Disclosure: I may be compensated via the links clicked in the article. The opinions expressed are my own and stand by my recommendations. Read the disclaimer.

DreamHost Review – Should You Trust Them For Web Hosting?

DreamHost Homepage

DreamHost is one of the largest and most established hosting companies online. They have been operating since 1997 (positively ancient by digital standards) and have grown to serve more than 1.5 million websites and 400,000 customers across the globe.

They are independent and employee-owned (ie, they aren’t another Newfold Digital or GoDaddy brand). They are also one of the longest supporters of open source and community-built software (ie, WordPress, etc).

DreamHost offers a full spectrum of hosting solutions from Shared (most common) to VPS to Cloud – and even a specialized WordPress offering along with complementary services like email and domain management.

But older and employee-owned doesn’t mean they are the best fit for everyone. While moving one of my side projects off an old HostGator VPS, I took the opportunity to give DreamHost’s shared hosting plan a try.

Here’s my DreamHost Hosting review – structured with the pros, cons, and direct comparisons to competitors based on my experience as a customer.

DreamHost ReviewDreamHost Review

9.0 Out of 10
Hosting PlansWeb Hosting, WordPress Hosting, VPS & Dedicated Servers
Tech SupportHelp Desk, Forum, Knowledge Base & Social Media
UptimeExcellent (100% past 6 months)
GuaranteesUptime & 97-Day Money Back
Free MigrationNo
Best ForSmall businesses & web designers
StrengthsLow cost, simple pricing & good performance
WeaknessesSmall businesses & web designers
PromotionShared Web Hosting Starting At $2.59/mo

DreamHost Pricing

Shared Hosting Plans

PlanShared StarterShared Unlimited
Intial Price*$2.59/mo.$3.95/mo.
Renewal Price$5.99/mo.$10.99/mo.
Websites1unlimited
Storage50 GBunlimited
Bandwidth/monthunmeteredunmetered
Free Domain Name1 year1 year
Free SSLyesyes
CDN--
Dedicated IP--
Daily Backups--
* Pricing per month for a 36-month subscription

Managed WordPress Plans

PlanDreamPressDreamPress PlusDreamPress Pro
Price*$16.95/mo.$24.95/mo.$71.95/mo.
Websites111
Storage30 GB60 GB120 GB
Visitors/month100,000300,0001,000,000
Free Domain Name1 year1 year1 year
Free SSLyesyesyes
CDN-yesyes
Dedicated IP---
Daily Backupsyesyesyes
* Pricing per month for a 12-month subscription

DreamHost Alternatives

Out of the most well-known web hosts that I’ve used as a customer or consultant, here’s how DreamHost compares directly to each.

Visit BluehostRead the Review
Rating
9.5/10
Price
$2.95 - $13.95 per month
Promotion
Starting At $2.95/mo
Visit HostGatorRead the Review
Rating
9.0/10
Price
$2.75 - $5.25 per month
Promotion
Cyber Week - Up To 75% Off
Visit GoDaddyRead the Review
Rating
8.5/10
Price
$5.99 - $20.99 per month
Promotion
Get A .COM Domain Name For Only $4.99

DreamHost vs. HostGator

HostGator is one of the most well-known brands online. I have many of my small personal projects with them.

They beat DreamHost on pricing – especially if you only need a single website. They also beat DreamHost on performance based on my tests. HostGator also uses cPanel for a backend, though it has a few cluttering ads.

HostGator is also owned by Newfold Digital – a major hosting corporation and has average customer support. They’re a bit of a toss-up based on what you prioritize. If you trust independent companies more, DreamHost is fine.

If you don’t care, then you’ll save some money with HostGator – see their plans.

DreamHost vs. GoDaddy

GoDaddy is the big, Super Bowl advertising, everything brand in the domain/hosting industry. And though they have improved since 2013, they still aren’t particularly great (see my GoDaddy hosting review here and comparison with Namecheap here).

