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Bluehost Web Hosting review

Feature-packed hosting geared towards WordPress

Bluehost
(Image: © Bluehost)

TechRadar Verdict

With its managed hosting plans for WordPress, coupled with the exemplary 24x7 live chat support with seasoned experts, Bluehost makes sense for most small and medium businesses looking for hosting. Most enterprises will also appreciate Blue Sky, an add-on service that provides specialised help across SEO, mobile optimization, etc., to get more out of your WordPress deployment. Bluehost’s shared plans are all hosted on AMD powered machines with 2GB RAM. You get a minimum of 50GB disk space and assorted features, although automated backups are reserved only for premium plans. If you need help assembling your website, you’ll also appreciate the point-and-click website builder.

Pros

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    Feature rich plans

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    30 days money back guarantee

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    Easy and intuitive management interface

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    24x7 live chat is helpful

Cons

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    No monthly billing option (minimum 1 year)

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    Only Linux based hosting

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    VPS and Dedicated plan lack customization

Founded in 2003, Bluehost (opens in new tab) has spent the past two decades establishing itself as one of the largest web hosting providers, home to over two million domain names. In addition to providing a range of shared, VPS and dedicated hosting plans, the provider has focused its energy over the past 10 years on being the best WordPress hosting provider in the market. 

The hosting provider prides itself on plans optimized for WordPress and WooCommerce hosting. Bluehost has an experienced team of WordPress specialists available to tackle any queries you may throw at them to get the most out of your server deployment.

While the plans may seem slightly more expensive than its peers, a quick look at the features on offer will dispel such notions. Unlike some other hosting providers that charge a premium for some of the most basic features such as SSL certificates, Bluehost offers a number of such features as part of all its plans. 

Bluehost doesn’t offer low-priced under-powered plans that lack essential features, forcing you to upgrade to the more expensive premium plans. You can take advantage of the 30-day free trial to determine if Bluehost’s plans can serve your needs before making a long term commitment.

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Cheapest Bluehost Shared Plan (opens in new tab) | $7.99 $2.75 p/m | 63% off
A fantastic bargain for TechRadar visitors, Bluehost has cut the price of its Shared Plan (regularly $7.99 p/m) down to a mere $2.75 per month for the first term only. You get $175 in offers 24/7 support plus free domain and site builder and 30-day money-back guarantee.

Pricing and payment methods 

You can get the Basic WordPress hosting plan for $2.95 per month for a three-year term, but it renews at $8.99 per month thereafter. Although the 50GB storage space should suffice for most professionals and even SMBs, you can only deploy a single website on this plan, which isn’t geared for ecommerce. 

If you wish to deploy more than one website, the ChoicePlus plan makes more sense. You can get it for $5.45 per month for a three-year subscription (renews at $16.99 per month). Apart from everything else on offer with the Basic plan, you also get automated backups for a year, free domain privacy, unlimited storage and websites and even Office 360, albeit for only 30 days. 

Bluehost also offers Managed WordPress hosting, which makes sense for those that don’t want to devote time and resources to maintaining their WordPress deployment. The three plans on offer restrict the number of WordPress sites you want managed, one, three or five. The cheapest managed WordPress plan is priced at $14.95 per month (renews at $29.99 per month) and boasts of 20GB storage space but caps the monthly visitors to 50,000. 

Additionally, Bluehost offers a choice of two WooCommerce plans, which are optimized for hosting an ecommerce website and come with standard features for the same such as an online store, email marketing, payment processing, etc. If you want even more features such as subscriptions and product customizations, amongst others, you must opt for Bluehost’s premium plan, priced at $24.95 per month for a three-year subscription (renews at $39.95 per month).

If you want more CPU and storage resources, your only recourse is to choose from Bluehost’s VPS or Dedicated hosting plans.

Add-on services

Depending on the plan you choose, Bluehost will automatically load add-on products to your cart that it thinks might serve your needs, such as CodeGuard, Spam Protection, SEO tools, etc. Make sure to double-check your cart and purchase before you make the payment.

The hosting provider offers a 30-day free trial for all the hosting plans. Should you cancel the subscription before the end of the trial period, you get a full refund of the hosting service. That said, add-on expenses such as a domain name, and most additional features are not refundable. 

