would cost $5+ per month if you sign up directly with BoldGrid.

All this can be yours for an effective $2.59 per month over three years ($3.59 on the annual plan, $4.59 per month billed.) That’s also the average price, no introductory discount, so you won’t get any nasty surprises when renewing. Sounds good, but there is a big catch. The Starter plan doesn’t come with any yourname@yourdomain.com email support, and adding only a single bill costs $1.67 per month, raising the total to $4.26 per month.

If email is a must, upgrading to the Shared Unlimited plan gives you unmeasured email addresses, domains, storage, bandwidth, sub-domains, databases, and more. This looks much better to us for $4.95 per month on the annual plan or $10.95 per month billed. (Again, there are no special introductory deals, so the cost is not scheduled to double or increase at renewal).

DreamHost competes well with other big names. HostGator‘s Baby’s similar plan has domains and bandwidth that are not measured and is cheaper than three years at a $3.95 a month headline. But that’s only due to the introductory discount: renewing a much more expensive $9.95.

DreamHost Review: WordPress hosting

DreamHost excels at WordPress hosting, shared, managed, and other options available in multiple flavors. Shared WordPress hosting is essentially DreamHost’s regular shared plans. There is an option to pre-install WordPress and a template-based WordPress Website Builder, but it is just the company’s shared hosting with a new name for the rest.

DreamHost’s Managed WordPress accelerates performance with server-level caching. Simultaneously, automated WordPress updates ensure that security patches are installed as soon as they appear, and that daily and on-demand backups are made.

Specialized WordPress features include easy-to-use staging. With one click, you can create and edit a copy of your WordPress project so you can try out new themes, create plugins, or make other significant changes without affecting your production site. It is a valuable extra and not something you will see in all WordPress hosting plans.

DreamPress Basic offers you all these features, 30 GB of storage space, and support for about 100,000 monthly visitors on a single site. It is priced from $16.95 per month on the annual plan, $19.95 per month. DreamPress Plus doubles your storage space, adds the Jetpack Professional plugin, unlimited CDN usage, and is built to handle 300,000 visitors per month. It is $24.95 per month paid annually, $29.95 per month.

DreamPress Pro adds more resources and can handle over a million monthly visitors, but its real value can be the additional DreamCare support. The support team keeps an eye on your site, does more advanced troubleshooting, and solves problems when they occur, rather than waiting for you to notice and report them. It’s much more expensive at $71.95 per month billed annually, $79.95 monthly, but if you run a business-critical site, it could easily be the added value.

This is a well-balanced set of plans for every user level and competes well with most providers. However, if you want to save a bit of money, consider the WordPress Pro-One plan from IONOS. Storage is limited to 10GB, but it has a decent set of features – staging, automated updates, intelligent caching – and is billed only $18 per month (no long-term contract required).

If you need more power, Bluehost‘s Build plan offers unmeasured storage and bandwidth and supports hosting unlimited websites, for a very reasonable $19.95 on the three-year plan, $24.95 per year, with an extension of $29.99.

DreamHost Review: Servers

Developed into shared hosting? Upgrading to a Virtual Private Server (VPS) improves speeds by giving you your server resources, which you never have to share with anyone.

DreamHost’s VPS Basic plan looks cheap for just $10 a month over three years, $13.75 on the annual plan, mainly because it is a managed product (DreamHost maintains your server, upgrading the OS, installing security patches, and so on). Sources are comfortable with only 1GB of RAM and 30GB of storage, and, importantly, there are no guaranteed CPU resources. Still, the account has no restrictions on traffic, email addresses, or the number of websites you can host.

There are several other plans, but choosing just one, VPS Professional offers a more capable 4GB of RAM and 120GB of storage for $40 per month over three years, $55 paid per year. These are decent value but don’t have as many options or configurability as the competition’s best.

DreamHost review

For example, Hostwinds has up to ten basic plans, rather than four; they are all available in Windows, as well as Linux flavors, and inexpensive unmanaged and easy-to-manage types; and they are individually highly configurable, with guaranteed CPU resources. Bandwidth is limited, but fees are ample (at least 1TB per month), and prices start at $10.99 for a managed Linux plan.

DreamHost’s wide range of dedicated server plans ranges from a regular Xeon 4-Core 8-Thread and 4GB model to an enterprise-level 12-Core 24-Thread 64GB setup. They are not always as configurable as we would like – forget about Windows hosting, for example – but the long list of features includes unlimited bandwidth, PHP acceleration via OPcache, a custom control panel, unlimited IPv6 addresses, 24/7 server monitoring, and technical support. Prices start at a reasonable $149 per month on the annual plan or $169 billed per month.

DreamHost Review: Customer support

DreamHost offers email and ticket-based support, as well as online chat. It also has a robust knowledge database. Unfortunately, DreamHost lacks telephone support, which is a pity; sometimes, you want to deal with a human being. That said, the chat support is pretty good. We tried it on a weekday afternoon and evening. In both cases, we waited less than a minute before anyone asked my questions.

Final words

Thanks to its extensive tools, including useful website building software, security options, a generous money-back guarantee, unlimited storage, monthly data transfers, domains, and email, DreamHost is a top choice and one of the best web hosting services. As a result, DreamHost is racing to the top alongside HostGator, Hostwinds, and Liquid Web.

8 Total Score
Our Verdict

A wide range of products with a well-considered mix of strength and value. However, some unexpected catches with a few plans - email costs extra with the starter plan - so check carefully before signing up.

PROS
  • Strong security features
  • Extensive domain-management tools
  • Excellent cloud hosting offerings
  • Unlimited data transfers per month
  • Generous money-back guarantee
  • Useful WordPress staging feature
CONS
  • No email with Shared Starter plan
  • Lacks Windows-based servers
  • No telephone support
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