Being one of the three officially recommended web hosts recognized by WordPress.org ain’t a bad thing, and Bluehost has certainly thrived as a result of that recognition, but inquiring minds want to know whether this host’s popularity is a byproduct of intense publicity and questionable actual skills (like the Kardashians) or is it a quality service?
Luckily, you’ve got friends in the industry (that’s us) who make it a habit to test the performance of the top web hosts and then render a credible opinion as to each one’s ability to match reality to media splash.
Ready to dive into our Bluehost opinion?
If you want to know our quick take on it. Bluehost is a great choice for new website owners for a few reasons. They have a ton of guides available online on how to do everything, easy to use system and average pricing. We would definitetely recommend them. Another solid option that SiteGround (same package, better servers and more freebies).
A Little History on BlueHost
Okay, we’ll let the cat out of the bag right up front.
Bluehost is a pretty good web hosting service. Not the best but pretty good. Depending upon your particular hosting needs, there’s one that might be better, but we’ll talk about that later.
Bluehost was founded in Provo, Utah, in 1996, a date which seems positively antique in internet years. The company employs a staff of 750 and features 1-click installations with all plans. Pay attention because that last point might become pertinent later.
Bluehost claims to be the best? Is it true?
Besides the manna-from-heaven recommendation of WordPress.org, Bluehost offers an excellent affiliate payout program that scratches checks for around $5 million annually. Far be it from us to accuse any particular reviewer of malfeasance, but does anyone else out there think that there’s a chance some of these completely glowing recommendations might be based on something besides cold, hard facts?
Keep reading to find our honest opinion about Blue Host.
Let’s open the hood and take a look inside some of the features of a real, live Bluehost hosting plan.
It’s Cheap: At first glance, plans seem ultra-cheap, as little as $2.95/month if you find a good sale in progress. These plans are only appropriate for very basic websites. For more sophisticated functions like eCommerce you’re looking at $7.99/month or $12.49/month if you need WordPress hosting. That last number is kind of on the expensive side, comparatively. There are definitely cheaper options.
Bandwidth/Email: The good news is that you get unlimited bandwidth. No fear of running out of gas in the middle of a traffic spike. As far as email, the starter plan includes 100 accounts, which should be good for most people. If you need an unlimited number, upgrade to the Plus or Business Pro plan.
Marketing Bonuses: The temptation is to dismiss these free bonuses as a marketing gimmick. Well, that is exactly what they are but it doesn’t mean they don’t have value. Bluehost offers $200 worth of ad credits with various companies like Google, Bing, and Twitter and is a great way to get started putting your name out there. It’s not enough to set the world on fire but it’s not a spit in the ocean either.
Tricked-Out cPanel: Yes, young Jedi, most cPanels are the same. Bluehost has made a few special modifications that makes it exceedingly easy for a newbie to get his or her website up and running with a minimum of emotional trauma. This last point is important – Bluehost is a simple, solid solution for those new to the web hosting game who do not have websites with heavy resource demands.
Seriously. So simple a caveman could use this cPanel.
Multiple Service Plans: Choose from shared, VPS, dedicated, WordPress, and cloud sites for your hosting needs. Whether you’re looking to establish a resource-sipping personal blog or eCommerce store with thousands of products or even a massive corporate website, Bluehost has a plan that should fit your needs. One of your first orders of business is to figure out exactly what it is that you do need.
Hosting Service Breakdown
Since deciding what hosting service level you need is so important, let’s dig deeper into the topic. If this section is a bit too complicated, check out our article on different types of hosting.
Shared Hosting (MOST RECOMMENDED): When you buy a shared hosting plan, you should know that your website will be one of dozens, maybe hundreds installed on a single server. Bandwidth and physical storage space is shared. The good thing is this kind of resource-sharing allows the host to keep prices very low.
The not so great aspect of shared hosting is that a sudden surge of traffic on any of the hosted websites can make it difficult or impossible to access ANY of the websites on the server. In the worst case scenario, it would be like sharing a pizza with Fat Albert.
