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In today's blog post, we're going to be comparing Bluehost VS Cloudways, two different WordPress webhosts that land in the same price range.
As an agency, we have first hand experience with both Bluehost and Cloudways, having used both when working with client websites. In full disclosure, we're using Cloudways to host our current agency website. Cloudways is also the underlying host that we use for our Isotropic branded hosting that we offer two hour clients.
Around three years ago, we purchased a Bluehost plan for live website development. In that time, we've come to know the company behind the product pretty well.
In this Bluehost VS Cloudways showdown, we're going to do a head-to-head comparison of the statistics, user interfaces, support, and functionality of each platform. From that, We will determine which webhost offers a better value for money.
The cheapest Bluehost plan starts at $3.95 per month. for this comparison, we're going to be using the Choice Plus plan, which comes in at $6.95 per month.
This plan offers unlimited solid-state drive storage, unmetered bandwidth and a free SSL.
Bluehost isn't specific when it comes to their hardware specifications. It says it hosts using solid state drives and data centers based in the United States. Other than that, there's not much information out there that's confirmed.
It's also worth mentioning that all of the plans that they offer in the screenshot above are what is known as shared hosting. Shared hosting is a setup where multiple individual hosting accounts are hosted on the same server. Hosting account is defined as one of the plans mentioned above.
Because multiple hosting accounts are on the same server, all offering the ability to create unlimited websites, the resources of that server are shared across many websites. This allows the company to offer a low cost product and “unlimited” storage .
What it also means is that you don't have defined resources allocated to you. You get what is available at the time. That means that we are unable to specifically state that this service offers you “XGBs of RAM”. We also don't know what brand/make of solid-state drives are being used, or any other technical information about the service.
“In unmetered Shared Hosting you are sharing the resources of a server with multiple users, which means a specific allotment of resources (RAM, CPU, etc) are not guaranteed for your website. In Virtual Private Server VPS Hosting, you are guaranteed resources for your website, however you are often required to manage the server yourself.”
It's worth noting that to unlock the lowest price advertised on their website, you'll need to buy a three year plan. This isn't mentioned until you've entered your credit card details, and it kind of sneaks up on you.
That means while the advertised monthly price is $3.95/month, the upfront cost is $142 dollars. You have a 30 day money back guarantee, but after that there's no going back.
The shortest amount of time that you can opt for is 12 months, and with it comes a $5.95 monthly cost.
And, this is for the cheapest plan. We are using the Choice Plus plan to compare against Cloudways - with an advertised monthly price of $6.95.
Again, you get that price if you pay for 36 months, if you pay for the 12 month plan, it actually ends up costing you $8.00 per month.
Cloudways offers many permutations, so we can't say that they have a standard amount of plans. Here's what we mean. Cloudways is a platform as a service, not a hosting provider. Their platform allows you to host your website on five enterprise level cloud hosting providers: AWS, Google Cloud, Vultr, Digital Ocean and Linode.
Their platform sits on top of these hosts and offers a managed aspect: they will run security, updates, server maintenance, and more for you. Basically, there are a hosting company without the servers.
Each cloud hosting provider has different monthly pricing. You can learn more about it in an article that we wrote here, but the cheapest host is DigitalOcean. For most WordPress websites, DigitalOcean is the best choice, so that's the plan that we will be using for this comparison.
Because shared hosting offers extremely limited resources, we're going to be using the cheapest Digital Ocean plan that Cloudways has to offer, which comes in a $10 per month. This should get our Cloudwaze VS Bluehost showdown on the somewhat of the same playing field.
The $10 per month plan gives you 1 gigabyte of ram, one core processor, 25 gigabytes of solid-state drive storage, and one terabyte of bandwidth. Again, even though you are paying Cloudways, the underlying host is DigitalOcean (So Cloudways actually pays Digital Ocean a portion of this monthly fee).
You're not limited to the 25 gigabytes of storage, if you need more, you can incorporate something called “block storage” which means you can purchase storage without changing the underlying server configuration.
