When it comes time to pick a website hosting provider, the sheer number of choices can be overwhelming. Plans and pricing often look nearly identical, they advertise true 24/7 customer service and of course guarantee a 99.9% uptime for your website. Bluehost and Dreamhost are no exception as they are well established, long term players in the hosting market, with award winning services that claim a large share of the industry’s customers.
To decide which provider is the better choice, we have to compare and contrast our options, looking at areas such as features, performance and customer service. While these are all important topics for discussion, some may be more relevant to your decision than others. Over the course of this article, we will look at who does what best, helping to point you in the right direction.
Comparing Bluehost vs Dreamhost Shared Hosting Plans
Shared plans are the foundation of every hosting business, where you purchase a small piece of server space in which your website(s) operate. As the term “shared” would indicate, the machine’s resources are split between any number of clients, each consuming a portion of the processing power. With potentially hundreds of websites running on a single node, we are leasing but a slice of the pie to use for our needs.
Since hosting providers cater to a wide variety of customers, from personal blogs to corporate pages, they often make several tiers of plans available. As per the norm, these frequently range from an entry level starter package for hosting a single website, and expand to include more feature rich options for those with greater demands. We will take a look at the choices available from Bluehost and Dreamhost to get a better idea of what they have available.
Bluehost Shared Hosting Plans:
Bluehost has long since been considered one of the best choices in website hosting. In business since 2003, they have established themselves among the industry leaders, competing with the likes of HostGator, 1&1 and GoDaddy. Despite being a subsidiary of EIG (Endurance Insurance Group), a company known for buying out and ruining the quality of hosting providers, they have maintained an excellent reputation and preserved the highest standards of operation.
Recognized by WordPress.org as the premiere choice in WordPress hosting, Bluehost offers three tiers of shared plans at extremely economical prices, starting out at just $2.75/month. We will compare these packages and look at what they have included with each, painting a clear picture of what can be expected from a service at Bluehost.
The Basic Plan: Serving as the typical entry level package, the Basic Plan starts at $2.75/mo and includes everything needed to host a single website. While this does have its limits, Bluehost provides unmetered bandwidth, a generous share of 50 GB storage space and even a free domain name. As for the other restrictions, parked domains and sub domains have been capped, a maximum of 5 e-mail addresses are allowed (100 MB storage for each) and several incentive based perks are missing. Otherwise, this is a rather substantial entry level plan for those with limited needs.
The Plus Plan: In the mid tier slot, the Plus Plan begins at $5.95/month and offers unrestricted usage. The most notable upgrades are support for multiple websites, unmetered storage space and unlimited e-mail addresses. To further sweeten the deal, they also throw in $200 of Marketing Offers for free advertising with Google, Facebook, Twitter or Bing. As an added security bonus, customers hosted on Plus are even given 1 Spam Expert, an e-mail based filtering service designed to eliminate spam, virus and malware content.
The Prime Plan: At the top of the pack, the Prime Plan is the most feature rich choice available, although not by much. It is nearly a carbon copy of the mid tier with just two minor differences, free domain privacy and a companion tool called SiteBackup Pro.
Aware that these upgrades are not substantial enough to warrant a price increase, Bluehost offers Prime at just $5.95/month, the exact same cost as the 2nd tier option. We won’t argue with a couple more freebies, but the decision to make three separate packages is somewhat redundant to say the least. There is simply no discernible reason to choose Plus when Prime gives you more for the same. With that said, this is easily one of the best (and cheapest) unlimited plans on the market, so we won’t complain about their methods when it favors the consumer.
As yet one and final upgrade, they also offer the option to Go Pro for $13.95/mo. This essentially builds on to the Prime Plan, adding a Dedicated IP Address and SSL Certificate into the mix. Are these two items worth an additional $8/mo to the price tag? Probably not, most providers (including DreamHost) now offer free SSL through Let’s Encrypt and a Dedicated IP Address is not worth the cost alone.
Dreamhost Shared Hosting Plans:
Deviating from the traditional three tier approach, Dreamhost offers just one website hosting plan. We assume their goal is to make things simple, reducing the options in favor of a one size fits all package. While this approach does have merit and may even appeal to some, the lack of choices can feel a bit restrictive by comparison.
Most webmasters prefer to start small and upgrade as their needs develop, where these clients benefit from a lower cost, feature capped plan. Offering just one all inclusive choice overlooks that market entirely, catering only to those with multiple websites that need unlimited resources.
It’s worth noting that from a buyer’s perspective, their website lacks clarification on this rather unique approach. Advertising plans that start at $7.95, one may assume that there are various packages to choose from. Instead, the only choices offered are billing related, providing the same shared hosting plan on either a monthly, annual, or triennial payment cycle. While this much is familiar to anyone who has shopped the market before, the manner in which it is displayed just feels strange.
Shared Hosting Plan: The shared hosting plan from DreamHost is comprehensive, providing unlimited resources and access to features. As mentioned above, this is most comparable to the highest tier plans from other providers. You can host multiple websites and domains, each with unmetered storage space, bandwidth and e-mail accounts. They include Let’s Encrypt SSL integration for easy activation and DreamHost Deluxe (one-click installer) for simplified software deployments.
Bluehost vs Dreamhost: Who Has The Best Performance?
Shared hosting is much like a virtual apartment building, with a multitude of tenants renting out space to use for themselves. As long as the management company maintains proper upkeep on the buildings (or servers in our case) and doesn’t lease more space than they have, owners usually have a pleasant experience. The problem however is that website hosting isn’t the most lucrative market. Some providers will overload machines to squeeze more profit out of each node, or utilize obsolete hardware to keep costs at a minimum.