While Bluehost doesn’t support payment through Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, it accepts all other forms of payments such as most major credit and debit cards, PayPal Instant Payments, Cheque & Money Order (US only).

WordPress

Bluehost offers quality WordPress plans with some powerful extras (Image credit: Bluehost)

Application hosting

Bluehost has only a very minimal range of application hosting plans, but it just about manages to cover the essentials: WordPress and simple e-commerce.

The WordPress hosting plan (opens in new tab) is little more than the same shared hosting plans, with the same pricing (from $2.95 a month initially, $7.99 on renewal), and more emphasis on some WordPress-specific features (Bluehost updates WordPress automatically, plus there's some decent WordPress documentation and support).

Bluehost's WordPress Pro plan (opens in new tab) is more capable, giving you unlimited storage, bandwidth and websites, spam filtering, CDN integration and more.

Powerful WordPress-related extras include a staging environment, a convenient way to create and work on a copy of your existing site. If you're making some major changes – replacing a theme, switching one plugin for another – the staging feature enables testing these out without risking causing problems on your production site.

Business-oriented features include Jetpack Site Analytics, Premium or Pro (depending on your plan), a marketing center, PayPal integration and more.

These are capable products, and prices are fair from a standard $19.95 a month over three years ($29.99 on renewal) up to $49.95 ($59.99).

If you're only managing a single site and don't need the business features, check out IONOS' WordPress Pro (opens in new tab), too. It limits your storage and supports just one website, but it gets you dedicated resources (from 1 vCPU and 1GB RAM) and Varnish-based caching on the Pro plan. Prices start at $18 a month, no long-term contract required.

Bluehost's e-commerce product (opens in new tab) is essentially shared hosting with WordPress, WooCommerce and Storefront themes pre-installed, a dedicated IP address, and a few marketing credits (spend $25 on a Microsoft Advertising or Google Ads account, get $100 credit).

Again, prices are reasonable, starting from $6.95 a month (renewal at $13.99.) The plans might be useful if you're an e-commerce newbie, but experienced users could get much the same results by finding their preferred shared hosting package and using Softaculous (or any other auto-installer) to set up a web store for themselves.

Servers

Bluehost's VPS plans (opens in new tab) may not look cheap, at least initially, but that's because the company doesn't try to cut corners to hit a low headline price.

VPS products start at $18.99 over 36 months ($29.99) on renewal, for instance, more expensive than some. But the specs are decent, and include 2 CPU cores and 2GB RAM, twice the allocation you'll get with many starter VPS setups, along with 30GB storage and 1TB bandwidth. Bluehost's custom control panel makes your service easy to manage, too.

If you're happy to accept a more basic system, Hostwinds' managed VPS plans (opens in new tab) are priced from an initial $5.17 a month (renews at $10.99). But that only gets you 1 CPU core, 1GB RAM, 30GB storage and 1TB bandwidth. Upgrade to a Hostwinds plan with 2 cores, 4GB RAM and 2TB bandwidth and you'll pay $18.80, renewing at $39.99, comparable to the Bluehost price considering the specs.

Bluehost's dedicated hosting range (opens in new tab) is limited, with just three base plans and no significant configuration options. The hardware specs are decent, though, and with prices starting at $79.99 month over 3 years (renewing at $119.99) for a four core, 500GB storage, 4GB RAM and 5TB bandwidth setup, they're cheaper than high-end VPS products from some providers.

Setup

Bluehost's website helps you set up your site (Image credit: Bluehost)

Creating a website

Paying for our Bluehost plan was quick and easy, and after handing over our cash, a wizard walked us through the initial site setup. This was far more interesting than the regular 'what's the name of your site?' questions, asking for example whether we needed a blog, where its posts should appear (the home page, somewhere else), and more. That's good news, as it enables Bluehost to do a much better job of setting up the site to suit your needs.

Another prompt asked whether we needed a web store. Agree, and the wizard also installs and activates WooCommerce, the hugely capable WordPress e-commerce platform.

After asking about our website goals and allowing us to choose a theme, the wizard finally installed WordPress and redirected us to Bluehost's control panel.

