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What is it?
Provider of shared web hosting and managed WordPress hosting for small businesses.
How popular is it?
Over 400,000 customers and hosts over 1.5 million domains.
Who is it right for?
Tech savvy small businesses that want a simply priced web hosting plan (no different tiers; no price hikes after renewal) with unlimited resources.
Who is it not right for?
Businesses that want around-the-clock phone support and a built-in website builder to create their website.
Types of Hosting Solutions Available?
Shared Hosting, Managed WordPress Hosting, Virtual Private Server, and Dedicated Server.
24/7/365 live chat and email support + detailed self help wiki + 3 monthly callbacks for $9.95/month
Average Uptime/Response Time?
Good. 99.76 % uptime and 734 ms response time (tracked by WP Dev Shed).
- Shared hosting: $9.95 per month (see pricing section for more details).
- WordPress hosting: $19.95 per month (see pricing section for more details)
1-Click WordPress Installation:
1-Click Shopping Cart Installation:
Bandwidth/Storage Space (see below for more details):
- Shared hosting: Unlimited bandwidth and storage.
- WordPress hosting: Unlimited bandwidth and storage.
Yes, one free domain name is included for as long as you use Dreamhost.
Yes. unlimited emails are included.
Does it include a Website Builder?
Included Security Features:
SSH; FTPS and SFTP secure file transfer; SSL certificate for extra fee; malware and spam protection; daily auto backups; free domain privacy.
Integrated Control Panel?
Yes. Dreamhost has its own control panel called Web Panel (cPanel and Plesk are not available).
Dreamhost stands out from competing web hosts because it offers a single plan with unlimited resources and doesn’t hike up the price when you renew. For a pretty reasonable price, both the shared hosting plan and WordPress plan come with unlimited emails, storage, and bandwidth. No other web host matches that.
The downside is that you need some technical knowledge to use Dreamhost. It doesn’t include a website builder, and phone support is costly and limited. The wait times for live chat can be quite long since it’s the only free mode of live support. In addition, migrating your site over to Dreamhost from another provider can be complicated if you’re unfamiliar with web hosting.
In this review, we primarily cover Dreamhost’s shared hosting plans, although we did include a separate section for businesses with WordPress websites. A shared hosting plan divides a single server’s resources (processing power, memory, etc.) among the websites of several businesses. Shared hosting is an economical, appropriate choice for most small businesses. E-commerce businesses or businesses that want more control over their hosting should choose a Virtual Private Server, Dedicated Server, or Cloud Host. If you’re unfamiliar with web hosting, review our guide on Web Hosting Basics.
Dreamhost has only one shared hosting package that contains all the features. The price only changes based on your payment plan. The price for a two-year signup is about average when compared to other providers, but the good thing is that you don’t have to worry about price hikes after the initial term (unless Dreamhost has changed its pricing by then).
- Monthly – $10.95 per month (billed monthly)
- Annual – $9.95 per month (billed annually)
- 2-Year: $8.95 per month (billed biennially)
You can view more pricing details here.
Dreamhost has a generous 97-day money back guarantee, longer than any of the other web hosts we reviewed. It is not as generous as the anytime prorated refund offered by Bluehost. However, this is an excellent way to try out Dreamhost for a few months and see if it works well for your website(s).
Dreamhost shared hosting is going to meet the needs of most small businesses. You get unlimited email, storage, bandwidth, and databases! However, if you accept credit card payments or store sensitive information on your website, you will need to purchase an Shared Socket Layer (SSL) certificate for $15/year. That’s not included in the shared hosting plan.
You can claim $100 in free Google advertising credits from Dreamhost. Those credits basically end up paying for the plan in the first year if you do business marketing on Google.
Non-profit companies may be eligible for free shared hosting from Dreamhost.
If you’re not very tech savvy, you should choose a web host that will lend a helping hand if you experience problems with your website. In this respect, Dreamhost falls short of the excellent customer support we got from GoDaddy.
Bluehost Support Hours:
Live chat support is available 24/7/365, but the wait times can be very long because that is the only source of free live support on Dreamhost. For $9.95/month, you can purchase Premium Support, but even that only limits you to 3 callbacks in one month. You cannot initiate a call to Dreamhost, which is a big drawback for small businesses that may be new to web hosting. Other hosts, such as GoDaddy and Bluehost, include around the clock phone support in the price of their shared hosting plans.
On the plus side, Dreamhost is quick to respond to emails 24/7, and their self-help wiki is very detailed.
Self Help, Phone, Email, Live Chat?
Live chat, email, and self-help are included with your purchase. Phone support is an additional fee as noted above.
Uptime & Server Response Times:
WP Dev Shed tracks uptime and response times for several web hosts, including Dreamhost. Uptime is the time during which the shared server (and your website) is up and running. Response time is how long the server takes to deliver content when visitors come to your website.
Dreamhost offers an uptime guarantee of 100 %. They promise to give you a prorated credit for any downtime. However, how uptime is measured differs a lot among hosts, and even a few hours of downtime per month can mean lost customers and lost money for your business.
