Below-average server performance. Not suitable for heavy, resource-hungry sites.
Minor outages are frequent. Downtimes can often last for long periods of time (a few hours at a stretch).
Support is sluggish, and not the most efficient at handling advanced issues. No free site migration.
Initial prices are low, but renewals are a lot more expensive. No monthly payment option either.
BlueHost is a very popular name in the web hosting space — it might even be the most popular shared hosting company on Earth.
But, as is the case with many other fields apart from web hosting, the most popular option isn't necessarily the best one in terms of quality. Is this true for BlueHost as well? I decided to find that out in this unforgiving BlueHost review.
Check out SiteGround (read my detailed review) if you're looking for a BlueHost alternative. Apart from being as well known as BlueHost, they also offer much better performance, uptime, support, and just a better overall service in comparison.
BlueHost's servers are fairly slow, even for an affordable shared host. A light page of a WordPress site, of just 338 KBs, needing only 15 HTTP requests, took 1.13 seconds to load.
In comparison, I could achieve a loading time of 433 ms on SiteGround (read my full review).
Apart from the obvious performance boost, SiteGround also offers more server resources, better features, and a lot better support at a similar price point.
BlueHost's shared hosting servers aren't equipped with newer, faster technologies like LiteSpeed or Nginx. As a result, they're only suitable for very lightweight websites that aren't at all resource-hungry.
Downtime can be really bad for your website. Not only can it frustrate its visitors and hurt its conversion rate, but it can also have a negative impact on the performance of your site on search engines like Google.
Though I didn't face a lot of instances of extremely long-lasting downtime with BlueHost, although minor outages are pretty common (see the screenshot below, my inbox is filled with downtime alerts for the site hosted on BlueHost). When servers do go down for the bad, however, it can easily last a few hours.
As BlueHost doesn't use SSD for storage, and still rely on traditional spinning hard drives, storage failures aren't that rare on their platform. And that can often result in extended periods of downtime.
This is an entirely different case from my experience with a similarly-priced shared host called MDDHosting (read my full review), where I've been hosting TechTage.com since 2011. As they're a much smaller, independent company (not a part of a bigger operation), they feel much "closer to the customers", and they proactively upgrade server hardware as newer technologies hit the market.
For example, two years ago, MDDHosting decided to upgrade their storage to StorPool-powered clustered SSD storage. Which not only offers super fast I/O, but is also self-healing and a lot less likely to cause issues due to drive failures, due to data redundancy.
In simpler words, your site's data is duplicated and synced across multiple individual SSDs in real time, which means even if a particular drive fails (which is very rare for SSDs compared to traditional HDDs), your site will be instantly back up live by utilizing the data from another SSD.
With most shared hosts, downtime is a major concern. Most cheap hosts, especially those part of a bigger holding company like EIG (which also owns HostGator, iPage, JustHost and a lot of other brands) fail to keep their servers up as much as they promise their customers. This isn't any different with EIG-owned BlueHost.
Some others impose such heavy restrictions on resource usage that as soon as users' sites receiving any significant traffic, they start getting 'throttled' and in some cases, even taken down, often for prolonged periods of time. BlueHost has been accused of throttling server resources many times in the past.
BlueHost's shared hosting plans are very competitively priced, but that applies only for the first-term, as they all renew at their regular prices, which tend to be around 2x costlier. The plans mainly vary based on the number of add-on domains (i.e. the number of unique websites) that you can host on them. They currently have 3 main shared hosting plans, and they are as follows:
Their Basic plan, coming in at $3.49/mo is the most popular one with beginners. It gives you the option to host only one unique domain and offers 50GB of storage space. It's a practical plan for many, because not everyone has multiple websites to host.
Their mid-range plan, Plus, costing $5.95/mo, is the most value for money one of the lot. It allows you to host an unlimited number of websites, with no storage or bandwidth limits whatsoever.
They also have another version of the Plus plan called Prime, which is essentially the same plan as Plus (even costs the same after discounts), but comes with some of their premium features like SiteBackup Pro and Domain Privacy (in case you grab a free domain from them or register a new one with them).