When it comes to pricing and contracts, they bill monthly meaning you're not locked into an individual plan for years. Instead, you can scale the plan up and down as needed. For example, if your website begins to grow rapidly in both terms of visitors and content, you can increase the allocated storage and ram. Instead of paying $10 one month, you'll be paying $20 the next. You can easily scale back down, or even cancel this service altogether. There's no prepayment, meaning there's no plan lock in.
One thing to mention here is that email hosting is not included with Cloudways.
With Bluehost, you pay $6.95 per month for shared hosting. With it comes unlimited SSD storage, unlimited bandwidth, and several other features. Other than that, we don't really know much about the hardware that you're getting. We do know that there is no standard allocation of resources on shared hosting, instead it is you get what you get and you don't get upset.
To get the lowest price for your Bluehost plan, you need to prepay For 36 months. That results in a higher upfront cost, as well as plan lock in -- after 30 days, you can't get any money back. We have experience with this, as we attempted to get a refund for a client who was 36 days into their hosting, and were unable to do so.
Cloudways is $10 per month, billed monthly. With it comes one core processor, 1 gigabyte of ram, and 25 gigabytes of solid-state drive storage.
Bluehost comes with email hosting, while Cloudways does not. However, the best practice is to separate your email hosting from your website hosting, so if one goes down, you can use the other channel to notify customers. Additionally, website hosting typically goes down more often than email hosting, which is why it's a great idea to separate the two.
Comparing the features mentioned in both of the pricing tables, it looks like Cloudways offers more. It also looks like the service is more oriented towards power users and those with enterprise level needs. Bluehost offers less, and is less specific about the limits of the plan. We believe that it is more oriented towards first-time consumers.
Keep in mind that that's just from the pricing tables, each company offers a features page that discusses everything. We went on each respective features page, identified everything that pertained to our plan, and created a comparison table below so you could fully understand what you're paying for with each service.
|Automatic WordPress Installation||Yes||Yes|
|Unlimited WordPress Installations||Yes||Yes|
|Team Management on platform (multiple logins)||No||Yes|
We're also going to go into more detail about the features, ease of use, and more when discussing the platforms in the next section of this Cloudways Vs Bluehost showdown.
The final thing that we should mention when comparing the pricing and plans is that you can pay for more, and you can pay for less (on both of the services). for this review, we believe that you should be more focused on the usability of the platform, general features, support, and hosting performance. You should choose the plan that works best for your needs, instead of just following a recommendation from the Internet. We chose both of the plans because they are somewhat equivalent, and both are what would be known as a “starter” hosting service for a beginning website.
Now we're going to take a look at both of the platforms, and all the features and settings that they have to offer. We're going to review the user interface, ease of use, and documentation of each platform as well. This section will include a lot of screenshots, and a lot of specifics - From them we're going to try to determine which platform is the best designed, easiest to use, and most powerful.
The platform is well designed, and very easy to understand.
We can log into our individual websites from the dashboard, as well as edit the settings. For example, we could change the domain of the website from the platform.
There are a couple of upsells interspersed throughout the platform, from the email marketing , to the SEO services, to the marketplace. In our opinion, these are unwelcome, but if you're looking for it, the upsells may be beneficial.
You can centrally manage your domains, transferring them over to Bluehost, or pointing them to Bluehost and managing the DNS.
Under the advanced tab, you get access to a reskinned version of CPanel. From here, you can edit pretty much every setting that you would need to when managing your website.
We did notice that it was fairly slow to load its pages, and in one instance we were unable to access the platform altogether (greeted with a white screen). After contacting support, they said they were aware of the issue, and when we tried to access the platform several hours later, we were able to do so. This platform outage did not impact the website.
Deploying an application is fairly simple, all you need to do is click the “add a site” button, name the website, and connect a domain. The site is then automatically created, WordPress is installed, and you are given a username and password.