Uptime/Response Times: 99.76 % uptime and 734 ms response times This is slower on both counts than GoDaddy. Bluehost had better uptime than Dreamhost, but Dreamhost had better response times. All in all, however, all three services work pretty fast.
Supported 1-Click installations:
You can customize your website by adding applications to meet your specific business needs. Dreamhost lets you easily add applications, such as your WordPress blog or a shopping cart software, with one click from your control panel.
Most web applications like WordPress and Joomla run on a database. You need a MySQL database for every WordPress site or application that you install.
Popular 1-Click Applications Supported: WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, MediaWiki Zen Cart. View a more complete list of 1-click installs here. The full list of applications is accessible from your control panel in the “Goodies” tab.
Number of MySQL databases: Unlimited.
Dreamhost has a decent number of security features to keep your website and customer information secure, but SSL protection costs extra.
SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) – SSL protection is not included in the Dreamhost package. This is a drawback to Dreamhost for e-commerce businesses since many other hosts, such as Bluehost and HostGator, offer a free SSL certificate. You can purchase an SSL certificate from Dreamhost for $15/year. SSL encrypts private data while it is transferred over the Internet. Small businesses that accept credit card payments on their websites (instead of submitting payments through a third party processor) or store sensitive data on their websites should get SSL protection.
When comparing different web hosts, you will likely come across the distinction between shared and private SSL certificates. Most businesses that accept credit cards or store sensitive information will need a fully secure private SSL certificate that protects transactions on their own domain.
Regular Backups – Dreamhost does daily auto backups of their servers and saves the data for one to two weeks. Backups ensure that your website can be restored in the event the server crashes or your website is compromised.
Secure File Transfer – Dreamhost has technology that encrypts confidential data while you are transferring files into and out of your website. This is important if you store sensitive information on your website.
Other Included Security Features –
- Secure Shell (SSH) Access – Allows you to remotely manage your server (e.g. remotely reset a password).
- Malware and spam protection – prevents viruses from entering your hosting account and spam from entering your emails.
- Free domain privacy. – protects your online identify and prevents people from spamming your business. Bluehost only includes this in their more expensive Pro plan, and GoDaddy doesn’t offer it for free in shared hosting, so this is a plus for Dreamhost.
WordPress powers over 17 % of the entire web. If you have a highly trafficked WordPress website that is central to your business, consider purchasing Dreamhost’s managed WordPress hosting (called Dreampress) instead of shared hosting. Like Bluehost, Dreamhost has been recommended by WordPress. There are two reasons that managed WP hosting is beneficial for small businesses:
1. The web host does everything for you.
WordPress hosts handle the back end tasks of running a WordPress website, leaving you to focus on growing your business. Dreamhost will auto update your WordPress site whenever a new version of WordPress is released, so your website will run securely and with the latest features. In addition, Dreamhost will do daily auto backups of your WordPress site, so you can rest easy knowing that your website data has been saved.
2. The server is optimized for WordPress.
WordPress managed hosting offers a better experience for business owners with WordPress sites and for their customers. Dreamhost overlays a WordPress-optimized server over a Virtual Private Server and MySQL server to make WordPress sites run fast and securely.
The Dreampress package costs $19.95/month and comes with the following features:
- Automatic WP installation or migration of your WP site.
- Access to any WP theme or plugin.
- Auto WP updates.
- Daily auto backups of your WP site.
- WordPress-knowledge reps to help you via live chat, email, or Twitter.
- Unlimited storage, bandwidth, and email accounts. Dreamhost is the only WordPress managed host we reviewed that provides free emails.
You can get a WordPress-optimized plan from GoDaddy for a fraction (starting at $3.99/month) of what Dreamhost charges, but Dreamhost offers unlimited resources. GoDaddy limits the monthly visits and storage on your WP site. At the same time, however, Dreampress offers only single-site service. If you have multiple WP sites, you will have to choose GoDaddy, Bluehost, or WP Engine (our top pick for WP sites). Dreampress isn’t a good value unless you have one WP site that get lots and lots of traffic.
Cloud Hosting Option
You can think of cloud hosting as the next level up of web hosting after shared hosting. Cloud hosting is more affordable than a VPS or dedicated server but more powerful and adaptive to changing web traffic than a shared server.
If your business is growing fast or your website gets seasonal spikes in traffic, Dreamhost’s cloud hosting plans might be a better fit for your business than shared hosting. Cloud hosting has a pay-as-you-go model with scalable resources. Available bandwidth and storage space automatically increase or decrease as necessary, and you pay only for what you use. In addition, with Cloud hosting, there isn’t a single server that runs your website, so if a server fails, another one takes over, and your website remains up and running.
Bear in mind that some technical expertise is needed to host your website in the cloud. Cloud hosting is generally recommended for developers and tech startups.
Dreamhost’s cloud hosting plans start at just $5/month.