Their highest offering is called Pro, and it is priced at $13.95/mo, which is more than a shared hosting customer usually spends. It comes with a dedicated IP, an SSL certificate bundled-in, a complimentary subscription of their optional SiteBackupPro service, and a few other perks.
It also offers significantly more server resources than the lower-end plans, which allows you to keep hosting your site on a shared hosting platform even when it outgrows their entry-level and mid-range plans.
BlueHost claims that the Pro plan achieves this by hosting around 80% less accounts per server compared to their entry-level plans.
For most users, the Plus, or even the Basic plan would be more than sufficient, as even any serious blogger or webmaster hardly gets any time to handle more than a couple of sites. For the more hard-core users out there, however, there is the Prime plan.
BlueHost are one of the few web hosts that offer 24x7 phone, live-chat and email support. I've found their support department to be inadequate when it comes to handling site-specific issues or anything other than answering generic tech queries.
The support response times aren't that impressive, either, and they varied quite a bit, from around 20 minutes to four hours (in case of support tickets). The first response has been an auto-generated response in quite a few cases, too.
BlueHost could easily remind me of the fact that they're owned by EIG when I tested out the other areas of their service, and support was no exception.
BlueHost, like many other EIG-owned companies, is known for outsourcing technical support to countries with much lower cost-of-living like India, which results in a rather frustrating experience at times. It's not as easy to communicate about technical troubles with a non-native English speaking person who often has a hard time understanding your problem.
With the main aspects of their hosting covered, let's take a look at a few other things I found out about BlueHost while trying them out.
Pre-made Support Videos & Text Tutorials
BlueHost has a pretty extensive knowledge base, which has information about almost anything and everything related to their offerings. This is particularly useful if you're good at searching your way to find what you need, rather than chatting with relatively slow-to-respond support staff to get even the most basic queries answered.
Apart from their knowledge base, they also have a pretty active YouTube channel which covers a lot frequently-asked support topics. So, if you're more comfortable with videos than plain text, their YouTube tutorials should come in handy. Take a look at the video below to get an idea of the kind of support videos they upload on their YouTube channel:
Limited 'Unlimited' Hosting
Just like many other hosts that claim to offer 'unlimited' hosting, BlueHost's 'unlimited' does come with several limitations. They include the following:
Hefty Renewal Rates
BlueHost's discounted prices are only good for the first year (or till the time you bought it for). Whenever your plan is due for renewal, you'll be forced to pay their 'default', non-discounted price for that respective plan, which tends to be quite hefty compared to what you'd have paid the first time.
For example, if you're a user of their basic plan, you'll be billed at $7.99/mo when it's time to renew, instead of the discounted $3.95/mo rate.
Great Security Options Out of the Box
If there's one area where you can't complain about BlueHost, it's the security of the overall hosting environment. They are very serious about security, and it shows in the number of their security-related features, even in the low-end plans.
SpamAssassin, Spam Hammer, and Spam Experts are three effective tools to fight email spam.
They also offer hotlink protection to prevent someone from stealing or otherwise using your hosted images (and other files) and draining your bandwidth.
You can also block/unblock specific IPs and IP ranges, in case you suspect any specific IP or range being harmful for your website.
With its two-factor authentication (2FA) setup, it'll be an additional peace of mind knowing that no one else can log into your BlueHost account and make unintended changes, without having access to your phone.
A similar safety feature is the 'account token validation' feature, which requires you to submit a six-digit account security token code to BlueHost's support staff to validate your identity as the rightful owner, before you submit any confidential information, like passwords, to them.
Auto-installers and App Integrations
The customized cPanel comes with a ton of app integrations and allow you to install almost any popular script (be it WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Magento and anything else you could possibly imagine) with just a few clicks.
This saves beginners, who don't need the extra flexibility of a manual installation the, a considerable amount of time and help them get started with a new website much quicker.
