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We’re underwhelmed by Dreamhost. More specifically they fall behind on price and performance; we score them highly for features.
Average uptime for all hosts in January 2018 (to date) is 99.80% while average response time for all web hosts in January 2018 (to date) is 1,254ms.
Unlike a lot of web hosts, the price advertised is the price you pay. You can either pay monthly or over a 12 month or 24 month term.
Their monthly term costs $12.49 per month (it’s billed monthly and the total annual cost works out at $149.88) and their annual term costs $9.95 per month (it’s billed annually for a total annual cost of $119.40).
This may look expensive but it isn’t really. Take FatCow as an example; they advertise an initial cost of $4.05 per month and billed annually for 12 months it costs $49.
However, when the introductory rate expires and your package automatically renews for another 12 months, the second year costs you $179.40 (significantly more expensive than Dreamhost, which renews at the same price).
If you want to pay monthly with FatCow they’ll charge $5 for your first month and $14.95 for every subsequent month (again, significantly more expensive than Dreamhost). Dreamhost charges the same price for the first month as it does every subsequent month.
A number of web hosts price in this manner and the point we’re trying to make is that just because it looks more expensive doesn’t mean it is (you have to factor in the holistic cost of the package eg domain pricing, introductory pricing, privacy pricing, renewal pricing etc.)
Another advantage to Dreamhost is they don’t charge for domain privacy (or rather they don’t charge to anonymise your details in the WHOIS database; when you register privately the registrar owns the domain and gives you the right to control it). Other web hosts charge upwards of $14.95 per year for this service.
They’ll also provide you with a free domain however only if you subscribe for a 12 or 24 month term (ie free domains aren’t available for monthly subscribers).
It’s also worth noting that your hosting package automatically renews but your domain name doesn’t. Standard .com registrations with Dreamhost cost $11.95 however .com renewals cost $13.95 – the renewal prices aren’t particularly transparent either, they are buried in their legal pages.
If you need to host an externally registered domain then it’s worth noting Dreamhost’s nameservers are published on their help pages and the same nameservers apply to all account levels – we’ve had endless trouble merely trying to locate the nameservers of certain web hosts.
Disappointingly, Dreamhost doesn’t offer free website migrations – they charge $99 – and any website migrations they do perform seem to be restricted to WordPress. A number of web hosts like InMotion, GreenGeeks and Hostgator offer this service free of charge.
It’s quite frustrating trying to get to the bottom of what Dreamhost restricts. We know they restrict usage but they don’t seem to want to specify what they restrict.
While most hosts publicise some of their restrictions on CPU usage, I/O, inodes, entry processes, physical memory, database size etc. Dreamhost doesn’t seem to want to play ball.
Perhaps they think in not specifying their restrictions they’re gaining a competitive advantage, however, for us, it has the complete opposite effect – we won’t recommend something we don’t know any of the limitations of. Other hosts provide this information and we’re not sure why Dreamhost should be the exception.
They do offer some great features (SSD drives, free domain privacy, a 100% uptime guarantee and fair renewal pricing), however we can’t help but think it may be a case of accentuating the positive – their package comparison pages are minimalistic to say the least and contain very little of the information we’d expect to find before purchasing a hosting package.
They state, like a lot of web hosts, that they offer unlimited storage and unlimited databases but that was the extent of their specificity – the only other information we could find was in their ‘unlimited policy’.
At the top of this policy they state ‘Trust us, every host out there has exactly the same limitations… we’re just trying to be up front about them!’
Here’s the problem with that sentence: they don’t actually state any of the limitations in their ‘unlimited policy’.
Other web hosts – eg Siteground, InMotion, A2 Hosting etc. – publish a number of their restrictions to at least give consumers a fighting chance of making an informed and confident buying decision and deciphering the information maze published by the web hosting industry; in this respect, they are a lot more ‘up front’ than Dreamhost.
The consequence for, as Dreamhost puts it, ‘pounding the CPU or hogging RAM’ is being asked to sign up for a Dreamhost private server (ie no stated restrictions placed on your account, or in other words it doesn’t appear as if they make your website inaccessible until you reduce usage).
In some of their help pages they state you can use up to 300 CPU minutes without causing any difficulty (we’re not sure what the timeframe is, again they don’t specify) and they also state that average CPU usage among existing customers is about 5 CPU minutes per day.
They make specific reference to WordPress websites which rely heavily on database queries and a large number of plugins as possible problem websites.
We tried to contact them via live chat for more clarification however they still hadn’t responded after 15 minutes, at which point we gave up and sent a ticket (which hasn’t been responded to yet, however it’s only 1 hour after the ticket was submitted).
In summary, most web hosts impose restrictions or limitations however most hosts give you at least a small amount of information about those restrictions. Until Dreamhost offers something similar we won’t recommend or disregard them as a web host.
Astoundingly, Dreamhost offers a 97 day money back guarantee. Can’t be real, can it? Well, apparently…it can.
We only found two caveats: anything other than a credit card payment for a shared hosting account is non-refundable and domain registrations and SSL certificates are also non-refundable.
It’s the longest money back guarantee we’ve come across (with the exception of A2 Hosting’s ‘anytime’ guarantee, however that contains caveats) and it’s more than enough to evaluate Dreamhost’s performance.
As for their 100% uptime guarantee, there are caveats to that too (if Dreamhost fails to honour it):
Aside from their money back and uptime guarantees, Dreamhost also provides an intuitive daily backup of your website files.
It’s available to access in your control panel however it doesn’t backup your database.
We can’t quite figure out whether we like Dreamhost’s admin panel or not (our favourite admin panel to date is Hostinger’s)
It’s a custom admin panel and we’ve noticed a few standard cPanel features are missing eg hotlink protection and blocking IP addresses (you have to manually update you .htaccess file on your server to apply these).
This said, it has still got the basic features and it’s relatively user-friendly, however we don’t like some of the labels applied to menus eg ‘goodies’ – how is anyone reading that supposed to know what that menu contains?
Similarly, activities specific to hosting customers seem to fall under the ‘domains’ label. ‘Dreampress’ – Dreamhosts WordPress solution – also has its own top-level navigation label. It’s internal terminology and doesn’t mean anything to shared hosting customers (it shouldn’t be there).
There are also options in there which don’t apply to shared account users and just create extra confusion.
All in all, they could do with improving their information architecture.
Aside from this, you have access to your zone files (though your records are non-editable), your email accounts, MySQL databases, 1-click installs (including WordPress and Joomla), FTP details and an interface to block bot traffic without having to create your own robots.txt file.
It’s good, but cPanel is more user-friendly and universal. A custom admin panel could also make it more difficult to migrate between cPanels.
We initiated a live chat with Dreamhost on 13th January, 2018. We asked 6 questions. It initially took them 4 minutes to respond to us (to tell us they apologise for the delay).
We prompted them again 9 minutes later (we still hadn’t received a response – total chat time by this point was 13 minutes) and again 3 minutes after that. Despite numerous prompts no-one got back to us and we remained ‘queued’. The chat lasted 22 minutes during which time the only interaction Dreamhost had with us was to tell us they ‘apologise for the delay’.
We’re not sure if this was a particularly bad day, so we decided to try contacting them via ticket. We submitted the ticket on 13th January 2018 and we received what looked like an autoresponder 24 hours later telling us ‘we know it has been 24 hours since you contacted us but we haven’t forgotten about you.’
Over 48 hours later we received a response to our questions.