In the case of Bluehost vs DreamHost though, both companies operate in word class datacenters, using the latest hardware and software technology available. While variations in their infrastructure may tilt the scale in one’s favor, we expect fantastic performance on both sides of the field.
When analyzing the reliability of a host, we look at the uptime percentages to gauge the overall network stability. Most providers carry a 99.9% uptime guarantee, where compensation is provided in the event they fail to meet this promise. Using the monitoring tools from host-tracker.com, we can see see an overview of every outage that occurred over a specified period of time.
Bluehost: Surprisingly Bluehost does not offer any such guarantee for their customers. Their Network & Server Uptime Agreement states only that most issues are resolved within 15 minutes, although rare circumstances may be subject to extended maintenance. Looking at the uptime data for the last 3 months, we see that Bluehost experienced an average uptime of just 98.5% and incurred 3727 outages during that time. Although most drops were less than 1 minute in duration, their uptime does fall a bit short of the industry standards.
DreamHost: With an impressive 100% uptime guarantee, DreamHost offers an additional day of service per 1 hour of interruption. Over the past quarter, they have maintained a 99.47% uptime and experienced 93 outages in that period. Although they didn’t reach a perfect score, their reliability is definitely promising by comparison.
Reducing the load times of a website by just one second, we can improve conversion rates up to 7% and increase page views by 11%. Furthermore, Google Research found that 53% of mobile users will simply abandon pages that take longer than 3 seconds to load. As the success of your website correlates directly with its speed, this is absolutely one of the most important factors to consider. Utilizing the tools available at Pingdom, a website performance indicator, we can test page speeds from a variety of physical locations.
Bluehost: Over the span of several months, Bluehost speeds were tested via Pingdom and averaged a respectable 2.2 second load time. Sadly the response times were inconsistent, increasing drastically based on the number of concurrent visitors.At just 10 visitors, the numbers varied between 1000 ms and 3500 ms, then peaking at 10.61 seconds when the user count increased to 20. These inconsistencies indicate the machine may have been overloaded, unable to provide the proper resources to accommodate increased usage.
DreamHost: When faced with the same rigorous testing, DreamHost speeds were clocked at a superior 1.7 second load time. The response times also remained consistent despite an increase in visitors, with a maximum response time of 3.72 seconds. As per the results, they are capable of serving both a faster website and more stable user experience.
Who Has The Best Customer Service?
When choosing between providers, customer service can many times be the deciding factor. Whether you have a question for sales prior to placing an order, or need help installing the latest software, the support department can make or break your experience with a company. Should an urgent problem arise, you need to be able to reach someone that can help resolve problems as soon as possible.
Although Bluehost and Dreamhost both advertise 24/7 Customer Service, this doesn’t necessarily extend to every method of contact. As a business, it is easier to prioritize matters via support desk than it is over phone or live chat. Clients with several questions can demand an agent’s full attention for extended periods of time, especially when reaching out for live assistance. With this in mind, a company with enough staff to actively maintain multiple support channels is often preferred, simply because they have the means to do so.
Bluehost Customer Support
Hosting more than 2 million websites worldwide, Bluehost has assembled a formidable team of more than 750 industry trained experts. The support agents are among the best in class, ready to provide fast, friendly and knowledgeable assistance to customers 24/7. Prefer a certain method of contact? They are always available via phone, live chat or ticket and happy to help should the need arise.
While some companies favor a specific channel for assistance, Bluehost puts that choice in the hands of the customer. There is no need to dig through pages looking for the live chat button or seeking out their phone number. These are displayed prominently at the top of their website, not to mention links to both the support department and self help resources as well. The same expert staff are ready and waiting at every turn, excited to help ensure you have the best hosting experience possible.
Dreamhost Customer Support
Compared to Bluehost, the support department at Dreamhost is quite underwhelming to say the least. They don’t have a toll-free phone number, live chat is restricted to certain hours each day and the primary channel for assistance is through e-mail. While this is less than ideal by today’s standards, we can at least say that their response times are quick and their team seems knowledgeable. After reaching out with questions on several occasions, testing their support during off peak hours, we were impressed to receive a human reply within just minutes each time.
Even though they excel when it comes to e-mail based support, we cannot help but feel they are severely limiting both themselves and their customers. Nearly every other business in the hosting industry offers instant live assistance, usually across some combination of channels, yet this is a luxury that Dreamhost neglects to provide for their clients. This may not be a deal breaker, however it does suggest that DreamHost simply does not employ enough staff to provide more than a basic help desk.
As a webmaster, you can rest easy knowing that your hosting provider can be reached immediately should something go wrong. In the off chance that your website is unavailable, you would probably want to speak with someone right away, requesting an update on the situation.
While DreamHost does seem to sufficiently manage their ticket based support, it’s the only way to get help from their company. On the other hand, a Bluehost customer can place a call, open a chat or submit a ticket and expect the same level of efficiency.
Winner Between these Two Hosting Companies?
When you compare two award winning companies, in business for more than a decade and claiming a significant market share, you expect a decent competition. Bluehost managed to crush the opposition in plans, pricing and service but came up quite short in terms of performance. Dreamhost has obviously built a superb hosting platform and is certainly not one to be underestimated. Unfortunately their single plan caters only to a limited clientele, the prices certainly aren’t the most competitive and their only option for customer service is outdated.
In situations like this where there is no definite champion, victory is awarded to the business that excels in more categories. In the case of Bluehost vs DreamHost, the former simply manages to do more things right.
While their network up-time and website speeds could use some attention, they still manage to perform at a competitive level. The decision will ultimately come down to what is most important to you, but we feel that Bluehost is the better choice for the average customer looking for website hosting.
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