DreamHost Review

By Pete Griffin

 

Founded in 1996 by a group of college buddies, DreamHost was part of the big tech start up boom in California. Its open-source services were initially meant for entrepreneurs and developers. Since then, the company has expanded to allow all users to benefit from its expertise. The basic DreamHost hosting plans can be adapted for individuals to use for blogging and design portfolios. While the shared hosting plans may work for some businesses, size and scale may require its VPS hosting, a dedicated server, or its WordPress–optimized package, DreamPress. Boasting a client base of 1.5 million websites and a PCMag.com Business Choice Award, DreamHost has something to offer for nearly every online project.

Highlights

  • Multiple Hosting Options – Something to suit any size business
  • DreamCompute– Public cloud computing service
  • No cPanel – DreamHost uses a proprietary control panel instead of the industry standard

With so many different kinds of individuals and businesses using the company, I thought that is was time for a DreamHost review. I investigated everything--from signing up and registering a DreamHost domain, to finding help in the wiki and forum support pages, to learning about the different kinds of technology behind the company’s variety of hosting options.

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Ideal For

Because the company offers so many different hosting platforms--as well as other cloud-based business and developer solutions, I find it difficult to pinpoint who would be the ideal customer. Budget-minded individuals looking to create an online portfolio can take advantage of the shared hosting technologies. DreamHost WordPress hosting is a great option for bloggers who need a high-quality Content Management System (CMS). Larger businesses that require scalability, flexibility, and control could benefit from other DreamHost Web hosting services. Theoretically, the company has a plan for nearly every online project. I can’t say that about all hosting services.

I can say this, though; one group of users for which DreamHost is not an ideal fit is customers that need to be walked through every task. They are not going to find that kind of help at DreamHost. I’ll cover customer support later in this review, but quickly, most help can be found via the DreamHost wiki community forums and from the support staff through the DreamHost Twitter account. Live chat can be slow and there is no phone support.

Hosting Features

Having been around since 1996, the company has evolved along with hosting industry technologies and is constantly adding new aspects to some of its fundamental features. Your free DreamHost domain allows you to host and manage unlimited subdomains. You can create multiple, deep sites at no extra cost. Because Solid State Drives (SSD) are used by DreamHost, backup, caching, and database queries perform much faster. The company has its own control panel which supports the file manager, MySQL database, and third-party CMS software. One of my favorite features, though, is the DreamHost Status page. Hosted outside of the company’s main network (in case of major downtime), this page is dedicated to information about service issues, changes, and updates.

Technology

Just as with its features, DreamHost technology is the product of the company’s experience. Aside from many of the dynamic open-source programs that DreamHost utilizes for some of its high-volume business solution services, there are some core technologies that fuel its hosting plans. For example, DreamHost VPS features Ubuntu LTS for security updates, scalable RAM to handle traffic spikes, and node.js for server-side applications.

You also have complete control over all of your domains through the DreamHost nameserver installation. With that, you are able to link your page to the Web via a DNS connection. Other piece-of-mind technologies that the company uses allow you to transfer customer data for e-commerce sites and files to and from your site to other servers.

SSL certification is a must if you are running an online business. Customers feel safe entering their credit card information on a certified site. DreamHost SSH (Secured Shell Hosting) gives you a safe conduit to your control panel. With it, you can log in to your account from any computer. Essentially, you can connect to the DreamHost network from anywhere.

Pricing

Because the company has such a variety of hosting options, there are quite a number of different DreamHost hosting plans. Starting at as low as $8.95 a month for basic shared hosting and running as high as $379 a month for some of the dedicated server options, there is a hosting plan for every budget.

Shared Hosting2-Year1-YearMonthly
Cost per month$8.95$9.95$10.95

 

VPS HostingStart HereMost PopularGo BiggerMax It Out
RAM1GB2GB4GB8GB
Storage30GB SSD60GB SSD120GB SSD240GB SSD
Cost per month$15$30$60$120

 

Managed WordPress Hosting1-YearMonthly
Cost per Month$19.95$24.95

 

Dedicated Server HostingStorageStorageStorage
4 Cores4GB RAM8GB RAM16GB RAM
Price per Month$149$189$229
12 Cores16GB RAM32GB RAM64GB RAM
Price per Month$279$329$379

 

Please keep in mind, too, that this is the basic DreamHost pricing. When I conducted this review, there were a few special deals on some of the DreamHost plans. Another thing to consider is that these prices do not include any add-on services such as SSL certifications, unique IP addresses, or premium support.

