Of all the comparisons we’ve done, Bluehost vs. Dreamhost has to be one of the most important. This is because both hosts appeal to the same sort of customers— small to mid-range business owners, and both hosts have around the same market share and both are great for beginners. To top it all off, Bluehost and Dreamhost are officially recommended WordPress hosts. So there are a lot of similarities, and that’s exactly why this comparison article is important. Both hosts are so similar, so it must be difficult to make the right choice. Thankfully, that is what we are here for.
Bluehost is popular for its all-round performance and WordPress usability—and like we are urged to remember at every point on its website, one of only three Web-hosts recommended by WordPress. Dreamhost is popular for decent performance and a generous 97 day (the longest we’ve seen) money-back guarantee. Since it’s almost impossible to compare a Web-host in its entirety— since we cannot purchase all their plans, we’ll be focusing only on their shared hosting packages.
So which host is the overall best performer? Which one would we recommend?
Let’s find out.
Bluehost vs. Dreamhost: A Complete Overview
Bluehost is a giant of web hosting and is one of the most popular names in the hosting community (right behind giants like GoDaddy and HostGator), we think. Founded way back in 1996 in Utah, Bluehost has grown into a proper company and has made a name for itself. The host was acquired by EIG, the biggest name in hosting, in 2010 (read more about this in our Bluehost Review article). Contrary to the common expectations of performance falling and customer service quality dwindling because of the million-dollar acquisition, Bluehost has managed to remain at the top of its game.
Dreamhost is pretty old too, starting operations in 1997 with offices in Portland, Oregon, Los Angeles and Brea in California. The company was founded by Dallas Bethune, Josh Jones, Michael Rodriguez and Sage Weil who were undergraduates at Mudd College, Claremont, California. Dreamhost offers almost all hosting services that can be thought of – from dedicated hosting to VPS hosting to shared hosting. Recently, like HostGator, Dreamhost has introduced cloud hosting services to its list of services. This has rapidly increased reliability and has boosted Dreamhost’s market profile (besides this comparison we also have an article dedicated exclusively to Reviewing Dreamhost, make sure to check it out before buying).
Does it matter which Web-host is more popular? No— except, of course, you’re someone who purchases a Webhosting plan mainly because you’d like to name drop when you meet old friends.
“I just finished paying off my mortgage and I work at the Google. How has it been for you?”
“Nothing much. Just bought a hosting plan from a very popular Web-host, so I’m cool”.
But you’re probably not that kind of person. However, if you were, Bluehost is the more popular Web-host, so you should get a plan immediately.
Now that that has been done with, let s move on to the important part of this comparison – performance.
When you purchase a Webhosting plan you’re rather interested in getting the best return for your money. You want your website to always be accessible and you want it to be accessible quickly. So we are going to measure website performance using two important metrics; uptime and speed.
The primary task of a Web-host, we believe, is to keep your website online for as long as possible. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible as most Websites have problems that prevent this. The issue, though, is how close to perfect is a host’s uptime? If a visitor attempts to visit a website randomly a hundred times, what are the chances that the website will be online?
We tested Bluehost’s Uptime
We purchased a basic Bluehost plan, created a website, filled it up with dummy content and tested uptime. Over our testing period, we were impressed with a 99.99% uptime. This is an ideal that many hosts promise but aren’t quite capable of delivering and is the best that any Web-host can deliver over a long enough period. So, Bluehost scores high marks for uptime. However, we also like to consider if a host has an uptime guarantee or not before reaching a conclusion. Unfortunately, Bluehost doesn’t offer an uptime guarantee. This means that if Bluehost’s uptime slips and downtime becomes more than negligible, customers can do nothing but call customer care, wring their hands over their keyboards, and maybe meditate on the many many benefits of choosing a Web-host with an uptime guarantee. That prospect isn’t as attractive when compared to other Bluehost Alternatives, we’d reckon.
We tested Dreamhost’s Uptime
We also bought a Dreamhost basic shared hosting plan, built up our website, filled it up with dummy content and started testing for uptime. Over a three month period, we recorded a nice (but certainly not great) uptime of 99.96%. After all, downtime of about three hours per year isn’t terrible. To make up for this less than excellent uptime guarantee, Dreamhost provides a great uptime guarantee— unbelievable, even, and is the highest that we’ve seen. There is provision for a 100% uptime guarantee, and for every hour of hosting lost, users are entitled to a day of free hosting. However, there is a catch, as always with these sort of deals. Scheduled maintenance and user errors aren’t covered by this uptime guarantee. So Dreamhost has decent uptime and even provides an uptime guarantee (although we aren’t quite certain how much a day of hosting costs— it could very well be below a dollar).