All in all, the platform was fairly simple to use and offered advanced settings. However, it was fairly slow to load in normal times, and we did experience and outage. The platform has an easy way to transfer domains over, access your email, and deploy new websites.
TLDR; Slow to load, but very well designed and easy to use.
Because cloud ways is a different style of hosting when compared to Bluehost, their platform is also a bit different. There are two major sections of the platform, one for server management and one for application management. (WordPress=application and is hosted on the server).
Through the platform, we can create as many virtual servers and applications as need be.
Once we partition the server, it's automatically installed which means we don't need to change any settings from their default. However, if we wanted to go in and make any changes, the platform is fairly easy to understand and use.
From a server level, you can monitor the statistics such as usage, bandwidth, CPU load, accessing IPs, and more.
Deploying a website is fairly easy to do, all you need to do is click the add new website button, and you'll get this interface:
From it, you select what type of WordPress installation you would like, on what server it should be installed on, and that's it. Once word press is set up, you can access it by copying and pasting the auto generated username and login.
Like Bluehost, this platform is well designed and fairly easy to use. However, it allows you to manage both the server and the application, which may be confusing to some users.
We've come to realize that the support companies offer is immensely important to consumers. As an agency, we're pretty used to fixing things ourselves, but if you are a first time user of one of these hosting services, you probably have a lot of questions, and the support is an important selling point.
Over the years of using both platforms, we've worked with support, and have first hand experience with how responsive and helpful they are to customers.
For Bluehost, they have 24/7 live support. Every time we have needed to talk to a real person, we've been able to get connected via their live chat. Their support agents are based offshore, but are fairly helpful for generic questions. However, if you have any technical question that isn't standard, they can't usually help you, and will either elevate your issue to a ticket (which is responded to within 48 hours) or simply not answer your question.
In summary, for basic uses Bluehost live chat support is very helpful, but for more advanced issues, they aren’t.
Cloudways also offers live support, but to get to it you need to go through a chat bot. Surprisingly, the chatbot is fairly well programmed, and has solved some of our more basic questions.
The live support agents are also based offshore, but (on average) were more understandable an could convey there messages more effectively. We have never had a bad experience with Cloudways live support, from basic queries to advanced questions regarding PHP.
The support agents are also extremely knowledgeable in Everything related to Cloudways, from the server to the hosting. Typically, they can go into your account and fix whatever issue you may have.
Compared to Bluehost, the support agents take it a step further by actually knowing what they're talking about, being able to affectively convey their messages, and going in and resolving the issue for you.
If you're a first time user, Cloudways support is probably a better bet, because they will actually resolve the issue in real time. You could probably go ahead and ask them to set up a server and install a WordPress installation, and they would do this for you without batting an eye.
We now find ourselves in the middle of this article comparing Cloudways VS Bluehost. let's go ahead and summarize all the points mentioned so far. First up, the style of hosting.
Bluehost is a shared hosting plan, and it comes in at $6.95 per month. To unlock that price, you need to pre pay for 36 months, there's no option to be billed monthly.
Shared hosting means that your website shares the resources with many other websites. This means that your website may not be offered all the resources that it needs to run at an optimal speed, and there are security concerns as well. you do not have root access to the server, limiting you in regards to the tasks that you can complete.
Cloudways is a cloud hosting plan. The company actually offers a platform that sits on top of existing hosting services. The platform manages these services and offers you a dashboard to control everything.
Cloud hosting, unlike shared hosting, is not centered around a single server. Instead, your data is distributed across a network of multiple virtual and physical servers. this results in a faster loading website, ease in scalability, and redundancies (meaning that your website will never go down).
The service is billed monthly, and comes in at $10 per month for our plan. You can easily scale up and down depending on if you need more or less resources.
If you want to simply try both platforms, Bluehost offers a 30 day money back guarantee. However, you still need to pay the full upfront And go through a fairly difficult process to get your money back.
Cloudways offers a free 3 day trial where you can test out any of their servers on any of the plans. You don't even need a credit card to get started.
The two platforms have several similarities and differences.