Ease of Use

For such a complex menu board, DreamHost is a rather easy-to-use hosting provider. The one universal throughout the company’s hosting plans is the control panel. Whether you are building a new site from scratch or are going to transfer a domain over to DreamHost, the intuitive control panel allows you to easily compete every task. Most of my experience is with the cPanel and a little bit of Plesk. Even though this was my first time using the DreamHost Web controls, they contained the same fundamental elements. I didn’t feel like I was switching from riding a bike to flying a helicopter. It was more like switching from one car manufacturer to another. The knobs and buttons may be in different places; but, they still do the same things.

Website Builder Features

DreamHost does not have a true Web builder. However, creating a site with DreamHost couldn’t be easier...once you’ve worked your way through the options and found what’s best for you. There are so many ways for you to build a site, from the DreamHost-branded software to the more recognizable Joomla and WordPress options. After you get used to it, the DreamHost control panel is relatively easy to use and shouldn’t pose a problem, especially because you can customize it. You can use any of the one-click installers to layer a template over your site and build it from there. I found that there are a lot of great Web building tips in the DreamHost blog, too.

Top 3 Pros and Cons

In general, I like what DreamHost does. It embraces open-source computing and offers a much wider variety of plans and services than its competition does. However, that dynamic spirit sometimes gets in its way. For example, just like my cell phone provider, the company changes its plans too frequently. Its most popular option, DreamHost Happy Hosting doesn’t even exist anymore. I can’t really knock a tech company for constant change, though.

It does many things extremely well. The company produced a series of DreamHost tutorial videos that explain many of the tech-heavy subjects to the less savvy users. The fact that it offers so many different hosting platforms is a testament to its abilities and versatility. Finally, even though it takes it fair share of abuse, DreamHost tech support has some cool features (like DreamHost Status) that other hosting companies simply do not offer.

Here are some areas where DreamHost does an amazing job and other areas where the company falls a little short.

DreamHost Pros:

  • Choices: There is a hosting option for nearly every online project
  • Open-Source: Dynamic software platforms help you stay current
  • Experience: A wealth of expert industry experience to rely on

DreamHost Cons:

  • Customer Support: DreamHost live chat can be very unresponsive
  • No Site Builder: You have to put some work in to create your Web page
  • Control Panel: cPanel devotees will have some hiccups

Customer Support

Support is one area of its business where the company could stand to make a few changes. Don’t bother looking for a DreamHost phone number if you need help; you won’t find one. The company offers nothing in the way of help over the phone. Instead, support basically consists of a help-ticket form, the community wiki, and the DreamHost forum.

For an extra $14.95 a month, users can sign up for premium support. One of the benefits of the premium service is that you can have DreamHost contact you on a monthly basis to see if everything is going smoothly. I would rather be able to pick up the phone and call them, though.

That said, I feel that the support is beneficial. The staff is well-trained and very helpful. Live chat may be a little slow to respond and phone support is non-existent. However, if you are willing to use the forum and wiki pages, you will find the answers you need.

Coupons, Discounts & Promotions

As with most hosting companies, it is not too hard to find some sort of deal. There, currently, is a DreamHost coupon code good for a savings of 40 percent off the regular price in the wake of receiving a PCMag.com award. That is sure to change though, only to be replaced by a new DreamHost promo code. The most accurate advice that I can offer is to search around. You might find a deal through one of the many DreamHost affiliates that will provide an introductory deal. Worst case, don’t forget about the 97-day money-back guarantee.

Free Offers

We all want to get something for nothing, especially when it comes to online services. Web hosting providers sometimes offer demo versions of their Web builder packages for potential customers to explore. There is no DreamHost free trial, though. Instead, the company offers a 97-day money-back guarantee. With overall value backed by the warranty, there isn’t a need to offer free trials.

It is my experience, too, that free versions can come with hidden costs such as having to pay for a domain name. Well, included with every hosting plan is a free DreamHost domain name. Who says that you can’t get something for nothing?

cPanel

While the company does incorporate some third-party tools such as WordPress, Ceph, and ownCloud, one obvious omission is the control panel. Instead of using Plesk or cPanel, DreamHost has developed a customized in-house control panel. Even though it is not the industry standard, the DreamHost panel is easy to use and highly intuitive, making up for any difference with a small learning curve. I found my way around the Web panel in no time. I was able to do simple jobs such as control content, as well as difficult tasks like configure my DreamHost htaccess so that I could block access to my site from specific IP addresses. Disappointed cPanel and Plesk users will be easy converts.