Apart from auto-installers, there's also Google Apps integration built into cPanel. This is helpful if you want to use Google Suite for your email or your corporate Google Drive cloud storage, for example.
Setting up a CDN is fairly easy, too. You have a CloudFlare integration built into cPanel, which lets you setup CloudFlare on your websites with a few clicks. CloudFlare can help a lot in reducing your website's load time and resource consumption by serving your website from the closest CloudFlare server from a visitor.
For e-commerce sites hosted on BlueHost, it's easy to get a free SSL certificate, as well as more advanced things like OpenPGP/GPG Encryption.
Site Migrations Aren't Free
Most shared hosts will happily transfer your website from your existing host's server to your new server for free. Not BlueHost!
They charge a hefty fee of $149.99 PER site if you don't know how to do the site migration yourself. Even then, they have a condition citing that they won't transfer more than 5 websites for you in any case.
This is extremely unusual for a company growing as fast as them, especially because a constant influx of new customers is crucial for their business.
Tons of Upsells
While it's not uncommon in the web hosting world to observe almost every web host pushing endless upsells, with BlueHost it just seems a bit too much at times.
Due to your first invoice with them being heavily discounted, they don't make any compromise in trying to sell you as many additional upgrades and add-on services as they can. This can include SEO services, extra site security services, domain registration, advanced site backup service, and many more.
Want an SSL certificate? Pay just fifty bucks per year. Want to restore individual files from your daily site backups? Pay $35.88 per year. Want to re-activate your expired account? Pay thirty bucks for nothing.
Some of these are extremely disappointing, because things like free SSL certificates (by courtesy Let's Encrypt) and individual file restoration from backups are offered for free by many BlueHost alternatives, like MDDHosting, StableHost and others.
Fast Setup & Onboarding
Unless your transaction is flagged as fraud, your purchased plan will be instantly set up and you'll shortly receive an email from BlueHost with your account details as soon as you finish signing up.
Once you log in to cPanel, you'll find a familiar, but visually tweaked interface of cPanel which is fairly easy to understand and use. Unlike other budget hosting brands like iPage who use cheaper solutions like vDeck, the use of a standard control panel like cPanel definitely makes me recommend BlueHost more.
Summary - BlueHost Advantages
BlueHost have been around in the shared hosting game for more than 20 years since they were originally founded in 1996.
BlueHost is your typical budget-friendly web host that offers a standard cPanel and LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) setup for people looking for a budget host without too many bells and whistles. With that in mind, let’s take a look some of BlueHost's most prominent features:
More on BlueHost
BlueHost first started operating in 1996, primarily offering shared hosting services. It was founded by Matt Heaton, who was the CEO from 1996-2011. In 2010, amidst much controversy and speculation, EIG (Endurance International Group) acquired BlueHost. Since 2011, Dan Handy operates as the CEO of the company.
BlueHost specializes in shared hosting, but they’ve now started offering additional types of hosting like VPS, dedicated servers, and managed WordPress hosting. BlueHost claims to host over 2 million websites worldwide, making them one of the top hosting companies on the basis of the volume of hosted sites.
Concluding this BlueHost Review
By the looks of it, this review has already become the most thorough BlueHost review on the internet. Since I’m very passionate about web hosting, I could go all day about the different aspects of their shared hosting. But, since this has already become so long, I’d like to quickly conclude this review.
BlueHost's hosting plans are quite cheap compared to most of their competitors. But, apart from the not-so-great support department, I didn't find them to be decent in most of the other areas, either.
Another negative point to consider is the limited availability of add-on domains in their most basic plan. But, that probably wouldn't concern the target audience (new bloggers / webmasters who are just starting on their web journeys) much.
Overall, BlueHost is another one of those over-hyped hosts that are hugely popular thanks to expensive marketing, but fail to live up to the hype when it comes to actually delivering a solid service.
If you'd rather go with a much better alternative that's still well known in the hosting industry, I'd definitely recommend SiteGround. They not only offer much more for a similar price, but they also perform considerably better in crucial aspects like site speed and uptime.