Not a dream, but not a nightmare either
DreamHost has a pretty good range of different services and packages, ranging from VPS hosting and dedicated hosting to flexible cloud hosting setups and its more affordable shared hosting packages.
DreamHost isn’t quite the industry giant, but it has grown from zero to 400,000 customers in the 22 years since it was established in 1997. It has customers from over 100 different countries and power more than 1.5 million websites and 750,000 WordPress installations.
But is DreamHost the best hosting company for you? Well, that depends.
It’s an affordable hosting provider, keeping its features lean in order to keep prices low. That may sound great if you’re on a tight budget. But what about quality? Can DreamHost keep it high?
Read on to find out.
Light on Features, but It’ll Do
DreamHost isn’t one of those hosts which offer an endless list of features. Still, it does provide a tool suite with enough to get you started, and it makes up for its lack of features by being easy to use and reasonably reliable.
Of course, some of its more advanced plans, such as its VPS hosting and cloud hosting packages, come with added features. Even its cheap shared hosting packages come with SSD storage, email hosting, and a free domain name. If you want to use the website builder, though, then you’ll have to pay a monthly fee.
Open Source First
There’s a difference between offering open source software and actively supporting it. DreamHost puts its money where its mouth is, actively contributing to the open source movement and WordPress in particular by creating and contributing to code snippets, community libraries and more.
This might not have any noticeable impact on you as an individual, but it can only be a good thing for the company as a whole.
DreamHost may be a budget brand, but it certainly takes your privacy seriously. In fact, you’ll be pleased to know it has some pretty decent freebie privacy features including a comprehensive anti-spam policy and free WHOIS privacy.
At first glance, you might wonder why to bother to obfuscate WHOIS information if you’ve got nothing to hide, but the truth is that hiding your WHOIS information can cut down on spam and make it harder for hackers to target you.
100% Uptime Guarantee
You can’t get much better than this. DreamHost guarantees 100% uptime on all of its hosting plans. What’s more, it’s not just a gimmicky marketing campaign – it’s actually backed up by compensation. You’ll get a credit of one day’s fees for every hour of downtime, up to a maximum of 10% of the monthly fee.
If you’re trying to reduce your company’s carbon footprint, DreamHost is a pretty good choice. It uses high-efficiency cooling infrastructure at its data centers, and it’s powered by grids that obtain electricity from renewable sources.
The company also implements a range of recycling plans and other eco-friendly initiatives on-site in its offices to reduce its impact.
Ease of use
DreamHost is one of the easier web hosts to use, but that’s in part because it doesn’t overload you with features and so it’s relatively easy for you to find your way around.
Signing up isn’t too tricky and neither is building your own custom package. The only ease of use problems that you might have will crop up if you have a problem and can’t get the customer service team to help.
DreamHost also offers a website builder, which can help you get started quickly. However, it can’t really compete with more professional tools and content management systems (CMSs) like WordPress.
It is nice that it offers monthly packages as opposed to the six-month and one-year minimum contracts that many competitors force upon their customers.
Creating an Account
Signing up with DreamHost isn’t too tricky, and it goes out of its way to simplify the process as much as possible with language that’s as approachable as having a chat with a friend at a bar.
The only drawback is the verification process, which was a bit of a pain, but I doubt that DreamHost puts every single one of its customers through that extra step. All in all, it was a pretty pleasurable experience and you can read about it here.
Installing WordPress and Connecting a Domain
Installing WordPress is so easy, all you basically have to do is wait. You can automate the process by checking a box when you sign up. You’ll receive an email from DreamHost once WordPress is set up, and you can go straight in and start using it.
Configuring a domain name and installing your free Cloudflare CDN is also ridiculously easy.
In fact, I’d go so far as to say that it’s the easiest setup I’ve ever seen. Click here to find out more.
Dedicated WordPress Packages
DreamHost’s main offering is its WordPress hosting packages, which include everything from easy installers to free themes and over 50,000 plugins that you might have to pay for elsewhere.
DreamHost even automates updates so that you don’t have to worry too much about that, although if you’re heavily customizing your site, then you may prefer to use manual updates to make sure that a botched automatic update doesn’t take your site offline.
Built-in caching doesn’t come as standard, but it’s nice to know it’s there when you need it. You’ll have to pay a little extra for the privilege, but it can help your website load more quickly and can even prevent downtime by serving up a cached version of your site to visitors if they’re unable to reach the main server.
Pretty Slow and Not Very Steady
DreamHost tends to get pretty good reviews for its performance, with some users calling it a safe haven from the bigger hosts. That said, there are plenty of people who’ve experienced downtime or 500 internal server errors, and by all accounts, the support team ranges between being slow and being non-existent.
I see this a lot from web hosts: the server setups work okay when you’re a new customer, but as soon as you experience a problem, they take forever to fix it, leaving your site crippled or even offline for days on end.
From my point of view, there’s not much for it to boast about, and the Sucuri page load test shown above helps to demonstrate that. Its average loading speeds are terrible, ten times slower than some of the other sites I’ve tested.
Using a CDN can help to bring those loading times down, but it can’t work miracles. If speed is what you’re looking for, you’re probably going to want to shop elsewhere.
No Direct Phone Number but Reasonable Resources
DreamHost offers 24/7 support, and it claims to have won awards for it. Not all of its customers agree, though, and there are horror stories of people waiting weeks on end for a response to their queries.
It has a knowledge base and some discussion forums, both of which can be useful in a pinch, but if they don’t answer your question then it also offers email support and a live chat between the hours of 8 AM – 4 PM Pacific Time on Mondays – Fridays.
I thought I’d go ahead and test them out and so I started with the live chat agent, which is operated by a bot and which isn’t particularly well configured, making it hard to speak to a human. I got there eventually though, and I also had a reasonably pleasant experience when I filed a support ticket.
Once you do speak to a human, they’re pretty polite and super helpful, which was a nice surprise after that initially clunky interface.
Also, one of the big pluses of going with DreamHost is the fact that it has its own discussion forums where you can seek help from other customers, as well as official representatives of the company. This can be especially useful if you’re struggling to find help from the customer service team, which can happen a little more often than you might expect.
DreamHost’s pricing is really what makes it stand out from the competition. When you combine the cheap plans with its monthly billing and unlimited resources, it’s pretty easy to see why it’s pretty popular, even when you factor in the drawbacks.
As for payment options…well, they’re few and far between. It accepts major credit cards, but if you were hoping to pay by PayPal or by cryptocurrency, forget about it.
Cancellations & Refunds
Want to cancel your DreamHost account? It’s pretty easy to do and takes less than a minute, requiring you to navigate to the billing section of your admin panel to file a cancellation request.
I was particularly impressed by how clearly they communicated with me throughout. This is one of the only hosts I’ve seen that automatically told me when I could expect my refund without requiring me to contact its support team. Click here to read more.