VPS

The company’s entrepreneurial spirit really shows in its VPS hosting service. Founded by fans of open-source computing, DreamHost VPS is designed with open-source developers in mind, incorporating Node.js and Ruby Version Manager (RVM). As a fan of green hosting, I like the company’s use of the more efficient solid state drives (SSDs) as compared to disk drives. The result is greater speed, scalability, and power for designer, developers, and businesses.

A few DreamHost VPS reviews knock the mount of memory that is included with the basic $15 a month plan. The reality is, most VPS candidates are shopping for greater memory, putting them into one of the higher plans, anyway. If budget is a concern, I recommend looking for a DreamHost VPS coupon. You’ll be able to see if your business would benefit from the added flexibility that type of hosting offers.

Shared Hosting

Low-cost shared hosting is the company’s bread and butter. With every DreamHost shared hosting plan, customers receive unlimited domain hosting, email accounts, and storage and bandwidth. I like the one-click WordPress installer. This is by no means unique to DreamHost; but, it is a nice feature. Also included in the shared hosting plans are the company’s Web-based control panel and a 97-day money-back guarantee. Speaking of guarantees, DreamHost also claims to offer 100 percent uptime. If your site does go down, you will be credited with one free day for every hour it is offline.

DreamHost shared hosting is run with the same SSD drives as the VPS hosting, so pages load very quickly. For additional monthly costs, shared hosting customers can purchase SSL certificates, a unique IP address, and premium support.

Dedicated Hosting

The company does offer a fully-managed dedicated hosting service. The DreamHost dedicated server plan is a great option for high-traffic websites or high-volume online retailers. Dedicated hosting provides much more storage on a single, secured server than other hosting options. As such, the prices are significantly higher. That said; you are buying a lot more control. When it can be afforded, I always prefer dedicated hosting. In fact, if you build sites for other people and businesses, you can host them on your dedicated server to help offset the costs. DreamHost gives you control over your domains and you can add more servers to scale up, if you did want to go that route.

Cloud Hosting

DreamCloud is the company’s cloud-based platform, offering scalable and secure computing and storage services. DreamCompute is a very versatile solution for Web and application developers. Reflecting DreamHost’s open-source nature, DreamCompute is powered by OpenStack and Ceph software which help control and secure your computing resources. DreamObjects is the DreamHost cloud storage device. Designed for projects that need extra space for multimedia, backups, and blog files, DreamObjects gives you access to your stored data through the ownCloud hosting application. When configured to DreamHost, ownCloud creates a massive external storage option which you can access from anywhere.

I know if you are only interested in a basic shared hosting plan, all of this cloud-based technology is a little much. Should your business grow to the point where you need such a service, you probably will have hired a full-time IT guru that will take care of all of this for you, anyway.

Email

As with nearly every hosting service, DreamHost offers unlimited email addresses. DreamHost email settings let you create multiple email accounts; set up quotas, archives, rules, and alerts; and have multiple addresses forwarded so that you can view all of them from one inbox Additional DreamHost mail settings are available to start discussions and announcement lists, implement antispam software, and establish message filters. If you are like me and are on the run most of the time, you can have DreamHost webmail synced to your personal email so that you can check and manage your email from anywhere.

Conclusion

I have to hand it to the founders of DreamHost. Four college buddies took their dorm-room vision and made it a reality. By embracing the power open-source software, DreamHost has been able to establish a foothold in nearly every hosting category. From shared hosting with free DreamHost domain transfer to DreamHost e-commerce plans capable of supporting high-volume, high-traffic visitors, the company has a plan for practically every online project. In addition to its hosting plans, DreamHost offers cloud based computing and storage services that reflect that same entrepreneurial spirit on which the company was created. For users with even a small amount of website administration, DreamHost offers a valuable balance of great features and current technologies at an affordable price.

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Pete Griffin

  About Pete Griffin

 Pete is a digital strategist with 15 years of experience in media production
 and web project management, in PR and broadcast media environments.
 He’s the owner of "We Are Digital Vision," a Cardiff based digital communications  
 consultancy the offer consultancy, content and design services 

 Follow Pete Griffin on Google +.

 

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