DreamHost knows the hosting business more than most. Established in 1997, it survived the dot-com bubble and is one of the oldest companies still alive and kicking. In fact, that would be an understatement - the company itself says it now hosts over 1.5 million websites and have over 400,000 customers. In this DreamHost review, I am going to see whether their customers are getting their money's worth. Let's find out if the old dog still knows some tricks.
- Shared web hosting
- Cloud hosting
- VPS hosting
- Dedicated hosting
- Domain names
DreamHost offers nearly every main hosting service available. Some of you may have spotted the lack of Reseller plans. In fact, DreamHost allows you to resell. It simply provides no separate plan for that. Also, in terms of domain names, DreamHost appears to take matters into its own hands. This host is a part of the ICANN Accreditation list and does not rely on other companies in order to get the domains it sells.
It wouldn't be a proper DreamHost review if I didn't include the main features of this provider. Some of them may be the main decision you decide to choose it! So here they are:
97-day Money Back Guarantee
14-day money back guarantee? Meh. 30-day money back guarantee? You’re getting warmer. 45 days? Good. However, DreamHost blows the competition away by offering a 97-day money back guarantee. This shows the confidence the host has in its services - they really believe you will want to stay for long.
100% Uptime Guarantee
DreamHost guarantees that your website will be up at any time. If it’s down, you will be entitled to a compensation. It is 1 day of services worth of money for each hour the servers are down. A clear and simple list of terms and conditions highlights the dedication and transparency of DreamHost.
Free Domain Privacy Protection
With many providers, you have to pay extra to hide personal information tied to your domain. Not with DreamHost, who offers that free of charge. It may be a minor thing but it's good to know that DreamHost hides your personal information.
Free Domain for First Year
In your first 12 months as a DreamHost user, you will not pay anything for your domain. It's a simple, yet a very enjoyable perk. After all, if you're picking hosting, there is a solid chance
What’s included in DreamHost packages?
As you can see, there is only one shared hosting plan available. This may be good because it helps to avoid a lot of confusion. However, some users may not need all the extra features. Those additional perks included in this plan, no doubt, contribute to package’s high price.
This table breaks down the main features of DreamHost shared hosting:
|Shared Starter||Shared Unlimited|
|Disk space limit||Unmetered||Unmetered|
|How many domains allowed||1||Unlimited|
|SSD or HDD used in servers||SSD||SSD|
|SSL||Supported, included in the plan (Let’s Encrypt)||Supported, included in the plan (Let’s Encrypt)|
|Anti-DDoS protection||Not included||Not included|
|Anti-malware protection||Comes as a separate paid feature||Comes as a separate paid feature|
|Email accounts||Paid upgrade||Unlimited (2GB per account limit)|
|Assisted Website Transfer||$99||$99|
|cPanel||Not included||Not included|
|Money back guarantee||97 days||97 days|
|Customer Support||Live chat, email, Twitter.||Live chat, email, Twitter.|
|Choice for server location||No||No|
|Free Automated Backups||Yes||Yes|
The prices you've seen above ($2.59 and $7.95 for the two plans respectively) are only valid if you purchase for 1 or 3 years in advance and pay immediately. Here are the prices, should you want to pay monthly:
Unmetered disk space and bandwidth are always good - and DreamHost provides a rather simple-to-understand guide to tell exactly what it means.
Every plan includes an SSL certificate - although it’s a Let’s Encrypt one which is already free of charge. Some may see this as a letdown but such a thing is admirable: security is important and making sure your clients are secure is respectable.
The customer support doesn’t only not have a phone line. It is also not 24/7, with Twitter and live chat being available only 16 hours a day. Considering that many other competitors have live chat available all around the clock, this can be considered a shortcoming.
The malware protection is very simple to install as it’s only a couple clicks away in your dashboard. However, it is paid and costs $3 a month. This is less than most of the other competitors but considering the price, it could be included.
Everything is pretty straightforward. Previously in this DreamHost review, I mentioned how transparent the pricing is - no increases, no tricks,
Since then, a little bit has changed, but not much. Now, you get one price, should you decide to pay monthly, another if you choose a yearly option.
The renewal fees are very simple. After your package runs out, you will be charged the same amount of money for the same period again.
DreamHost Customer Service
Customer support is very important and there is no other way around it. A good client service will help you solve your problems, give you extra knowledge and make your day just a little bit better. It is important to know whether DreamHost fits all of those brackets. This is what this part of the review is going to be.
