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Disclaimer: When referring to Bluehost, we are discussing their Choice Plus plan. This is a shared hosting offering and different from their dedicated hosting offerings.
In this article we're going to compare Bluehost to some other hosting alternatives in the same price range. The main purpose of this article is to compare the performance of this budget/shared webhost, to some other offerings in the industry.
|The Hosts Discussed In This Article|
Upfront, let’s go over what this article is going to cover. It's going to say that Bluehost (in most use cases) is terrible and should be avoided at all costs. We’ll also discuss why so many people recommend it if this is the case.
We’ll offer you statistical evidence that backs up this claim, and finally go over some alternatives to this service.
This post is purposefully written towards those who are newer to WordPress and shopping around for a webhost.
Specifically on Reddit and Facebook, we see tons of questions regarding Bluehost:
And of course,
As an agency, we've been familiar with Bluehost for some time now. Many of our first time clients come to us with websites hosted on Bluehost. The company is extremely good at marketing to first time users, has a fairly low price point and has a strong affiliate program that incentivizes bloggers to publish glowing reviews on their product.
In fact, when the founder of this agency first started building WordPress websites, he used Bluehost as the host due to several articles recommending it.
However, as you may be realizing, Bluehost isn't all that is cut out to be.
There are some massive issues with the service, as we will be discussing at a later point in this article. To give you a sneak peek though, the hosting company offers subpar hardware, is very slow the benchmark tests that we have run, and locks you into a unfavorable pricing plan. Let's get into it:
This article isn't a pros and cons article. We're only going to discuss the things that we don't like about Bluehost. Our official stance in the company is that you should avoid it at all costs (unless you're in a super specific use scenario). Here's why we think this (if you just want to see the numbers, skip to the next section):
The style of hosting that you're considering buying on Bluehost is something known as “shared hosting”. Shared hosting is a style of hosting where multiple hosting accounts and websites are stored and served from the same individual server.
Every single website running on this server shares the finite amount of resources that it has to offer. If one website gets a lot of traffic, resources are unfairly allocated to it, leaving your website installation with limited access to RAM and CPU processing power. This results in a much slower loading website, as WordPress doesn't have what it needs to effectively render pages quickly. Server response time (and TTFB) is also much longer.
With this hosting style, you also need to worry about downtime. Downtime means that your website is not publicly accessible because the server is experiencing maintenance or issues. Surprisingly, Bluehost can actually explain what this means better than we can:
The reason that this happens is because your website is hosted on one individual server. If that server goes down for any reason, your website is not available to the public (the files are trapped on the hard drive). servers can go down for many reasons, from maintenance, to hacks, to becoming overloaded. Because shared hosting spreads resources thin, if one website uses too many resources (for example, due to high traffic because of viral blog post) this could cause the whole server to go down impacting all websites stored on it.
There are many other issues that come along with shared hosting, which you can easily learn about by simply searching “shared hosting downsides” In Google.
The general take away from this section of the article is that shared hosting, while cheap, is not a great option for you. There's really no excuse to be using it, especially if you are aware of the alternatives at the same price point (we talk about this in a later section of this article).
Before we get into the alternatives, and the comparison between the alternatives, we wanted to discuss why Bluehost is so revered on line.
Bluehost is a master at marketing. The company knows exactly how to get its name out there and get you on board.
Their main marketing tool is called “affiliate marketing”. If you click on this link and buy any Bluehost product, we will get paid $65. Because we get paid $65 if you buy their product, we're incentivized to write a glowing review about it which increases the chances of you clicking on the link and spending money with them.
To set a level playing field, we’ve become an affiliate with every host discussed here 😉. But please, don’t go and buy Bluehost though that link.
That's why if you search up Bluehost on Google, you'll be greeted with 10s of thousands of review articles published in the last year saying that Bluehost is better than any other company out there.
That's probably how you heard about the company -- pretty much anybody who's talking about them is getting paid to do so. The affiliate program is super easy to enter, meaning that there are probably 10s of thousands out there recommending Bluehost through their link (they may not even use the company themselves).
The reason Bluehost why is able to offer such a high affiliate commission for a product that costs $6 per month is due to the large profit margin that comes with shared hosting. Of course, these profit margins differ from company to company, and Bluehost won’t share how much they're making off their customers.
