DreamHost Review – Great for Newcomers and Veterans Alike
Established back in 1997, DreamHost can be considered a household name among veteran webmasters. While perhaps not as popular as Bluehost or SiteGround, the provider is definitely no underdog as evidenced by the fact that it powers well over 1.5 million websites as of 2020. DreamHost offers pretty much every type of hosting you can imagine but is perhaps best known for its shared and WordPress hosting packages. Given that WordPress itself recommends the provider, it should come as no surprise that DreamHost is becoming increasingly more popular among fans of the CMS.
WordPress plans aside, DreamHost is also known for offering affordable cloud hosting, powerful dedicated servers, many useful features with its shared hosting plans, and a nearly unbeatable money-back guarantee. Just like any other provider, DreamHost has a few drawbacks as well. Customer support and server uptime, for example, are two of the areas that could use some improvements.
But simply listing a few of the pros and cons doesn’t tell you an awful lot about the company, does it? To that end, we took a closer look at everything DreamHost has to offer and decided to put together a comprehensive review that will help you decide if this is the right hosting provider for you. With that out of the way, let’s just jump straight into it.
Navigation and Ease of Use
The first thing you’ll probably notice about DreamHost is that its website is very sleek and modern and, more importantly, very practical. All the main products are listed nicely on the homepage complete with pricing, and you can use the top menu to quickly find information regarding all the additional products and services offered by the company. You can also find a brief explanation for each type of hosting on the homepage along with a comparison table that gives you an idea of how they stack up against each other.
If you’re new to hosting, you may want to click the “learn more” button for each of the available options to make sure that you’re picking the right type of hosting for your future website. Newcomers should generally go with a shared hosting package or a specialized WordPress plan but the choice is entirely up to you. DreamHost went out of its way to include as much information as possible for each of its products. If you’re the type of person who likes thoroughly researching a product before buying it, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to do just that at DreamHost.
DreamHost is a very upfront company that lets you know beforehand how much you’re expected to pay for your hosting depending on the length of your contract. Each product page lists prices for monthly, yearly, and multi-yearly contracts when applicable. Of all the providers we reviewed over the years, only DreamHost, InMotion and a couple of others were so upfront about their prices. Most other companies list their absolute lowest prices but fail to mention the costs of monthly plans; you’ll only be able to learn about those during the checkout process.
While most hosting providers allow you to manage your account using the cPanel, DreamHost decided to create its own custom dashboard, which is a double-edged sword. On one hand, the custom dashboard is more user-friendly and visually appealing than the cPanel. On the other hand, it can be a hassle to transfer a site from a cPanel host because you won’t be able to import your previous settings directly into DreamHost, which is possible with other hosting providers. Needless to say, that won’t be an issue if you’re a new user.
The dashboard is very intuitive and lets you manage everything from domains and databases to site backups, payment settings, account privileges, and more. Email addresses can also be managed from the dashboard but you’ll need to open a separate portal in order to access your mailbox. Among other things, you’ve also got a web-based file manager, quick access to productivity apps, and even a built-in WordPress login screen. Naturally, this last option only works if you have a WordPress-based website.
Plans and Pricing
If you’re looking for a cheap hosting provider you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better option than DreamHost. Signing up for a shared hosting plan will only set you back $2.59 per month with a 3-year contract or $4.95 if you decide to pay on a month-by-month basis. Just to give you a quick look at the competition, Bluehost charges $2.75 per month while InMotion Hosting charges $3.99 per month for similar packages. Meanwhile, signing up with rivals like GoDaddy or SiteGround will set you back $5.99 per month and $3.95 per month, respectively.
The basic shared hosting plan only comes with 50 GB of SSD storage and support for a single website but includes unmetered bandwidth, a free SSL certificate, a free domain name complete with domain privacy, automated daily backups, website builder, and more. You can also park up to 5 subdomains and get access to 6 MySQL databases and 6 FTP user accounts. Quite a few things are limited with the basic package but it’s hard to complain about the features given the low price.
If you want to remove some of the limitations, as well as access a few additional features, you’re going to have to upgrade to the $4.95 per month plan. With this package, you get unlimited SSD storage, MYSQL databases, subdomains, and domain emails. The plan also unlocks support for an unlimited number of websites. DreamHost only offers two shared hosting plans so this is the best you can get, unless you decide to switch to a different type of hosting of course.