Even if a Web-host can guarantee the best uptime, the factor of speed is still important. You might wonder what difference a few seconds or even milliseconds can make on the success of your website, but Google reports that 40% of visitors won’t visit a site that doesn’t load quickly. There goes your conversion rate, downright the drain.
Bluehost Speed Tests
We tested the response time of our dummy Bluehost website repeatedly and calculated an average response speed of 461ms, which is pretty fast but is not a chart-topper. It’s confidently above average, though, as we consistently see worse speeds from other Web-hosts. It appears that speed will not be a problem for Bluehost’s users either. To test Bluehost’s speed stability, per se, we sent about a hundred virtual users to our dummy website and we were quite impressed that the speeds recorded were quite stable. Not only does Bluehost offer above-average speed, but speed also remains stable even during a traffic hike. If you run an online store, your website speed wouldn’t suffer during flash sales or festive periods. This might seem ordinary, but a lot of Web-hosts have servers that suffer under traffic, therefore it’s comforting to find that Bluehost isn’t one of those kinds of Web-hosts.
Dreamhost Speed Tests
How about Dreamhost? We did the same thing with our dummy website already created on Dreamhost servers. After testing repeatedly to get a fair idea of the average speed, we calculated an average response time of 481ms— which is slower, but not by a lot, than Bluehost’s. We were impressed. Dreamhost’s full page load speed was even more impressive, averaging about 728ms. Like we did with Bluehost, we sent virtual users to our Dreamhost website to check exactly how stable the speed is. While average speed didn’t take a great dip, it got noticeably slower. On a whole, though, users of Dreamhost shouldn’t have problems with speed.
(Our speed test take into consideration major cities around the world, actual speeds within the US are much lower)
Ease of Use for Bluehost compared to Dreamhost
We are yet to meet a person who wakes up and says “I would really like an extremely difficult day today, and I would like to knowingly accomplish the most simple tasks in the most difficult manner”. Have you? Generally, people want ease. This is the same with hosting. The business of controlling a website (or multiple websites) can be quite technical in itself, and no one wants to operate a user interface that makes the job of doing it even harder. In addition, Web-hosts that make hosting easy for users by providing things like free SSL certificates, access to marketplaces, and provision of one-click installations are better than Web-hosts who do not.
First off, Bluehost offers cPanel support. This is a good thing because cPanel is the standard support panel, is easy to use and, if you’re migrating your website from a web host that makes use of cPanel, you wouldn’t have to spend valuable time trying to get used to the controls of the interface. Bluehost’s version of cPanel is heavily customized too, so new users will have no problems finding their way around the interface and carrying out basic tasks. The interface has important features that allow users to get on with work without much ado. The first is the MySites tool that allows users to control multiple websites via a single account, the Marketplace feature that gives users access to a digital marketplace where tonnes of things like add-ons, themes, and even professional services can be bought seamlessly. There is also the Domain manager, aptly called Domains, a tool that allows users to manage the registration status of domains, discover and register new domains, set up redirection, and update information. Users with more advanced needs can find the more advanced features under the advanced section (It’s best to be very Captain obvious-y).
Installing and starting up WordPress (and other popular content management systems) is a breeze as Bluehost has one-click installations for major applications. Bluehost offers a special WordPress customer service feature called Blue flash. Users have access to expert WordPress advice on absolutely anything and everything through Blue Flash. This feature is only available on phone and is free for all plans. In addition, if you’d like to build a Website, Bluehost has got you covered with the services of Weebly, a highly rated website builder. To top it all off, Bluehost provides free SSL certificates on all plans and a free domain name for the first term on basic plans.
We’ve spent a lot of time on Bluehost, and what we can say is that we found controlling our website via the interface provided to be really easy. We had absolutely no complaints.
Let’s start with the beginning. Dreamhost, unlike Bluehost, doesn’t offer cPanel. There’s a proprietary interface in place. This is because Dreamhost isn’t a particular fan of third-party interfaces like Plesk and cPanel. Dreamhost’s interfaces offer about the same things that other user interfaces offer, and we don’t think it would make any difference to people new to hosting. However, for people who are already used to cPanel or Plesk, it might take a bit of getting used to. Unfortunately, that’s not where the inconvenience ends for users moving over from other Web-hosts. Dreamhost doesn’t have an automatic way to import data from other hosts. That is, if you’re moving your website over from a cPanel, you’ll have to transfer the files and databases manually.