But -- you can assume that it's a lot.
This thread discusses the profit margins, and the general consensus is that shared hosting brings in 50%-100% profit margin.
That's because they take a single server, and push dozens of WordPress websites on to it (Even if the optimal number would be one to four websites per server).
The company can then go and take a good portion of that, push it towards affiliates, and continue growing its customer base.
The pricing is another thing. The company offers low prices compared to some other hosting companies out there, and advertises this heavily. However, these “low prices” are not all they are cut out to be.
Bluehost another low-cost hosting companies hook you into their product by offering all-in-one “unlimited hosting” starting at $2-$3 per month. What they don't say is to unlock that low rate, you need to pre pay for three years. There's no monthly billing option with shared hosting (in most cases). companies typically offer a 30 to 60 day money back guarantee. After that period expires, there's no way to recover your money.
The term unlimited hosting is another marketing gig. Technically, they will allow you to store and unlimited amount of files on the server, but the more files that you store, the slower the server gets. The same goes for unlimited bandwidth. You technically get unlimited bandwidth, but if your website starts picking up a lot of traffic, the company may even kick you off the plan (or throttle your performance).
This isn't good, and if you begin to realize that Bluehost isn't the right solution for you (because shared hosting doesn't offer enough power for even the most basic WordPress website), there's no way to get any money back after that. You also can’t scale the plan up or down (in terms of resources). In most cases, you either need to cut your losses and move to a new, more powerful host, or simply stick with the current hosting plan until it expires.
The affiliate program that Bluehost has results in many articles pushing it as the best solution for you. In most cases, it's not a good solution.
Shared hosting doesn't offer the resources that a WordPress website typically needs to perform. This is especially true if you're using a resource intensive framework like Elementor or another page builder.
To unlock the lowest monthly cost, you need to prepay for three years. This locks you into a plan that can't be scaled up or down depending on your needs. The money back guarantee period is only 30 days for Bluehost.
If your website begins to require more processing power and/or starts getting many visitors, the company will throttle your performance even further, resulting in a slower loading website.
When many people look at Bluehost, they say “you get what you pay for” -- of course it is slow. However, this doesn't need to be the case. There are tons of alternatives in the same price range that offer much better performance, and that's what this article is going to try to show you.
In this next section of the article, we're going to look at the statistical differences between Bluehost another hosting offerings at the same price point.
The main purpose of this article is to present you with alternatives to Bluehost at the same price point. In this section, we're going to identify three alternatives to Bluehost between $0 and $10 per month, and why we think that there are better choice.
The first differentiating factor between these alternatives and Bluehost is the fact that they are not shared hosting. As we determined earlier, shared hosting isn't a good idea for any WordPress website. Many individual WordPress installations are pushed onto a single server and made to share a finite amount of resources.
Because they are all on a single server, if that individual server goes down for any reason, your website will see downtime. You have no recourse other than waiting until the company gets it back up again (You won't even be able to access the website via FTP or on the back end).
These issues are common across all shared hosting providers, from HostGator to GoDaddy. Because of this, we're going to be using another style of hosting called Cloud Hosting.
In our opinion, cloud hosting is a much better alternative to shared hosting, and it comes in at a similar price point.
With cloud hosting, your website is stored and served from hundreds of individual servers located in data centers around the world. This leads to redundancy, and faster loading times For users around the world due to data being served from locations closer to them.
Because these are massive, enterprise level networks, you can leverage economies of scale, and the pricing comes in at extremely competitive rates.
You don't need to worry about downtime, because if one server goes down, it is replaced by another one.
So when you compare cloud hosting vs shared hosting, there's a clear winner.
There are a couple of drawbacks with this style of hosting which will make themselves clear in the next section of this article.
The main drawback is that it requires advanced knowledge of how servers actually work. That's because you're basically running your own server, installing WordPress on it yourself, and managing it too. If you're a small business owner, you may not have the desire or time to learn this.
Luckily, there is a solution that fits within our price range which addresses this problem head on , and offers a managed cloud hosting service that's easy to use and cheap.