DreamHost’s standard WordPress hosting plans are pretty much identical to the shared hosting plans we talked about earlier. However, the company also offers another set of WordPress packages known as DreamPress and these are fully managed. So what does this mean? Well, the basic gist is that managed hosting plans come with better support and more quality-of-life features. But while you’ll need to spend less time managing things, you’ll need to pay significantly more for one of these packages.
Namely, the basic managed WordPress plan costs $16.95 per month and comes with some interesting features like a 1-click staging environment, built-in caching, a pre-installed SSL certificate, pre-installed JetPack plugin, and on-demand backups (alongside daily automated ones). Needless to say, WordPress itself also comes pre-installed on a website hosted with this plan and you don't have to worry about WordPress updates because they are installed automatically. In addition to all of that, you also get the main features included in the standard WordPress/shared hosting plans.
Upgrading to one of the other two managed plans comes with a number of benefits, including CDN accounts, JetPack Professional, phone support callbacks, priority support, and additional SSD storage. The third tier is a very tough sell considering that you’re not getting a lot of extra features in return when compared to the other two tiers and that it costs a whopping $71.95 per month. Meanwhile, the $29.95/mo tier strikes a good balance between price and features, which makes it make easier to recommend.
Regardless of which tier you choose, it’s worth noting that all these plans come with dedicated resources (as opposed to shared ones) and run on a cloud-based server environment. Users also get access to specialized WordPress support, which is a nice touch. What’s less nice is that all managed plans can only support a single website and none of them come with unlimited storage.
DreamHost offers a cloud computing service known as DreamCompute along with a cloud object storage system called DreamObjects. DreamCompute is mainly aimed at developers but you can also use the service as an average user, provided you don’t mind the fact that this type of hosting is less-user friendly than some of the others. You’ll need to learn how to create SSH keys, launch a server, and connect to your instance using said keys. It probably sounds a bit complicated if you’re not familiar with SSH keys but luckily, DreamHost has several tutorials that will help you get started with DreamCompute.
As far as the pricing is concerned, it’s quite similar to what you can find at cloud hosting providers like DigitalOcean, albeit with fewer plans to choose from. There are multiple types of servers – ranging from 512 MB all the way to 16 GB – and prices start at $0/0075/hour for the cheapest type. In short, the monthly price varies depending on your usage but the company only charges you for a maximum of 600 hours (25 days) each month. In practical terms, that means you can expect to pay no more than $4.50/mo for a 512 MB server, $12/mo for a 2 GB RAM server, $48/mo for an 8 GB RAM server, and so on. The more expensive servers don’t just include more memory but also more CPU cores, so you can expect better performance from them.
As far as DreamObjects is concerned, this is essentially an open-source platform that allows you to store data on the cloud. This data can include anything from music and videos to backups, archives, and more. DreamObjects is infinitely scalable and starts off at only $0.95/mo for a block of 40 GB. The more you are willing to pay, the more storage you can use and the effective price per GB goes down if you choose one of the larger blocks. DreamObjects is definitely worth checking out if you’re looking for a good cloud storage solution, especially since the service is free for the first 30 days.
VPS Hosting starts at only $10 per month, which is quite a steal compared to other providers. However, the basic package only gives you 1 GB of RAM and 30 GB of SSD storage to work with. That’s fine for small websites but if you’re receiving a lot of hits you’ll need better resources. At most, you can get a VPS package that comes with 8 GB of RAM and 240 GB of SSD storage for $80 per month. That’s fairly expensive but you do get unmetered bandwidth, support for unlimited websites, unlimited domain emails, and a free SSL certificate for that price. All in all, not a terrible deal.
DreamHost’s VPS plans are very easy to manage and work great in conjunction with WordPress. The company doesn’t support auto-scaling for VPS packages but it does allow you to manually add extra resources on the fly. Upgrading your server with more RAM or storage can be done from the control panel and the entire process usually takes less than 10 seconds.
