Bluehost is popular. Very popular. Hosting over two million websites, reviews of Bluehost indicate this platform is often the preferred choice for people new to blogging and website creation.
Is this because Bluehost is friendly, low-priced, and secure? Those are absolutely important factors. But is that the only reason? Not really...
Bluehost also has a big-time affiliate program. They pay out over $5 million each year – and that’s gigantic compared to almost every other hosting company. If you’re a Bluehost user and your recommendation to a friend leads them to become a Bluehost user, too, then you’re going to earn yourself some money.
If you’ve read other Bluehost reviews, you might have seen a few really different opinions. So what’s going on with them? Are they popular because they offer a great service or are they popular because they pay for referrals? Is Bluehost good?
BlueHost, powering over 2 million websites, has certainly made a name for themselves in 13 years since their inception, inching into the top 20 largest website hosts. Their reputation seems well deserved. They've got a wide range of offerings that rival any other large hosting service.
I spent 12 months using Bluehost to host a website. During that time, I carefully measured their uptime, load time, reliability, customer service and ease-of-use. Instead of focusing on their marketing, I looked at the hard data. Is it the right choice for you? My 100% honest, data-driven Bluehost hosting review starts right now...
The Big Picture Review of Bluehost
Bluehost provides reliable and low-priced web hosting. The site is straight-forward and user-friendly enough that I think most “newbies” will be able to use the platform with no problems.
However, Bluehost has negatives, too. The load times are slow. There are also a few hidden fees you should know about. Plus, their customer support can be difficult to reach.
Overall, I’m giving Bluehost a 3/5. There’s a reliable, secure web hosting platform here – but sometimes that platform is obscured by speed, pricing and support issues.
What Does Bluehost Offer?
Bluehost is a web hosting service. This means they’re responsible for keeping your site online and accessible. If Bluehost has a problem, some or all of their hosted sites could be slow to load or go down completely.
Obviously, you want a web hosting service which almost never has any technical problems. To be fair, even the best web hosting company is going to occasionally have issues. But you want those issues to be along the lines of just one or two a year and not one or two a month.
Located in Provo, Utah, Bluehost was founded by Danny Ashworth and Matt Heaton. They currently have a team of over 750 people providing web hosting services 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
There’s not just one type of web hosting. Here are the four different categories of hosting which Bluehost offers:
This is where multiple domains are all hosted on the same web server. (i.e., it's the cheapest and most popular type of plan).
While you can get started for only $3.95/month with Bluehost, we have an even more economical deal available if that's what you're looking for...
This is where you share a server with other domains, but you can control that server through a virtual operating system. Functionally, although not technically, this is like having your own private server.
This is the true way to have your own server. With dedicated hosting, you’re basically renting your own server. Dedicated hosting is the most expensive option and usually only appropriate for large commercial organizations.
This is hosting specifically designed for those who use WordPress to create their web pages.
How Bluehost Handles Shared and WordPress Hosting
Shared hosting and WordPress hosting are by far the two most common type of hosting used by small businesses, blogs and similar operations.
Many web hosting platforms bundle WordPress hosting into Shared Hosting packages. But not Bluehost.
Bluehost’s WordPress hosting plans are much more extensive (and expensive) than most other WP plans offered by the competition. They host over one million WordPress-powered sites.
Let’s take a deeper look at the Shared Hosting options (of which there are 3):
This includes just one website, 50GB of storage and unlimited bandwidth. You’ll also get five emails accounts for your domain. Each account has a storage limit of 100MB each.
The Basic plan is $3.49 a month.
This increases the number of sites to 10 and the overall storage to 150GB. You can have 100 email accounts, each with a storage limit of 500MB each.
The Plus Plan is $5.95 a month.
Business Pro Plan
This is the biggest plan. You get unlimited everything – websites, storage, bandwidth, email accounts and email storage.
These prices are all pretty low, especially the unlimited Business Pro Plan. Unfortunately, for many users, these prices are a bit misleading.
All the prices of the plans above only apply if you commit to three years of hosting. Prices increase if you want a two year or one year plan. Plus, a one year plan is the minimum duration offered.
