When someone new to web hosting looks for their first service to host a blog or small business site, they often end up at Bluehost.
It is a great choice for beginners, with a well-earned reputation for ease of use, good pricing, and strong customer support.
Covering these basics is key, since finding your first web hosting service can be a real pain. A common question is whether there’s really any difference between all the different hosting companies out there. Yes, in short.
A server’s a server, right? Well, not exactly, and whether you’re new to web hosting, or an experienced user, there are differences between these services that will start to matter, especially as your site grows.
Like any other provider, Bluehost has its charms and its shortcomings. Mostly charms. It scores 91% in our rankings, second only to HostGator. For those of you in a rush, these are the essential things to know about Bluehost:
- Dependable server uptime
- Superb WordPress integration
- Budget-level pricing
- Smaller amount of storage on basic plan compared to competitors
- Potential CPU throttling (basically slowing down a website) makes Bluehost’s shared servers a less than ideal choice for websites suddenly experiencing high traffic.
Bluehost is the steady Eddie of web hosting. It’s affordable and extremely easy to use. Their logo may not be as cute as HostGator’s, but it’s service is just as good, in some areas better. Read on for a full breakdown of what Bluehost offers and who it’s best suited for.
Utah-based Bluehost came onto the scene in 2003. Since then it’s become one of the leading providers of web hosting services and is currently owned by The Endurance International Group, which also owns competitor HostGator. Bluehost currently powers more than two million websites worldwide, primarily out of its data center in Utah.
As far as shared hosting plans go, Bluehost offers some of the best prices around — especially if you take advantage of that 36-month pricing offer. It also has very good uptime, excellent load time, and relatively good speeds.
The more advanced VPS and dedicated servers are too much for most people — though anyone thinking of a VPS should also look at pricing options from services that aren’t dedicated solely to website hosting, like Digital Ocean.
One of the key factors site owners need to take into account is the amount of uptime to expect from a hosting service. In other words, how often does your server shut down and temporarily stop delivering your website?
Bluehost has an excellent uptime record of 99.98 percent. On a yearly basis that works out to less than two hours of downtime. Not bad considering there are 8,760 hours in the average year.
Ideally, you want that number to be 100 percent, but that’s not possible. There are too many issues that may arise, such as hardware malfunctions, DDoS attacks, critical server maintenance, and other issues.
That doesn’t mean you should settle for 50 percent uptime or anything like that, but a realistic expectation is somewhere close to 100 percent but not quite a perfect score. Bluehost manages to get very close indeed.
Bluehost has ample features for a no-hassle WordPress experience, or for getting started with a dedicated hosting plan. If you need to get a domain name, Bluehost offers a free domain to certain users when they sign-up for a one year plan. That perk does not, however, include the domain registration fee (between $10 to $15), which you’ll still have to pay for.
There’s a ‘drag and drop’ site builder for those who have an idea of what they want to create, but don’t have sharp enough HTML and CSS skills.
Bluehost also offers unlimited data transfer on many of its plans. That does come with a catch, however. The company employs a policy called CPU Protection for all plans that use shared hosting. When you use shared hosting it means that your site is not the only one on a given server. That’s why Bluehost and others can offer web hosting so cheaply: no one is paying to run their own server.
But that does mean all the sites on a given server need equal access to hardware resources. That’s where CPU Protection comes in. If your site makes excessive demands on the server then it is deliberately denied access to extra hardware resources. The end result is that your site may become inaccessible or incredibly slow.
Bluehost uses the ‘cPanel’ Control Panel, which is a popular site management system, and the company offers free backups so you don’t lose any key site files.
Depending on the plan you use, Bluehost offers either 50GB up to unlimited storage space for your site files. If all you plan to do is run a WordPress blog with words and images, then the 50GB plan will be fine as it will take a while to use up that much storage.
The sign-up process for Bluehost is relatively simple. You pick your hosting package, select your new free-ish domain (if applicable), decide how long you’d like your hosting for, check off the extras you want, and after paying, you’re off to the races. During sign-up, pay close attention to the add-on services prior to checkout. We’ll get into that in more detail in the pricing section below, so you don’t end up paying more than you expected.
If you’re using a domain from a provider like GoDaddy, Hover, or Namecheap there are instructions on how to point it at Bluehost’s servers. Transferring a WordPress site is also easy thanks to the blog platform’s export feature.