The Bluehost platform is fairly easy to use, but lacks some advanced features. Sometimes it is inaccessible, or extremely slow. You can access advanced features such as cPanel and PHPMyAdmin.
The Cloudways platform is somewhat easy to use, offers every advanced feature under the sun, but may be confusing if you are not a power user. Luckily, it's fairly easy to understand the basics behind it, meaning that it falls into the same usability category as the Bluehost platform. If you're managing a company, or run an agency, you'll be a fan of the team management tools that the company has to offer (You can set up multiple logins to the one platform/account).
Cloudways offers more features than Bluehost, and comes in at around $3 more per month. The only thing that it's lacking is email hosting. However, when it comes to email hosting, the best practices to keep it separate from your webhost. Furthermore, most small business owners end up using GSuite to host their email, eliminating the need for email hosting altogether.
Finally, both companies offer 24/7 live chat support for free. For basic questions, Bluehost and Cloudways are tied, But when it comes to advanced questions, the Cloudways support agents actually know what they're talking about and can fix whatever issue you may have (in real time).
As you can already probably tell, we are leaning heavily towards Cloudways which offers a much better platform and pricing plan when compared to Bluehost.
Alright, let's get back into the article. From this point, we're going to mention the affiliate programs of each host, as well as the statistical differences in loading time.
Affiliate programs are a fact of life, even though many consumers are unaware of them.
“Affiliate marketing is a type of performance-based marketing in which a business rewards one or more affiliates for each visitor or customer brought by the affiliate's own marketing efforts.”
As a result of a flourishing affiliate program, a company can get tons of free publicity from bloggers writing about them. If an affiliate program is successful, consumers will be barraged from all sides, being pushed to the product that offers the highest affiliate commission. In many cases, companies who can offer the cheapest product (which directly correlate with the worst performing product) are able to payout higher affiliate commissions for each sale (as they generate more profit than companies that offer higher quality hardware and management systems).
The hosting industry is very much “pay to win”. The company who can offer the highest affiliate commission typically gets the most publicity. the quality of the service offered doesn't matter to the bloggers who write about it, the only thing they're worried about is how much money they will make if you click on their link and by the hosting product.
Both Bluehost and Cloudways offer affiliate programs, but they differ in their size and scope.
The Bluehost affiliate program is very easy to get involved with. All you need to do is sign up for an account, there's no approval process, you're instantly apart of their company. After signing up for an account, you need to make 2 sales to cash out. You get paid $65 for each sale, meaning that you can cash out when you have $130 available. Affiliate commissions are paid out via PayPal, and the whole process is very easy to get involved with.
As you can see, there's a reason why if you search for Bluehost on Google, you will see pages and pages of glowing reviews. It's in the blogger's best interest to paint Bluehost As the best solution out there, as it ensures that you will go ahead and purchase the hosting through their link, and they'll make their Commission.
Cloudways has an affiliate program of their own, except it is offered through an affiliate network called ShareASale. ShareASale and Cloudways both have much stricter processes that potential affiliates need to go through. Because we are an agency, we were able to partnership with Cloudways, though I doubt that many bloggers would be able to do so.
This is less of an affiliate marketing program, and more of a partnership. For example, we can offer discounted hosting to our visitors through a promotion code (it’s “Isotropic”, and get you 30% off your first month of hosting), because we're in direct contact with the team behind the product.
I haven't read many blog articles that push Cloudways to the forefront, and I believe that this is because of the lower upfront payout, and stricter conditions that potential affiliates need to go through to get on board.
To set this article on a fair playing ground, we've gone ahead and become affiliates of both 😉. If you go ahead and purchase Bluehost hosting (even though we strongly recommend against this), we will make $65. If you go ahead and purchase Cloudways hosting, we will go ahead and make $50.
This is probably the most important section of this article, as it offers numerical context into which hosting provider offers a better service. In this section we're going to determine which host allows web sites to load quicker using multiple third party tests, and a standard testing website. We're going to do our best to run this as a scientific experiment, controlling as many variables as we can.