Let’s take a look at the cheapest and most expensive WordPress plans:
$12.49 for the first month and $24.99 for each month after. This plan includes 100 million visits per month across up to five sites. Total capacity limits are 30 GB for storage and another 30 GB for backup. One domain and IP address is included. SiteLock Pro provides security.
$85 for the first month and then $169.99. This plan has unlimited visits per month up to 30 sites. You also get 240 GB of storage and backup space. Security features include SiteLock Enterprise and Wildcard SSL.
There are other plan options in-between which basically offer a sliding scale of visitors, capacity limits and features. But even the smallest plan is fairly expensive. So what exactly is the selling point for the WordPress hosting plans?
Well, Bluehost does have a very close relationship with the WordPress community. They have a core staff of developers who work to ensure WordPress sites are hosted seamlessly. Plus, their support staff is available to help troubleshoot any WordPress specific hosting issues, including issues with plug-ins.
Bluehost Reviews: Pros & Cons
BlueHost has a lot of great features which bloggers and other website owners will likely be drawn to. But there are also some issues which will definitely cause some potential users to turn away...Let’s take a look. And unlike other Bluehost.com reviews, I’m going to tell you both the good AND the bad:
Your web host is one of your site’s most important lines of defense against viruses, malware and other cyber-attacks.Spam? Bluehost prevents spam with SpamAssassin, Spam Experts and Spam Hammer.
DDoS attacks? Bluehost uses CloudFlare to keep your site online even in the face of mass traffic attacks.
Also included are SSH access for secure browsing, IP address blacklists to deal with trolls and hot link protection to guard against content theft.
There are only three web hosts officially recommended by WordPress. They are SiteGround, Dreamhost and Bluehost.
Other types of web pages certainly work with Bluehost. But a site designed in WordPress is going to pretty much seamlessly connect. WordPress integration is built into Bluehost from the ground up.
Lots Of Options, Seemingly Low Prices
This is where BlueHost really shines. If you take a look at their page, you'll see that they offer plans that cover just about every hosting need. We're concentrating on their shared hosting today, but even there they provide a lot to customers. They have three different shared hosting plans, each at fairly low introductory prices.
- Basic: $2.95/month
- Plus: $5.45/month
- Prime: $5.45/month
Now, after that introductory period, those prices will return to their regular rates. $7.99/month for basic, $10.99 for plus, and $14.99 for prime. Still, those are affordable terms, and it's nice that they give you a discount at the onset.
As far as what you get with those plans, with the exception of the basic plan, which severely limits your resource use, you get an unlimited number of website and unmetered storage and bandwidth to go wild. Since you're on a shared server, the reality is that they'll cut you off if you're hogging too many resources, but it does provide more freedom than a plan that monitors resources in a more strict fashion.
To hear them tell it, BlueHost is giving you the "whole shebang," with so-called resource protection, unlimited domains, email accounts, regular backups, cPanel interface, and more. Some services will lock off services like that to higher level plans, so good on BlueHost for offering them with their lower level packages as well.
Easy To Use
Another detail they have mastered is ease of use. Perhaps the reason you have so many small sites and personal blogs singing BlueHost's praises (it might also be because of the lucrative affiliate program, but hey). Sign-up is an easy step-by-step process. Once you are signed up, you can jump right in with making your BlueHost site.
If you've prepared your site in advance, the process that BlueHost recommends is using FTP (File Transfer Protocol). They offer a simple guide if you're a first-timer, and have different walkthroughs depending on your OS and FTP of choice.
If you're starting fresh and have decided to build your site right there on BlueHost, you get to use their website builder. Load it up, and you'll notice it looks a lot like Weebly. That's because it is Weebly, just stripped down to a certain degree. They offer a tutorial to get you started:
You only get a site with six pages and a few small options to start. If you want to leverage the Weebly site builder to its full capacity, you'll have to pay an additional fee to upgrade. If you're going with a host just because of the site builder, though, you might be better off just going with the site builder in question instead of an intermediary.