Like Bluehost, Dreamhost doesn’t offer free site migration. If you’d like Dreamhost to migrate your site for you, you’ll have to pay a one time fee of $99 one time fee to move each site. There are some limitations to how the site transfers work too. For example, if you have a multisite WordPress site, it cannot be moved and transfers from WordPress.com will only take contents inside posts or pages. You will have to reinstall most of your plugins and set them up again as they won’t be moved as they are. Bottom line is, if you’re moving over from another site, you’re going to have a lot of problems. Asides that, Dreamhost offers the basics— marketplace, one-click installations and even a proprietary website builder called The Remixer website builder. It is quite easy to use, but it isn’t free and costs $4.95 per month. It comes with a free domain, unlimited websites and pages and 24/7 support, so we guess it isn’t that bad after all.
Money-Back Guarantee Policy
After purchasing a Webhosting plan, it is possible that the performance you’re experiencing is less than what you expected when you paid. If that happens, what options are open to you?
Bluehost has the industry-standard 30-day money-back guarantee policy. This means that if within thirty days of purchasing your first plan, you decide that there are 99 things you would do, but hosting your website with that particular web host isn’t one, you have the option of cancelling your plan and getting a full refund. There are some limitations on the refunds, though. For example, if you’ve received a free domain name, a fee of about $15 will be deducted from the refunds to be gotten. The question, though, is whether 30-days will be able to gauge whether a Webhosting plan is perfect for you. We don’t think it will be.
Enter Dreamhost, with probably its most popular feature. Dreamhost boasts of a 97-day money-back guarantee. This means that you get about three months and a week to check whether your plan fits the specs of what you want. We’ve been reviewing Web-hosts for a while now, and we must say, this is the longest money-back guarantee we’ve ever seen.
Dreamhost vs. Bluehost: Customer Support and Reliability
We believe that there are three pillars of a great Web-host— great performance, great pricing and great customer care. Why do we rate customer support so highly? A website is only as great as its manager, and the experience of visitors is, for the most part up to the person managing the site. Unfortunately, we can’t all be webmasters and even the most experienced webmasters still run into problems when managing a website. So, who comes to their aid when they do run into these problems? The customer support, of course. That’s why it’s doubly important that customer support is quickly accessible and, most importantly, very helpful.
Bluehost offers three customer support channels which are the phone, live chat, and ticketing support. These channels are available 24/7 on all plans. There is also a very up to date knowledge base that provides articles and tutorials on basic issues that users might encounter.
We tried to connect, repeatedly, with a live rep through Dreamhost’s live chat support. We experienced an average wait time of 5 minutes, however, sometimes we had to wait as long as 10 minutes before we were connected. Upon connection, we asked a series of questions and some reps were able to answer us instantaneously. However, this was not the same for others as we had to wait for up to five minutes before getting an answer. Perhaps they had to confirm the answers to our questions from a senior officer? We can’t tell for sure, but it was definitely not seamless. The reps were friendly and courteous enough, but we had the impression that not enough of the people we chatted with were properly competent hands who could help us if we ran into a proper problem. Of course, we could be wrong, but we doubt it.
On the surface, Dreamhost offers roughly the same customer support structure as Bluehost. However, upon closer inspection, we discovered that this isn’t necessarily true. Although Dreamhost claims to offer “24/7 in-house” support, we tried contacting their live chat channel and got a response from a bot telling us “sales team is available on 5:30 AM – 9:30 PM Pacific Time, 7 days a week”. That definitely doesn’t look like 24/7 support, at all. Surprisingly, when we did contact a live rep (after 5-10 minutes of waiting, on an average) we were met with reps who were friendly and knowledgeable and who looked like they had a general idea of what they were doing. So, the bottom line is, if you have the luck of getting into a problem during Dreamhost’s “working” hours, it is possible that you would find their customer support satisfactory. One more thing, Dreamhost doesn’t offer free phone support.
The question of security isn’t whether a Web-host is secure or not, the question is how much security is provided for free and how helpful the Web-host is in the case of external attacks or a corrupt database. In addition, are backups provided for free? If yes, how often are they?
Dreamhost Security Features
Dreamhost offers free SSL certificates on all their plans, which is a great place to start from. There is also limited backups which, in our opinion, is almost like there are no free backups. Dreamhost only offers backups that stretch two weeks back in time. They are offered on a courtesy basis— which means that they aren’t guaranteed. Even at that, you only have the option to get three backups; the newest, oldest and mid-range backups. You cannot choose restoration dates. Dreamhost offers antispam protection on its email, and access to a malware tool called DreamShield. DreamShield, as you might have guessed, was developed by Dreamhost themselves and works by scanning malware and removing them from your website. There is one catch, though. It is a paid service and works on one account at a time. This means that if you own several websites you’re going to pay separately for DreamShield to be enabled on each one.
