Bluehost vs Dreamhost

As you might have read in my Migrating to WordPress article, I am now the proud owner of both a Bluehost and Dreamhost account. These two shared hosting providers have similar strong offerings for a similar low price, but they’re nevertheless different. Let’s compare both:

The raw numbers

BLUEHOST.COM
Bluehost
DREAMHOST.COM
Dreamhost
PRICE
$6.95/mon (2 years prepaid) $7.95/mon (2 years prepaid)
FEATURES
  • 10 GB storage
  • 250GB/mon bandwidth
  • 20 GB storage
  • 1000GB/mon bandwidth
  • 6 domains, 20 subdomains
  • 50 MySQL, 50 Postgres DB
  • 2500 email addresses
  • PHP, Perl, Python, Ruby on Rails
  • unlimited domains
  • unlimited MySQL DBs
  • unlimited email addresses
  • PHP, Ruby on Rails
ONE-CLICK Install
CPanel/Fantastico: WordPress, pMachine, Nucleus, Drupal, Joomla, PhpNuke, Typo3, phpBB2, OS Commerce, Coppermine, Gallery, PHPList, Advanced Poll, PHProject, SohoLaunch, PhpWiki, PhpAdsNew, WebCalendar, Moodle, … Home-made: WordPress, phpBB, Advanced Poll, osCommerce, MediaWiki, Joomla, Gallery, WebCalendar


BLUEHOST GUI
Bluehost has a nice management interface: Cpanel Pro.
Bluehost: cpanel

Their list of one-click application installs is impressive:
Bluehost: Fantastico

DREAMHOST GUI
The management interface of Dreamhost is an own-developed web application:
Dreamhost: control

The list of one-click installs is more limited but has most best-of-breed applications:
Dreamhost: goodies

DNS MANAGEMENT
A big difference between the two is the way they handle DNS management.

  • Bluehost will expect their DNS servers to be responsible for any domain hosted. Their management web interface will not accept to host a domain that is not controlled by their DNS servers. Believe me, I’ve tried.
  • Bluehost does not allow you to just define subdomains in DNS and point them to some external IP address. All your subdomains must be hosted on the same Bluehost server
  • Bluehost does not allow you to choose the subfolder for a subdomain: blog.example.com is hosted on /blog. Unfortunately any other domain example.2.com that you have will not be able to get a subdomain blog.example2.com on another subfolder.

CONCLUSION
If your demands are not too high (not something like 10 domains with 150 subdomains), you like a complete and easy web interface and the luxury of being able to install 30+ applications with one click (it’s three actually, but who’s complaining), then take Bluehost, they’re the cheapest.
If you need flexible DNS management, are not afraid of installing programs yourself (FTP and such), need a lot of email, database or bandwidth: Dreamhost is the way to go!

38 thoughts on “Bluehost vs Dreamhost

  1. Pingback: D.A.N.I.E.L.L.E.L.O.G » Hello world!

  2. Duncan

    Thanks for the comparison; I am in shopping mode. My confidence in Bluehost has been a bit shaken as of late: two significant outages (1.5 – 2 hours) in the span of one week has me wondering if I shouldn’t migrate to Dreamhost or Media Temple.

    This is especially true since there has been precious little communication from the company about what exactly happened and how they intend to avoid it in the future.

    Up to now, I have to say that I have been very happy with their service, although the way they handle subdomains is less than ideal, as you have pointed out.

    What has been your experience with downtime on Dreamhost, compared to Bluehost?

  3. Jeff

    Dreamhost has a series of multihour outages over the last couple of weeks, and ongoing mail problems for the last few months. It’s unclear when they will stabilize again; I’ve been happy with them for several years, but am looking to move on if they can’t fix their problems soon. It seems like every hosting provider goes through bad periods, and moving from one to another is time consuming; I’m skeptical about the chances for anyone to run a hosting service on razor thin margins and not having similar issues. I’d like to find someone offering more reliable service at a higher price. I’m also considering running my own machine, but that seems like even more trouble.

    One other issue: if you’re running a mailing list, moving it may require everyone to opt in again.

  4. Ross

    A month and a half after Jeffs comment (see above) and Dreamhost is still experiencing frequent outages. They do have a pretty-well-updated status page and alert system, but the outages DO continue. There have been several ‘promises’ that recent upgrades will fix the system for good, but none have done so. After being a happy customer for years I will give them some more time, but my patience IS starting to wear thin.