While many web hosts either dump you into a bland home page with basic details about your account, or maybe some highly technical control panel, Bluehost begins with a simple task-based control panel.

For example, the site presented us with five actions: Customize site design (colors, fonts, layouts), Add a contact page, Add content, Set up your store, Add a product or service (to the store).

This approach can't do everything for you. When we chose 'Add content', for instance, we were taken to the WordPress 'Pages' manual, but it was left to us to figure out how to add or edit a new page. Still, that's only to be expected, and overall Bluehost's system offers vastly more help and assistance to beginners than is par for the course.

cPanel

A full-featured cPanel setup is stuffed with web management features (Image credit: Bluehost)

Experienced users probably won't be interested in any of this handholding, but Bluehost hasn't forgotten them. Tapping the Advanced option in the sidebar takes users to a full-featured cPanel setup with a file manager, FTP setup, phpMyAdmin and MySQL management, email account creation, metrics, security options and more.

Softaculous

Softaculous can automatically install WordPress or hundreds of other top apps (Image credit: Bluehost)

If you didn't install WordPress earlier, Softaculous is on hand to automatically set up hundreds of top apps: Joomla, Drupal, PrestaShop, osCommerce, and assorted other blogs, wikis, forums, image galleries and more (check out the full list on the Softaculous site (opens in new tab).)

Support

24/7 support starts with a comprehensive knowledgebase (Image credit: Bluehost)

Support

Bluehost support starts on the website with a convenient system alert page (opens in new tab). Not only does this provide general warnings about major outages, but you can also use it to check information on any domain or server (this even lets you see server load.)

Bluehost's knowledgebase (opens in new tab) organizes its content into various well-chosen categories: FAQ, Domains, Email, WordPress, Control Panel, Account and more.

Click any category and the site displays a decent choice of starting articles. For example, click Email and you'll see articles including Create An Account, Setup An Email Client and Manage Your Accounts – just what you're most likely to want to know.

You can search for your preferred keywords, too, and the engine does a reasonable job of finding sensible results.

When we searched for 'import WordPress', for instance, the site listed 'How To Migrate An Existing WordPress.com Site' and 'How To Migrate A WordPress Site' as its first two articles, and there were other relevant articles just a little way down the list ('How To Transfer Blogger To Your WordPress').

There's some quality content here, too. Articles like 'How To Install WordPress (opens in new tab)' are short but get straight to the point, and (when possible) give you several options to solve your current issue. They typically link to related content, too, so once you've found one relevant article, it'll usually point you to many more.

If the website can't help you, support is available 24/7 via email, telephone and live chat.

We tried the live chat support, providing our email address and details and posting a simple product question. Within a couple of minutes, an agent arrived, told us everything we needed to know, and fielded a couple of follow-up questions with ease.

Performance

We used Uptime.com, Dotcom-Tools Website Speed Test and Bitcatcha to test the performance of our Bluehost site (Image credit: Uptime.com)

Performance

To test Bluehost's performance, we set up a very simple static website and used Uptime.com to check its availability and response time for a week.

The company managed 100% uptime, which works for us. Keep in mind that we were testing the most basic shared hosting plan, too – if Bluehost is going to have problems, we'd expect them to show up here.

Response times ranged from 257ms to 629ms, with an average of 332ms, placing the company 19th out of 27 providers we were monitoring at the time. While that's not great, keep in mind that the differences in response times between good providers are generally very small (only 60ms separates the ten hosts immediately above Bluehost.) Unless you're running benchmarks of your own, you might not notice any difference.

Bluehost scored better in Dotcom-Tools' Website Speed Test (opens in new tab), which measures site download speed from 16 locations in Europe and the US. Average page load times were 748ms, up with the best providers and twice as fast as some of the low-end competition.

To round off our tests we ran Bitcatcha's Server Speed Checker on our test site. This kind of one-off test can't tell us as much as Uptime.com's continuous monitoring, but it was still good to see Bluehost return excellent speeds, particularly from US locations. Bitcatcha was certainly impressed, awarding our server its highest A+ rating.

Final verdict

Bluehost products aren't as configurable as some of the competition. Its plans are well-specified, though, with 100% uptime and fast download times during testing, and quality live chat support available if you need it.