DreamHost Shared Hosting Review (2020): Too Cheap To Be Good?

Fantastic first-term and renewal prices, lots of freebies, and the longest money-back guarantee in the business. A great choice for hosting one or multiple websites. 

  • Starting Price $2.59/mo
  • Maximum Storage Unlimited
  • Free Domain Yes
  • Refund guarantee 97 days

Pros

  • Very affordable first terms and renewals
  • Best money-back guarantee policy on the market
  • Excellent user control panel
  • Unlimited Inodes
  • Free website backups

Cons

  • No free email with the Starter plan
  • Live chat available only from 5:30 AM to 9:30 PM (PT)

Disclosure: if you purchase through any links on this web page, we earn referral fees from partners. These fees do not influence our recommendations.

Review summary:

In the context of affordability, DreamHost’s Starter plan is a fantastic solution for hosting a single website, as long as you don’t mind the lack of free email.

Their Unlimited plan offers great value, too. It provides one of the most budget-friendly ways to host multiple websites.

However, keep in mind that DreamHost is not ideal for websites with more than 1,000 daily visitors.

If the limit above works for you, sign-up with DreamHost straight away. Your websites will thrive on their stable servers, you’ll get a free domain, a fantastic refund policy, an inviting and flexible user interface, cheap renewals, unlimited Inodes, and free automatic backups. It doesn’t get much better than this.

However, if you own an established site that receives more than 1,000 visitors per day, then DreamHost’s servers don’t carry enough of a punch to support your needs. Look into more robust alternatives, such as SiteGround or Interserver.

Plans and prices (per month):

 StarterUnlimited
Monthly term$4.95$10.95
Annual term$3.95$5.95
3-year term$2.59$4.95
Websites1Unlimited
Storage (SSD)50 GBUnlimited
Data transferUnlimitedUnlimited
Email$1.67 / mo.Free

A key thing to note before we move forward is that the Starter plan does not include free email accounts. This is very unusual, as free email is a defacto standard we’ve come to expect with all shared hosting plans. Not the best start.

For now, let us give DreamHost the benefit of the doubt and try to judge them on the merits of what do offer.

The Starter plan, which costs as little as $2.59 per month, supports one website and comes with 50 GB of storage. This is one of the best prices you can get for single-website hosting – the majority of providers charge between $3 and $6 per month.

Unfortunately, if you want the option to create email addresses in your domain, you’ll need to pay an extra $1.67 per month. This will drive up the total cost from $2.59 to $4.26 per month.

Overall, if you’re looking to host a single website and don’t mind the lack of email, DreamHost’s prices are tough to beat.  If emails are important to you, consider alternatives such as Hostinger, SiteGround, and Accuweb.

The Unlimited plan goes for $4.95 per month and includes unlimited storage, unlimited websites, and email support. In the context of multiple-website hosting, the only quality providers that challenge DreamHost’s affordability are InterServer and Accuweb.

There are other minor differences between the two plans. For instance, Starter is limited to five subdomains and six MySQL databases, while Unlimited has no such restrictions.

All things considered, DreamHost’s prices get a respectable A-minus.

However, things get even better when we bring renewals into the picture.

Specifically, while the vast majority of providers introduce a significant jump in prices after the first hosting term is over, DreamHost charge the same for renewals as they do for first-time subscriptions.

It’s this fact that ultimately sold us and, taken together with the remainder of this review, prompted us to include DreamHost on our list of the best budget hosts in the industry.

What Payment Methods Does DreamHost Accept?

DreamHost’s checkout page prominently lists credit cards and PayPal as available payment options:

DreamHost shared hosting- credit card and paypal

If you already have an account with DreamHost, you can add money to your balance via check or money orders.

Are DreamHost’s Prices Negotiable?

Unfortunately no. However, DreamHost’s prices are competitive as they are, so this shouldn’t really count against them in our view.

Related: best hosts with negotiable prices.

Does DreamHost Offer Discounts for Non-Profits?

They do – you’ll find DreamHost on our list of the top budget providers with non-profit discounts.

All US-based 501(c)(3) non-profits receive a lifetime of free shared hosting, including email hosting.

Only one hosting account is allowed per organization, and you’ll need to present your IRS determination letter to qualify.

Features and Server Resources

How Much Data Transfer (Bandwidth) Do You Get?

Both of DreamHost’s shared hosting plans come with unlimited data transfer.