Plenty Of Add-On Integration
If there is a third-party app you want to use to increase the functionality of your BlueHost site, you'll probably be able to use it. BlueHost allows for integration with a wide range of apps, and many are easily installed directly from the cPanel dashboard. Of these, Google Apps are probably the most well interwoven into BlueHost. Simplicity at its finest.
BlueHost also offers customers a few extras that are worth a look. They have some e-commerce tools (not the best, but good for a host that doesn't specialize in that area), and the ability to integrate with e-commerce platforms like Magneto or ShopSite.
BlueHost's security features are more than adequate. They offer anti-SPAM built into the platform, including Spam Assassin, Spam Experts, and Spam Hammer. You can configure SSH and SSL, along with a few other security extras to ensure your data stays safe.
On top of this, BlueHost knows how to do customer service right. If you're having an issue and need support, just call them up (or email), and they'll get back to you in a decent amount of time to fix the problem. They'll walk you through technical aspects and whatever account questions you might need to ask.
Compared to the competition, Bluehost is a turtle. Throughout my 12 months of testing, they consistently ranked as one of the slowest hosting companies.
The average load time for a page is about 1,400ms. Again and again, Bluehost averaged almost half that.
Roughly three-quarters of all internet users will bounce from a page within 20 seconds. You need fast load times or your business can suffer.
Bluehost isn’t going to cause your site to load in 20 seconds (or longer). But their average load times are definitely the biggest negative to be found.
No Windows Anything
It's all Linux servers over here. Not a huge deal for most users. For those running Windows-specific features, though, it could put a damper on your web hosting plans with BlueHost. At least their Linux offerings are pretty good!
Poor Customer Service
A web hosting company with not-so-great customer service? I know – shocking!
Okay, I’m being sarcastic. But hosting companies don’t have the best reputation for customer service. Unfortunately, Bluehost doesn’t do much to change that perception.
I tested out their Customer Support a few times. Each time I had to wait at least 20 minutes...Sometimes I waited up to 45 minutes!
Other Bluehost web hosting reviews might not want to tell you this, but every time I personally reached out to customer service I had a long wait.
Harsh Storage Rules
There are limits to all of their “unlimited” data claims. Specifically, if you go over 1,000 database table or 3GB total database, your account will be deleted. That’s right – gone completely. While you can upgrade to more storage, it’s also important to always keep an eye on your current storage levels.
First, check out this Bluehost video on how to transfer an existing website to their service:
Now, other reviews on Bluehost web hosting don’t seem to mention this, so please take note:
If you have an existing site, Bluehost is going to charge you a $150 transfer fee. They also limit you to five sites and 20 email accounts.
Considering that this is usually a free service offered by most other hosts, this fee is definitely irritating and unwelcome here.
Perhaps A Bit Too Much Add-On Integration
It's almost as if they don't have any extra functionality on their internal platform. You'll find yourself hunting for add-ons to do many things that other hosts allow standard.
It's an extra step that complicates the process when BlueHost probably could have integrated their own solution easily. Instead, they've farmed out even basic stuff to Google Apps and the like.
If you take a further look at BlueHost's fine print, you'll see they're out to nickel-and-dime you. Case in point: BlueHost doesn't offer free site migration, which is something that many other hosts will take care of for you at no charge. Here, though, you have to be ready to fork over an extra $149.99 to get your current site on their servers.
It goes further. Those low intro rates come with a term, which you already knew. Did you know, however, that have to stay locked in with BlueHost for 1-3 years and you only get the lowest rates if you sign up for three years? You don't even actually get to pay month-to-month, because they bill you annually, with no exceptions.
Then there are the little extras. Additional domain names, dedicated IP, SSL certificates, SiteLock, privacy options. If they can tack on an extra charge, they will most certainly do so. Not exactly the cheap and easy web host they purport to be.
As we wrap up our Bluehost review, let’s first look at the definite pluses. They’re very WordPress friendly. You can get your WP site online with very little effort and know-how. Plus, they offer a variety of useful security features.
There also quite a few negatives for WordPress, too. Customer service is difficult to reach. There’s a fee for Site Migration. Plus, load times are often very slow.
Those interested primarily in WordPress integration do have a lot to like here. Everybody else will likely want to check out the platform carefully before committing to any long-term contract.