In this review, we'll be looking at Bluehost - a veteran of hosting business. The founder of this company, Matt Heaton, has been working with hosting since 1996. So, when Bluehost.com was established in 2003, he already had the experience needed to turn it into a successful business.
And it worked. Since its launch, Bluehost has steadily moved towards becoming the world's leading hosting provider.
However, as years went by, new things have happened.
In 2010, Bluehost left the hands of its initial owner. The company was acquired by the Endurance International Group. The very same one, which got itself quite of a negative reputation online, as they seemingly don't help to improve the service as much as some other owners.
But more than 8 years passed by: and Bluehost is still as popular as it always was. So maybe the new owners are doing something right? This is what we're going to try and find out.
- Shared web hosting
- Cloud hosting
- VPS hosting
- Dedicated hosting
- Reseller hosting
- Domain names (reseller of Fastdomain)
With such a wide array of services, Bluehost try to be the Internet's one-stop-shop for all things hosting. It is also worth noticing, that there are some extra features, available to all Bluehost customers, that make this provider all the more interesting. Here's what they are:
Free domain name
With every shared hosting plan you purchase, you get a domain name for free - for an entire year. It's a bonus that would cost $10 or $20 elsewhere - but Bluehost gives that away for free.
In fact, you can use the handy tool below and immediately check if the domain you're looking for is available!
WordPress is the most popular CMS in the world - and there's a big chance you plan to use it as well. Bluehost is a hosting provider endorsed and promoted by WordPress itself. For a good reason, too: this host has interface and servers suited specifically for WordPress websites. So building and using your Bluehost WordPress site will be a simple, blazing fast experience.
Also a free SSL will guarantee safety for your visitors and help you to improve your Google rankings.
Bluehost offers daily, weekly and monthly automatic backups - for free. If something bad happens to your website, you can easily restore it to its previous state. With Bluehost, you can keep your files safe.
Really, with those 3 main things, you can tell that first and foremost, Bluehost cares for small and medium-sized businesses. WordPress is a perfect platform for companies like this.
A free SSL and domain name, as well as daily backups help to ensure speed and security - two very important things for any self-respecting startup.
So now, let's dive in and see what kind of Bluehost packages should those businesses be choosing:
What’s included in Bluehost packages?
There are three main plans you can pick.
- Basic - regular plan which allows 5 add-on domains. Has limited hard drive space and a small email storage.
- Plus - a medium-sized unlimited plan with spam protection.
- Prime - the biggest shared hosting plan available, offering unlimited websites, domain privacy, advanced backups and spam protection.
The table below shows a comparison of these plans and their features:
|Disk space limit||50GB||Unmetered||Unmetered|
|How many domains allowed||5||Unlimited||Unlimited|
|SSD or HDD used in servers||HDD||HDD||HDD|
|SSL||Supported, included||Supported, included||Supported, included|
|Anti-DDoS protection||Server-level only||Server-level only||Server-level only|
|Anti-malware protection||Comes as a separate paid feature||Comes as a separate paid feature||Comes as a separate paid feature|
|Email accounts||5 (100MB per account limit)||Unlimited||Unlimited|
|Website Builder||Included (Weebly)||Included (Weebly)||Included (Weebly)|
|Assisted Website Transfer||$149||$149||$149|
|Money back guarantee||30 days||30 days||30 days|
|Customer Support||24/7 live chat, email, phone||24/7 live chat, email, phone||24/7 live chat, email, phone|
|Choice for server location||No||No||No|
|Free Automated Backups||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Now, let's look at the prices of these 3 plans in more detail.
Indeed, they are displayed as $2.95, $5.45, and $5.45 a month (again) respectively. But what do they really mean?
You see, it's common to see providers display theirs as "monthly". In reality, those figures are usually only available by choosing a multiple-year package and paying in advance. This is how Bluehost prices look, when you add the mid-tier 'Plus' ($5.45 a month) in the cart:
As you can see, there is no such thing as a monthly Bluehost plan. The shortest plan you can buy is 12 months, there are also 24, 36 and even 60 months you can choose.
For all of those packages you have to pay in advance. These are the prices you would have to pay:
|Payment Period / Plan||Basic||Plus||Prime|
No anti-DDoS protection is a problem. You can still use third-party services like CloudFlare but the fact they’re not included in any package is slightly disappointing. Even more so, when you consider that Bluehost is a huge company and could easily provide that in one form or another.
There are no such problems with SSL. The basic Let's Encrypt SSL is included right from the start and setting it up is very simple.
Speaking of simple, Bluehost has opted for a pretty basic option for its storage. Disk space is HDD - but there is plenty of it.
Sure, the 'Basic' plan is limited to 50GB only - but that should be more than enough for the majority of the users. More concerning is the same plan's small amount of space dedicated for email - only 100MB per inbox.
Luckily, there are no set limitations on bandwidth. It is unmetered but not unlimited: which means it’ll be enough to handle regular usage on the website. But you may get notified or even suspended if you use the server irresponsibly.
