2019 October 2nd
For people looking to build a website, Dotster offers a cheap and simple solution.
Even though it first started as a domain registrar, it has moved beyond that: and now Dotster is offering unlimited hosting plans with decent prices, trying to appeal to everyone looking for a simple website solution.
So, let’s check them out!
What Is Dotster?
Dotster aims at ultimate simplicity - and you can see that in the plans. It doesn't exactly offer a wide selection of options - only what's necessary to get your website up and running.
Here's what Dotster offers:
- Shared Hosting (Linux and Windows)
- VPS Hosting
- Domain Names
Unfortunately, there are no dedicated hosting or reseller hosting packages. But it should be enough for most users, simply looking for a place to make a website in.
And for this review, we'll be testing Dotster's shared hosting services. So let's see how they do:
Dotster offers three plans for shared hosting. The prices go from $3.75 to $13.75 a month - and all of the plans include unlimited disk space and scalable bandwidth. However, there are also some things that make them different.
- Basic: starts at $3.75/mo. Also provides 100 Email and 10 FTP accounts.
- Deluxe: starts at $6.75/mo. Offers 250 Email and 25 FTP accounts.
- Ultra: starts at $13.75/mo. Email and FTP accounts are unlimited.
Prices are more on the expensive side. Many providers offer hosting plans that are as low as 1 dollar per month. What is nice on Dotster, however, is the fact this monthly price is the same with any hosting period you choose.
Which means that you'll pay the same sum when signing up for a year, and for 3 years.
Often providers advertise cheaper prices for long hosting periods and if you want to go for a shorter term, the price rises. Here the prices stay the same - you get what you see.
However, these are the fees for the first term. We should look at the renewal prices to understand the real situation.
The company itself only states the prices of its middle-tier Delux plan:
Delux plan is their promoted plan, only one with the reduced price for the first term.
But what about the other plans?
Well...This is where it gets weird.
I asked about the renewal prices on Dotster chat support. And the answer was nothing short of suspicious:
That sounds like information on the renewals is incomplete. A different agent just went with "the prices are being revised and will be updated soon".
(Half a year later, nothing has changed.)
Maybe that's just very bad customer support, maybe there are hidden fees for renewals. At this point none of these two sound like values of a trustworthy hosting provider.
Too Much Upselling
Considering the higher price for plans, you would expect them to include all of the cool features. Well, if you'll want some seriously good stuff, Dotster will ask you to pay extra.
That additional "good stuff" includes basic and really necessary things like anti-malware or anti-DDoS protection.
The boxes for backup and security are marked automatically. Of course, these are recommended for normal functioning of the website. And of course, just like that, you already have an additional $34.94 added to your purchase. The menu where you have to buy everything is also very intrusive, so you might even purchase things by accident!
Straight out of the gate - the prices are too high, considering what you get with them. Our highest-rated hosting provider hosting providers offer way more, for plans half the cost.
Features Simply Not Good Enough...
Dotster prices are a bit high - so it's only fair to give them a little bit of context.
Let's have a look at what your money would get you here.
Here's a table with the main hosting features:
|SSL||Paid SSL||Paid SSL||Paid SSL|
|Customer support||24/7 live chat, phone||24/7 live chat, phone||24/7 live chat, phone|
The good news is, you'll be able to create many email accounts with any of the plans. And there are no hard limits on disk space or bandwidth.
However, looking through the other features, there are some things worth paying attention to.
No backups or protection
A very sad drawback for Dotster is the lack of free automated backups. This should be a no brainer for a hosting company, but Dotster offers backups only as a separate product to buy.
The same thing goes with your website protection. Provider offers SiteLock but that comes with additional charges.
So, adding all the lacking features, that hosting price is about to get seriously, seriously high.
Another weak spot is vDeck for a hosting control panel. Only VPS hosting offers cPanel - shared hosting plans only include vDeck.
vDeck is quite uncomfortable to use, as it lacks intuitiveness. Also, it has a lot of advertisements which become annoying after a while. While vDeck is somewhat alright, it's still no match to the cPanel. Here's how a vDeck panel looks like:
Considering the premium price of Dotster, it's interesting to see that those plans are still "not premium enough" and have to be upgraded in order to get a better solution.
Questionable live chat service
Customer support can quickly become one of the critical factors for hosting quality - knowledgeable representatives can either make or break your experience.
In order to help its users out, Dotster offers support via phone or live chat.
Well, the good news about Dotster live chat, you won't have to wait. Generally, a line to reaching a customer service representative rarely exceeds a minute. That, of course, is a brilliant result.
But the agent was very slow to answer even basic questions. Seems that they had difficulties understanding the question. Even if it was just about the details of hosting plans, not to mention technical questions.
Yes, I've already had a fun experience asking the agents about hosting renewal prices, but even moving on beyond that topic, they were never really any good. And the answers didn't exceed information that was already on their website. Best they could do was give a link to the provider's online knowledge base.
You definitely wouldn't want to have such slow and uncertain customer service when having technical issues.=
When it comes to performance, Dotster isn't a standout option.
A regular WordPress website hosted on Dotster has done quite bad on a GTMetrix test. That's quite alarming, considering such a website is very small and should load relatively quickly. Dotster server optimization could be problematic.
Luckily, response times are a little bit better - but they're not great either.
Dotster averages at a speed of 600-700ms. This ranks somewhere below average when it comes to higher-tier shared hosting providers.
Through research, it appears that Dotster boasts an uptime of around 99.95%. Sure, it looks like a good number, but actually, that is only average. 99.95% can cost you more than three hours of downtime every month.
During our tests, however, the servers were up 99.98% of the time, which is a significantly better result - so that's a plus.
But overall, if you're looking for superior performance, Dotster still shouldn't be your #1 option.
Dotster Review – The Verdict
Dotster lacks in various areas. The plans are high-priced, and a true premium hosting experience will be even more expensive, as a lot of good features are sold separately. That inflates the costs even more and makes the overall experience quite displeasing.
Sure, the response time is fine, so is the uptime. But these two aren’t compelling enough to sign up for an account. And did I mention weak customer support? Oh yeah, I have - twice.
Overall, I don't recommend using Dotster. It's not awful, but there are too many question marks and warning signs for anyone to ignore.
Of course, the last call is yours. But I would recommend to take a look at a few other web hosting providers and pick something better.