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Bluehost Web Hosting review

Feature-packed web hosting with some quality WordPress plans

(Image: © Bluehost)

Our Verdict

Bluehost doesn't have the most configurable products, but its feature-packed plans and consistent performance are solid reasons to give it a whirl.

For

  • Consistent performance
  • Lots of features with all plans
  • Easy-to-use control panel
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

Against

  • No option to pay monthly
  • Limited configuration options
  • Average response times

Founded in 2003, Bluehost is a popular Utah-based web hosting company. It’s now owned by Endurance International Group, the people behind a lot of big tech names: Domain.com, iPage, HostGator, SiteBuilder.com and more.

Bluehost’s shared hosting products are clearly described, with a fair amount of information about what you get for each of its plans.

The company doesn't try to fool you by offering an underpowered starter plan to get a low headline rate. Even the low-end Basic plan gives you 50GB storage, unmetered bandwidth and a free SSL certificate, and throws in a free domain.

Email options are limited with only 5 accounts supported and a small 100MB inbox for each, but otherwise it's a perfectly adequate product for many users, and it's priced reasonably from $3.99 a month over 36 months (a bargain $2.75 via our special deal), rising to $7.99 on renewal. (Sign up for the minimum 12 months and you'll pay an initial $5.95.)

The Plus plan gets you support for unlimited storage and unlimited websites, along with SpamExperts spam filtering. It's yours from $5.95 a month over 36 months, $10.99 on renewal (that's an initial $7.95 on the annual plan).

Cheapest Bluehost Shared Plan | $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.View Deal

The Choice Plus plan adds domain privacy and protection as well as site backup. It's also available from $5.95 a month over 36 months, which is tempting, although it renews at $14.99 (opt for the annual plan and it'll be $7.95 monthly).

The Pro account ramps up performance, offers a dedicated IP and throws in a premium SSL certificate from $13.95 a month over 36 months ($14.95 annually), $23.99 on renewal.

Payments are protected via a 30-day money-back guarantee. That's the industry standard and should be enough to confirm that Bluehost is the right host for you, but some providers go further. InMotion Hosting, for example, offers an exceptional 90-day guarantee.

If you need more information, there's an in-depth list of what's included in every shared hosting plan on Bluehost's support page.

Bluehost

(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 is little more than the same shared hosting plans, with the same pricing (from $3.95 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 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 good from a standard $17.95 a month over three years ($29.99 on renewal) up to $47.95 ($59.99).

If you're only managing a single site and don't need the business features, check out IONOS WordPress Pro, too. It limits your storage and the number of websites, but it gets you dedicated resources (from 1 vCPU and 1GB RAM) and Varnish-based caching on the Pro plan, and prices start at $15 a month, no long-term contract required.

Bluehost's e-commerce product 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.

Bluehost

(Image credit: Bluehost)

Servers

Bluehost's VPS plans 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 $17.99 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. Bluehost's custom control panel makes your service easy to manage, too.

If you're happy to accept a more basic system, Hostwinds' starter VPS plans are priced from an initial $4.49 a month. But that only gets you 1 CPU core, 1GB and 1TB bandwidth (Bluehost's entry-level plan gives you 5TB). Upgrade to a Hostwinds plan with 2 cores, 4GB RAM and 2TB bandwidth and Hostwinds charges $17.09, very similar to the Bluehost price.

Bluehost's dedicated hosting is limited to three base servers with restricted configuration options. The hardware specs are decent, though, and with prices starting at $73.99 a month over 3 years, they're cheaper than high-end VPS products from some providers.

Bluehost

(Image credit: Bluehost)

Signing up

Bluehost's website makes it easy to compare the details of its plans before you buy. The product pages have reasonably detailed comparison tables and show the starting prices, and if you're the cautious type, very detailed Support pages give you plenty of low-level detail.

For example, in a single click you're able to check everything from geeky stats like the maximum supported number of databases, to initial and renewal prices, the cost of various optional extras, and the key payment-related sections of the Terms and Conditions (barely 200 words, much easier than reading the full document). If you've ever been ripped off by a host who 'forgot' to tell you some important detail, you'll appreciate the value of this kind of transparency.

We began our order and were prompted to choose a free domain (this can easily be skipped, if you've not decided or maybe own your domain already).

Bluehost requires all the usual personal details to create an account: name, physical and email address, and even your mobile phone number.

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 we were ready to get down to some serious work.

Bluehost

(Image credit: Bluehost)

Control Panel

Log in with most web hosts and they either point you at a bland home page with basic details about your account, or throw you straight into cPanel or some other highly technical control panel. That's fine for experts, but might be a little confusing for everyone else.

Bluehost's control panel takes a much simpler task-based approach, listing actions you might want to take immediately.

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.

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 site management setup with a file manager, FTP setup, phpMyAdmin and MySQL management, email account creation, metrics, security options and more.

Bluehost

(Image credit: Bluehost)

Support

Bluehost support starts on the website with a convenient system alert page. 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 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' 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 summary of our question. This was a real issue, incidentally, rather than a test question: we weren't able to log in to our account, and needed to know why.

The chat window suggested we'd have a five-minute wait, a little longer than usual, but this turned out to be an overestimate. Within a couple of minutes an agent arrived, acknowledged our question, and sent an authentication code via email to confirm our identity.

Our credentials verified, the agent gave us an alternative login which got us access to most web hosting features.

He went on to explain that there were a few other reports of the issue, and engineers were looking into it but there wasn't an ETA for a fix. This wasn't a major concern as we could access everything we needed. We were still curious about the problem, but Bluehost later explained (and we confirmed) that it was a simple and relatively unusual issue which will be fixed by the time you read this.

Uptime.com

(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 205ms to 669ms, with an average of 241ms, placing the company 10th out of 21 providers we were monitoring at the time.

Keep in mind that the differences in response times between good providers are generally very small. Our best host at the time, Hostwinds, managed response times from 126ms to 303ms with an average of 139ms, only 102ms faster. If you're managing a high-traffic site and need the best possible speeds, that's good to know, but if performance isn't top priority, you might not even notice any difference.

What's more interesting than raw response times, especially for shared hosting, is how consistent the results are. Spiky graphs showing a lot of variation can indicate overloaded servers, as websites compete for resources. Bluehost performed well, though, with only two significant peaks (that's a response time greater than twice the average) in seven days of measurement. Lesser hosts have multiple peaks per day.

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 consistent response times during testing, and Bluehost's friendly live chat support quickly helped resolve our only technical issue.