It’s no surprise that Bluehost is one of the most largely known web hosting companies out there today, having surfaced in 2002. Within the last decade, they have earned a name for themselves for being the most popular web host within the United States. They gained a lot of popularity by being a top recommended host by WordPress, subsequently offering a feature by the name of WordPress Auto-Installation, which of course gained them several new customers. Bluehost isn’t all sunshine and candy though, as many customers have had negative experiences with the company. This leads me state that Bluehost is strikingly comparable to marmite; you either love it, or you hate it.
One of our own reviewers has previously reviewed this host, however that was over five years ago and we felt it would be appropriate to post an updated review as they are an extremely well-known web host. The industry itself is constantly growing and updated reviews are definitely a must.
As usual, this review will be broken down into sections, consisting of:
- Features and Pricing
- Terms of Service
- Testing of Services/Uptime
- Customer Support
Features and Pricing
Bluehost execute a simple yet effective looking website; neither too much nor too less. They have the right amount of information displayed on the homepage not leaving you to look around the site for information that may be buried. The features and initial pricing structure are displayed front and center.
Bluehost do not have a set structure of plans, and instead offer all customers the same set of features. They do not use any plans of any sort and this is due to the fact that they are a web host who offer certain unlimited features. Bluehost are one of the veteran hosts that decided to incorporate the word unlimited into their features and made it one of the biggest marketing strategies used today within web hosting. Bluehost do allow you to choose how long you wish to host with them though, and the contract lengths are as follows:
- 12 Months – $4.95 per month
- 24 Months – $3.95 per month
- 36 Months – $3.95 per month
Unfortunately, BlueHost do not allow you to pay month by month. This is one of the most annoying pricing strategies used by web hosts to gain long-term customers, and it surprised me that a veteran host like BlueHost incorporated something like this.
The features that BlueHost offer which are unlimited are as follows: disk storage, bandwidth, domain hosting, pop3/imap e-mail support, e-mail accounts, add-on domains, parked domains and sub domains.
They also offer a free site builder for inexperienced users, as well as a free domain name for the length of your hosting account. You are of course given the use of FTP accounts and several varied SQL databases.
Upon sign-up, you are given the opportunity to include add-ons to your purchase. These include SiteLock domain support, website back-ups and a service called the BlueHost Pro package. The Pro package states you will receive the fastest servers available, better hardware, and increased security. It costs just under an extra 20 dollars per month for this package. Personally, I don’t think it’s worth it, and is most likely a marketing ploy used by the company in order to appeal to new, and potentially gullible consumers.
Terms of Service
The terms of service section is fairly long and boring. It is not particularly a joy to read, however it is pretty much the bog-standard terms and conditions you will see these days employed by the majority of web hosts.
It does state important information here and there considering the customer’s account, for example: BlueHost will set your account to auto-renew, and this is stated not to be an obligation, but a courtesy. The same applies to the domain of a customer’s account as well. If you wish to disable this service, you must notify BlueHost sixteen days before the next renewal period.
You can cancel your account at any time, and are given a 30-day money back guarantee. If you cancel within the first three days of sign-up, you are entitled to a full refund, however if you cancel after those three days, you will receive a refund consisting only of your hosting services but not your add-ons. Add-ons become non-refundable after the initial three day period.
It also states that BlueHost does not have any set limits for a hosting account; therefore you do potentially receive unlimited hosting. The same rule applies to site transfer.
After my initial sign-up, I received two e-mails; one was the obligatory “thank-you” e-mail, and the other contained several links to important resources, such as the control panel. Also, the day after, I received a phone call from a BlueHost representative verifying my domain and details, most likely for security reasons.