To get these numbers, we built a test website, installed it on both hosting providers (keeping every setting default), and then ran both instances of the website through multiple speed diagnostics tools.
The test website for these numbers was a single page website built with Elementor Pro. There were no additional plugins, and the theme used was Hello Elementor. The page was fairly large, and used high resolution images, resulting in a total page size of around 4.5 MBs.
You can read more about this test page, the website set up, and view screenshots of the actual page in this article: https://isotropic.co/w3-total-cache-vs-wp-rocket-2020/
All statistics mentioned here were sourced from the testing we did in that article (WP Rocket won, by the way).
The WordPress installations were vanilla, and there were no additional caching plugins installed.
|Bluehost Installation (No Caching Plugin)||First Meaningful Paint: 10.8s First CPU Idle: 10.99s||Fully Loaded Time: 3.6s Requests: 55 Total Page Size: 4.58MB||Speed Index: 5.5s Time To Interactive: 2.6s|
|Cloudways Installation (No Caching Plugin)||First Meaningful Paint: 1.81s First CPU Idle: 2.01s||Fully Loaded Time: 2.9s Requests: 57 Total Page Size: 4.50MB||Speed Index: 2.3s Time To Interactive: 2.5s|
You can view the HTML download of each report by clicking on the “report” links. This way you can view all the statistics for yourself, and draw your own conclusions. There are many more statistics than the ones mentioned here, but this should provide you enough context to give you a good comparison of Bluehost VS Cloudways.
Let's briefly define every metric measured here, and discuss why it matters.
|First Meaningful Paint (Fast Or Slow)||This is the time it takes for the primary content on the page to load. Primary content varies from page to page (on our site, it was probably the hero image).|
|First CPU Idle (Fast Or Slow)||A measurement of when the page becomes minimally interactive.|
|Fully Loaded Time (GTMetrix)||The time it takes for a website to fully load. The faster the fully loaded time is, the better the user experience.|
|Requests (GTMetrix)||Requests are made from the browser to your server. each request grabs data from a file and renders the web page from it. A very simple web page could have one to four requests, while a complex web page would have 30 plus (30 requests generally means It's grabbing information from 30 files).|
|Total Page Size (GTMetrix)||This is the total size of all of the data transferred from the server to your browser. This doesn't have to specifically do with hosting, but gives you good context when comparing these statistics to statistics from other tests (A smaller web page will usually load faster).|
|Speed Index (PageSpeed)||A measure of how quickly visual content is loaded onto a page. In our opinion, this is one of the best measurements of website speed.|
|Time To Interactive (PageSpeed)||This is similar to first meaningful paint, except that it measures the time it takes for all content to become fully interactive on the page.|
To get a clearer picture of the data, we decided to calculate the percent difference between The Bluehost statistics and the Cloudways statistics.
|First Meaningful Paint (Fast Or Slow)||Cloudways is 142% faster.|
|First CPU Idle (Fast Or Slow)||Cloudways is 138% faster.|
|Fully Loaded Time (GTMetrix)||Cloudways is 22% faster.|
|Total Page Size (GTMetrix)||N/A|
|Speed Index (PageSpeed)||Cloudways is 82% faster.|
|Time To Interactive (PageSpeed)||Cloudways is 4% faster.|
We also generated several visual graphs that show the differences between Cloudways vs Bluehost. Each graph is separated by the third party testing provider.
From the numbers, Cloudways beats Bluehost in every category. We give the highest weight to the PageSpeed Speed Index and GTMetrix’s Fully Loaded Time. Cloudways beats Bluehost by 82% and 22%, respectively. The Cloudways numbers speak for themselves.
We believe that Cloudways wins because the underlying hosting offers superior hardware, more resources for a similar price, and the “cloud hosting” environment. Keep in mind, Cloudways is just the conduit -- the host is DigitalOcean.
The Fast Or Slow statistics deviate massively between the two hosts. Originally, we believed that this may be due to some misconfiguration, but upon further research we believe that the data collected is valid.
