DreamHost is one of the more unusual web hosts around. First impressions don’t show that, though. Rather, it appears to sit alongside our best web hosting providers, offering good speed, a solid range of plans and impressive features for a low price. That said, its slant toward security and privacy makes it an industry leader when it comes to protecting you.
In this DreamHost review, we’ll talk about what we liked and disliked after launching a website with one of its shared plans. In addition to testing speed and usability, we’ll discuss features, security, privacy, pricing and more throughout the review before giving our verdict.
DreamHost could be better in areas, but when taken as a whole, it’s impressive. The speed is solid, the price is low and the security is great. That said, it isn’t the fastest web hosting provider we’ve tested, nor the easiest to use. Even with the downsides taken into account, though, DreamHost is great.
Strengths & Weaknesses
- Many plans
- Free domain privacy
- Free SSL/TLS certificate
- Solid website builder
- Full solid-state drive storage
- Support system could use work
- Malware removal isn’t free
- Disjointed control panel
Alternatives for DreamHost
DreamHost has a lot of features, so instead of trying to cover them all, we’re going to focus on the shared end of things. As plans get more expensive, the features get more specialized, so if you’re looking for something specific that we didn’t cover, we recommend going to DreamHost’s website for details.
The service is built around, well, the service. Instead of providing flashy features, most of DreamHost’s offerings are focused on improving the web hosting experience. That includes full SSD storage, unlimited email at your domain and a free SSL certificate.
As we’ll touch on in the “security” section below, DreamHost has a particular mindset when it comes to security and privacy. Where other services charge for security and privacy features, DreamHost sees them as a right. Because of that, it leads the charge in changing many of the dated ideas in the web hosting industry.
It’s not like DreamHost is barren outside of that, though. All users get the Remixer website builder, which uses a block-style interface that resembles Webnode (read our Webnode review). Though responsive and powerful for a built-in website builder, Remixer is just a few pegs below our best website builders.
That’s mainly because it doesn’t come with the integrations of Wix or Weebly, which sit at the top of our website builder reviews (read our Wix review and Weebly review). It’s powerful and capable of putting together an excellent-looking website, but if you’re looking for a large app store or advanced features, it’s best to stick with a dedicated builder.
Even so, Remixer has one big advantage. Though you can simply publish the website you build with Remixer, you can also export it to WordPress. That enables you to take advantage of the excellent building interface and range of templates without giving up the flexibility that WordPress offers.
Other features are mostly focused around the plans they’re included in. For example, DreamPress plans, which we’ll talk about in the “hosting types” section, include some version of Jetpack and cloud hosting offers full root access.
DreamHost Features Overview
|Web Application Firewall|
|Telephone Support||Paid support|
|Live Chat Support|
DreamHost is cheaper than other providers if you look at promotional pricing. Hostinger may get you a lower rate on shared hosting if you buy three or four years upfront (read our Hostinger review), but for the most part, DreamHost is in line with other providers when it comes to promotional rates.
That’s just for the initial term, though. DreamHost ends up being much cheaper than the competition upon renewal, and with its easy to understand and transparent pricing scheme, it’s clear what you’re buying when you check out. When it’s all said and done, DreamHost is a simple way to get cheap web hosting.
Contrast that with iPage, which, as you can see in our iPage review, lets you but a shared plan for around $2 per month. That’s only if you buy three years upfront, though. Once your initial term is over, you’ll be spending around $8 per month, which is a baseline price for most of the web hosting industry.
That isn’t the case with DreamHost. Though you’ll still save the most money by purchasing the longest duration, basic shared hosting renews at around $6 a month, which is much cheaper than the rest of the market. That carries across plans, too, with DreamHost coming in a few dollars cheaper than other top-shelf providers.
Plus, you get a choice in the duration you purchase. Using iPage again, you can only purchase one to three years of hosting. Across all DreamHost plans, you can purchase one month, one year or three years. The ability to go monthly can’t be understated, especially on shared packages.
All shared plans are backed by DreamHost’s 97-day money-back guarantee, too. No matter which duration you choose, you get over three months to change your mind and get your money back. DreamHost is an industry leader when it comes to refund periods, leaving InMotion Hosting’s 90-day window in the dust.
For pricing, DreamHost offers everything we want. Plans are cheaper than the rest of the market, the pricing is transparent throughout the checkout process, you can purchase any duration you want and plans are backed by a generous money-back guarantee. For us, it’s all thumbs up for pricing.
Ease of Use
As mentioned, DreamHost is transparent about pricing, and that helps ease of use a lot. On each product page, there’s a toggle switch between monthly and yearly plans, clearly showing you how much plans cost before you get to a checkout page. DreamHost also shows the percentage you’re saving over a monthly plan.
