Thursday 22nd November 2018

Dreamhost Review

Great money back guarantee, good price and solid uptime but server restrictions are opaque.

  • Monthly uptime and server response is variable;
  • They reduced prices significantly quite recently;
  • They offer one of the best money back guarantees (97 days);
  • Their uptime guarantee (100%) sounds great but comes with caveats.

Dreamhost Review

Great money back guarantee, good price and solid uptime but server restrictions are opaque.

  • Monthly uptime and server response is variable;
  • They reduced prices significantly quite recently;
  • They offer one of the best money back guarantees (97 days);
  • Their uptime guarantee (100%) sounds great but comes with caveats.

Latest rankings

We performance test the world's biggests hosts on a second-by-second basis. The top 3 performers for July 2018 are listed below.

Host Uptime Response time
HostGator 100% 390
Bluehost 100% 502
Hostinger 100% 513

Latest rankings

We performance test the world's biggests hosts on a second-by-second basis. The top 3 performers for July 2018 are listed below.

Host Uptime Response time
HostGator 100% 390
Bluehost 100% 502
Hostinger 100% 513

Overview

Our test website hosted by Dreamhost has posted monthly uptime as high as 100% and as low as 99.60%. According to our internal performance monitoring, Dreamhost has maintained 100% uptime on one occasion (July 2018).

A monthly uptime of 99.60% equates to 2 hours and 55 minutes of downtime.

Its monthly server response time is average and has been as fast as 828 milliseconds and as slow as 1,784ms milliseconds. The best performing web hosts post response times in the low- to mid-hundreds of milliseconds.

Dreamhost’s money back guarantee is one of the best of all the web hosts we’ve reviewed (97) – the only money back guarantee that’s arguably better is A2 Hosting, which provides an “anytime” money back guarantee.

It’s also one of only two web hosts we’ve reviewed – the other is Namecheap – to provide a 100% uptime guarantee; however, it compensation terms aren’t as favorable as other web hosts. 

There are a few other downsides:

  • They aren’t particularly transparent on specific limits they set on customers’ shared hosting accounts;
  • They charge for website migrations;
  • Unlike other hosts at this price range, they don’t support HTTP/2 for shared hosting accounts (it’s an upsell i.e. it’s only available if you pay more);
  • They use a custom admin panel which may make it harder to migrate to another web host; and

Overall, we like Dreamhost. It has shown improvements on uptime and it pricing is significantly more competitive than it has been previously.

Latest uptime

Month Uptime Response time
January 2018 99.63% 1784ms
February 2018 99.60% 1196ms
March 2018 99.98% 1008ms
April 2018 99.84% 1119ms
May 2018 99.96% 972ms
June 2018 99.96% 829ms
July 2018 100% 934ms

Key data

Click on a metric to compare the performance of all 18 hosts, or learn more.

N/A = Not applicable NS = Not specified RBNS = Restricted but not specified

Monthly price1

$4.95

Annual price2

$47.40

Bandwidth/data transfer

Scalable

The not-so-small small print

1Many web hosts advertise monthly prices but don't allow you to pay monthly. If you can't actually pay monthly we don't display a monthly price.

2This metric lists the annual price for packages paid 12 months in advance. It doesn't calculate the cost of packages paid monthly for 12 months.

3This is what it costs to renew a package paid annually in the second year. Most hosts increase prices for the second and each subsequent year.

4A "free domain" may sound like an enticing offer but keep in mind its costs will often be subtracted from a refund and some web hosts charge significantly more for renewals than registrations.

5Most web hosts display their uptime guarantees to one decimal point e.g. 99.9% is actually 99.90%. While some uptime guarantees look more attractive e.g. 100%, it's the compensation terms - how much they pay you if they fail to honor it - that matter.

Dreamhost alternatives

Excellent uptime and response time but offers poor customer service and lacks essential features.

Annual price

$59.88

Uptime

99.99%

Nothing spectacular, nothing truly terrible. They're expensive relative to other web hosts.

Annual price

£94.99

Uptime

99.93%

1&1

Solid uptime but limited customer service, excessive legalese and overbearing restrictions.

Annual price

$11.88

Uptime

99.97%

Good uptime, features and value for money but no free domain and response time is average to poor;

Annual price

$24.88

Uptime

99.94%

Pricing

The entry-level package is advertised as $2.59 per month however, like with many web hosts, you can’t secure the advertised price unless you pay 36 months in advance.

The entry-level and cheapest annual package – Starter Shared – costs $47.40 per year, which if paid monthly would cost $3.95 per month.

Irritatingly, you must give up your email address to confirm this price i.e. they only reveal their pricing after you “signup”.

If you want to actually pay monthly then the same package will cost you $4.95 per month.

Unlike other hosts they don’t offer a free domain so, if you want to purchase a one year .com registration from Dreamhost, it will cost an additional $9.95. This said, like Namecheap but unlike many other website hosts, domain privacy is free. 

Its one year .com domain renewals are more expensive ($13.95) than its registrations and they offer one of the best money back guarantees (97) days of any web host we’ve reviewed.