This is great but not special, as the majority of shared hosts do not restrict data transfer nowadays.

While you don’t have to worry about data transfer limits, this does not mean that your website will be able to handle unlimited traffic. Past a certain traffic threshold, which is around 1,000 daily visitors in DreamHost’s case, your server resources will be strained. This will lead to website performance issues, including slow load speeds and even website crashes.

If you’re a new webmaster, none of this is a problem for you – most new websites take years to reach the level of popularity required to get more than 1,000 visitors each day.

However, if your website exceeds this threshold, we recommend looking into SiteGround, InterServer, or even WPX as more robust hosting solutions.

What Server Locations are Available?

You can choose between servers in:

While it’s great that there’s any choice at all, we would have appreciated a larger variety. For instance, SiteGround has servers located in the US, Europe, and Asia, while AccuWeb expands on that list by including South Africa as well.

Related reading: best hosts with servers in Europe.

How Much Disk Storage Space Do I Get?

 StarterUnlimited
Disk space (SSD):50 GBUnlimited

Considering that multiple quality hosts, including A2 Hosting and InMotion, offer unlimited storage with their cheapest plans, the 50 GB limit on the Starter plan limit may seem underwhelming.

However, because you can’t host more than one website on the Starter plan anyway, 50 GB will probably be more than you’ll ever need.

Related: how much server storage do you need?

How Many Websites Can You Host?

You can host one website on the Starter plan and unlimited websites on the Unlimited plan.

Email Limits

 StarterUnlimited
Email accountsNo free emailUnlimited
Sending limit100 / hour100 / hour

Keep in mind that the hourly email sending limit applies separately to each email account you create.  For example, if you create five email accounts, you can send up to 5 x 100 = 500 emails per hour.

Most hosts allow you to send between 200 and 500 emails per hour per account, so DreamHost’s limit is below industry averages. Still, the limit is more than enough for any business or personal communications.

Related: hosts with the best email sending limits page.

Is There an Inode Limit at DreamHost (Advanced Webmasters)?

One thing we really love about DreamHost is that they have no Inode limit.

This is in stark contrast to competitors, the majority of which limit the maximum number of files you can store on your server to between 150,000 and 300,000.

The lack of an Inode limit is a significant advantage if you are planning to host multiple websites.

Related: hosts with the best Inode limits.

Is There a Limit To The Number or Size of MySQL Databases (Advanced Webmasters)?

 StarterUnlimited
Databases 6Unlimited
Max. size:UnlimitedUnlimited

Having the option to create up to six databases on the Starter plan is noteworthy, as most providers allow only one database on their cheapest plans.

Although there’s no maximum database size limit, DreamHost recommends that, in order to maximize performance, the size of an individual database should not exceed 3 to 4 GB.

Can I Get a Dedicated IP Address (Advanced Webmasters)?

Yes, you can. If you preorder a dedicated IP for an entire year, the monthly cost will amount to $5.00 a month.

This is relatively expensive, considering there are a slew of hosting providers with cheaper dedicated IPs – InterServer and A2 come to mind.

It doesn’t seem like you can add a dedicated IP to your cart during check out; you’ll have to purchase it from the manage domains section of your hosting account after you complete registration.

Is There a Concurrent Database Connections Limit (Advanced Webmasters)?

DreamHost has the highest database connection limit we know of – 300 connections per database user.

Related: best hosts with high database connection limits.

Ease of Use and Interface Functionality

What’s The Checkout Process Like?

DreamHost’s website is eye-catching and intuitive, and the same goes for their checkout page.

The right-hand panel lets you switch quickly between monthly, yearly, and 3-year terms, with prices updated on the fly. It also lists all the add-ons you can buy with your hosting package.

We’re not big fans of the fact that many of the add-ons are preselected. Make sure to double-check your selections before you finalize your order to avoid paying for extras you don’t want.

All things considered, the checkout page feels complete, intuitive, and doesn’t introduce unnecessary confusion. For an example of what we don’t want a checkout page to look like, take a look at GoDaddy.

Is It Easy to Install WordPress?

Checking the Pre-install WordPress option during checkout is all you need to do to install WordPress.

After you pay for your hosting, you’ll be brought to your dashboard, which will display an installation progress bar. In our case, the whole process lasted about two minutes.