Once you select a plan, you’ll be sent to an attractive three-part checkout process. Though most web hosts simply display an itemized list of services, DreamHost makes the checkout process feel fresh. The checkout page has dynamic elements that move across the page as you’re checking out, bringing a level of quality that’s seldom seen with web hosts.
Your checkout details are shown on the right side of the page, and the checkout page’s responsiveness and clean layout show a knowledge of website design that few other hosts do.
What’s important is that it never feels like DreamHost is trying to get one over on you. Though other web hosts seem to sneak in multi-year contracts or unnecessary features and fees with your plan, DreamHost is clear throughout what you’re buying and what price you’ll pay for it.
Once you complete payment, DreamHost will redirect you to a password creation page while sending a few emails to the address you registered. We like that approach because it doesn’t make you dig through your email to find account details. That said, the password you create should be stored with our best password manager, Dashlane (read our Dashlane review).
There was something strange during checkout, though. Originally, we planned to point a domain we already owned toward DreamHost, but that failed during checkout. Instead, we said we’d register a domain later. Upon entering the control panel, though, it was clear that DreamHost generated a subdomain for us and installed WordPress there.
What wasn’t clear was that we still needed to add a domain, and doing so wasn’t simple. We not only needed to delete the subdomain DreamHost generated, but we also had to wait for the nameservers of our registrar to kick in before we could add it. In short, it’s best to register a domain with DreamHost if you’re signing up for an account.
DreamHost Control Panel
DreamHost doesn’t have cPanel. Instead, it has its own take on a control panel, and though it doesn’t have the app-based approach that cPanel has, it works well. If you’re interested in cPanel, check out our best web hosting with cPanel guide.
In many ways, cPanel is flashy. The icons are large and colorful, the specs make you feel like you’re piloting a complex ship and the overwhelming amount of detail assuredly means that it’s powerful. Poking fun aside, cPanel is powerful, but it can be a bit much, especially if you’re trying to accomplish simple tasks.
DreamHost’s control panel is all business, ditching the flashy icons for a more streamlined layout. Though not as exciting, the control panel is built for usability. The left-side menu handles navigation around your control panel, clearly showing ways to build your website or manage your service.
That said, the control panel can feel disjointed at points. For example, the “WordPress” tab starts with “one-click installs,” which shows an almost blank screen with a few options, and directly below that is “DreamPress,” which looks more like an advertisement than anything.
That’s an aesthetic concern, so it doesn’t make a big difference when it comes to usability. Providers such as Bluehost prove you can have looks and functionality, though (read our Bluehost review).
That said, DreamHost’s effort to design a control panel pays off. The interface is streamlined, managing your hosting and account details under one roof without feeling overwhelming. Even so, it’s clear that some areas have gotten more attention than others, with strange, dated design choices on some pages and a modern approach on others.
DreamHost has a confusing lineup with a break between shared and WordPress hosting. Despite that, the types of hosting you can purchase break down easily. You can buy shared, VPS, dedicated and cloud hosting.
We’ll talk more about WordPress packages in a minute because DreamHost’s offering is worthy of its own section.
Shared plans are easy to digest. When purchasing one, you’re buying space on a server that has other websites stored on it, bringing the overall cost per website down. Though great for saving money, shared plans generally aren’t as fast or consistent as a dedicated option.
DreamHost offers two versions: Starter and Unlimited. The plans are identical outside of the number of domains you can host. Starter allows you to have one domain and five subdomains, while Unlimited offers, who would’ve guessed, unlimited domains.
We like how DreamHost has its shared plans split up. Unlike other web hosts that offer a confusing, tiered structure — read our HostGator review for an example — DreamHost just asks you the number of websites you need to host.
VPS plans are similar to shared plans in that you’re using a server with other websites, but rather than sharing resources, you get your own. Instead of offering multiple shared plans, DreamHost offers multiple VPS plans, giving you options to buy in cheaply if you run a small website or purchase a large package if you need more power.
To get dedicated hosting, you have to contact DreamHost directly. As the name implies, dedicated hosting gives you a server to yourself. Though you can browse the available servers to find one that works for you, talking to a DreamHost agent is generally the best bet. You can also invest in a dedicated server if you’re interested in reselling hosting.
Shared, VPS and dedicated hosting are standard fare for top-tier web hosts. What’s exciting about DreamHost is cloud hosting. Cloud hosting, or DreamCompute as DreamHost calls it, distributes your website across the cloud. Because there’s no centralized location, cloud hosting provides better speed and security than traditional forms of hosting.