Dedicated servers are the ultimate hosting solution for big businesses and webmasters who require a lot of resources to sustain their sites. A VPS is usually enough for most users but if you need something even more powerful, you won’t be disappointed by what DreamHost has to offer. There are no less than 9 dedicated packages to choose from, with prices ranging anywhere between $149 and $379 per month. Needless to say, dedicated servers are quite expensive but definitely worth the money for those who can afford one.
All dedicated servers come with unmetered bandwidth, Raid 1 SSD or HDD storage (depending on the plan), full root access, local MySQL databases, DDoS protection, dedicated IPs, and many other useful features. However, there is also a little drawback here. DreamHost only offers Linux-based servers so if you’re looking for a Windows-based version, you’re better off trying your luck with a different provider.
Key Tools and Features
Inexperienced users often make the mistake of focusing on the price above all else. Naturally, you don’t want to spend too much on your web hosting if you can help it, but you’ll need to make sure that your provider offers all the tools and features you need to set up a solid website. But what if you don’t know what sort of tools and features you need? Well, we went ahead and summarized the most important ones so you’ll know exactly what to expect if you sign up with DreamHost.
Like most providers, DreamHost offers a free domain name to everyone who signs up for certain hosting plans. The domain you choose will be available for free for the first year and you can take advantage of the offer when you purchase a shared, WordPress or VPS hosting package. If you’re looking to buy a dedicated server, you’ll need to purchase the domain separately. Also worth noting is that free domain names are only available with yearly and multi-annual hosting plans.
If you need to purchase a domain name separately you can do so for $7.99 per year. Once your first term expires, you can renew your domain for $15.99 per year. That’s already a very good offer but it gets even better because DreamHost includes free privacy protection with every domain registration. Many other providers charge an extra yearly fee for domain privacy and it can get quite expensive in some cases. For example, InMotion Hosting, SiteGround, and HostGator all charge close to $30 per year for registrations + privacy.
DreamHost only supports MySQL databases but lets you create and manage an unlimited number of them if you sign up for a Shared Unlimited or VPS hosting plan. The managed WordPress plans don’t come with database access but you probably wouldn’t want to bother with that anyway since DreamHost manages them for you in this case. Speaking of databases, the company emphasizes the fact that its dedicated servers host MySQL databases locally instead of on a different machine, which helps to improve query speeds and overall performance.
Backup and Restore
Users benefit from automated daily backups even with the cheapest hosting plans. This is a very useful feature that other providers tend to charge for. DreamHost keeps automated daily backups on its servers for about a month or so, which is a pretty common practice. It’s fairly uncommon to want to restore a version of your website that’s older than 30 days but if you do find yourself in that situation, there is an additional tool that can help you out.
DreamHost offers an on-demand backup system that comes with a few advantages over the automated system. For starters, you can back up your account more than once per day with this tool. Another advantage is that you can download the resulting archives containing your files and store them locally or on a third-party platform. Only the managed plans include the option that allows you to quickly restore backups with a single click. Shared plans let you create on-demand backups but there’s no quick restore option so you’ll need to do it manually via the File Manager.
Any respectable business needs email addresses that properly represent the brand and with DreamHost, you can get access to such emails for free. Well, for the most part. Unlimited domain emails are available for free with all hosting plans except for the Shared Starter package. If you decide to sign up for this plan, you’ll need to pay an extra $1.99 per month (or $19.99 per year) to get access to an @domain mailbox. That price is for each individual mailbox so if you need multiple addresses, it makes more sense to go for one of the other plans instead.
You can also get professional mailboxes courtesy of Google’s G Suite. These mailboxes include Google Drive cloud storage, calendars, and many other features. Adding a G Suite mailbox to your package will cost you $6 per month per each individual user. That’s pretty expensive but you can try out the service for free for up to 30 days and decide afterward if it’s worth the investment.
DreamHost isn’t really the best choice for those looking to open an online store because it doesn’t technically offer any eCommerce features. However, the company does have three managed WordPress packages optimized to work hand-in-hand with the WooCommerce plugin. These plans are pretty much identical to the regular managed plans we covered earlier but come with the latest version of WooCommerce pre-installed and specialized support for the plugin.
