Dotster.com doesn’t hide the fact that it is a domain registrar at heart. However, like most domain registrars, it has realized that the domain business is an intensively competitive, low margin commodity business. Also like most domain registrars, Dotster has entered into the equally competitive, equally commoditized, but far more profitable web hosting business.
Dotster’s space and bandwidth allocations for its shared plans are moderately competitive, but the plans do require a closer look. Those used to normal cPanel oversellers will notice a difference in Dotster’s plans: the company limits the number of email addresses and mailbox sizes. For heavy email users, this can be a serious problem. They also limit FTP accounts, databases, domains, and the like. It’s important to consider what extra features your web site will require before choosing a host like Dotster.
In addition to its standard plans, Dotster offers VPS hosting running on both Linux and Windows platforms. Email hosting is also offered and some plans come with and even focus around a SiteBuilder that makes it easy to create a simple web site.
Dotster adopts the standard industry practice of encouraging customers to pay in advance. They allow pre-payment of up to five years in advance, representing a 30% savings over the yearly plan. Comparatively, though, the savings that Dotster offers for paying so far in advance are relatively insignificant. This also means that you don’t have to pay too much extra if you want to signup for a shorter period of time.
As the plans get more expensive, the payment schedule gets more flexible. The most expensive plan (which is $25.95 a month when paid monthly) allows you to pay monthly, quarterly, yearly, every two years, every three years, and every five years.
Dotster uses a custom control panel. From the control panel, you can manage essentially every aspect of your account (including domain names). The control panel is surprisingly intuitive and offers all of the expected features. Email, FTP accounts, databases, etc. can all be managed as expected from Dotster’s custom control panel.
Upon testing, FTP speeds seemed to be reasonable and comparative to those of other hosts. The control panel loaded quickly and without errors.
Support at Dotster does not seem to be a top priority or a competitive differentiator; it seems to be more of an after thought. The company has an extensive knowledge base and provides support via a helpdesk, live chat, and the telephone. However, live chat and telephone support are only offered on weekdays during normal business hours. I sent a simple request to the company’s support team at 2:15 PM on a Sunday and received a reply Monday night at 8:03 PM. When it takes more than 24 hours to receive an email response, that does cause concern.