Right on its website, we can see that DreamHost provides “24/7” support. Also, you can find the channels the host is working on. Here’s what they are:
- Live Chat
- Ticket/Email Support
In terms of transparency, it also has to be said that DreamHost includes social media support and does callbacks. However, the social media support mostly just directs you to their email and callbacks have to be paid for - $9.95 per one or $14.95 per month with three callbacks available.
Therefore, we will only do in-depth testing of live chat and ticket/email support. These are the two free and easily accessible forms of customer service.
Ticket/Email Service Evaluation
These two services are merged together because essentially, they are the same thing. For example, if you send in a ticket, you will receive a reply in your email and will be offered an opportunity to continue the conversation there.
In my multiple requests, it took from 10 to 20 hours to get a reply. It is worth noticing, that DreamHost promotes its customer service as “24/7”. With such reply speeds, you can’t really know whether it is true or not. Considering the host’s Twitter support works from 5AM to 10PM, it can be assumed that all of the agents are unavailable for that time period - including the ones working with tickets.
Regardless of that, DreamHost ticket/email support deserves praise. It reacted well to the multiple problems I’ve had and the questions I’ve asked. However, I wish the agents put more effort in their answers. Often I’ve been told a very simple answer or just got directed to one of the DreamHost articles. Those answers have not always been exactly what I needed and often I needed to do a follow up question. Although I’ve definitely had worse - at the end of the day, all of my problems (both real and fake) have been solved. If the service’s speed can be fixed - it’s a decent choice. Here’s hoping DreamHost improves.
Chat Service Evaluation
As usual, here I will be testing three main things - the three main pillars of a good chat support, if you will. First up, I will be looking into wait times. General availability is a very important measure, as there is no use of the chat support if it doesn’t work. Then, I will look into the knowledge of the chat service representatives. It comes without saying, the people on customer support should be knowledgeable and capable of providing expert help.
And finally, it is very important for the people in the chats to be courteous and familiar with the clients. This may come as a small detail but it is very important that a client would leave the chat feeling better than when he started.
With those things in mind, I fired up 10 chats in the various times of the week. Here’s what I found out:
First things first, it has to be said that the live chat is NOT available around the clock. It’s very close to that - the agents are available 7 days a week, 5AM-10PM PST time (Los Angeles, Seattle).
Harsh luck if there are problems with your website slightly later. As we’ve already established, ticket support as well as the social media people either take their time to reply or are not available all the time as well. Regardless of that, when the chat is available, you will have no problem getting some to talk to you. Every time it took less than two minutes to get connected to an agent. That is a great result but I would still like the chat service to be available 24/7. After all, they are only 7 hours short from achieving that. Why not?
For the second evaluation, I tested the knowledge of the agents. Personally, I thought that they have been performing really well. Chat agents are not expected to handle difficult, sometimes even code-heavy issues. That’s what ticket support is for. In terms of explaining the plans or directing me to the right articles, the DreamHost agents had no serious issues.
Finally, it was time to evaluate how did the host’s chat service perform in terms of human contact. I must say, that sometimes it felt like the DreamHost agents wanted to get everything over with and end the chat as soon as possible.
Quick connection time and swift answers add to the image that the chat service agents are expected to go through as many chats as quickly as possible. The agents have been courteous and familiar with my issues but every time, in every chat there was a big sense of hurry. Other than that, it’s been pretty good.
To sum it up, DreamHost chat service has been pretty good. It’s just a shame that it doesn’t work 24/7 and the agents are not expected to spend more than 10 minutes with one client.
First Impressions During and After the Purchase
Initially, it was very simple to enter all the contact information and there were not many upselling attempts.
The setup panel was easy and I didn’t experience any difficulties throughout the sign-up process until the ‘success’ window was shown.
I once again was ‘flagged’ for the authentication process. That means I had to submit the copy of cardholder’s ID and the card itself.
There were no emails sent informing me about this procedure (only internal panel messages)
The account was activated the same day after the ID information has been sent over. I was finally allowed to see the dashboard.
It is quite unusual to see that DreamHost does not support cPanel. Instead, they are using their own panel. It is slightly confusing but the ‘search’ function works perfectly and I was able to do every basic task I wanted.
Instead of cPanel, the host uses its own custom panel. Sadly, it does not perform very well. If you are not used to this specific interface, there will be some serious problems for you to adapt. At least that was the case for me. It felt seriously unintuitive and also had no stock File Manager to easily work with files. If you are used to cPanel or have no experience working with hosting at all, I can't recommend this panel.
