If you have searched for website hosting services then you are likely to have heard of Bluehost. There is a lot of hype about it and you will likely have heard it from an internet marketer or maybe it was mentioned in a podcast.
The big question is if it is any good at all.
This is my own review of their hosting service. I’m basing it on my own experience—which is actually a mix of good and bad. I have been a subscriber for the past year and a half (give or take a few).
And I can tell you that there have been a lot of changes that has happened since I registered with Bluehost. I’ll include a few customer support statistics, load times, uptimes, and other metrics as well.
Bluehost: Company Background
Bluehost has been around for more than 2 decades. That’s how much hosting experience they have had. They are actually one of the pioneers in this industry.
The company was created back in 1996. Today it is one of the biggest hosting companies around the world. They currently host more than 2 million websites on the internet.
They have also developed a strong relationship with the WordPress community and thus they have been named as the official WordPress.org recommended hosting service.
The company was founded by Danny Ashworth and Matt Heaton. The company is based in Provo, Utah and they have their headquarters there.
The hosting plans are simple. They have three hosting plans:
- Shared – costs $2.95 a month. Good option for a simple site like a blog or anything that doesn’t generate tremendous traffic.
- VPS – costs $19.99 a month. This is your option for moderate to heavy traffic sites. Provides you more control and flexibility.
- Dedicated – costs $79.99 a month. Everything is completely customizable and it comes with improved security. Great option for websites that have very high traffic.
Pros and Cons
Here is a summary of the pros and cons of the hosting service that you will get from Bluehost:
- Very strong uptime (above average)
- Good page loading times (part of the top 10 fastest)
- Competitive pricing—introductory prices are very affordable
- Security options are pretty good
- Abundant ecommerce options, apps, and integrated features
- Beginner friendly
Here are the cons:
- Customer service will need some improvement
- Lock in period/commitment period – cheapest rates require a hosting service commitment lasting 3 years
- No free site migration
Bluehost: The Itty Gritty Details
Let’s go over the details of the pros and cons of Bluehost’s service. Of course no company is perfect and with millions of sites and thousands of customers it will be common find both pro and nay sayers.
We all know how important a metric a website’s uptime is. Frequent outages are no less than bad business. It should be noted that Bluehost has made a lot of improvements last year including their uptime.
There used to be a ton of complaints about this metric from customers. The good news is that the company was quick enough to resolve this issue.
Remember that the industry standard uptime is 99.94%. Bluehost is actually able to go up higher. That shows us how reliable this hosting service is. Some even reported to have experienced 99.99% uptime.
If you translate that percentage to the number of outages we experienced during the time we were subscribed to their cheapest plan, we only had 5 outages in 12 months.
One important related factor to uptime is the number of attacks the company’s servers get. We can say that every web hosting company will have some hackers trying to break in from time to time.
The security Bluehost provides is pretty robust. But nobody and no computer system is truly 100% impregnable. DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks on their servers back in August of 2017 caused a huge outage.
Nevertheless, in spite of that big hit they were able to recover thus they were able to reduce the damage that was caused. Since then they have beefed up their security and their numbers have significantly improved since then.
Do they still have down times?
The answer is yes. However, it isn’t that frequent. A good estimate would be one down time every 3 or 4 months. Now that is a significant improvement compared to how they were one to two years ago.
Remember that no web hosting company can guarantee 100% uptime. It’s just impossible in the real world. You need to schedule server maintenance, there’s going to be hardware or software malfunction at one point, and a lot of other contributing factors.
Page Loading Times
One of the reasons why Bluehost was out of the radar about three or so years ago, back in 2016 to be exact, is that they had dismal loading times.
Back then their loading times were at 1,500 ms, which is definitely too slow. Expect a lot of bounce back and frustrated site visitors if you operate at that level.
So, let’s fast forward to this year. Have they improved since then? According to our tests page load times have been revved up from an average of 1,500 ms to 415 ms on average. Fastest recorded page load time so far as we have recorded it is at 390 ms.
That improvement is already amazing. That’s around a 300% increase. We can safely say that with this metric, Bluehost is one of the top 10 fastest web hosts today.
Server Response Times
Testing server response times can give us a clearer picture as to how fast a certain webpage loads. Some webpages will definitely load a lot faster than others.
Well, for instance if one of your webpages has lots of pictures then expect that page to load a little slower than the others. We used Pingdom, Bitcatcha, and other similar tools to test for server response times.