For this comparison, we are going to be using the Choice Plus plan. Depending on any promotions running, this costs between $5.95 and $6.99 (typically). to access these rates, you need to prepay for three years. The shortest period that you can pre pay for is 12 months, which elevates the price to around $8.00 per month. There's no option to be billed monthly.
They offer high performance compute instances that provide the hardware necessary to host and survey website to the public on. Unlike shared hosting, cloud hosting comes with a defined amount of resources for each pricing tier.
For our comparison, we're using the $5 per month cloud computing tier in both Digital Ocean and Vultr.
This gives us access to one virtual CPU, 25 gigabytes of solid-state drive storage, one terabyte of bandwidth transfer, and 1 gigabyte of RAM.
This is a good starting plan and should offer us the correct amount of resources to run one to two WordPress websites. As a benchmark, WooCommerce recommends that you allocate a WordPress memory limit of 128 MB or greater. Elementor recommends that you allocate at least 256 MB of memory.
In WordPress, 128MB memory limit means that a single PHP script can use up to 128 MBs of RAM.
The more you pay, the more resources you can access. This goes for bandwidth transfer, the number of CPU cores, and the amount of RAM available to you. More resources don't necessarily translate directly into a faster loading website.
With cloud hosting, you can also upgrade and downgrade as needed. This allows you to scale your allocated resources (and respective monthly payment) as your website grows in popularity.
Both Vultr and DO allow you to install WordPress on them, though it requires some technical know-how. For Vultr, we used the built-in method of installing WordPress for our testing, and for DigitalOcean, we used a third party installation tool called CapRover. Here's a tutorial.
If you're not technically adept, we would recommend staying away from a bare bones cloud hosting installation. Something else to note is that these servers aren't optimized to serve WordPress websites. We’ll clarify this point more at a later section in this article.
Another alternative to Bluehost is a managed cloud host called Cloudways. Their platform allows you to partition an optimized server through one of five major cloud hosting providers (Vultr & DO included) and install WordPress in one click.
Their platform sits on top of the cloud hosting provider and manages the server for you. The reason you would use this instead of just using the bare bones provider is because it offers you a dashboard and additional tools to manage your WordPress website. For example, on a basic cloud host, you don't have access to any managed databases (it's very difficult to get to PHPmyadmin), and you can only complete most tasks by using SSH.
Cloudways allows you to manage your website much like a shared hosting platform using cPanel.
Some more reading: https://isotropic.co/bluehost-vs-cloudways-in-2020/
In our test, we set up a DigitalOcean server through Cloudways – 1GB Ram, 1VCPU (same plan as the barebones installation). This plan costs $10/month.
To compare the four hosts side-by-side, we created a demo website using Elementor, Elementor Pro, and a single website page template (It's the same test website that we used for this comparison article, so you can learn more about it here). We then installed this website on each of the 4 hosts using All In One WP migrate.
We connected a publicly accessible domain, proxied through Cloudflare, to each of the website installations. The installation of the websites and connecting the domains took in total around one hour to complete. For us, the installation process of WordPress on all of the providers was fairly easy, though it may be difficult to somebody who is not familiar with Cloud Hosting.
In short, every variable was controlled, and the only thing that was different between the installations was the host serving it (Bluehost, Digital Ocean, Cloudways or Vultr).
To gather data to statistically compare Bluehost to the alternatives, we ran each of the installations through GTMetrix, making sure that the website pages were the same. There were minor variations, but the total page size came out to be around 4.5 MBs, and each page made 55 total requests. Keep in mind, these pages were not optimized by us.
The main value that we were focused on in the GTMetrix test was the Total Loading Time. Here are the results for each web host:
As you can see, all of the three alternatives (Cloudways, DO and Vultr) outperformed Bluehost in a massive way. Despite two of them costing less, the Bluehost website was the slowest to load by far. If you would like to see the PDF downloads of the GTMetrix reports, they are attached below.
Everything is faster than Bluehost because the alternatives don't use shared hosting. Instead, the website is served from better hardware, closer to you. The cloud hosts also probably offered more resources to WordPress and Elementor, leading to a quicker loading website. Keep in mind, this figure isn't quantifiable because shared hosting doesn't come with set resources.
