DreamHost are known for low-cost shared web hosting and domains, but also offer VPS and dedicated services.
At the time of writing this review, DreamHost are about to launch cloud storage. However, they do already have a limited personal cloud storage service called Files Forever. This allows content producers to host files on DreamHost’s servers for a one-off fee. Producers can optionally charge for downloads. To try Files Forever, you need to be a DreamHost customer.
Based in Brea, California, west of Los Angeles, DreamHost launched in 1997, so it has a long and proven track record. It’s owned by New Dream Network LLC, a company formed by four college students in 1996. All four co-founders are still working for the company, and Simon Anderson - an experienced entrepreneur and executive - is now CEO. Despite restructuring, the company still employ a friendly and personal tone on their website and marketing material.
DreamHost offer a very generous affiliate programme which offers cash rewards for referrals, plus a free domain name with each new account. They also have an impressive two week free trial and a 97-day money-back guarantee promise. The environmentally-conscious will also be interested to note that DreamHost is entirely carbon neutral despite hosting more than one million domains.
DreamHost’s shared hosting is based on Debian Linux and aimed squarely at the budget end of the market. It has all the hallmarks of a low-cost host with little or no limits on capacity and bandwidth.
Their VPS and dedicated hosting is also Linux-based. Signing up to any package will give new users a free domain name for one year. Dedicated servers on DreamHost include dual-core and quad-core processor options, and you can optionally choose to run Nginx in place of Apache.
Interestingly, DreamHost also provide free web hosting to non-profit charitable organisations. However, your organisation will need to be US-registered to take advantage.
Details of their cloud hosting packages have yet to be announced at the time of writing this review. The Files Forever service runs at a one-time upload fee plus associated transaction fees for downloads.
Unusually, customers can purchase gift cards for DreamHost hosting. There’s also no reseller option beyond the normal affiliate programme.
Unusually, DreamHost offer a 100% uptime guarantee across all shared, VPS and dedicated hosting. Should a fault at DreamHost cause your website, database, email, FTP, SSH or webmail to go down, you’ll be credited with one free day’s hosting for every hour of downtime. The amount of downtime is calculated from the moment you open a support ticket, so it pays to be proactive.
DreamHost don’t publish any data about uptime on their website, but they do have a detailed status blog at dreamhoststatus.com.
DreamHost currently operate from two data centres, one in downtown LA and one close to LAX airport. These are shared facilities, although DreamHost own a large stake in Alchemy, the company that runs them. Each facility is staffed round the clock and has 3 megawatts of uninterrupted power supply provision. Both facilities are equipped to handle fire and earthquakes.
Customers can manually back up their websites and account data (including mailboxes) with a single click from their control panel.
DreamHost doesn’t offer telephone support, although you can pay a small premium on your monthly fee to have a member of staff call you. The extra fee also covers live chat support. Otherwise, all support is via email and/or ticket - there’s no phone number.
Customers can find most of the answers to technical questions (such as DNS, domain transfer, email and FTP details) in the wiki (which acts as a knowledge base) and forum on the DreamHost support portal alongside the network status blog. Customers are kept up-to-date with a regular newsletter.
In the News
DreamHost has something of a chequered history.
In January 2008, DreamHost over-billed practically their entire customer base when automated billing services failed and a member of staff re-ran billing for the wrong year. The company initially said that they accidentally took an additional $7.5 million in hosting fees in the space of one day. After this blog was written, the figure was downgraded to $2.1 million.
In another high-profile news story, DreamHost’s FTP passwords across all accounts were hacked. Customers were advised to change their passwords.
Fans of Cpanel or Plesk may be disappointed to hear that neither is provided on DreamHost. Instead, the company offer a completely custom control panel which was created entirely in-house.
Login to DreamHost’s control panel and you’ll find access to everything to do with the hosting account, from billing, Django, ImageMagick and account details to MySQL and email accounts.
Although it’s very capable, people who have previously used Cpanel may feel frustrated once they realise they have to re-learn a new administration system to perform basic tasks, such as increasing the php memory limit or accessing phpmyadmin.
DreamHost are proud of their One-Click Installer software which allows users to quickly install common packages. The One-Click Installer covers WordPress, phpBB, Moodle, Joomla, Drupal and other bits and pieces to handle discussion, wikis, ecommerce and blogs.
With every package, you’ll also enjoy a free domain name for a year. The domain is registered in the customer’s name and can be transferred away from DreamHost at any time.
DreamHost also offer free CloudFlare performance and security services. They offer limited support for Java and full support for Jabber (including running your own Jabber server) and Jquery.
DreamHost Money Back Guarantee / Cancellation Policy
DreamHost offer a comprehensive 97-day money back guarantee. Should you change your mind about hosting with them, you can close your account with a click and receive a full refund. In order to qualify, you’ll need to pay your fees via credit card and your account must not have been closed for spamming or violating DreamHost’s terms. As with most money-back offers, any fees for domain registration can’t be refunded.
DreamHost are built on the ‘stack it high, sell it cheap’ philosophy. By using their own control panel, they retain a certain amount of control over what customers can do with their domains. In addition, by offering extremely limited support options, the company don’t expose themselves to high after-sales costs, helping them achieve more competitive pricing.
If you want an easy, low-cost way to get a few websites online, DreamHost provide most of the features you’ll need for a good price, particularly on their shared hosting plan. If you don’t get along with their control panel, you can simply cancel the contract within that 97-day period and get your money back.
However, fans of Cpanel would be best advised to look elsewhere. And if you rely on live chat or phone support to get things done, be sure to factor in the extra cost when comparing hosting providers.