Dreamhost allows users to access the .htaccess file and edit in order to set a password and control access to the site. You can also block spiders from parts of your website that shouldn’t be indexed by search engines.
In 2017 Dreamhost experienced a massive DDoS attack that took many websites offline for a while. Does this fact fill us with confidence about the quality of the security infrastructure? No, absolutely not.
Bluehost Security Features
Bluehost, like Dreamhost, offers free SSL certificates on all plans so that base is covered. In addition, also like Dreamhost, Bluehost offers courtesy backups and restores. This means that users may or may not get backups, it basically depends on Bluehost. Seeing as we aren’t great fans of corporate promises, we wouldn’t bank on that courtesy. If you would prefer not to bank on that too, there is a paid backup option called Codeguard. Codeguard comes free with higher-tier plans but people on basic plans have to pay separately to make use of the tool. The tool has three tiers with Codeguard basic costing – $2.99 per domain per month or ($32.95 per domain per year). The highest tier of the tool is the Codeguard enterprise and it costs a whopping – $23.95 per domain per month or ($239.95 per domain per year). Pricey.
Bluehost also offers Sitelock, a malware scanner that scans malware and alerts the user when found (obviously, duh). Sitelock is also a paid add-on, with the basic plan, Sitelock find, coming with a renewal fee of $2.67 per domain per month – Billed Annually ($32.04 per domain per year). Bluehost has OpenPGP/GPG support, so users can send and receive files safely. There is also access to SpamAssassin, Postini or SpamExperts— all these are tools that keep your email safe from spam and suspicious emails. Users also have access to Domain privacy support, which means that you have the option to hide your private information from public WHOIS hostings. Asides all these, there’s also two-factor authentication to stop hackers from getting undue access to your websites. To round it all up, Bluehost provides users with a security checklist to make sure that they are doing all they need to do to keep their site secure from their end. Talk about two-factor authentication, right?
Plans & Pricing
Before purchasing anything, the first and in some cases the most important question is, is this thing worth the price I’m paying? That’s what we are going to be analyzing. How reasonable is the quality being offered for the prices quoted? Is there a better deal? Which host has a more transparent pricing mechanism? Do you lose or gain in the long term?
Bluehost offers 4 Shared hosting plans. Most Web-hosts just offer three, but we like how Bluehost leaves a lot of room for scalability. You can scale your site up as easily as you’d like. The four plans are the Basic plan, Plus plan, Choice-plus Plan and the Pro plan.
The Basic plan comes with;
- 1 website
- 5 parked domains
- Free SSL certificate
- 25 subdomains.
- 50GB of storage
- Unmetered bandwidth
- 1 free domain
The plan costs $2.75 (renewal costs $7.99 per month).
The Plus plan comes with all the features of the basic plan plus;
- Unlimited websites
- Unlimited domains
- Unlimited subdomains
- Unlimited parked domains
- $200 marketing offer
- Spam experts.
- Unlimited storage
The plan costs $5.45 per month (normally $10.99).
The Choice-plus plan comes with all the features of the Plus plan plus;
- Domain Privacy and protection
- 1 office 365 mailbox – free 30 days and Codeguard basic site backup.
The plan is the same price as the Plus plan but renewal costs $14.99
The Pro plan is the Bluehost’s most expensive shared hosting plan. The plan costs $13.95 per month (normally $23.99 per month) and it comes with all the features of the Choice-Plus plan with high performance and dedicated IP address. What could “high performance” possibly mean? Bluehost says that high performance means that Pro servers allow for a 300,000 file count and are deployed with fewer users per server than the standard shared hosting servers. So, what this means is that there are greater resources allocated to one user on the Pro plan. Hopefully, this translates to even higher speeds and more capacity for visitors.
Bluehost’s pricing isn’t very transparent, as after the initial three-year plan (you’re only entitled to the super low discounts if you pay for an initial 3-year plan) you get a massive price hike. The fact that most services in the business have this sort of pricing structure doesn’t make it better, as we’ve seen hosts who don’t hike their prices by 100-200% after the first term. On the flip side, though, the value offered on each plan is attractive and is more than most hosts offer.
DreamHost has only two shared hosting plans. So, unlike with Bluehost, there is limited room for scalability. This, to some extent, gives us pause. We’d prefer more than two shared hosting plans, but it is what it is. The first plan is the Shared Starter and the second is the Shared Unlimited.