I logged into the control panel and was unsurprisingly met with the, albeit well customized, cPanel control panel. One feature I liked most about BlueHost’s control panel is that it gives you a lot more information in regards to your hosting account. Most web hosts that use cPanel often tell you how much allocated disk space and bandwidth you have used, yet BlueHost tells you much more. For example, the panel told me important information such as when the hosting account expires, programming versions, machine name/version and the account IP address, all of which is handy to know. Here is a small preview of the control panel itself:
The control panel itself has many more items available, moreso than most other web hosts. There were several other modules, for example; a promotional module – which contained items linking to free cloud storage, free adwords coupons, free templates and other discounts and free promotional items. Other modules included SEO (search engine optimization) tools and partner links.
The first script I decided to install was of course WordPress. BlueHost have recognized that WordPress is among the most popular platforms out there today and have given it its own item in a module to easily install it. When I clicked to install it, I was given a choice of what version to install dating back from version 2.5. It also asked me if I wanted to create an administrator account or have one generated for me. It even allowed you to install a couple of popular plugins to get you started.
I then went on to install a few other scripts. Bluehost makes use of a script installed called ‘SimpleScripts’ that contains tons of platforms such as Joomla, Drupal, Magento, PHPBB and many, many more. The next script I installed was the content management system Drupal. The installation method was completely similar to that of the WordPress installation; it allowed me to choose the version, administration details and so forth. I installed a majority of other scripts ranging from e-commerce to forums, all of which had an easy installation, and worked perfectly. The installations were extremely fast and easy to complete
The site loading times, after installing the scripts mentioned above, were very fast. As BlueHost has its datacenters based in the United States, and I am based in the UK, I was happy to see extremely fast loading times. I used a service called Pingdom to monitor uptime and downtime. The results were quite surprising, however. The website received an enormous amount of downtime within the four-week time span. I received a total of 16 downtimes and 3 hours 40 minutes worth of downtime. This is unacceptable and is definitely a high risk to those looking to host a website for a growing business. The websites uptime after this four week period was 99.46%. This is a definite weakness from BlueHost and one that should be taken seriously.
Thanks to Pingdom for providing uptime results!
BlueHost utilize all mediums of help and support; you can submit tickets, call them, use live chat support, e-mail them and even send them a letter. You can phone their customer support line 24/7, however their other departments have varied calling hours. If you’d rather receive support via live support, that is also a 24/7 service. Their support number is toll-free within the US however it is not if you are calling from outside the US.
I went ahead and opened up a live-chat support conversation with a BlueHost representative. I unfortunately could not call their support number due to the obscene charges I would receive as I live in another continent; bad news for international customers. BlueHost have very specific categories when it comes to using live-support. This leads me to believe there is at least one representative per category. I proceeded to select the “E-Mail Questions” category and pose a question concerning using custom domains in conjunction with an e-mail address. You must enter your domain name and the last four characters of your hosting account password before proceeding however.
I was connected to a representative within five seconds and typically received replies typically every 15 seconds. These were in fact fast response times; however it felt like I wasn’t even talking to a human. The representative came off as a robot shooting me with answers from a knowledgebase. I feel BlueHost need to be more interactive with its consumers to truly help them, instead of blurting out a list of instructions, which is what I received.
After I received the information I needed, the representative asked me if I needed any more assistance, and that was that. I was then greeted with a survey questioning the legitimacy and helpfulness of the answers and instructions I received from the representative.
BlueHost are a reasonable host that offer fairly cheap services with fast load times and helpful support services. They offer truly unlimited features such as disk space, bandwidth, e-mail accounts and domains. To top it all off, you also get a free domain for the first year of your hosting account period. If you decide to host with BlueHost, you are at a definite risk of receiving downtime which is, of course unacceptable for commercial businesses. The support is helpful, but feels automated and cold, which is generally distasteful and un-interactive towards consumers.
BlueHost Signup Takes 2 Minutes
Yes we actually timed it…
Bonus: An Early Bluehost Review by Doug Hanna
24/7 U.S. Phone Support, No Overseas Outsourcing
I was excited to write a review about BlueHost, mainly because I’ve heard a lot of good things about them. With so many web hosts, and so few (good and honest) reviews, it’s really hard to tell who’s good and who isn’t.