When comparing these, it really is apples to oranges. However, this is a reasonable comparison because the price point of the product's are the same. It's just that cloud hosting is a better offering all around.
TLDR: CloudWays allows beginners to access cloud hosting by offering an easy to use yet powerful platform.
The best Bluehost alternative (in our opinion) is Cloudways. This is because it allows you to access the benefits of a cloud hosting provider, while offering the managed aspect that you have come to be familiar with when using shared hosting.
You can automatically provision a server from five major cloud providers (Digital Ocean, Vultr, Linode, AWS, Google) and install WordPress in one click.
When automatically provisioning the servers, it installs several packages that optimize the performance (such as Varnish, or server side caching). This ensures that WordPress can use resources as efficiently as possible, resulting in the fastest loading times.
You can also access the database from a well designed interface, set advanced PHP rules, and easily connect a domain by simply pointing it at the IP address of the server.
Cloudways also allows you to install unlimited applications on an individual server, and partition as many servers as you may need. The monitoring tools that it comes with (New Relic, namely) allow you to make the most of the resources that the server has to offer, and determine if you need to scale up or down (In terms of resources).
The platform itself is also very well designed and easy to use. It's not much more difficult than Bluehost, or any other entry level WordPress web host. If you'd like to take a look at the platform, you can read our comparison article here (many screenshots included) or do a 3 day free trial of Cloudways.
We definitely recommend taking advantage of the three day free trial, as you can access every feature that the platform has to offer without entering a credit card number. You can also partition a server and connect a live domain to it . This means that you can migrate your website and test its performance without even needing to pay the company for the first three days.
Cloudways (along with all other cloud hosting providers) bills monthly and allows you to scale the plan up and down as needed. They start $10 per month, and can scale to any requirement that you may have.
You can use the code "ISOTROPIC" to get 30% off your first month of hosting.
As an agency, we use them to host all of our web sites, as well as our client web sites.
We included the two bare bones cloud hosting providers because we wanted to show you that 1) it was possible to be Bluehost on a cheaper offering and 2) Even a cloud server that wasn't optimized too host and serve WordPress website is quicker than Bluehost.
At the same time, the installation process of WordPress onto these hosts can be very difficult two complete. On Vultr, we installed WordPress using the default method. We were unable to access any database, and while the installation went smoothly it didn't offer many settings that you would be familiar with if you come from Cpanel hosting (that's the management panel that all shared hosts offer).
On DigitalOcean, we used a third party open source offering called CapRover to install WordPress. This was much easier, and offered us some resources such as database management, as well as server management, but still required some technical know how when it comes to setting things up.
From a server software standpoint, both of these base installations didn't include any optimization That helped them load quicker. That means that the statistics above, while valid, are the highest they would be. Properly optimizing the servers would allow WordPress to make the most efficient use of the resources it had to offer, leading to much lower loading times.
If you want to do it yourself, we would recommend trying it out as more of a “hobby project”. Once familiar with how cloud hosting works, You can make the informed decision to switch to bare bones cloud hosting if you're confident in your abilities to support the website.
We would also recommend using DigitalOcean to complete the installation, as it offers a better interface than Vultr at the same price point.
If you'd like to mess around with the products, we can offer you $100 credit to DigitalOcean if you use this link.
If you'd like to test out Vultr, we can offer you a $60.00 credit if you use this link.
However, if you're looking for a fully featured web host, and one that offers support as well as many other features, we're sticking with our initial recommendation of Cloudways. The only reason the company exists is to address the drawbacks that come with using bare bones cloud hosting.
If you're considering Bluehost, or any other shared hosting provider, there are much better alternatives out there.
In the past, the only differentiating factor between shared hosting and cloud hosting was the price point period now, cloud hosting is much cheaper than shared hosting, and simply offers a better and faster service. You can easily access cloud hosting through an Intuitive platform offered by Cloudways.
If you have any questions regarding Bluehost versus Cloudways versus any other cloud hosting provider, feel free to reach out in the comment section below. We'd love to answer any questions you may have period also check out our head to head comparison of Bluehost versus Cloudways in this article: https://isotropic.co/bluehost-vs-cloudways-in-2020/
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