  5. M

    Stay away from Webhostingbuzz — their service pathetic! Outages are common and sometimes last for 24 hours for no good reason.

  6. Tom

    I am considering moving to Bluehost and found your blog as I tried to gather information about it. I appreciate the comparison as well.

    Bluehost has changed a bit since your original post and now offers (for $6.95):

    o 200 GB of storage (instead of 10)
    o 2000 GB of data transfer (instead of 250)

    What I need to know is if you can set up a mail box so that you can get messages both in your mail box, and at a forwarded location such as gmail.

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  8. Christian

    Hey Tom,

    I’m pretty sure that you can setup a mailbox and then use a “Forwarder” to forward your emails to gmail as well. Almost all hosts offer that. I’ve been at 4 different companies and they all had it.

    I’m still debating whether to use BlueHost or not. I’ve used or am currently using insiderhosting.com, 1and1hosting.com, ixwebhosting.com, and westhost.com. All of them were fairly reliable but in terms of features, they were insufficient. I’m hoping bluehost will give me features and reliability. But one big thing… email servers need to run correctly and at all times!

    -cl

  9. Jonathan Payne

    I have been with dreamhost for about the last 6 months (late 2006, first quarter of 2007):

    – they websites are frequently very slow, with server load averages spiking from 3-5 to 50-100
    – they always have excuses, always are very sorry, are very immature while thinking they are being cute
    – their one-click installs may fail one month due to configuration errors, and then fail again two months later because the same configuration errors are back. In my case it was mailman mailing lists not working with the -request admin alias
    – there are frequent outages, sometimes lasting days, blamed on DDOS attacks

    The servers are quite slow is the main thing.

    Bluehost demo mode seems very snappy and I am considering making the move even though I am just a few months into this whole thing. I want a company that is more professional than DreamHost. They make a cute joke out of what screw-ups they are in their blog. It’s not “refreshingly honest” or anything of the kind, just immature and definitely unprofessional. Results speak for themselves and right now they are not providing a good service. I’d pay 2x what I am paying for just that service, but I am not convinced they are capable of providing a good service anymore.

    Still looking for feedback on BlueHost though …

  10. George Nassar

    I’ve personally had very good luck with Bluehost. Downtime has been practically unnoticeable, and I can’t begin to express how nice it is to have 24/7 phone and chat support that responds quickly.

    And someone should probably note that some of the things in the DNS management section of the article that it states Bluehost can’t do are CPanel issues, not Bluehost issues. The third bullet point, about the subdomain problem, sounds like it may not be easily remedied. (I don’t know exactly how CPanel handles subdomain creation.) But the first two issues are with DNS records that can be changed with a quick call to tech support. It would be nice if they could be done without Bluehost’s intervention, but with live chat support and their minutes-long turnaround on those, it’s the next best thing.

  11. Internet Business With Charles

    I am experiencing pretty bad with bluehost right now… Seems like CPanel is a very problematic program with addon domains!

    And when my hosting might just cut for a while, saying that my webpages are exceeding CPU limit…

    Probably that’s the limitations of a shared hosting plan…

  12. PNM

    The Bluehost CPU limitations are rather draconian. You will never get anywhere NEAR the promised traffic unless you tweak and tweak your web site to use almost no PHP at all.

    This is fine with me because I don’t have much traffic yet, but I have a feeling that I will have to move when my contract expires in two years.

    P

  13. Avinash

    Hi,
    Thanks for the comparison. I have a query. I am in India. BlueHost and Dreamhost are not based in India. If I select one of them as hosting provider, will I face any problem? I mean, is it possible that the issues will take more time to be resolved because of huge distance? Any other problem? Thanks. (My web site will be accessed from users in various countries.)

  14. MarkWiseman

    The only problem you will get is the time difference. You can be sure that any planned maintenance will be done at USA night time which depending on your time zone may be just the time you want to work on your site.
    Its not usually a significant problem though.

  15. Wayne

    I’ve been with BlueHost for three years…no problems, only two very short outages that I can remember, and their tech support and chat support have been responsive.

    I don’t run scripts or PHP so I can’t comment on the CPU limits….

    Highly recommended!

  16. Nrip Nihalani

    Hi Avinash, my firm handles many websites on Bluehost, and we are based in India too. We have’nt faced too many issues till date, and are frankly happy with the service, a lot better than most providers here seem to provide.