One thing to note is that DreamHost’s WordPress install comes with the BoldGrid Inspirations plugin enabled by default. This plugin is supposed to make customizing your WP site easier. Although we can see how some beginners might appreciate it, we personally found it cumbersome and felt that it modified the familiar WordPress experience too much.

Needless to say, we disabled the plugin instantly.

DreamHost’s User Interface Dashboard

DreamHost shared hosting - main dashboard

DreamHost sports a modern and responsive interface that manages to remain uncluttered while providing one-click access to all the important options.

The Home page features a link that lets you access your WordPress dashboard without having to enter your WP admin credentials.

Use the built-in File Manager to manage your website’s files directly from here.

You can also access email and productivity apps, or fire up phpMyAdmin to manage your databases if you’re an advanced user.

The left-hand menu provides super-quick access to everything you’ll need, including:

1) Domain management options:

2) Email access and settings (assuming your plan includes email):

DreamHost shared hosting - Email menu

3) Account, security, payment, and backups:

DreamHost shared hosting - Account and Billing

You can use the add product section on the left to buy add-ons and new services.

All the while, a support button is available in the top-right corner, leaving no questions about how to contact DreamHost’s support team.

It’s rare for a control panel to provide access to so many options from a single view while remaining visually attractive and inviting.

All things considered, this may just be the best interface we have seen to date. Even WPX and Bluehost – both frequently praised for their interfaces – would have a tough time holding their own against DreamHost’s perfect blend of flexibility and ease of navigation.

Does DreamHost Shared Hosting Include cPanel?

Unfortunately, no. However, we feel like DreamHost’s own proprietary control panel makes up for this in spades.

In fact, the functionality and control you get with DreamHost’s panel is on par with what cPanel has to offer.

If having access to cPanel is a priority for you, we recommend checking out SiteGround, A2 Hosting, or InterServer.

Website Load Speed Test

We set up a test website on our DreamHost server following our standard testing procedure.

We then used a website performance tool GTMetrix to test our site’s speed once every hour for a whole day.

Ideally, you want your website to load in two seconds, three at the most. Anything beyond that won’t be appreciated by your users and will negatively impact their engagement with your content.

Here are the results all the speed measurements we took:

DreamHost shared hosting - gtmetrix speed results

Summary of our findings:

Going into this test, we were concerned that DreamHost would prove to be more style than substance.

Luckily, we were completely off the mark.

Not only did our test site’s average load speed excellent, but we also didn’t register a single dramatic speed spike. (See our Bluehost review for an example of what a bad test result looks like.)

This speaks volumes about DreamHost’s ability to properly manage their servers and bodes well for all their users.

Safety and Security

Does DreamHost Backup Your Website?

As far as safety goes, nothing’s more important than regular website backups.

Most shared hosts offer website backups for free, but some (we’re looking at you, InMotion) don’t.

Luckily, DreamHost is in the first group of hosts. They take free website backups bi-weekly, and database backups weekly.

You can restore a backup from DreamHost’s control panel, or you can ask a support rep. to help.

However, as with all hosts, free backups are not 100% guaranteed.

It’s therefore important for you to manually create and download backups via the Backup Your Account menu on a regular basis:

DreamHost shared hosting - manual backup creation

This can potentially save your website in the (very) unlikely scenario where DreamHost’s automated free backups turn out to be corrupt when you most need them.

Does DreamHost Offer Free Malware Detection and Removal?

Unfortunately, there are no free automatic malware scans at DreamHost. You can still get a free scan, but you’ll need to request it from their support team.

DreamHost employs firewalls to prevent your websites from being infected in the first place. However, if a piece of malware makes its way through this first line of defense, you won’t know about it until you contact DreamHost and request a malware scan.

This falls short of our expectations, as multiple budget hosts offer free automatic malware scans on a regular schedule.

There are two solutions to this problem – one free, the other not so free.

The free option: set a reminder to request free scans every one to two weeks. Also, if you use WordPress, go ahead and install WordFence or another security plugin to reduce your website’s vulnerability to hacks and injection attacks.

The paid option: purchase DreamShield, which is DreamHost’s premium anti-malware add-on. This will drive up your monthly bill by $3.00. DreamShield performs automatic malware scans of your website every week and sends you an email if it detects any issues.

You can add DreamShield to your cart during checkout, or you can add it later from the Manage Domains section of your control panel.

Overall, DreamHost’s approach to malware prevention could use some spicing up.

Still, considering how cheap their hosting plans are, we feel like this is a (just barely) acceptable tradeoff.