Here are some of the response times that we obtained from the different Bluehost servers:
- US West Coast server: 35 ms
- US East Coast server: 89 ms
- Japan server: 401 ms
- Singapore server: 420 ms
- UK server: 476 ms
- Australia server: 354 ms
There were others but these samples should be enough to help you draw the same conclusions that we came up with. As you can see from the numbers above, the US servers outperformed all others.
The other server locations performed almost at the same range. That means if you own a high traffic site and you want better performance, then you might want to request that your site be hosted on a server in a location in the US.
Really Affordable Introductory Plan Price—Plan Pricing
About a few years ago if you checked out the company’s website hosting rates, you would think exactly like I did. The cost was too high and the quality of the service wasn’t worth it.
On top of that, the customer service wasn’t really top notch. So I really didn’t consider Bluehost as a good hosting service.
However, the load times and uptimes have been impressive after their overhaul so to speak. Since the quality of their hosting services has gone up, then I thought that it might be worth investigating their current rates.
Their hosting rates aren’t the cheapest ones around. However, I can say that the rates have gotten better. They’re a bit more reasonable compared to how they were a few years back.
I can say that the cost is justified considering the type of service I’m getting. The lowered price tag has definitely made Bluehost an excellent option if you are looking for a webhost for your sites.
If you are a frugal webmaster or if you are just a bit tight on the budget then you might want to consider the services of this host. Now, they also offer a pretty low introductory hosting rate of $2.95 a month for their basic Shared hosting plan.
Of course there’s a catch. If you sign up for that hosting plan, there is a lock-in period or contract length of 3 years.
The longer the contract length the cheaper the rates will become. Longer contract lengths can be a more affordable option for some people.
That means you have to factor whether you can stay with the company for that long or not. For instance, if you sign up for a 12 month term contract with the service costing $8.95 a month, you will have to pay $104.40 for that contract.
Now, if you instead sign up for a 36 month contract, you will be charged $6.95 per month and you end up paying $250 instead of paying $322.2.
There are definitely pros and cons with longer term contract agreements with a hosting company, especially Bluehost. If you’re in it for the long haul then that might be a good option.
That may change if you are just testing the waters and you’re not really sure you want to maintain your blog for the next 3 years. But if you’re site has been around and you think it will be around for a while then the 3 year contract term will represent a good deal of savings.
You can say that Bluehost has learned a lot from the previous security breach that they have experienced a few years back. Nowadays they have truly excelled when it comes to providing protection.
If you sign up with them, your web properties will be provided with several layers of protection that will help prevent the most common risks and attacks.
They furnish their customers with three layers of spam protection, which includes Spam Hammer, Spam Experts, and SpamAssassin.
DDoS is another cyber-attack that can cause you a lot of headaches. What happens is that your site will be sent a lot of fake traffic, which basically overloads everything.
Bluehost protects you from this type of attack using CloudFlare. Other forms of protection that this hosting company provides include the following:
- Hotlink protection
- SSH access so you can have secure web sessions
- Two factor authentication
- GPG/OpenPGP encryption
- IP address blacklisting
- Token validation
- SSL security certificate
- Optional filters
Application Rich Dashboard
The Bluehost dashboard is also rich with a variety of applications that have been proven useful. These apps can be integrated into your site directly through cPanel.
Some of these apps and features include the following:
- Google Apps – these apps can be integrated into the Bluehost control panel. That means you don’t have to switch from one page to the other just to get things set up.
- MOJO Marketplace – this is a type of shopping cart software. You can install and run it yourself or hire a developer to manage the system for you.
- CloudFlare – this is a popular CDN service, which is known to help boost a site’s speed. On top of that, as stated earlier, CloudFlare also protects your site from malicious attacks.
- eCommerce Features – these features allow you to setup an online store seamlessly. You also get plenty of shopping cart options to make things easier for your customers.
WordPress.org Recommended Host
There are literally thousands of webhosts today and yes a lot of them have good support for WordPress. Choosing one or even a few of these hosts as the best would be quite daunting.
However, in spite of the competition, Bluehost made it as one of the best hosts for WordPress sites. If one of the world’s biggest content management system recommends this web host then it does mean a lot.
That also means it is worth checking out what Bluehost and other recommended hosting companies have to offer.
Easy to Use
The Bluehost platform is no less than beginner friendly. The user interface that you will be provided with is cPanel, which is actually one of the easiest UI anywhere.