Like many other web hosting providers Bluehost uses the cPanel as its primary interface, but Bluehost’s customizations are a study in simplicity. It starts with six basic categories in the left-hand rail: Home, My Sites, Marketplace, Email, Domains, and Advanced.
The primary window for each section maintains a very simple, clean look with easy-to-read text, large buttons, and lots of space between content elements. That’s true even in the Advanced and Marketplace sections where there are tons of options and features. Instead of trying to cram everything in to a single screen, each section just takes up more vertical space.
The overall effect is that the interface is never overwhelming for the user, but there’s still all the features old hands familiar with cPanel and Bluehost need. Bluehost provides an excellent balance between the needs of beginners and the requirements of power users.
One of the most important features you need when you are new to site hosting is a variety of technical and customer support options. They’ll be your first point of call when faced with any operational issues.
Should you run into an issue, it’s worth trying to find the answer yourself on Bluehost’s support forums. It’s often quicker to do the research independently, and it will ultimately provide a better understanding of how a site works.
Sometimes, however, plunging into the depths of a support forum just won’t cut it. For these cases Bluehost has a number of options including live chat, email support tickets, and even 24/7 phone support. To find the customer support numbers visit Bluehost’s contact page and click ‘Technical Support’.
The company offers three different technical support numbers depending on your need:
- General enquiries
- VPS and dedicated hosting
- WordPress assistance
A nice thing about Bluehost’s website is that it offers instant answers right on the primary help page for some of the more common issues. Say, for example, you can’t figure out how to transfer your WordPress site from another host, you can click on that issue on the help page, and then you’ll see multiple ways to solve your issue, including a help article, live chat, and the specific phone number you should call.
In our comparative research of top web hosting providers, value for money was one of Bluehost’s strongest categories. There are a variety of pricing tiers and special offers for new customers. New customers who need a WordPress site on a shared server, for example, can pay $3.95 to $5.95 per month by paying for 36 months of hosting upfront. Otherwise, the price is $8 to $15 per month.
Beyond that initial pricing there are also a ton of optional features worth considering. Domain privacy protection is an extra dollar per month, and is a must-have for many people. It prevents personal information including a home or business address from being published on publicly available WHOIS databases.
SiteLock, an added security measure, is $2 per month, there’s an advanced backup utility for another $3 per month, Bluehost’s specialized SEO tools are another $3 per month, and HTTPS is an extra $3.33 per month. Several of these features are added by default during checkout, including domain privacy protection, Sitelock, and the back-up utility. You can remove any of the extras you don’t want.
Anyone looking for the cheaper shared hosting, but has a site with greater demands than regular shared hosting, should check out Bluehost’s Cloud Sites option. This is priced from $7 to $16 per month or $10 to $26 per month. The cheaper price is once again based on pre-paying for 36 months for new customers. The same extras are also available on this hosting plan.
Bluehost’s aforementioned dedicated WordPress plan offers faster response times, and specific hardware configurations. Bluehost’s special prices start at $20 if you pre-pay for 36 months, otherwise it’s $40 per month.
Advanced users and business owners who aren’t looking for a basic WordPress install should also check out Bluehost’s virtual private server (VPS) and dedicated server offerings. Bluehost’s VPS hosting starts with a dual-core VPS, with 2GB Ram, 30GB storage, 1 IP address, and unlimited bandwidth for $20 per month (if you pre-pay for 36) or $30 per month.
Dedicated hosting is where the costs get serious. Bluehost’s standard dedicated hosting plan starts at $80 per month for 36 months or $120 per month for a single year. For that money users get their own server rocking a quad-core CPU with HyperThreading, 500GB of mirrored storage, 4GB RAM, 5TB of bandwidth, and three IP addresses.
Bluehost is an excellent service, especially for anyone trying out their first DIY website or blog. The prices are great if you lock in for three years, and the company’s support and one-click installs for WordPress and other common site platforms help you get up and running quickly.
If you’re new to the game, or just want to focus on your site without getting bogged down in technical issues and clunky interfaces, Bluehost may well be the answer. Its ease of use is peerless, and its reputation for reliability is well-earned. It offers a 30-day money-back guarantee on it’s hosting, so there’s plenty of time to give them a spin without being tied town for the long haul.
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