From looking at the BlueHost.com web site, the company appears to be a serious and professional web host. A visually appealing web site, clearly posted contact information, lots of awards (from legitimate places), and grammatically correct text on site, all help make BlueHost seem like a formidable web host. A great feature (that seems to be awfully rare) is that BlueHost provides a demo of their control panel (a very slightly customized cPanel using the X skin) that actually works and isn’t impossible to find. It’s a great feature that allows you to review how cPanel works if you aren’t familiar with it.
Features and Pricing
The features BlueHost provides seem pretty standard (nothing lacking) with all of the expected features of a web host such as cPanel, multiple database support, FTP, email, etc. BlueHost’s one (the only one I could find, at least) package features unlimited diskspace, and unlimited bandwidth. There’s a limited number of databases (100 each for MySQL and Postgre) and more FTP and email accounts than you could ever use (1,000 and 2500, respectively). Unlimited numbers of addon domains, parked domains, and subdomains are given.
Three and six month contracts are no longer offered. Pricing is now the same no matter how long you sign up for:
- 12 Months: $6.95/month (no setup fee, free domain included)
- 24 Months: $6.95/month (no setup fee, free domain included)
- 36 Months: $6.95/month (no setup fee, free domain included)
I have never been a big fan of a minimum of three months contract, and I had to click around (to the second step in their order process, actually) just to find out the price. Ignoring the minimum contract length, pricing is quite competitive.
These guys have a very unique Terms of Service – there’s no legal jargon at all. It’s just some bullet points on a page with the major points included in most Terms of Service agreements. The shady point is “All activities may be monitored, recorded, and examined by any authorized person, including law enforcement.” with a semi-shady “Any violation found or fraudulent activity that system personnel deem inappropriate may have your account immediately terminated without notice and any recorded evidence reported to authorized persons.” However, in fairness to BlueHost, the points are quite clear, and not hidden within a 10 page agreement.
Two clicks later, I was into my control panel. If you know about cPanel, you can probably skip this paragraph. It’s all very standard. You have the same SQL, subdomain, email, etc. features as every other cPanel. There’s a few nice addons such as a domain manager, a sitebuilder, and some options to manage your account (basically, it just logs you into their billing system, but still convenient). BlueHost has Fantastico, which from what I saw, was up-to-date with the latest stable versions of all of the scripts. The cPanel went very fast and did everything it was supposed to do.
Like a lot of cPanel hosts, BlueHost supports addon domains. I set up a few addon domains, and everything worked well, and without any problems. BlueHost doesn’t allow SSH/Shell Access by default, but says it will enable shell access for your account if you fax a copy of your driver’s license, passport, etc. to them. I installed some basic scripts (a blog, a CMS, a forum) without any problems. Speed was about average, and BlueHost seems to keep up in terms of software updates and the like.
I called their support department using their toll-free number. I was talking to someone within about 30 seconds after dialing. I asked some basic questions: Do you support mod_rewrite (Yes), do you support mod_security (didn’t know, but checked), and do you keep your Fantastico up-to-date with the latest versions (Yes)? Support was nice enough, and keep to know what they were talking about. The representative obviously wasn’t reading from a prompt (no delay with answers).
I decided to test the BlueHost support out with some more complicated issues that an average webmaster may run across. I was caller #2, and had to wait about a minute or two. I spoke to a different representative (meaning they have more than one tech on duty, always nice) and asked does BlueHost support PHP5 (they have two servers that do, and can move your account if needed), if they support Ruby on Rails (nope), and if I should use ‘localhost’ as my host name with the script I was trying to install (Yes). I reworded the questions slightly and sent them to BlueHost support via email at 4:50 PM on a Monday. By 5:17 PM, I had a helpful response.
All and all, BlueHost seems like a good web host. The company certainly has their act together and by all means can be labelled as a top quality web host with great features and support.