After seeing such a major difference between Bluehost and Cloudways, we wanted to test several other websites and see if the numerical differences were as major as our test. To do this, we tested the three websites mentioned in https://www.bluehost.com/spotlight-awards-2019 (After checking that would they were indeed hosted on Bluehost), and then we also tested several of our client websites hosted on Cloudways. Obviously, this is a much different test, because each website is built differently (different plugins, who knows if caching and compression is enabled or not), but between the websites, we determined that the deviation found in our tests was not an outlier. The majority of the Bluehost web sites tested within 9 seconds, while the majority of the Cloudways websites scored 1-2 seconds.
What does this mean? Fast Or Slow Offers us great geographical context. It tests from 18 live locations around the world, and spits out an average figure. That means that globally, Bluehost is extremely slow. The opposite is true for Cloudways.
We believe that this is because of the differences in terms of infrastructure. There's no official information, but it looks like Bluehost has six data centers, with most of them being in the United States. If there's no CDN configured, the website is served from The single location, probably being in the US (Utah, to be specific). That means that global loading times in areas such as China, Hong Kong, and other major locales will be extremely poor as the data needs across the world to get to the visitors browser.
This screenshot was taken from the Fast or Slow interface, which visually depicts how the data is transferred from servers to browsers. All the data is streaming from the United States, which means that a website will be super slow to load if the visitor is coming from outside of that location. Because of that, the Fast Or Slow statistics are pushed up as they are an average of all 18 locations , resulting in the time of around 10 seconds for a Bluehost website, compared to the two seconds for a Cloudways website. (If you can find a Bluehost website, you can run the same test for yourself, and view the visualization. It's animated, so you can view direction that the data is flowing in.)
This is the screenshot of a website hosted on Cloudways. As you can see, data is distributed from multiple locations, not just in the United States. Because the hardware is faster, and the data is loaded closer to the visitor, the overall Fast Or Slow statistics are very good.
(Page icons Are locations where data is served from, while pin icons are where the page is loaded and tested).
In short, the massive deviation between the two hosting services is not an outlier, instead it is a perfect way to visualize the differences between Bluehost VS Cloudways.
This is something that you should strongly consider when comparing the two hosts. Most traffic is global, even if you are based in the United States. For example, our design agency is based in North Carolina and New York, but every evening we get tons of traffic from Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, and other countries who read our blog posts. If our website was only served from the United States, it would take a super long time for it to load for those visitors, negatively impacting their user experience as well as our search engine rankings in that country.
Of course, this issue can be solved (partially) by using a CDN.
In terms of downtime, Bluehost has sporadic instances of issues: https://downdetector.com/status/bluehost/
When looking at downtime for Cloudways, it simply doesn't exist:
That's because Cloudways doesn't actually maintain its own Servers, instead it uses one of the five afor mentioned providers. Because the providers are cloud hosts, the networks are self healing, meaning if one server goes down it is instantly replaced with another one. That means that there's pretty much no downtime, ever.
For example, if you take a look at DigitalOceans incident history, you'll find no instances of downtime, simply because the infrastructure is built in a way that eliminates this risk.
At this point, it's pretty obvious that the two products are a bit different from each other. Not only is Cloudways a faster host with better hardware, they offer more enterprise level features, have a platform that allows you to access advanced settings while still being fairly easy to understand, and has live chat agents that actually know what they're talking about.
Statistically, Cloudways blows Bluehost out of the water.
This is because, while the companies come in at a similar price point, the infrastructure is a bit different. Also, Bluehost targets itself more towards first time users who don't know much about hosting, while Cloudways is definitely more oriented towards the power user.
There's a pretty clear winner when it comes to our Bluehost VS Cloudways comparison.
In all metrics (other than price) Cloudways beats Bluehost. However, instead of looking at price, we like looking at value, and Cloudways certainly offers more value than Bluehost as well, with more features and better support, leading to less time needing to be spent working on hosting.
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