This is essentially the same system used by Bluehost but with more features and a higher price tag. While WooCommerce is a good plugin, we recommend going with Shopify or one of its alternatives if you want to open a solid online store. Meanwhile, Weebly is a very good option for those who want to set up a store as quickly and as painlessly as possible.
DreamHost only offers SEO tools via its website builder, which is available for free with shared and managed WordPress plans. Similar to Wix or Squarespace, DreamHost’s website builder uses simple drag-and-drop functionality and gives you a wide selection of designs to choose from. Over 200 mobile-responsive and fully-customizable themes are available for free and the builder even comes with a quick-start wizard. The builder also includes a neat tool that gives you SEO recommendations in real-time. The tool is overall fairly simple so if you’re looking for something a bit more complex, you can skip the website builder and use the regular version of WordPress and pair it with the Yoast SEO plugin.
If you’re looking to transfer an existing domain to DreamHost you’re going to have to pay a one-time fee of $9.99 and then the regular renewal fee of $15.99 per year. Migrating an entire website is a lot more expensive than that, though the service is available for free with certain plans. The Pro migration service costs $99 for shared hosting users but DreamHost’s team can migrate your site within 48 hours with no downtime, which is pretty impressive. However, DreamHost can only help you transfer WordPress websites. The Pro migration service is free with any of the managed WordPress hosting plans.
Additional Supported Technologies
Tech-savvy DreamHost customers can make use of a lot of useful technologies provided by the company. A few examples include the ability to create FTP/SFTP or Shell users, Cloudflare CDN accounts, and free SSL/TLS certificates. The provider also supports PHP7, Perl, Python, and other scripting languages, offers SSH and Crontab access and allows users to password-protect directories using .htaccess. A few other supported technologies include Apache, Nginx, Node.js, OPcache, Phusion Passenger, IPv4/IPv6 dedicated IPs, Ruby Version Manager, and more.
DreamHost only has two data centers at the moment. One of them is located in Ashburn, Virginia while the other one can be found in Hillsboro, Oregon. The fact that there are only two data centers to choose from can be a problem for some users, especially those located outside the US, however, this seems to be standard practice among jack-of-all-trades hosting providers. For instance, InMotion and HostGator also have two data centers while SiteGround and Bluehost are a bit more versatile with five and seven data centers, respectively. If you’re concerned about the location of your server make sure to check out our list of cheap cloud hosting providers because some of the companies there have over a dozen data centers.
Performance and Reliability
DreamHost wasn’t always the most reliable hosting provider in the past but that situation has changed dramatically in recent times. Nowadays, the company’s performance seems to be very solid and its uptimes are similar to some, though not all, of its competitors. To get a better idea of what DreamHost has to offer in this department we set up a simple WordPress site on a shared plan and conducted a series of tests over a period of several weeks. You can find a breakdown of our results down below.
Page Loading Speed
Our first order of business was to test the page loading speed of our website. Most users won’t give you a hard time if your site takes a while to load every now and then, but if your site is consistently slow, you’ll start losing some of your audience sooner or later. Not just that but search engines take into account page loading speeds, so expect to rank lower than your competitors on Google if your site is slow.
Based on our tests, DreamHost websites only take about 450 ms to load, which is a very good result all things considered. Certainly much better than the results we got in the past, that’s for sure. However, it’s worth noting that this time around we used a very simple website with a free theme and not much content. If your site has a lot of text, scripts, and images, it will almost certainly take quite a bit longer to load. For what it’s worth, though, we were pleasantly surprised by our latest results.
If you’re worried about performance you should consider upgrading to a different type of hosting. DreamHost’s VPS packages strike a good balance between price and performance. You’ll get even better speeds with a dedicated server, however, they are prohibitively expensive for most average users.
Server Response Times
While you can optimize your site to improve its loading speed, there’s not much you can do if your provider’s servers are slow. That’s why we decided to go straight to the source for our second round of testing and see how DreamHost’s servers perform. That way, we were able to avoid any potential issues found on our end and make sure that the results weren’t affected by other users found on our shared server.
We primarily used a tool called Bitcatcha for our second round of tests and, once again, the results we got were very surprising. Not because they were bad, mind you. Quite the contrary. DreamHost servers performed very well, with an average response time of around 45 ms when tested from the US. We got similar results in the past with other US-based providers but most of them performed much worse when tested from other locations. That wasn’t the case here.