It is clear to see what Bluehost is attempting to achieve. The shortest possible package is 12 months long and it goes all the way up to 60 months (5 years). In the long run, the hosting proves to be rather cheap. It is up to you to decide whether you want to get tied up to a provider for 5 years, especially if it’s a limited ‘Basic’ plan.
Credit where it’s due, the prices don’t increase much as the package becomes shorter. For example, in the highest-tier 'Prime' plan, you’d pay $5.95 for a 36-month, or a 60-month plan and $7.95 for a 12-month plan. That's pretty good.
However, those are all starting prices. When the package runs out, you will be prompted to pay monthly renewal prices. Here they are, with each package.
|Plan and Package||Basic||Plus||Prime|
|12 Month Term||$8.99||$12.99||$16.99|
|24 Month Term||$8.49||$11.99||$15.99|
|36 Month Term||$7.99||$10.99||$14.99|
This means that the longer package you pick, the smaller renewal prices you will have to pay. Yet they are still quite a bit higher than the starting ones. Well - that's a common practice done by pretty much everyone. But it's still good to know.
Bluehost Customer Service
The company prides itself on its great '24/7 expert support'. However, it is not expected for a hosting provider to say otherwise. In order to know whether it is actually true, I had to do the testing myself.
Just like many companies, Bluehost first attempt to answer your question through their Knowledge Base. After testing it out, I can say it is not bad, although some questions were just easier to Google. By design, this Knowledge Base looks almost exactly like the one of HostGator but has different content.
Apart from that, there are three main channels of Bluehost customer support you can currently use:
- Live Chat
Let's see how each of these options perform.
Phone Service Evaluation
There is one main worldwide number to call to (it's from the US), no matter your IP location. I've been slightly surprised with the options - instead of being informative and simple, some of them sounded like advertising slogans. In the 'Sales' category I've been offered options, such as:
"Have a great idea and want to get it online? Press 1."
"We can build your site and boost your traffic if you press 3!"
While entertaining, it took me a while to understand which option meant "regular pre-sales questions".
After deciding, and picking my option it took around 2 minutes and I was connected with Zach. He was an American guy who did his best to help me.
However, my question" "What's the best service to pick if I plan to send 50GB worth of files through an FTP server every week and keep at least 300GB of files at the same time?" was not answered entirely, with the representative admitting it's probably a dedicated server and he has no expertise in those.
(Fun trivia: you shouldn't buy web hosting if you plan to use it for file storage anyway)
While disappointing, it is still admirable that the agent has admitted to not knowing something as opposed to offering me an expensive service package.
Meanwhile, more simple questions, concerning website creation, security, and pricing have all been answered perfectly. And considering that the are enquiries most people actually have, I say that Bluehost's phone support is actually a pretty good option.
Ticket Service Evaluation
In tickets, one of the most important things here is the response time. It needs to be quick enough to solve your problems without much delay. And while Bluehost has had some issues in the past, they seem to have been cleared.
For testing, I tend to send out tickets like this. Simple enough:
Back in 2017, such request would take up to 2 days to get a reply. Phone calls to customer support (thanks again, Zach!) have revealed that at the time, the ticket system had experienced some issues.
Disappointing. But I had to try again later - just to see how temporary those "temporary issues" really were. And what do you know! With the latest ticket sent out on November 2018, Bluehost are now routinely answering the requests in less than an hour.
That's not even an improvement. That's a Cinderella story.
Chat Service Evaluation
While doing a Bluehost review of chat service, I looked into the three main things:
- Wait time - no matter how good the chat is, if you have to wait an hour for it, it's no good.
- Knowledge of the agents - if you want help, you need people who are capable of providing it.
- Human factor - it's important for the representatives to be respectful and familiar.
In order to do the test fairly, I set up 10 chats at various times of the week. This is what I found out:
For the majority of the time, it takes between less than a minute for an agent to join the chat. The software often says you'll have to wait like 5 minutes, only for an agent to join immediately. This is a pretty good time.
There have been no super long queues, too, and. the representatives are trying their best to help you. With success, too: they have enough knowledge of basic things.
Here is what happened when I wanted to transfer a domain to Bluehost and pretended to have no clue what is going on (click on images to expand).
No overly complicated knowledge base entries. No "hold on, I'll speak to a superior". Just basic, simple answers. And this is how Bluehost have been doing it all the time. Live chat on this provider serves its purpose by being quick, simple, and straight to the point.
Similar things can be seen when talking about the human factor as well. Bluehost agents work without bells and whistles. For example, they have no problem ending the chat right after you thank them and don't bother responding to stupid questions with hilarious responses.
But during the conversation, they act naturally and try to help you as much as they can.
All in all, after an extended analysis, I can say that Bluehost chat service is everything it needs to be. Sure, you could find some flaws if you tried. But trust me, it's as good as anyone will need.
First Impressions During and After the Purchase
You can pay with Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express credit cards. PayPal is also included as one of the options, so you can use that as well.
Bluehost purchase steps were tidy and simple. I had no issues with the payment acceptance, the account was activated within 5 minutes of the payment submission. I didn’t even need to contact support for help with activation - which is pretty rare and very convenient.