Bandwidth & Storage
Bandwidth and storage limits determine how fast your website will work for your customers. Bandwidth measures the amount of traffic that can come to your website. Storage is the amount of space available for the files, images, and videos on your website.
Although shared hosts like Dreamhost claim to offer “unlimited bandwidth and storage,” a word of caution is warranted. A shared server has a finite amount of CPU (processing power) and RAM (memory) that is divided among the websites of several businesses. Each time someone visits your website, uses your website’s search function, or views files on your website, it uses up some CPU and RAM. If your website gets a lot of traffic and uses up too many resources, your shared hosting provider may ask you to upgrade your plan. View Dreamhost’s “unlimited policy” here.
The resources available on shared hosting plans will be sufficient for most small businesses. A Dreamhost rep told us that even a website that gets several thousand views daily will do just fine on the shared hosting plan. Of course, this number can vary significantly based on what you put on your website. If your website has a lot of videos or images, then you may need to upgrade to a virtual private server.
Dreamhost uses Solid State Drives (SSDs), which can cause pages to load 200 percent faster than on typical hard drives. SSDs are also more secure for storing your website data.
Bandwidth Available: Unlimited.
Storage Available: Unlimited.
Domains & Emails
A good business website should have a catchy and memorable domain name (i.e. the URL for your website). Bluehost will let you register a domain name (.com, .net, .org, and more options) for your website for free with the purchase of any shared hosting plan.
If you have multiple websites for your business, you can add multiple websites onto a single hosting account at no extra charge on the Plus and Pro plans (the Starter plan can only host one website). While it is cheaper to have all your websites on a single hosting account, keep in mind that all your websites will have to share resources, so each site may run more slowly if your sites get a lot of traffic.
Bluehost also lets you set up alias (parked) domains and subdomains. Alias domains let you reroute customers to your primary website (e.g. mybusiness.com) when they type in a secondary URL (e.g. sale.mybusiness.com). Subdomains let you set up a memorable URL associated with your domain for specific content (e.g. help.mybusiness.com for your support center).
In addition to domain services, Bluehost also provides free emails (in a format such as email@example.com) so that you and your employees can have business email accounts.
Number of free domains: 1 free domain on all shared plans and WordPress plans for life as long as you continue to use Dreamhost services. In lieu of registering a completely new domain, you can transfer a domain from another provider for free. When you renew your plan, you have to pay around $4.95/year for a standard .com domain. This is cheaper than Bluehost and GoDaddy. If you cancel your Dreamhost plan, Dreamhost will deduct the cost of the domain name from your refund.
Number of free emails: 100 on Starter plan, unlimited on Plus and Pro plans.
Number of websites per hosting account: 1 website on Starter plan and unlimited websites on Plus and Pro plans.
Dreamhost does not have a built-in website builder. That is one of the reasons we recommend Dreamhost for more tech savvy small businesses. However, there are free and inexpensive website builders that you can use independently to create a site, which you can then host on Dreamhost or any other web host. If you’re unsure of which website builder to choose, we have a separate guide to narrow down your choices.
Dreamhost has its own proprietary control panel called Web Panel. Most other web hosts offer cPanel because it’s user friendly and the most widely used control panel, so web designers or others helping you with your website won’t have to go through a learning curve. That being said, while it may take some time for a person familiar with cPanel to make the switch, Web Panel also gets good reviews for being user friendly.
From Web Panel, you can manage several things related to your website from one location. For instance, you can manage your domain names, add new files to your website, and monitor how much bandwidth and storage you are using. This is what Dreamhost’s Web Panel looks like:
Most small businesses do not have to worry about the operating system or programming languages that the web host supports unless they are trying to run scripts on their website. If you do have further questions about this, you can talk to your web designer or IT person.
Control Panels Available: Web Panel
Operating System Supported: Linux.
Programming Languages Supported: Perl, Ruby on Rails, Python, PHP5
Switching Hosts or Upgrading
As your business grows, you may choose to switch hosting providers or upgrade to a different hosting solution (e.g. switch from shared hosting to a VPS or dedicated server). Unlike GoDaddy and Bluehost, Dreamhost does not offer site migration assistance even for a fee. It can take some technical knowhow to securely transfer all your website files from one provider to another, but at least Dreamhost has provided some instruction on how to do this.
There are specific instructions on migrating a WordPress site to Dreamhost from another provider. This won’t cost you anything, but it does take some technical knowledge. If you run into issues, Dreamhost tech support can help you via email or live chat.
If you’re upgrading plans within Dreamhost, the transition to VPS or dedicated server is pretty simple and just takes a few steps in your control panel.
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Dreamhost is a good choice for small business owners that want a comprehensive, unlimited web hosting package that doesn’t get costlier when you renew. Dreamhost offers only one shared hosting plan and one WordPress plan, and they both include unlimited emails, storage, and bandwidth.
You do need some technical knowhow to use Dreamhost. It doesn’t have a website builder, phone support isn’t included, and you won’t get assistance with things like migrating your website content. If you’re able to handle that, then Dreamhost may be a good option for you.