They beat DreamHost on short-term pricing. But DreamHost gets better performance and a better overall experience. I’d go with DreamHost unless you are already familiar and fine with GoDaddy.

Go see GoDaddy’s plans.

DreamHost vs. Bluehost

Bluehost is one of HostGator’s sister brands owned by Endurance International. They were one of the best choices for affordable hosting for a very long time. They’ve recently restructured their plans and services to their own disadvantage.

BlueHost loses to DreamHost on overall pricing, though BlueHost is still the one with a better backend, phone support, and cheaper plan options for smaller websites.

Go see Bluehost’s plans.

DreamHost vs. SiteGround

SiteGround is one of the fastest-growing independent hosting companies.

They are based in Bulgaria but provide excellent service globally. They have better performance, better customer service (with more options), and have a more global presence with 4 data centers than DreamHost.

SiteGround is also much more expensive than DreamHost. So again, it depends on your priorities.

See SiteGround’s plans.

DreamHost vs. InMotion

InMotion Hosting is one of the most established independent, employee-owned hosting companies along with DreamHost.

In my experience, InMotion beats DreamHost on almost every aspect – except for pricing on unlimited everything plans, Dreamhost’s 97-day guarantee vs InMotion’s 90-day guarantee, and DreamHost’s monthly pricing option.

InMotion provides capped, cheaper plans for smaller websites. They also have a sister brand, Web Hosting Hub, that has even more affordable plans for small websites. InMotion has more support channels and better performance.

I’d recommend InMotion over DreamHost. See InMotion’s plans here.

Pros of DreamHost

There are a lot of DreamHost reviews online – usually with user-generated reviews based on anecdotes and personal experience. That’s fine but I take a different approach. Like I’ve mentioned in other hosting reviews, there is no such thing as a “best” web host. It’s all about the best fit for your project based on your goals, budget, experience & expertise. Here are the pros (advantages) for considering DreamHost.

Pricing & Plan Simplicity

Anyone who has shopped for shared hosting knows that plans can be confusing to say the least. One host will cap disk storage space, another will cap the number of websites and yet another will cap the number of databases you can use, and still, another will offer zero “bonus” features.

It’s maddening to figure out what’s the right plan for you from one company – much less compare them across other hosts to find the best value, but pricing is a huge consideration so you can’t avoid it.

Although DreamHost offers a spectrum of specialized hosting services, their main shared hosting offering has two very clear variants.

There are no tiers or upgrades. It’s two plans at a clear price based on how many years you sign up for. One has only 1 website & no email included. The other has unlimited websites and email included.

Their pricing is affordable and very competitive. There is also no deep discount bait and switch (for better or worse) where you get the first year for super cheap and renew at a very high price.

Their unlimited plan offers unlimited databases, unlimited disk space, unlimited email accounts, and unlimited websites (*all subject to an abuse policy). If you are potentially in charge of multiple websites, you don’t have to worry about migrating or facing sticker shock at renewal.

If you only have a single site and use Google Workspace for email, then the Starter variant allows you to save some money while keeping access to all the same features.

Core & Developer Feature Set

Like I mentioned in pricing, DreamHost provides unlimited access to the “core” feature set of any good web host. That feature set is –

  • the ability to point your domain to a server
  • the storage of website files on a server
  • the installation of a database/software to manage your website

Unless you are running your email through a service like Google Apps or Outlook , hosting should also provide email functionality, and DreamHost provides the full core features set with no caps. DreamHost also provides a solid assortment of more advanced functionality – like full CGI access, raw server logs, cron jobs, and subversion repository.

Dreamhost Advanced Features

They also allocate a solid default allocation of memory to your account.

And they also have all shared hosting servers on SSD hard drives instead of traditional spinning disk hard drives. These should, in theory, create a better long-term performance.

(Nearly) Full Spectrum of Hosting Services

As a related advantage, DreamHost provides a full spectrum of hosting services for growing or specialized hosting needs. Most websites start on a shared server since that makes the most sense based on traffic levels & budget. However, if your site ends up growing or expanding in ways that you hadn’t planned for, it helps to be able to expand with a company that you already have experience with.