Upon finalizing the purchase, a nice questionnaire popped up which asked me whether or not I was an experienced website builder & if I intend to build the website myself.
At first, I thought it was just an upsell attempt, but it was just trying to direct me to the correct tools and ease my journey.
After tuning everything up and logging in, I was immediately transferred to cPanel.
It may look slightly unusual but in fact, it's a regular cPanel with a custom skin. Everything was very easy to find and the search bar turned out to be quite useful. Everything was intuitive and familiar - if you used cPanel earlier, you won't have a problem here.
So far, Bluehost has been alright. A familiar interface and some interesting features paint a good picture. And while some may have issues with the pricing, what Bluehost does is still a very common practice.
But all of that is now in the relative past. It's time for the real challenge: and that is the Bluehost performance review.
These are the things I've been testing:
- Host’s speed during low upkeep
- Host’s speed with a website created with Bluehost website builder
- Server’s overall uptime
- Anti-theft security evaluation
The review will be constantly updated to show you only the latest results.
IMPORTANT NOTICE - no tool is 100% correct all of the time. There are variations in results, which depend on the servers the tools themselves are using. In order to see the tendencies, I have conducted multiple tests using the Bitcacha tool which has proved itself as one of the more reliable ones. The average results are posted here in this review.
Host Speed During Low Upkeep
A simple HTML website is a very good way to test the highest possible speed. It only has a few lines of code and is supposed to deliver the best results. So, I've made this simple website:
And these were the BitCacha global response times:
Considering Bluehost servers are only located in Utah, a state in the west of the US, it is no surprise to see the West Coast show the best response times. London, one the other hand, is not as good.
Being the only European server tested, it didn't do well. So you can assume that your European visitors are going to have slight delays. Then again - the response times are still under 400 ms. And while slow in Bluehost standards, it's still pretty darn fast.
Host Speed With Bluehost Website Builder
Just like SiteGround, Bluehost uses Weebly as their primary website builder. It's a very powerful and versatile builder and it is good to see Bluehost including it.
Weebly website has been used in order to see how the Bluehost servers work under bigger pressure. I set it up with a Flash file (2000s were a wild time) and plenty other additions:
This is how quick it was:
These two tables tell the entire story. All the speeds are rather stable, except for Sydney, Japan and London. They go from pretty reputable to rather average. Regardless of that, the speed drops aren't huge and your website will still deliver decent results. So you can say that Bluehost servers and Weebly are optimized together rather well.
Server Overall Uptime
NOTE - This part of the review will get constant updates with the latest performance information.
A basic WordPress website was set up. Then, it was tracked once every minute to check the host's overall availability. That means both response times and downtimes.
This is the latest information from November 2018.
For nearly the entire two months, Bluehost hasn't been down once. A 100% uptime on this server is, well, a perfect result.
The speeds are also very impressive. In the graph, you can see that our Bluehost server is not only quick - it's also stable.
Only once in the day the server took more than a second to respond, and overall response times are around 300 ms.
Overall - if you need stable and reliable performance, this is your host right here.
Anti-Theft Protection Evaluation
Online security is very important. We put a lot of information online and it needs to be secured properly to make sure no one unauthorized can get to it.
This is why this part of the Bluehost review is dedicated to see whether this hosting provider cares about your security as much as it should.
There are two main parts in this test.
In the first one, I checked whether someone can brute-force your password, typing plenty of incorrect attempts and eventually getting the right one. For Bluehost, it took only seven incorrect attempts to think something fishy may be going on.
It's a simple security measure which locks out the IP address of the user for a certain amount of time. By doing this, your host may considerably slow down or even completely stop the brute-force process. It is good to know it is being done.
For the second evaluation, I tried to use Bluehost live chat to see how they handle sensitive user information. I've changed my password, then changed my IP and talked with a few agents. In those chats, I tried to get the password of the account without providing any proof of identity. Here's how it went:
Plain and simple: I was not allowed to get any information. Every single attempt led to the representative asking me to send a copy of my ID to their email.
Bluehost handles your personal information well.
NOTE - when registering for hosting, make sure to use your real name and keep your personal/payment information secure. Regularly change passwords and don't use simple or repeating codes.
Bluehost Review - Conclusion
Bluehost has been very popular for many years. It is now very clear there's a good reason for that. The Utah company matches its promises with its quality. Good performance, a responsive panel and a helpful live chat make it a solid option for many users.
Bluehost shows exactly why it's a popular option all around the world. Brilliant simplicity and superior performance make this a good option - especially for WordPress websites.
But it's not a one-trick-pony. It goes well beyond WordPress hosting. With plenty of useful features and a lovely Weebly website builder, it can do much more.
Sure, there are some shortcomings, namely increasing renewal prices and a non-flexible plan duration. But in the grand scheme of things, Bluehost is still head and shoulders above most of the competition.
- Daily backups provide with security.
- Amazing WordPress performance.
- Weebly website builder serves as a great alternative option.
- Renewal prices increase after the first contract.
- Shortest available plan is 12 months.