DreamHost puts a twist on it, too. Instead of just paying a monthly fee, you only pay for the hours you use. It’s not unlimited, though. DreamHost will only charge you up to 600 hours (25 days) per month, so you know what you’re paying. Plus, because of the structure of cloud hosting, you can add more resources as you need them.
If you click on “WordPress” at the top of DreamHost’s website, you’ll be presented with options from the shared and VPS plans. We’re going to focus on the WordPress-exclusive plans called DreamPress, though. DreamPress is a managed WordPress solution that uses cloud hosting for the best in speed and uptime for the lowest cost possible.
There are web hosts that specialize in managed WordPress hosting — read our Pagely review and Kinsta review for examples — but we seldom see a provider that has excellent managed WordPress hosting in addition to an impressive lineup. Unsurprisingly, DreamPress earned a spot in our best web hosting for WordPress guide.
The specs are great, but the features are even more impressive. In addition to automated daily backups, you get unlimited on-demand backups for protecting your website, avoiding the need to manually backup WordPress. Because DreamPress is managed, you get automated WordPress updates, too.
Additionally, you get some tier of Jetpack with each plan, and DreamPress Pro and DreamPress Plus subscribers can use any of the premium WordPress.com themes.
DreamPress combines value and power into a managed WordPress package, which is difficult to find. Though Pagely offers powerful WordPress hosting, it’s expensive. On the other hand, you can save a few bones with a shared option, such as Arvixe, but you’ll sacrifice a lot of power (read our Arvixe review).
DreamHost strikes an impressive balance that’s perfect for the majority of WordPress users. If you’re just getting started with WordPress, read our tutorial series:
Speed & Uptime
We use Pingdom Speed Test and Load Impact to test website speed. Pingdom Speed Test gives an isolated load time for an individual user accessing the website, as well as a detailed connection log, so we can see where the snag, if any, is located. Load Impact simulates how the website may perform in the real world.
The tests were done with DreamHost’s most inexpensive shared plan on a blank version of WordPress. That way, we can ensure that no flashy themes or elements are skewing the results.
DreamHost performed well, but not as well as a top performer such as A2 Hosting (read our A2 Hosting review). Even so, it wasn’t far behind. With a score of 90 out of 100, DreamHost is impressive when it comes to speed, though, as you can see in the chart below, the “wait” metric accounts for more time than we’d like.
That metric measures the time the browser is waiting to receive data from the server. Based on our testing, we can see that most of the load time is just waiting for data to start flowing, suggesting that DreamHost could do more to optimize its load time. Even so, the results aren’t bad.
Load Impact produced good results, but we’ve seen better. There were a couple of spikes in load time as the user load increased, but DreamHost always managed to return to where it started. It’s similar in performance to InMotion Hosting (read our InMotion Hosting review) in that there’s a small amount of inconsistency, but nothing to knock it for.
If you want to see what inconsistent performance looks like in our Load Impact test, read our GreenGeeks review.
As for uptime, DreamHost guarantees a lot more than most web hosts. Instead of a 99.9 percent uptime, it has a 100 percent uptime guarantee, which is a significant difference, as you can see in our uptime guarantee guide. Thankfully, DreamHost defines what the guarantee means in the terms of service.
Should your website, databases, email, FTP, SSH or webmail go down because of a failure in DreamHost’s systems, you’ll receive credit for one day of hosting for each hour the service is down. Unfortunately, you’ll only be compensated for up to 10 percent of your next hosting period, unlike SiteGround, which will give you a month of hosting for free (read our SiteGround review).
It’s important to note that this guarantee only applies to unannounced downtime. If you take your website offline for any reason, be it a malicious file or anything else, the guarantee doesn’t apply. It doesn’t apply to scheduled, announced maintenance, either.
Overall, DreamHost is quick and resilient, even if it struggles to keep up with our top performers. That said, it’s faster than most, and with a solid uptime guarantee, this section shakes out well for it.
Security is a major focus for DreamHost. While other web hosts see it as a service, DreamHost sees it as a right. Many security tools are included with your plan for free, ensuring your website is safe from unencrypted connections and malware.
That starts with a free Let’s Encrypt SSL/TLS certificate. Though free SSL certificates are becoming more common, DreamHost was one of the first providers to include one for free. When using an SSL/TLS certificate, you’re essentially telling the browser connecting to your website that you can be trusted, encrypting the visitor’s connection.
Though great for protecting data in-transit, SSL certificates are especially important if you collect personal information on your website, be it a contact form or checkout page. With one installed, the personal data passing between you and the visitor is encrypted, which you can read about in our description of encryption.