However, according to their terms of service their money back guarantee only applies to credit card payment i.e. other forms of payment are non-refundable and domain registrations are “not refundable under any circumstances”.

Disappointingly, they charge $99 for website migrations – other hosts, including GreenGeeks, Siteground and A2 Hosting provide website migrations free of charge. Bluehost charges $149.

Key data

Click on a metric to compare the performance of all 18 hosts, or learn more.

N/A = Not applicable NS = Not specified RBNS = Restricted but not specified

Annual price

$47.40

Compare web hosts

We compare 17 web hosts against 56 metrics, including monthly and annual pricing and bandwidth, CPU, read/write, storage and database restrictions.

Technical

Trying to find out the extent to which Dreamhost restricts users accounts is a frustrating experience.

We relied predominantly on its “knowledge base” however its legal section comprises 14 separate policies, while its “Policies” section contains another 12 policies.

We went through everything that seemed relevant and the most we could muster in terms of specific restrictions relate to CPU.

It states average customers use 5 CPU minutes per day. It also states, “if you are able to optimize your website correctly, you can use up to 300+ CPU minutes without causing any issues”.

That suggests a restriction exists but doesn’t state one. Many hosts simply state a percentage or time-based restriction. For example, Siteground’s StartUp hosting package is restricted to 20% of CPU usage for no more than 20 seconds per day.

In total, it restricts to 10,000 CPU seconds per day or 1,000 CPU seconds per hour. HostGator and GreenGeeks state similar restrictions but Dreamhost isn’t as forthcoming.

It provides more information in its “Unlimited” policy however it doesn’t provide any actual detail. Rather, it states:

“…if your site isn’t well optimized and is causing issues for others on your shared server (either because it’s pounding the CPU, hogging RAM, or doing tons of disk I/O), you may be asked to sign up for your own DreamHost Private Server.

“Trust us, every host out there has exactly the same limitations…we’re just trying to be up front about them!”.

The problem is they aren’t actually being upfront about them because they haven’t actually mentioned any limitations – they’ve simply stated they exist.

Contrary to the implication, other web hosts are actually more upfront about restrictions than Dreamhost.

Further, on their sales pages, and in place of providing any actual information about the storage capacity of their SSD drives for the starter package, they state: “fast SSD storage”.

Unlike some other web hosts at this price range, they also restrict the number of websites that can be hosted through a single shared hosting account to one.

Key data

Click on a metric to compare the performance of all 18 hosts, or learn more.

N/A = Not applicable NS = Not specified RBNS = Restricted but not specified

CPU usage restriction?

RBNS

CPU usage restriction

NS

Number of CPU cores

NS

Bandwidth

Scalable

Storage restriction

Unlimited

RAM restriction

NS

Database size restriction

NS

Free SSL?

Yes

No. of websites restriction

Unlimited

Compare features

Annual price

Compare all 18 hosts by what it costs if you pay 12 months in advance.

Host Annual price
SiteGround $47.40
Bluehost $59.40
Hostinger $39.00

Free domain?

Compare all 18 hosts by whether they offer a free domain with new hosting subscriptions.

Host Free domain?
FatCow Yes
A2 Hosting No
HostGator Yes

Offers HTTP/2?

HTTP/2 was the first update to the HTTP protocol in 20 years. See which hosts support it.

Host Supports HTTP/2?
Just Host No
GoDaddy No
SiteGround Yes

Entry processes

Learn more about, and compare 18 hosts by, limitations placed on entry processes.

Host Entry processes
InMotion 20
GreenGeeks 100
Namecheap 20

Service

They offer a 100% uptime guarantee – alongside Namecheap, this is the longest uptime guarantee of any host we’ve reviewed.

However, their terms around the guarantee, which stipulate what you should be compensated upon experiencing downtime, could be a lot better.

Firstly, you only receive “Dreamhost credit,” not cash. Secondly, the credit will be the cost of one day of service of your current hosting package, and for each hour of downtime experienced.

They will only pay a maximum of 10% of your next pre-paid hosting renewal fee.

While this may sound attractive, in reality the one day cost of the Starter Shared hosting package is $0.12 ($47.40/365). Therefore, if your website is down for 24 hours you’ll receive $2.88.

Meanwhile, HostGator compensates customers one month of credit in the event they fail to honor their 99.90% uptime guarantee.

Dreamhost provides both ticketing and live chat support.

We initiated two live chats earlier this year. We asked 6 questions overall and It initially took them 4 minutes to respond to us, only 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 and 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. If you prize responsive customer service then there are better options available e.g. Siteground.

They also provide a custom admin panel which, in the traditional of all custom admin panels e.g. 1&1, employs confusing label and categorization of information where no categorization is required.

It takes far more clicks, and far more browsing, to find information than it should. A custom admin panel also potentially makes it more difficult to migrate to a new web host.

Key data

Click on a metric to compare the performance of all 18 hosts, or learn more.

N/A = Not applicable NS = Not specified RBNS = Restricted but not specified

Uptime guarantee

100%

Live chat support

Yes

Ticket/email support

Yes

Phone support

No