Is 2-Factor Login Authentication (2FA) Available?

Most quality hosts offer two-factor authentication, and so does DreamHost.

To enable multi-factor authentication, go to Billing & Account -> Security. DreamHost supports 2FA using both Google Authenticator as well as Yubikey.

We recommend that you enable 2FA as soon as you create your account.

Free SSL Certificates?

DreamHost offers a free Let’s Encrypt SSL certificate for every website you host with them. This is not special in any way; we downright expect it from all hosts in this day and age.

The only gripe we have is that DreamHost does not activate the free certificates by default – we had to activate ours manually from the Domains -> SSL/TLS certificates page:

DreamHost shared hosting - activate free SSL certificate

This is a minor inconvenience, but worth keeping in mind.

You can also buy a COMODO DV certificate for $15 per year. We recommend this option if you plan to run an e-commerce store or any other site that processes financial transactions.

Additional Services and Freebies

Free Domain?

DreamHost offers a free domain for one year to new patrons. This is a common marketing strategy employed by multiple shared hosting providers.

To be eligible, you’ll need to buy an annual or longer plan; monthly subscriptions don’t qualify. This makes sense because DreamHost needs to be able to offset the expense of registering that domain for you, which would be impossible if they offered a free domain with their cheap monthly plans.

If you choose to extend your domain after the first free year, DreamHost’s standard domain renewal prices will apply. Here are example prices of selected popular domain extensions:

TLDRegistrationRenewal
.com$7.99$15.99
.net$10.99$14.95
.org$13.95$15.99

$15-$16 per year is decent by industry standards, even if it doesn’t compare to InterServer’s $11 per year.

Related reading: cheap hosts with a free domain.

Free Website Migration?

The lion’s share of shared hosting providers includes a free website migration service to new customers.

Unfortunately, DreamHost doesn’t. This is a tell-tale sign that they have chosen to prioritize beginner webmasters over seasoned users who are already hosting a website with a different provider.

They do offer a paid service at $99 per WordPress website if you’re interested.

Refunds and Cancellations

Does DreamHost Offer a Money-Back Trial Period?

While most providers tout a 30-day trial period, DreamHost leaves competitors in the dust by offering a 97-day full-refund guarantee. The only hosting company that comes close to matching this is InMotion.

The refund procedure couldn’t be easier, either: just cancel your account from your dashboard within the trial period to receive your money back.

Read on for a rundown of how our own refund request played out.

Related: hosts with the longest money-back guarantee.

Can You Refund Unused Subscription Months (Pro-Rated Refunds)?

Although DreamHost doesn’t officially offer refunds outside of their standard money-back guarantee, a customer support representative told us that such refunds are issued on a case-by-case basis.

Considering that DreamHost’s 97-day trial period provides ample time to test-drive their services, we find the company’s approach to pro-rated refunds more than fair.

Related reading: best hosts with pro-rated refunds.

Our Money-Back Request, Documented

After we were done writing this DreamHost review, we put their money-back guarantee to the test.

We looked around the dashboard and found a prominent Close Account button on the Manage Account page.

We clicked the button and saw a review of our balance:

DreamHost shared hosting - account closure confirmationjpg

The next step was to fill out a brief satisfaction survey.

DreamHost shared hosting - satisfaction survey

We clicked the Close Account button, and that was that. We’ll update this review as soon as we receive the refund.

This was the most streamlined refund experience we’ve had. No unnecessary questions, and no need to contact support with a refund request.

In short, DreamHost manages to maintain its user-centered approach to interface design to the very end. Well done.

Live Chat Customer Support Quality

Almost every single shared host we’ve ever reviewed provides 24/7 live chat support. We were therefore disappointed to learn that DreamHost’s live chat operates between 5:30 AM and 9:30 PM PT.

This is bad news if you are located in Europe, as you won’t be able to speak to a live chat rep. before 13:30 GMT.

However, if you can get past the restricted operational hours, you’ll be happy with the quality of support you’ll receive.

Queues are usually short; we never had to wait more than one minute before connecting to an agent.

We asked the live chat support team over 40 questions about their hosting service to get a feel for the quality of their support and patience.

The agents were not dismissive, and they consulted their colleagues when they weren’t sure about a question.

They were also very obliging when we needed help with technical issues, such as modifying php.ini and managing .htaccess redirects.

Overall, we were very happy with the depth and accuracy of the replies we received.

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