It’s so beginner friendly all you have to do is click on the icons of features you want to integrate into your site and that’s it. You don’t need any coding at all—well, that’s how you want it from the start.
If you want to have more advanced features then you will eventually have to learn how work things under the hood. But that will be for later—much later. If all you want to have is a blog where you can put out your thoughts, make offers, and sell some products then cPanel will be as easy as pie.
From the cPanel interface you can access all of the websites that you have created. You can also access all the email addresses that you need to check out.
This user interface is also customizable. That means you can set things up so that you can see all the features that you usually use first. That way if you need to make any quick changes then you will have it all as soon as you are logged in.
Money Back Guarantee
If you have the case of a commitment phobia then the fact that this hosting company also offers a 30 day money back guarantee can be quite a relief.
Now, take note that this guarantee isn’t as extensive or comprehensive as offered by other hosting companies. However, that is okay – at least you have a money back guarantee that you can fall back on.
Well, think about it. It shouldn’t take you 30 days to figure out if Bluehost provides you with the hosting solutions that you need, right?
Like I said above, the company’s money back offer isn’t as comprehensive as the ones offered by other companies. So, pay attention to the following details if you want to take advantage of this guarantee:
- This 30 day money back guarantee will not cover add on products that you have purchased. An example of which is the domain names that you have registered.
- Now, speaking of domains, you get a free domain when you sign up for a hosting plan with this company. If you did take that offer and got your site’s new domain name from their service, then if you terminate your contract within the 30 day guarantee then your refund will get a $15.99 deduction.
What was that for? That was for registering the free domain you signed up. Bluehost’s terms and conditions state that this deduction is to cover for the costs of registering the domain and so that the domain stays in your name and doesn’t get lost.
Okay, I want this review to be as balanced as it should be. That’s the tone that we have set so far from the beginning of this review. That is why we have devoted an entire section of this review for the downsides of their service.
We have actually mentioned a few downsides already. For instance, we have already mentioned that Bluehost’s performance was dismal a few years back, server response rates being slower depending on the location, costs, and others.
We’ll just mention a few notable downsides here in this section. Remember that you need to know both sides of the story before you should decide on signing up for hosting with Bluehost.
- Customer Support Issues
Is there a company that doesn’t have customer support issues? Well, sometimes they’re great and sometimes you feel like they just don’t know what they’re doing.
So, you end up calling several times until you talk to a representative who’s knowledgeable enough about your tech issue or billing issue or whatever.
The run around doesn’t happen a lot but it can be frustrating when it does. However, they do handle regular inquiries really fast. And you don’t wait in queue that long.
To be honest, their customer service has definitely improved, comparing things from previous experiences. There’s definitely a lot of improvement that can still be made in this department.
One significant improvement that they have had is the tons of support material that they have created. They now have tutorial videos that will help you fix pretty much every common issue that you experience.
You just have to DIY things from there. On top of that, they also have an extensive knowledgebase that pretty much answers every inquiry that you have in mind.
- Contract Lengths
As it was stated earlier, the hosting rates of this company are cheap but they’re not the most affordable ones around. If you want to take advantage of their cheapest rates then you need to sign up for their hosting plans that have the longer contract lengths.
Well, what if you don’t intend to have your site that long? What if you find a different web host that you want to transfer to six or more months from now? It isn’t clear if you can get a refund or not.
Note that there are other webhosts that have contract lengths that only lasts for a few months. Pay attention to the hosting rates and the contract lengths.
- Site Migration
Another downside of Bluehost is on site migration. A lot of webhosts out there gladly migrate your site from other servers to theirs for free. Well, it’s free given certain conditions like signing up for a long-term account.
Well, it’s a fairly quick process and you’re signing up for an account with the new host and usually for the long run. Nevertheless, there are few issues that you may encounter during the process.
With Bluehost, if you want to migrate your site you will have to pay for the service, which will cost you $149.99 and you can only move 5 websites and 20 email accounts.
Is Bluehost the only web host that charges for site migrations? Nope. It’s a very intensive process that’s why we understand why web hosting companies charge for it.
Who is Bluehost Best Suited For?
After considering all of the details mentioned above, we believe that Bluehost is best suited for the following types of users:
- Website owners who are on a budget and are just looking for general purpose webhosting
- WordPress users who need access to more features that they can integrate into their site. This works great if you want an support team of WordPress experts.
- Small and large business owners
- If you are looking for an experienced company that has extensive website hosting experience then Bluehost may be the right pick for you.