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DreamHost Shared Starter Hosting Review: Flexible and Attractively Priced Web Hosting

DreamHost was founded in a college dorm room in the late 1990s and has grown to be one of the largest web hosting providers. Headquartered in the US, it is home to more than 1.5 million websites, with 400,000 customers in 100 countries.

In addition to the Shared Starter hosting plan we’re reviewing here, it offers managed WordPress hosting, dedicated server hosting, and cloud and VPS hosting.

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DreamHost Review: What Do You Get For The Money?

DreamHost is unusual in offering monthly hosting plans, as well as annual and three-year deals.

Whichever term you choose, the shared starter tier allows you to host a single website with unlimited traffic, unlimited storage, a free SSL certificate, and optionally WordPress installed via the control panel. Email is extra, starting at $1.67 (£1.36) per month but, if you sign up for a year or more, DreamHost includes a domain of your choice (whenever available) from a variety of domains top-level (TLD) including .com, .net, and .info. You don’t get a free domain with monthly hosting, but you can buy a .com for $8.99 (£7.30).

Alternatively, if you already have a domain that you registered elsewhere and don’t want to move it, you can point it to your DreamHost web space by updating your name server records.

Shared Starter hosting allows you to set up five subdomains (no limit if you sign up for Shared Unlimited) and you can add a free certificate from LetsEncrypt with a couple of clicks. MySQL is supported, with Shared Starter accounts limited to six databases each, up to 3 GB each. There is no mention of MariaDB.

Those who are comfortable working with the command line can connect via SSH and if you have a job that you need to run regularly you can set up Cron using a form in the control panel. It’s a well thought out process, where the form never becomes more complex than is strictly necessary. If you want to run your job every hour, for example, select it from the ‘When to run’ menu and it will start every hour. But, if you need something more specific, you can drill down to specific days, hours, months, etc., or set your job to run on a server restart if its only purpose is to start a background process or reset a variable.

You can block spiders through the control panel instead of relying on .htaccess or other workarounds, and configure WebDAV access for specific directories. Do that, and you can block direct linking of files within your WebDAV space, and even prohibit specific file types, such as images, audio, and video files.

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DreamHost Review: How easy is it to set up?

The registration process asks if you need a domain or if you already have one that you want to use. If you choose the latter, you can enter your address before reaching the checkout. This is a nice touch, as it means DreamHost has all the information you need to get started once you’ve activated your account.

The email you receive when you complete registration includes details of DreamHost’s DNS servers, which you can immediately use to repoint an existing domain. There is also a link to the control panel pages to set up an email address, which will incur an additional charge on the starter plan.

An SFTP (SSH FTP) account is created as part of the registration process and although FTP has been disabled, you can enable it through the control panel. You can configure five additional SFTP logins and the same users can access the shell.

Behind the scenes, DreamHost’s control panel is comprehensive and easy to navigate. The first time you log in, you have the option of going through a couple of screens that tell you what’s going on.

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DreamHost Review: Is it easy to create a website?

You can install WordPress with a couple of clicks using the built-in web-based installer. Installation can take up to ten minutes, but once it’s complete, you’ll receive an email explaining how to log in for the first time, how to reset a lost password, etc. There’s even a help for those who already had WordPress files, explaining that they’ve been backed up with a file suffix, so they’re not lost.

Elsewhere, you’ll find a link to the full list of supported applications, including phpBB, Drupal, Joomla, and other common options. Clicking for details does not open an installer, but rather instructions on how to install them yourself. This isn’t as user-friendly an option as an installer would have been, but the instructions are clearly and comprehensively written, so it shouldn’t pose too many problems for the average user.

There is no site builder outside of WordPress and no preconfigured online store (although you can use WooCommerce within WordPress or point a subdomain to an external Shopify store or similar).

PHP 8.0 FastCGI was installed by default on our domain, but you can change this to the FastCGI or CGI versions of PHP 7.4, 8.0, or 8.1 if you have specific requirements.

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DreamHost Review: How Much Do Other Options Cost?

While annual and three-year contracts naturally attract significant discounts, DreamHost’s monthly option is an interesting proposition for anyone hosting an event or offer with a definite end date.

The annual Shared Starter plan, reviewed here, starts at $2.95 per month (around £2.40) for the first year ($35.40/£28.80 total) if you sign up for a full year, increasing to $6.99 per month from the second year ($83.88/68 GBP per year). Opt for monthly billing and your first three months will cost you $4.95 each, increasing to $7.99 per month, for a full first year price of $86.76 (£70.60). It is possible to secure slightly more generous savings by committing to three years in advance.

DreamHost also offers an unlimited shared tier, which is where things get really interesting, as it allows you to host an unlimited number of websites, with unlimited email and traffic. As with the Shared Starter plan, you can pick it up for $2.95 (£2.40) per month for the first year, after which it reverts to its regular $12.99 per month ($155.88/£ 127 per year), which is still a great value.

Signing up is quite easy and there is a 97 day money back guarantee if you pay by credit card. Keep an eye on the basket if you only want to buy the vanilla package though, as email protection and DreamShield are added by default at an additional cost. DreamShield Protection scans your site to identify and flag malicious code, outdated software, and more for an additional $3/month. Opting for one or both is a simple case of unchecking what you don’t want.

In general, DreamHost’s offer is attractive. The one month option is unusual and great for anyone hosting an upcoming intermittent event, after which a website would be redundant. At the same time, their longer-term offerings represent very good value for money, especially with unlimited storage and traffic. I’d like to see at least one email account included with the starter offer, but when it costs so little in the first place, it’s not unreasonable for Dreamhost to charge a little more per month.

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Dreamhost Review: Should You Sign Up?

There’s a lot to like about DreamHost’s offering, with a thoughtful control panel, shell access for those who need it, and unmetered bandwidth and storage.

Combine this with some of the most flexible pricing we’ve found and it’s a tempting proposition, whether you’re building a temporary site, archiving a lifetime’s work, or somewhere in between.