DreamHost’s Managed WordPress Hosting service is an offering that has truly WordPress-specific features, such as isolated databases on VPS servers and Varnish caching.

Aside – Some hosting brands simply use the term, “WordPress Hosting” to charge more for shared hosting, which is perfectly adequate for most all websites running on WordPress. DreamHost, along with competitors like InMotion, SiteGround, and WP Engine provide managed hosting services tailored to WordPress.

DreamHost also offers traditional upgrades to VPS and Dedicated servers (think upgrading to a townhome or a house from an apartment) for growing websites, and cloud hosting for app developers.

Overall, DreamHost’s feature set and spectrum of services are a big advantage for them.

Customer Support & Transparency

Every hosting company claims to have stellar customer service. And every prospective customer ends up wondering if they really do – or just say they do.

The trouble with judging customer service is that it’s defined by the extremes. That one careless, rookie employee paired with a demanding, unclear customer can create a meaningless “Worst Company in The World” review. On the flip side, a customer with a simple question of a single rockstar employee can create a meaningless “Best Company in the World” review.

What I find useful is to look at how companies handle public portions of their customer service, and how much they invest in customer support infrastructure (ie, user guides, onboarding, knowledgebases, etc). Both can give you a decent idea of whether the company treats customer service as an investment or as a cost.

Overall, I’ve been impressed with DreamHost’s customer support. Their onboarding process is plain text, but useful. They have a solid knowledge base, forums, and user guides.

DreamHost Onboarding screenshot for my DreamHost Hosting Review

And even though they do not have phone support (see the cons section), their in-house team is available 24/7 via live chat, email, and Twitter.

DreamHost also has a separate DreamHost status website that has running updates of critical issues, downtime and system updates. It allows DreamHost to be responsive and transparent with customers whenever something does happen.

DreamHost Transparency example screenshot for my DreamHost Hosting Review

Improved Performance

In addition to hosting your website, you’ll want a host that can deliver your website files to whoever requests them as quickly as possible.

Website speed – like customer support – has a whole world of variables that affect performance. There are often several dozen ways that you can improve the performance of your website. But your host is still going to be the primary variable in the equation.

I like to check the Time To First Byte (TTFB) on any web host I’m working with. It’s a measurement of how quickly the server returns the first byte of information after it receives a request from a browser. In other words, it’s server turnaround time.

It’s not the only way to look at a web host’s performance, but it’s an easy way to get a ballpark estimate. A few years ago, my tests on DreamHost had an alright performance. Here’s the result –

DreamHost TTFB

Their performance was better than cut-rate hosts like GoDaddy or iPage. But it’s nowhere near hosts like InMotion Hosting or even HostGator. The test was very odd given that DreamHost touts their new SSD servers.

However, after a couple of years, I ran my tests again on a selection of DreamHost websites. Here are the much-improved results –

DreamHost Speed

Overall, DreamHost does well on performance not only because their most recent test was solid, but also because their numbers are continually moving in the right direction.

Independent & Employee Owned

Being independent is not always a good thing – and being corporate-owned is not always a bad thing. Sometimes independent companies are missing critical capital and expertise, and sometimes corporate-owned companies take cost-cutting and management by numbers too far.

However, given DreamHost’s stability and longevity, I think being independent and employee-owned is a solid advantage. Many brands that are owned by large corporations (ie, iPage) are focused on cost-cutting. DreamHost has repeatedly reinvested in their team and customers.

Like their independent competitors such as InMotion and SiteGround, DreamHost seems to be a better company with a better product than many large corporate-owned hosting brands.

Cons of DreamHost

Like any web host, DreamHost has disadvantages. Here are the cons that I found while using DreamHost for hosting.

Pricing

DreamHost’s shared hosting plan is simple and competitive. They also don’t do any deep short-term discounts. That’s both a good thing – and a bad thing.

