Web Hosting Reviews

DreamHost Review

When preparing for this DreamHost review, we purchased our DreamHost review account using the same method as any other customer, via the sign-up page on their web site. We did not inform DreamHost that we intended to perform a review of their services. In this way, we believe we have avoided any chance of receiving 'special treatment' from DreamHost.

About DreamHost

Established by four Californian Computer Science undergraduates in 1997, DreamHost has grown to become one of the larger players in the web hosting business, with a full-time staff of 50 and over 500,000 domains hosted. Fortunately, this growth has not prevented DreamHost from retaining their original customer oriented focus.

DreamHost boasts perhaps the most loyal customer base in the web hosting industry, with many customers rising to defend the company in times of trouble. This may be the result of the irreverent attitude of those running the company and the almost total transparency shown when things go wrong. This attitude is reflected in the very amusing monthly newsletter and official company blog.

As you can imagine, hosting 500,000+ domains requires some impressive hardware and the DreamHost data centre, consisting of hundreds of multi-CPU servers running Debian Linux, is more than adequate for the task. The data centre boasts a UPS system, with back-up generator and multiple redundant gigabit connections to the Internet.

Plan Features and Pricing

DreamHost currently offer four different shared web hosting plans at various price points, but the primary difference between these plans is the disk space and bandwidth quotas offered. Realistically, the base 'Level 1' plan is more than adequate for all but the most demanding web sites, so it is this plan that we will be concentrating on in this review.

The DreamHost Level 1 'Crazy Domain Insane' hosting plan that we purchased for this review provides 200GB of disk space and 2000GB (or 2 Terabytes) of monthly data transfer/bandwidth and costs just $5.80 per month for your first year of hosting when using our special SAVEMONEY DreamHost promo code.

Interestingly, the space and bandwidth provided by DreamHost hosting plans grows each week, as a kind of 'loyalty bonus', encouraging customers to stay with DreamHost for the long-term. The Level 1 plan that we review here increases by 1GB of disk space and 16GB of data transfer/bandwidth each week.

The table below lists just some of the features provided by this plan. For a full list of the features of this and other DreamHost hosting plans, please visit the DreamHost web site.

Key features of DreamHost Level 1 plan (as reviewed)
200GB disk storage space (increases by 1GB per week)
2000GB monthly data transfer / bandwidth (increases by 16GB per week)
host unlimited domains under the one account
Unlimited sub-domains
Free domain name registration included with account
Free Domain WHOIS privacy included
3000 POP3 or IMAP e-mail accounts
SPAM-assassin e-mail filtering
Unlimited MySQL databases
Powerful custom-written control panel
Daily snapshot data backups
PHP4, PHP5, Perl, Python, CGI and Ruby / Ruby on Rails scripting
One-click install & upgrade of popular software packages
Full custom .htaccess files
crontab access for periodic task execution
Shell access via Telnet or SSH
97 day money back guarantee

Note: The DreamHost web site shows disk space and data transfer figures substantially less than the 200GB/2000GB shown in this review. However, if you use our special SAVEMONEY DreamHost promo code when signing-up, you will receive the 200GB/2000GB shown in this review, as well as a nice $50 instant discount. The space and data transfer for other DreamHost plans are also significantly increased from those shown on the DreamHost website when using our promo code. Also, the $50 discount is valid for all DreamHost plans, including monthly, 1 year and 2 year plans.

Control Panel

Unusually, the admin panel provided by DreamHost is not an 'off-the-shelf' commercial product, such as cPanel, instead DreamHost have their own custom written admin panel. While this panel can be a bit of a culture shock for those coming from other hosts, in our opinion, the DreamHost panel, once you are accustomed to it, offers a level of functionality and ease-of-use that exceeds packages such as cPanel.

Just about every task that you need to do, from managing the billing for your account, creating email addresses, installing software, registering domains to DNS configuration can be done via the panel with a minimum of fuss. For those that enjoy doing things manually, DreamHost provides full shell access with all accounts.

DreamHost also supplies a web-based FTP client for those situations where a 'real' FTP client is not available. Although, due to the inherent limitations of such web-based clients, we suggest that you use a 'real' FTP client if you can.

One thing that DreamHost does not offer is any kind of easy-to-use page creation utility, you will need to design you websites locally on your own computer and upload the relevant files to your DreamHost web space, or take advantage of the excellent 'one-click-install' feature of the admin panel (see below).

Scripting Support

All DreamHost plans support the full gamut of server-side scripting languages, including PHP4, PHP5, CGI, Perl, Python and Ruby / Ruby-On-Rails. CRON access is available for those that require scripts to run at regular intervals and custom .htaccess files are available on a domain-by-domain (or sub-domain) basis. DreamHost also provide full shell access (SSH and Telnet) on all accounts.

The DreamHost admin panel also provides for the 'one-click install' (and upgrade) of various popular scripts, such as WordPress, Joomla, phpbb, Gallery2 and MediaWiki. The number of applications available through this 'one-click install' page is less than that provided by something like Fantastico, but most of the popular packages are represented. Of-course, packages not supported through this page can be installed manually; it just takes a little more work.

Reliability

DreamHost has a reputation for excellent reliability and indeed during the first few months of hosting our test site at DreamHost this proved to be the case. However, over the last few months the DreamHost data centre has experienced a number of problems that resulted in the entire DreamHost network being off-line for extended periods, resulting in our test site being unreachable for hours at a time.

To be fair to DreamHost, some of this downtime was due to planned maintenance and advanced warning was given to customers. However, planned or unplanned, an outage is an outage and having your sites go missing in action can be extremely frustrating for customers. Hopefully, DreamHost can get on top of the data centre problems they have been experiencing and return to the excellent reliability we experienced in the first few months of our testing.

To DreamHost's credit, when there are problems, the company shows an almost total transparency, explaining exactly what went wrong and why, even if the explanation casts their own staff in a bad light. This honestly is a refreshing change for a web hosting company and we firmly believe many other companies could learn a thing or two from DreamHost in this respect.

Technical Support

All direct technical support for the DreamHost Level 1 plan is provided through support tickets sent via the admin panel. While the majority of our support queries were answered promptly, usually within 12 hours, some queries took a little longer to elicit a reply, in one case around 36 hours. The actual replies were always friendly and provided the information needed to resolve the issue at hand. DreamHost have said that they are currently hiring more support staff, so I expect the response time for support requests to improve in the future.

The more expensive DreamHost plans do provide, for customers within the United States, a limited number of support 'call-backs' per month, but since we had the Level 1 plan and were located outside of the United States, we did not have the opportunity to test this method of technical support.

DreamHost also maintains a wiki and customer support forum, both of which can be an excellent source of information, often avoiding the need to lodge a support request.

Conclusion

Overall, the DreamHost Level 1 plan represents excellent value for money. The starting quota of 200GB of disk-space and 2000GB of monthly data transfer/bandwidth should be more than enough for even the busiest web sites.

The planned and unplanned outages experienced by our DreamHost test site do cast a shadow over an otherwise excellent hosting service, but hopefully these outages will not become regular occurrences and DreamHost can return to the exceptional reliability we experienced at the beginning of our test period.

If you do decide to use DreamHost for your hosting needs, be sure to check out our special SAVEMONEY DreamHost promo code offer, which offers a $50 instant discount on all DreamHost plans.


WebHostAnalysis.com Rating For DreamHost DreamHost review - 4.5 star rating

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Web Host Disk Space Bandwidth Price
DreamHost 200GB 2000GB $5.80 / Month