The Shared Starter plan costs $2.59 per month (however this is if you pay 3 years in advance. Per month, the flat rate is $4.95). What we found interesting is that, unlike many Web hosts, DreamHost’s prices don’t experience a hike after the initial payment. So $2.59 is still $2.59 after three years. The Shared Starter plans come with
- 1 website,
- SSD storage,
- 1 free domain
- Unlimited traffic
- Pre-installed WordPress
- A free SSL certificate.
The Shared Unlimited plan costs $5.95 for 3 years and comes with a
- Free domain name,
- Unlimited traffic,
- Free SSL certificate,
- Unlimited email addresses.
Apart from these plans, DreamHost has three managed WordPress hosting plans.
The DreamPress plan costs $16.95 per month and gets around 100,000 monthly visits. It comes with 30GB storage, daily backups, unmetered bandwidth, and SSL certificate.
The DreamPress Plus plan costs $24.95 per month and comes with.
- Unmetered bandwidth
- Daily backup
- 300,000 monthly visitors
- SSL certificate
- and unlimited CDN
The DreamPress Pro plan costs $71.95 and comes with
- 120GB storage
- SSL certificate
- Unlimited CDN
- A million monthly visits
- Unmetered bandwidth
- Daily backups
DreamHost also, like SiteGround offers great value for money. We were especially impressed that DreamHost doesn’t hike their price after the first payment. It shows that this kind of pricing structure isn’t rocket science and renewal fees can be kept low.
All Web-hosts have that extra something, and we were excited to see some of the extra features that both hosts can boast of.
First, we’ll begin with Bluehost.
- Bluehost has a partnership with Weebly, a premier website builder. Weebly is one of the best website builders on the internet and it is available to Bluehost users for free.
- The Blue flash feature is a special customer care feature which allows you access to experts dedicated to helping you get your WordPress website up and running. That is, you have access to expert advice on everything from plug-ins to the tiniest details about your site. It is free and available for all Bluehost customers. All you need to do is dial 888-401-4678 and ask to begin your Blue flash call.
- To make life even easier for content developers, Bluehost has a managed WordPress plan called WP pro. This plan has WordPress pre-installed so users don’t even have to go through the process of installing the app. In addition, since the service is managed, users don’t have to go bother themselves about the more technical aspects of hosting.
- Bluehost’s security infrastructure allows you to set up SSH access to your account, block IP addresses and install your own premium SSL certificate.
- Bluehost, alongside two other Web-hosts, is officially recommended by WordPress.
- Bluehost supports the use of Perl modules, Cron jobs, PHP PEAR packages, and Apache handlers. Bluehost has both MySQL and PostgreSQL databases and you can use either phpPgAdmin, Remote MySQL, or phpMyAdmin to manage your databases.
- Bluehost has a domain manager.
- One-click installation support for over 100+ apps from MOJO
- Bluehost offers CDN access
Impressive right? Now, let’s check out Dreamhost
- Dreamhost has a proprietary interface, so they aren’t really about that cPanel/Plesk/third-party life. To be fair, the interface is very intuitive and easy to use.
- Dreamhost is a carbon-neutral company, so if you care about your carbon footprint (as you should, it’s 2019), you really should consider choosing Dreamhost.
- DreamHost has several CMSs that you can install easily in just one or two clicks.
- DreamHost offers its own website builder called the remixer website builder. (Although, we must say that we are somewhat disappointed that it isn’t called the DreamMaker. Or the theatre of Dreams, at any rate).
- Unfortunately, DreamHost only offers paid migration services
- DreamHost offers a free domain with WHOIS privacy.
Major Differences between Dreamhost and Bluehost
Let’s recap. What are the important differences between Dreamhost and Bluehost? First of all, Dream has “Dream” before host, on the other hand, Bluehost has “Blue” before host. . .sorry, we are kidding.
- Dreamhost has a 97- day money-back guarantee, while Bluehost only has a three days money-back guarantee.
- Dreamhost doesn’t have cPanel, while Bluehost has.
- Dreamhost has an uptime guarantee, while Bluehost doesn’t have.
- Dreamhost has only shared hosting plans, while Bluehost has three.
- Dreamhost’s pricing is more transparent than Bluehost’s.
- Bluehost has genuine 24/7 customer support, while Dreamhost’s customer support is sometimes a bot telling you that the humans have gone home for the day.
Bluehost vs. Dreamhost: Our Pick
This has been as close a duel as any, and it is clear that the duel could go to either side and it would be reasonably justifiable. While Bluehost’s performance, customer care, and ease of use were superior to Dreamhost’s, Dreamhost won us over with great pricing structure, incredible uptime and a 100% uptime guarantee.