The flip side of a single, unlimited plan with no deep discounts is that DreamHost is more expensive than competitors:

Not every website owner needs unlimited websites or unlimited databases. Tiered pricing allows customers to only pay for what they need. If you are trying to run a single site on a tight budget, paying more for unlimited everything is nice, but not necessary.

Additionally, the deep discounts at other hosting companies save website owners real money. If the bill for 1 year’s hosting is $100, and you can save 30% – that’s still $30 saved. And if you can renew at the same rate that DreamHost renews at – then you’re even further ahead.

Although DreamHost’s pricing is a pro overall, be sure to decide exactly what you need and look at pricing through your own budget & priorities.

Custom Backend

At most hosting companies, you have an account area where you access to billing, account information, bonuses (ie, Google AdWords credits), etc – it will also have links to your actual server backend/dashboard.

Most hosting companies use cPanel as the server backend/dashboard. cPanel is where you go to do anything with your hosting server – install any applications (ie, WordPress), set up email addresses, get your FTP information to upload files, etc. It’s simple, straightforward, and since most hosting companies use it, it’s sort of an industry standard that you can get help with anywhere online.

DreamHost does not use that setup. They use a proprietary backend for both your account administration and your server administration.

DreamHost Backend screenshot for my DreamHost Hosting Review

On one hand, it is simplified and allows DreamHost to provide a truly customized experience. On the other hand, the setup is confusing and feels limiting. Most of the core functionality is under “Goodies” – which groups everything from advanced features like Cron Jobs with bonuses like Google AdWords coupons.

From what I can tell, most of the options that you would otherwise get in cPanel are either in the DreamHost dashboard, or they are in a series of emails that they send. It’s just that everything is buried somewhere instead of out in the open like cPanel.

In theory, DreamHost could use the proprietary backend to create a better user experience, but I think they end up creating more work for their customer support system.

Lack of Apps & Auto-Installs

There are hundreds if not thousands of software apps that you can use on your hosting server. The most famous example is WordPress, which is a “content management system” to set up, run and edit a website. But there’s other software ranging from Joomla to PrestaShop to Wiki applications and more.

All these applications can be installed manually, however, many web hosting companies like InMotion have free installer scripts (the most well-known are Softaculous and Fantastico). These installer scripts automatically install your software with a couple of clicks so you can get right down to building whatever you are trying to build.

Aside – I show how one works on HostGator in my WordPress website set up guide here.

DreamHost does not have that. They have a custom application that links to a few applications, and will get them ready. But they don’t actually install them for you.

DreamHost Apps

In the case of WordPress , it’s not too big of a deal. The install process just takes a couple extra steps. But for other applications, you’ll end up having to install them manually.

No Phone Support

I mentioned DreamHost’s support in the pros section. They are available 24/7 across a wide range of channels….except phone. From my research – it looks like they will do call-backs after you first go through another channel.

DreamHost Phone Number screenshot for my DreamHost Hosting Review
Source: Google search results

Most customers are likely fine with that – and it may allow them to provide better service on other channels. But if you are the type of customer who just wants to get a person on the phone – this point will be a big disadvantage for DreamHost.

Conclusion

Overall, I found DreamHost to be an excellent hosting company with a few disadvantages. If you want a good hosting company, and you are a fan of their brand, independence, and simplicity, then go ahead and sign up for DreamHost.

If you want an independent hosting company and don’t need the monthly payment option, you’ll get a better deal at InMotion Hosting.

If you are looking for an affordable shared hosting company with even better pricing, then go check out HostGator.

If you are more confused than ever – then take my BuzzFeed style WordPress Hosting quiz here, the Web Hosting Quiz here or use my website setup guide here!

Nate Shivar

About Nate Shivar

I'm Nate Shivar - a marketing educator, consultant, and formerly Senior SEO Specialist at a marketing agency in Atlanta, GA. I try to help people who run their own websites...run them a little better.

I like to geek out on Marketing, SEO, Analytics, and Better Websites.

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