We got a little less than 100 ms when testing from Europe and around 130 ms when testing from South America. Most surprising was the fact that we saw server response times of anywhere between 170 and 230 ms when testing from Japan, Singapore, and Australia. Many of the other providers we tested performed significantly worse when testing from these regions. In the case of DreamHost, however, the differences were overall small when testing from the US compared to all other regions.
The last time we looked at DreamHost’s uptime we weren’t very impressed by the results. The situation has improved tremendously since because during our last round of testing our site achieved 100% uptime over a short period of time. Over longer periods we did notice occasional outages and the overall uptime eventually dropped to around 99.99% percent.
DreamHost mentions in its Terms & Conditions page that it can guarantee 100% uptime, which is obviously not the case. That said, this guarantee doesn’t technically mean that you will never experience downtime but that you will be compensated in the event that you do. Namely, customers are entitled to one day of free service for every one hour of total downtime they experienced over a certain period.
DreamHost falls a bit behind many of its competitors in this department because the company doesn’t offer phone support. You can request callbacks and there is a phone number you can reach them at if you’re on a managed hosting package, but there’s no way to call support if you’re using any of the other plans. In other words, most users will only be able to get in touch with a support agent either via ticket or live chat. To the company’s credit, though, its support agents are usually very fast at replying to tickets and their replies are always very helpful. That said, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to also have a phone option that's available to everyone.
If you don’t feel like chatting to an agent you can always hit up the forums or look for answers to any problems you may have in the DreamHost knowledge base. There, you will find a plethora of useful articles and step-by-step guides, sometimes accompanied by videos. DreamHost clearly knows what the average user wants to hear because most of its articles are written in a succinct and direct manner without any lengthy introductions.
What Hosting Package Should I Choose if I’m on a Budget?
The Shared Starter package would be the obvious choice, however, due to its limitations, we recommend going with Shared Unlimited instead. DreamHost supports monthly billing cycles for both types of plans so you can get away with paying very little for your hosting without committing to a long-term contract.
Can I Host Multiple Websites on One Account?
Yes, but only with certain plans. Namely, Shared Unlimited, VPS, dedicated, and cloud hosting plans allow you to host an unlimited number of websites. Meanwhile, Shared Starter and the managed WordPress plans only support a single website.
Can I Use DreamHost for Free?
Unlike Wix, Weebly or WordPress (.com), DreamHost doesn’t offer a free tier. However, the company does offer shared hosting to non-profit organizations free of charge. In addition, nonprofits also benefit from discounts on VPS hosting packages.
Can I Upgrade/Downgrade my Hosting Plan?
Most users start off with a shared hosting plan but you’ll need something better if your site is getting a lot of traffic or if you simply need more resources. Luckily, DreamHost allows users to upgrade (or downgrade) their plan whenever they see fit and with no hassles. Moreover, the company even put together a comprehensive article that tells you everything you need to know about switching hosting plans.
What is DreamHost’s Refund Policy?
DreamHost offers a very generous 97-day money-back guarantee on all shared hosting plans. Unfortunately, there are no refunds on VPS plans, dedicated servers or managed WordPress packages. Similarly, the company does not offer any refunds on domain registrations.
DreamHost has come a very long way since its inception over two decades ago. The company had plenty of ups and downs over the years but it eventually reached a point where it is now very easy to recommend to both newcomers and veterans alike. The Shared Unlimited package, in particular, is a fantastic choice for users who are looking to build their very first website. There is plenty of room to upgrade from there, but we recommend not going past the VPS stage because there are better options out there when it comes to dedicated servers.
DreamHost sometimes gets a bad rap because its performance wasn’t always the best in the past but that’s certainly no longer the case these days. DreamHost consistently ranks high in terms of performance in 2020 and we hope to see it improve even further in the years to come.
The two biggest issues with DreamHost right now are the lack of phone support and free emails with its basic shared hosting plan. While we don’t see those problems as deal-breakers, we do think they should be addressed. Overall, though, DreamHost is a very solid hosting provider and we feel confident in recommending it to most users.