Bluehost offers three plans under the shared hosting umbrella: Starter ($7.99/month), Plus ($10.49/month), and Business Pro ($23.99/month). The basic differences in the last two plans are that they include unlimited space and bandwidth, with Business Pro also offering a handful of security enhancements. These prices are a good value for websites with low resource demands.
VPS Hosting: This style of hosting involves the web host actually partitioning physical space on a server so that you don’t have to worry about bandwidth hogs slowing your website down.
Depending on how much/fast processing speed and storage you want, prices range from $30 to $120 per/month (after a reduced rate first month), which is pretty much industry standard rates. Read our VPS Review article.
Dedicated Hosting: With a dedicated host you will have your own physically separate server, which might become a necessity if you have extremely high traffic or offer features and functions that go far beyond what shared or VPS hosting can handle.
With three options, Bluehost’s dedicated hosting starts at $149.99/month and goes up from there, depending upon your particular needs.
WordPress Hosting: How popular is the CMS WordPress? Around 30% of all websites are powered by WordPress. ‘Nuff said. The problem in this area is that Bluehost WordPress hosting is expensive when compared to others in the industry.
For example, SiteGround, another host recommended by WordPress.org, charges only $10/month for the WordPress starter package. A comparable Bluehost package would cost $25/month. Read our badass guide to WordPress Hosting here.
eCommerce: Bluehost isn’t the first name that generally pops into mind when it comes to eCommerce, but that doesn’t mean they can’t take care of these kinds of customers. In support of eCommerce, you get unlimited bandwidth and lots of shopping carts to choose from.
Other hosts make it easier to get an online store up and going, but, in this area at least, Bluehost is very economical. If the numbers in your checking account are small, don’t be afraid to use this host.
We would be remiss not to mention that sometimes there are terrible costs associated with always chasing the lowest priced web host, such as them being more prone to hacking. Due the questionable nature of the kind of businesses that often migrate to these hosts, Google may look in your direction with great suspicion. 🙁
Security: In this era of large scale hacks, anyone who goes online for anything should be concerned with security. Bluehost takes this issue seriously. Right out the gate you get three layers of spam protection for your website and email inbox. Blacklist suspicious IP addresses if you like. Perhaps coolest of all, CloudFlare can be added with a single click.
What’s so great about CloudFlare?
Nothing much except it makes your website faster AND safer through a robust thwarting of DDOS attacks.
Customer Service: This is where a lot of web hosts sink or swim. Providing great technical assistance and customer service is critical because there are a ton of people going online with their own websites who know next to nothing about all this stuff.
We’re going to say the verdict is still out with Bluehost. Some people report great experiences. Others feel like they’re getting the runaround. One thing that is certain; don’t go with Bluehost if you hate upsells. They do this all too well.
BlueHost = Perfect for Newbies
Though we’ve hinted at it throughout this article, let’s come right out and say it. As a reliable, trusted brand that has stood the test of time, Bluehost is a perfect “starter” hosting company if you’re looking for general web hosting at a decent price. As mentioned, watch out for the upsells. Choose a few of them and your monthly fee can go north in a hurry.
The other type of customer who could benefit from Bluehost would be those who are obsessed with receiving top shelf support for their WordPress website. For you, perhaps the peace of mind is worth the expensive rates. The reality is that, WordPress is so ubiquitous, almost any web host offers adequate support, and probably cheaper as well.
If you’re a rank newbie desperate to get started yesterday, we’ve put together a step-by-step blogging guide to help you take those first wobbly steps without making a bunch of time-consuming mistakes.
The Bottom Line
In case we’ve been too circumspect for your taste, what we’re saying is that Bluehost is a good option and comes recommended by us if you feel motivated in that direction. We won’t fuss at you, but keep in mind it’s not our top recommendation.
That honor goes to SiteGround, which we’ve already mentioned is another of the three web hosts embraced by WordPress.org. For our money, SiteGround is a step up in technical quality and personal service, and at prices that meet or beat Bluehost.