DreamHost Shared Starter hosting review: Keenly priced, flexible … – Expert Reviews

DreamHost Shared Starter hosting review: Keenly priced, flexible … – Expert Reviews

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A good value hosting option that should appeal to technically ambitious users
DreamHost was founded in a college dorm in the late 1990s and has grown to become one of the web’s largest hosting providers. Based in the US, it’s home to more than 1.5m websites, with 400,000 customers in 100 countries.
As well as the Shared Starter hosting plan we’re reviewing here, it offers managed WordPress hosting, dedicated server hosting, and cloud and VPS hosting.
Sign up to DreamHost
DreamHost is unusual in offering monthly hosting plans, as well as annual and three-year deals.
Whichever period you choose, the Shared Starter tier lets you host a single website with unlimited traffic, unlimited storage, a free SSL certificate and, optionally, WordPress installed through 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 bundles a domain of your choice (as long as it’s available) from a range of top-level domains (TLD) that includes .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’ve registered elsewhere and don’t want to move, you can point it at your DreamHost web space by updating the nameserver records.
Shared Starter hosting lets you set up five subdomains (there’s no cap if you sign up for Shared Unlimited), and you can add a free LetsEncrypt certificate with a couple of clicks. MySQL is supported, with Shared Starter accounts limited to six databases apiece, of up to 3GB each. There’s no mention of MariaDB.
Those who are comfortable working with the command line, can connect via SSH and, if you have a job you need to run on a regular basis, you can set up Cron using a form on the control panel. It’s a well thought-out process, with the form never getting any more complex than strictly necessary. If you want to run your job hourly, for instance, pick that from the ‘When to run’ menu and it will fire up every hour. But, if you need something more targeted, you can drill down through specific days, times, months, and so on, or set your job to run on a server reboot if its only purpose is to kickstart a background process or reset a variable.
You can block spiders through the control panel rather than relying on .htaccess or other workarounds, too, and set up WebDAV access for specific directories. Do that, and you can block direct file linking within your WebDAV space, and even outlaw specific file types, such as images, audio and video files.
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The sign-up process asks if you need a domain or already have one you want to use. If you pick the latter, you can enter its address before you reach the checkout. This is a nice touch as it means DreamHost has all the information it needs to get you started once you’ve activated your account.
The email you receive when you complete signing up includes details of DreamHost’s DNS servers, which you can use right away to repoint an existing domain. There’s also a link to the control panel pages for setting up an email address, which will attract an additional charge on the Starter plan.
An SFTP (SSH FTP) account is created as part of the sign-up process, and although FTP has been disabled, you can enable it through the control panel. You can set up 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 stepping through a couple of screens that tell you what’s going on.
Sign up to DreamHost
You can install WordPress with a couple of clicks using the integrated 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, and so on. There’s even a help for those who already had WordPress files in place, explaining they’ve been backed up using a file suffix, so haven’t been lost.
Elsewhere, you’ll find a link to the full list of supported applications, which includes phpBB, Drupal, Joomla and other common options.Clicking through for details doesn’t open an installer, but instructions on installing them for yourself. This isn’t as user friendly an option as an installer would have been but the instructions are clearly and comprehensively written, so shouldn’t pose too many problems for the average user.
There’s no site builder outside of WordPress, and no pre-configured online store (although you could use WooCommerce inside WordPress, or point a subdomain to an external store from Shopify 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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While annual and three-year contracts naturally attract significant discounts, DreamHost’s monthly option is an interesting proposition for anyone setting up an event or an offer with a definitive 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, rising to $6.99 a month from year two ($83.88/£68 annually). Opt for monthly billing, and your first three months will cost $4.95 each, rising to $7.99 per month, for a total first-year price of $86.76 (£70.60). It’s possible to lock in slightly more generous savings by committing to three years up front.
DreamHost also offers a Shared Unlimited tier, which is where things get really interesting, as this lets you host an unlimited number of websites, with unlimited email and traffic. As with the Shared Starter plan, you can bag this 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 great value.
Signing up is easy enough and there’s a 97-day money back guarantee if you pay by credit card. Do keep an eye on the basket, though, if you only want to buy the vanilla bundle, as email and DreamShield protection are added by default at extra cost. DreamShield Protection scans your site to identify and flag malicious code, out-of-date software and more for an additional $3 per month. Opting out of either or both is a simple case of unchecking what you don’t want.
Overall, DreamHost’s offering is compelling. The one-month option is unusual, and great for anyone hosting an upcoming on-off event, after which a website would be redundant. At the same time, its longer-term offerings represent very good value for money, particularly with unlimited storage and traffic. I’d like to see at least one email account included with the Starter deal but when it costs so little in the first place, it’s not unreasonable that Dreamhost charges a little more per month.
Sign up to DreamHost
There’s much to like in DreamHost’s offering, with a well thought-out control panel, shell access for those who need it, and unmetered bandwidth and storage.
Pair this with some of the most flexible pricing we’ve come across and it’s a tempting proposition, whether you’re knocking up a temporary site, archiving a lifetime’s work, or somewhere in between.
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