By now, before this evaluation has even started, you probably have a rough idea of what DreamHost can offer. It's transparent in its pricing and rules but is also fairly expensive. There is also 24/7 support - and also very little proof of that being true. With all of those things, you can sense that DreamHost lacks that killer edge to really be a great host.
And yet, there is still that one thing which can make this provider a great one. That, of course, is its performance. Which we are going to test now in this DreamHost review. Many things can be forgiven if a provider is quick and reliable - surely, a few days of adjusting can be done if it means years of superior performance. So let's see whether that can be the case.
Here is a list of things I will be testing here:
- Host’s speed during low upkeep
- Host’s speed with a website created with DreamHost website builder
- Server’s overall uptime
- Anti-theft security evaluation
Host Speed During Low Upkeep
A simple HTML website is arguably the best way to test host's highest possible performance. After all, it's only a few lines of code - so DreamHost should return the best possible results. This simple website was set up:
This is how it performed:
Amazing performance in the US is nothing new - but it is good to see that. On the other hand, a weak performance in Singapore is disappointing. It is more or less a rule than American servers perform badly in either India (Bangalore) or Singapore. This time, it's Singapore. Be aware of that if you expect to have many visitors from that region.
Host Speed With DreamHost Website Builder
This part is going to test two things. First up, I'm going to test how do DreamHost servers deal with increased performance. Then, we are going to find out how optimised the host's website builder really is. This is a website I set up:
This is how it did:
The results are very similar and only slightly lower compared to the HTML website. From this analysis, we can draw a conclusion that the DreamHost website builder is well optimised. Overall grade is being brought down because of the weak performance in Singapore - elsewhere it is not as bad but isn't groundbreaking either.
Server Overall Uptime
NOTE - this part of the review will get constant updates with the newest results.
In order to check the host's overall availability, I set up a WordPress website. Then, I uploaded it to an uptime tool, which not only going to test response times but will also see whether DreamHost has been going offline often.
Here are the results:
That is not ideal. During the testing, there have been only 7 total minutes of downtime - which is practically nothing. However, the overall performance has been rather weak. Response times, averaging at around 700 ms and numerous spikes a day, going up to the entire minute is anything but good. This is a serious concern which needs to be addressed as soon as possible.
Anti-Theft Protection Evaluation
In its own webpage, DreamHost says that it 'takes privacy seriously'. Well then, the final part of this DreamHost review will consist of me testing that. There are two ways for me to check on that. First and foremost, I will attempt to simular a brute-force break in. That means me trying to guess the password of my own account - and eventually getting it right. In part two I will try to lure the account details from customer support without providing any proof of actually being the owner.
I logged out, changed my IP, cleared my cache and guessed my own password incorrectly 20 times. On the 21st I got it right - and logged in with no problem. After contacting customer support, I was told that this was "unusual" and I should've been locked out. Well, I wasn't. However, another interesting thing transpired. DreamHost is one of the few providers who offer a genuine multifactor authentication, using either Google Authenticator or Yubikey. If you are serious about your privacy, this is a great option to have.
This type of security is very good. Usually, people trying to hack into your account have no access to your mobile phone, which often requires an advanced method of authentication as well.
Nonetheless, just to make sure that DreamHost really cares about your security, I've attempted to steal my own account without setting up multifactor authentication. In the live chat, I was quickly told there was no way an agent could give me my details. Instead, I was given a link to a special form which I needed to fill up. Here's how it looks like:
NOTE - use multifactor authentication whenever possible! Don't use repeating and/or simple passwords and regularly change them. This could save your accounts.
DreamHost Review – Conclusion
DreamHost struck me as a company that attempts to make things right. Transparent in pricing and rich in features, it is a provider worth considering. However, there are serious concerns that need attention. Only average performance, an unintuitive panel and no true 24/7 customer support are all very disappointing. Lack of options is also questionable, as you can only choose from one of the plans. It is a very advanced plan, no doubt, but it is no good choice for those who want a basic hosting service for a low price. It's not bad but there are definitely hosts who are better than this.
As it stands now, DreamHost is not your dream host.
- Unlimited plan. No limits on email addresses, bandwidth or disk space.
- SSD disks used instead of older HDDs.
- Free domain privacy protection.
- Free domain name for the first 12 months.
- No free malware or DDoS protection included.
- No cPanel may prove to be problem for some users.
- Only one plan - and it's quite expensive.
- No true 24/7 customer support.
- Rather weak performance.