  17. Mayank

    I am looking for a hosting provider now and something that will help me host multiple sites with least amount of time. Would BlueHost be good for this ? Also, can someone give some comparative info about GoDaddy?

  18. Gerry

    Peter,

    I’m surprised with your difficulties with DNS and Bluehost. I recently signed up with Bluehost to be able to manage my many e-mail accounts more efficiently and at little cost. (My ISP discontinued this service, and most IP Providers do not want to do this in the first place. Last time I looked, most wanted to charge $5/mnth/e-mail address.)

    My new Domain is hosted by Bluehost, but I wanted the e-mail from my previous domain (hosted by my current home ISP,) forwarded to my new domain at Bluehost. The Service Techs at Bluehost cheerfully set me up with a sub-domain that is really my previous domain name, and allowed me to accept e-mail from that domain using forwarders to route the mail to my new Bluehost e-mail accounts. My current ISP, then just pointed my MX record to my new hosted domain.

    This seems pretty flexible of Bluhost.

  19. Josh

    I’m not running anything with a tremendous amount of traffic, but so far I’ve been very happy with Bluehost. They aren’t perfect, but nobody is. I once had a bit of a problem getting some technical support. Luckily, I realized I was doing something stupid pretty quick, but it took a while for them to get back to me regardless. According to the user forum, that was an unusual experience and this was before they added their live chat support.

    I was thinking about trying out a client on Dreamhost, but in the end, I’ve decided to sign them up with Bluehost. I too, at first, thought that the “sorry we screwed up” posts on Dreamhost were refreshingly honest when I pictured my project or club sites being with them, but when I started thinking about signing up a paying client with that kind of thing . . . I decided that the professionalism of the hosting company could reflect back on my professionalism. The owner of Bluehost, similarly to the owners of Dreamhost, keeps a blog and stays in contact with customers. But when he sends out a message — especially a notice about an unavoidable outage — he seems to have a way of communicating to you that he is very aware that your business is paying his rent and keeping his family comfy.

    As I said, with a personal or project site I can be fine with, “dude, sorry about that. We’re all cool, right?” But with a client site, I need someone who stays professional.

    Thanks for this entry and thread. It’s been helpful.

  20. Trent

    I use bluehost. They are great, but seem to be slow at times. There support is excellent! I had a technician sit on the phone with me for 40 minutes to setup Tidy for PHP 4.

  21. underground

    I started my website a few months ago with Bluehost and I’ve had a good experience. I did lose my website for a few minutes when a story hit the front page of some really busy sites, but I was able to access my options and re-optimize some things based on the generated error logs. In 5 minutes when the site came up with a few settings changed, it handled all the traffic for the rest of the day without any lag or errors.

  22. butter

    well i tried 3 of them — hostgator.// bluehost / dream host/ all are good with up time. great backup and support by all of them. rally hard to distinguish till u have very specific requirements, or money factor

  23. Thellis

    Bluehost has TERRIBLE support. I like their turnaround times- that’s no problem, but from what I heard, they know nothing about their own servers!

    Here’s the deal: Standard php.ini. Some things can be changed, but others (execution time, memory limits etc) can not. I asked if I could install my own copy of php as a custom handler in .htaccess… You think he knows what I’m talking about? Of course not..

    I asked about cname’s (so I could run this particular app that needed big execution times on my DH) and he directed me to a records… What use could I have with that? It took some prodding in the right direction but I finally managed to steer him back on track…

    I don’t care how “bad” Dreamhost’s outages are- they are still far more competent than Bluehost and what’s the use of speedy support if they take 20min to help you with a couple of very simple issues?

  24. Daniel

    Hello i wanna say something about blue host.
    I dunno how they behave to others customers but to me they lied a lot.

    I had a web forum hosted by bluehost last year.

    First of all they decreased resources allocation without informing me;
    I got my forum suspended because an user shared on it porn material, and according they rules they suspended my account. I am not complain for this, it was my mistake, i asked sorry and they replied me that they found porn material thanks to an automatic program wich scan the conents of all customers to find rules infraction. so i transferred my web forum to another host company.
    After 2 months i discovered in my forum an account with Administration permission. I checked the registration ip and i found it was from bluehost office!!!
    This is the emails that i wrote with blue host (i censored personal informations for privacy law)

    Email 1 by me:
    On Wed, 15 Aug 2007 07:06:38 -0600, ****@****.com wrote:

    Hello, i had an account on your webhost:

    Main account: *****
    domain name parked: www.*****.com

    In my forum, at this url: www.*****.com which was hosted with
    bluehost 2 months ago i have found a security infractions:

    Username:* borkbork*
    Joined: *29 Jun 2007*
    borkbork registered from IP: *74.220.***.*** *
    Host: ****.bluehost.com*
    borkbork’s email address is: ***.****@gmail.com*

    I have found this username with Administration permissions… need
    explains please.