Behind the scenes, DreamHost uses ModSecurity, which is an open source web application firewall designed for Apache servers. Because of its open source nature, DreamHost is able to add hundreds of custom rules to the firewall to ensure any connection that should be stopped is.
The security package is rounded out by DreamShield, DreamHost’s malware removal tool. Unfortunately, though, it’s not included with your plan. Given how many security and privacy features DreamHost includes for free, it only makes sense that DreamShield would be, too, but that’s not the case.
Instead, it’ll run you $3 per month, which isn’t bad, but free is better. Even so, it’s superior to most built-in scanning tools. DreamShield will run weekly scans on your website and automatically clean anything it finds. The removal part of protection is important because most bundled malware tools only scan your website.
It works like an antivirus for your website (read our best antivirus software guide), protecting you from cybercrime-related unpleasantness. DreamShield is cheap enough and impressive enough to be worth it, but if DreamHost is looking to buff its security package, including DreamShield for free would be a good place to start.
DreamHost’s security may be impressive, but its privacy stands out even more. Though we normally talk about privacy in our best VPNs, it’s important for web hosting, too, not only for respecting the rights of citizens in free states, but also for protecting the data of users interacting with websites.
Every domain registered with DreamHost includes domain privacy, which replaces the personal information you register with the domain with the information of the registrar. Almost every web host charges for domain privacy, which isn’t right. At less than $1 per month, charging for domain privacy seems like a cheap way to nickel and dime the customer.
DreamHost realizes that user privacy shouldn’t be a service but a right, so it includes domain privacy for free. Though that’s a big deal to us, an even bigger deal is a company fighting on behalf of its customers to maintain their privacy.
In 2017, DreamHost was contacted by the U.S. Department of Justice to provide information on disruptj20.org, which was a website built around organizing political protests of the Trump administration in the U.S. It’s important to note that the website wasn’t talking about violence or anything of the sort. Rather, it was focused on protesting and resisting.
Regardless of your political views, the DOJ did something indefensible, requesting DreamHost not only hand over the information about the owner of the website, but also everyone who had visited. In total, the DOJ demanded 1.3 million IP addresses and the personally identifiable information of thousands of registered users.
The short of it is that after DreamHost denied the request, the DOJ filed a motion with the Washington D.C. Superior Court to ask for the documents, which DreamHost responded to with opposition arguments.
After a slog, the data still needed to be handed over, but with much of the personally identifiable information redacted by DreamHost. The court recognized the government “does not have the right to rummage through the information contained on DreamHost’s website.”
The outcome of the this case doesn’t say anything about DreamHost, but the fact that the company stood up for user privacy speaks volumes. It’s one of the web hosts, if not the only, that care about user privacy, which can’t be ignored.
We’ve never been annoyed by support, and though DreamHost’s human team doesn’t annoy us, the robot on the homepage does. When you land on the website, you’ll be greeted by a sales robot asking why you’re visiting and direct you to the different services DreamHost offers.
That aside, the robot can point you toward real support. From your account dashboard, you can access support by clicking the “support” tab in the left-side menu or in the top menu. In the left-side menu, you can run through DreamHost’s ticket-based support process, as well as view the status of your server and databases.
The ticket-based support is good. DreamHost first asks you to describe your problem, which it will then try to solve using the knowledgebase. If you can’t find an answer, you’ll be able to email or chat with a support rep. Phone support is available, too, but for a price. It’ll run you $10 per callback or $15 per month for up to three calls a month.
You shouldn’t need to reach out to support much, though, which is good considering the process isn’t simple. The knowledgebase is dense and easy to navigate, covering basic and advanced topics with the same amount of care.
Outside of that, there’s a user forum, which is rare in the world of web hosting. It’s not the best support tool — a quick glance shows only a peppering of answers to recent questions — but if you can’t find support anywhere else, it’s available.
Overall, support is good, but it could be made great with a more streamlined contact process. Charging for phone support burns, too. That said, the reps we spoke with were polite and helpful, and the knowledgebase offers a good amount of self-help resources.
DreamHost is something special. With low prices, impressive speed and a good range of features, it can hold its own against any top-shelf provider (just as it did in our DreamHost vs Bluehost comparison). That said, DreamHost isn’t just another high-quality web host. Rather, it has a particular interest in user security and privacy, separating it from a crowded market.
All in all, you could spend a lot more and do a lot worse. DreamHost does everything we want a web host to do, even if some providers are better in certain areas. If you’re interested in something DreamHost doesn’t offer, read our web hosting reviews.
What do you think of DreamHost? Let us know in the comments below and, as always, thanks for reading.