Our Dreamhost Shared Hosting Review
This is an updated Dreamhost review of one we originally wrote back in September 2013. Since September 2013 they have been busy re-inventing itself, launching new products including their DreamObjects, DreamCompute and their WordPress Hosting product DreamPress. Not only that but they have recently starting using SSD for storage on all plans, significantly improving the performance. For the purpose of this review, however, we will be focussing on their standard web hosting product, which at $8.95 per month we will be discussing as if it was in the premium hosting category.
Before we get down to our Review, it is useful to give a little background on the company. They were founded in 1996 by Dallas Bethune, Josh Jones, Michael Rodriguez and Sage Weil, undergraduate students at Harvey Mudd College, Claremont California. In line with their recent reinvention of themselves into OpenSource with their DreamCompute and DreamObjects, In 2012, they created Inktank, a professional services and support company for the Open Source Ceph File System. This demonstrates the significant level of expertise this company has, and puts them in a fantastic position going forward as OpenSource software continues its push to the forefront of web hosting.
The Different Plans
They only offer one shared web hosting plan, costing $8.95 per month, although if you want a little more power, you can opt for their WordPress Hosting, which is based on a VPS costing $19.95 per month. Of course, if you need more they offer an excellent upgrade path with VPS and Dedicated solutions. For the purpose of this review though we will just be considering the standard shared hosting plan:
The only thing that stands out here is the 97-day money back guarantee, which is one of the longest in the industry. Also, everything is stated to be unlimited, but in reality, there are plenty of restrictions, whether it be RAM, CPU or just restrictions contained in the terms and conditions on what you can store within your disk space. You are advised to read the terms and conditions carefully.
Speaking of terms and conditions, a quick view seems to indicate some important things relating to the refund under the heading “Financial Arrangements”. Specifically, to qualify for a refund you must pay either by Credit Card or Google Wallet, and that additional services such as Domain Registration are not included in the refund. If you pay, monthly there is a one-time setup fee of $49.95, and it is not clear if this is covered under the refund policy.
The Control Panel
They have their own control panel, rather than relying on the industry standard cPanel, Plesk or even DirectAdmin. You can get an idea of what the control panel is like from the screenshot below, although it does now look a little dated in comparison to their new website design.
We are going to sound very biased now, but we do not like their control panel at all. If you regularly maintain your site and are used to industry standard solutions, we suspect you might have a similar view. If you hardly ever log into the control panel, because once your site is setup, there is very little need to, then you probably won’t mind. We would, however, say that there are quite a few positive reviews in the community about their Control panel so that must count for something when considering them for hosting.
One thing we particularly like about cPanel hosts is that makes it easy to transfer an account to a new provider, or indeed transfer from your old provider. Also, a cPanel transfer will copy email accounts, forwarders, and any other settings. It is unclear what their policy is on website transfers, but we suspect you will be left to transfer the sites yourself.
Their support is mainly e-mail based, although they do offer premium support for an additional $9.95 per month whereby customers can request a live chat or telephone call back from the support team. Note, however, that the live-chat is not guaranteed and only available as staffing permits.
While it is not unusual to offer only ticket email support, for a the cost of DreamHost shared hosting we do not think this is adequate. If you add the cost of the premium support, you get charged just under $19 a month for just three telephone call-backs (The US only) and intermittent live-chat. We cannot help but think this is vastly over-priced, and not in line with what other hosts offer.
You can read more about their Support and what it does and does not include in their wiki article.
They seem to concentrate on providing a base set of features well, but that does mean that there is not a great deal to talk about when it comes to additional features, although we did find a couple of things of interest:
- They offer Ruby On Rails support, along with Python, and Subversion Repository.
- Also, you can get $100 Adwords credit when you sign up, but we suspect that is just for US customers only.
- 1-Click Installer for the most common web apps, such as WordPress, Drupal and Joomla!
- Mobile Website Generator powered by DudaMobile
- Cafe Commerce Integration for easy online storefront, although this would not be our preferred solution.
- Automated Malware Scans powered by StopTheHacker.
- One-click Cloudflare setup.
- 100% Uptime Guarantee, where you get credited a day’s service for every hour of interrupted service.
- Free Domain
Compared to the features you would find in say cPanel, the full range of features seem quite limited, although are perfectly adequate.
One particularly interesting thing we would say, though, is that they do offer a very affordable pay per usage CDN that looks pretty good. It is based on their DreamObjects technology. Unfortunately, we are unable to say whether it is better than CloudFlare or MaxCDN, but all you need to do is sign up to DreamObjects and then activate the CDN from the control panel. Definitely worth trying it out when the cost is just $0.12 per GB for US & Europe and $0.19 per GB for Asia-Pacific, Australia & New Zealand.
As we have mentioned previously, they offer a 100% Uptime Guarantee. This does not mean the Uptime is necessarily high, just that you might get back half a dollar every so often if they don’t meet their high targets.
That being said, there are no indications around the web of a problem with excessive downtime, although this invariably happens from time to time with any hosting provider. That being said, if downtime should occur, there are indications that it does take a little time to resolve unless you have their Premium Support, as they might not respond to the incident for several hours otherwise.
We previously mentioned some comments around the web of slow WordPress performance, but when updating the review, we have found these have largely disappeared. We are not surprised about this with the recent introduction of SSD Hosting that should significantly improve the responsiveness of dynamic websites such as WordPress.
Is Dreamhost Good Value?
If you use our DreamHost Coupon that gives $65 off your first year, the price is very reasonable. However, when it comes to renewal, and should you need telephone support we do not think that DreamHost is that good value for money, especially when you need to sign up for two years to get the $8.95 price. There are many cheaper hosts that we think are better (see Arvixe) and other Premium Hosts that offer much better value despite costing a little more after their own discount period (see SiteGround).
Had they included fully featured support instead of adding it on for $9.95 per month perhaps we would have a different view on this, but at the moment we cannot.
- 97 day Money Back Guarantee – They give you a 97-day money back guarantee, which is one of the longest trial periods available. This is a great attribute for those who find the need to test out multiple web hosting services and compare them all to make a decision. However, as we have indicated… please read the terms and conditions relating to this.
- DreamObjects CDN – We love the way they are developing their technologies, and think they have some great things coming with their new DreamCompute, which is currently in Beta Testing.
- SSD Storage – Significantly faster than normal storage. We are a big fan of this move by them.
- No Phone Support – They have no phone service that could cause issues if you want direct contact with a person, but they have other outlets of support such as forums and email, so it’s a minor issue to us. You can get phone support. However, it is only included on their more expensive packages.
- No Online Chat Support unless you upgrade – In our view online chat support should not be an optional extra. It should be as standard. Their Premium Support that includes three callbacks via Phone is a massive $9.95 per month.
- No cPanel – They do not include the widely popular cPanel that is offered in most web hosting sites. It, on the other hand, has its own custom setup. It will take some getting used to if you’re familiar with the cPanel configuration.
- Price – We think they are overpriced if you need their premium support, although with our Coupon you can get a great deal on the first year.
Our Dreamhost Review Final Thoughts
Dreamhost has changed quite a bit over the past year or so since we carried out our initial review. We used to think they were a little over priced, and to some extent, we are still a little disappointed their premium support comes at a significant price compared to its competitors. That being said, the move to pure SSD hosting certainly brings their pricing structure in line with what we would expect.