    This email will be sent to: ****@bluehost.com
    and to **.****@gmail.com

    —————————————————————————-

    Their reply:

    ****@bluehost.com wrotes:
    Hello,

    This would have been for testing purposes. One of our technicians would have created this user to test and perhaps resolve and issue that you had with the forum. You can simply delete this user information.

    Please let me know if you have further questions.

    Thanks,

    **** ****
    BlueHost.com
    Support Team
    ****@bluehost.com
    888.***.****

    —————————————————————————-

    My reply:

    On Thu, 16 Aug 2007 10:34:43 -0600, ****@revoxlu3s.com wrote:
    1) It could be a privacy violation, i should be informed about that
    account, which has been for 2 mouths set as administrator user,
    specially when my account has been transfered to another host company.
    2) When my account has been suspended from bluehost company, for porn
    material, they said me that an automatic program scan periodically the
    server to find irregular contents and it found that content, but nobody
    told me that one of bluehost technician made an account to browse the
    board and so to find the irregular contents, i do not complain for it,
    but bluehost lied about that account and it seems bluehost tried to hide it.

    Anyway i am forced to inform all my friends that are still hosted with
    bluehost about this behavior.

    —————————————————————————-

    Their reply:

    If you inform your friends it will help us out becuase it is again the law for us to have any adult content or illegal content hosted on our servers. We are in the state of UTAH and it is against the law. So if you know any other bluehost customers that have this please inform them about it that will help us out alto and will help them from having there service interrupted. If your or them have any questions about this they can read or Terms of Service at http://****.bluehost.com/****

    Please contact us if you require any more assistance.

    **** ****
    Support Level 3

    BlueHost.com
    888.***.****

  25. Internet Marketing Badger

    I’ve been extremely happy with Bluehost – they used to have spottier customer service a few years ago but these days they are much better. Haven’t had any problems with them and have been very pleased with them. Compared to Godaddy (Godaddy problems – ugh! – don’t even get me started!) Bluehost is head and shoulders above the rest.

    Internet Marketing Badger – Jennifer

  26. Todd in L.A.

    Dreamhost is choking, yet again. I’ve got several clients signed up with Dreamhost, including my own domains, and they’re all up & down for the past few weeks. I know nothing about hosting, but I know that Dreamhost can’t seem to fix their problems. I’ve been with Dreamhost for several years; sadly, I think it’s time to go…

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  28. Jack Smith

    As said by others, STAY AWAY, FAR AWAY from this host. All they are concerned with is the almighty dollar and getting their million subscribers. Quality has gone to hell, the techs do nothing but lie to you. The hardware is obsolete, old and dying on a daily basis. The ticket system is a joke and you can wait weeks to get an answer if they even bother. In one month my server has been down 80% of the time which is absurd. The sys-admins are inept and do not know what they are doing. If you call in to report a problem you will be told nothing is wrong or they don’t know what is wrong and to call back tomorrow. What a joke. The CEO is interested in nothing but counting his money and starting another hosting block to rip more people off. The 99% uptime is a blatant lie. I could go on for hours but if you are smart you will take this free advice from someone who is suffering through this with them. Only for another week or so as I am moving to a host that works better than 10 to 20% of the time… STAY AWAY – STAY AWAY – STAY AWAY – STAY AWAY !!!!!

  29. Max Elliot

    As a webmaster I can happily claim a successful hosting experience through Bluehost that I’ve maintained for years now. I currently run a hosting comparison site and Bluehost and Hostmonster are my top two rankings. They’ve changed a lot of the information listed in the above article, so make sure you check out their offering.

    I’ve no problem recommending them to anyone who asks.

  30. Don

    Uptime reliability is a big issue with Dreamhost. My website has been crawling/offline since the last 30 hours. 30 hours! It seems to happen atleast thrice a year.

  31. Carl

    I tripped across this blog looking for a new ISP. Bluehost has been down for the better part of the hour. They installed new software on the production server and it created a problem. Then they installed a patch. They told me 10 minutes ago that they were just rebooting the server and it should be running soon. We are completely dead right now.

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