Getting started on your first business website can be daunting. Sure, you could just communicate with your customers via Facebook or another social media platform, but if you’re serious about doing business online, you’ll want to take the plunge and sign up for a top-notch web hosting service. Bluehost (a PC Mag Business Choice winner) does a good job of balancing price and features for businesses that need a bit of hand-holding, while also offering plenty of options to experienced administrators. Its customer service is excellent, too. Still, Bluehost lacks Windows-based servers and the month-to-month pricing we like to see on shared plans.
Shared Web Hosting
Shared web hosting is good for people who want an online presence and don’t expect a high traffic volume. The upside? It’s cheap web hosting. The downside? Your website shares server resources with other sites, so your site’s performance can be affected if one of its server mates experiences a traffic surge.
As mentioned above, Bluehost doesn’t offer month-to-month shared web hosting options. Instead, it requires you to sign up for an annual plan. If you sign up for a two-year or three-year plan, you get discounts. If you commit to staying put for three years, the service’s $3.95 per month rate is attractive. Those who don’t want lengthy commitments will probably prefer HostGator’s month-to-month options.
Note: Bluehost—like many other web hosting services—has introductory prices that are discounted from its normal hosting cost. Our reviews don’t consider those deeply discounted fees, which are designed to get you in the door. Instead, we list the true price that kicks in when the introductory period concludes.
The Basic shared hosting package (from $7.99 per month with a one-year contract) includes a free domain name you can keep as long as you use Bluehost, free domain name transfer, 50GB of storage, unlimited monthly data transfers, and a stingy5r4hjn five email addresses. The Plus package (starting at $10.99 per month with a one-year contract) adds an antispam tool, as well as unlimited storage and mailboxes. The Choice Plus package (starting at $14.99 per month with a one-year contract) comes with domain privacy so that you can mask your physical location for enhanced security. The Pro plan (starting at $23.99 per month with a one-year contract) has all of Choice Plus’ features, plus adds a free, dedicated IP address.
HostGator, our Editors’ Choice for shared hosting, gives small- and medium-sized businesses room to expand their web presences. The Linux- or Windows-based Hatchling plan (starting at $10.95 per month) offers unlimited disk space, monthly data transfers, and email addresses, plus support for one domain and third-party applications, such as content management systems and e-commerce platforms. HostGator’s Baby plan (starting at $11.95 per month) builds on the Hatchling offering by adding unlimited domains. The top-tier Business plan (starting at $16.95 per month) includes highly specialized options, such as a free toll-free phone number and a private SSL certificate. HostGator has a well-rounded shared web hosting package.
VPS Web Hosting
If you need more power, expect high traffic volumes, or have specific compliance requirements that prevent you from using shared servers, Bluehost’s virtual private server (or VPS) options are worth considering. It’s like shared hosting in that your site shares server resources with other sites, but there are two big differences: VPS hosting has far fewer sites on a server, and the provider guarantees you a particular amount of server resources. A VPS-hosted site can take a Reddit hit and keep on ticking.
Bluehost offers three tiers of Linux-based VPS hosting, ranging from the $29.99 per month Standard (30GB of solid-state storage, 2GB of memory, and unlimited monthly data transfers) to the $119.99 per month Ultimate (120GB of SSD storage, 8GB of memory, and unlimited monthly data transfers). As with the shared web hosting plans, VPS hosting plans include discounts for longer-term contracts. Unfortunately, Bluehost doesn’t offer Windows-based VPS.
Those are attractive plans, but Hostwinds($3.29/Month at HostWinds)—the Editors’ Choice for VPS hosting—beats out Bluehost with packages that include 18.5GB of RAM, unlimited email, unlimited monthly data transfers, and Linux- or Windows-based server options. Don’t underestimate the importance of a Windows server option. If you plan to build (or migrate) a site built on an ASP.NET framework, you’ll appreciate Hostwinds’ Windows-based VPS offerings.
Dedicated Web Hosting
Dedicated hosting is a powerful form of web hosting that gives your site full server resources. If you expect huge traffic numbers, dedicated hosting is the only way your site will handle the Internet’s rigors. Bluehost has many dedicated server configurations, too. The servers start at $109 per month and can be outfitted with a Linux operating system and up to 1TB of hard drive space, 16GB of RAM, and 15TB of data transfers per month—the same specs as HostMonster.
Those are solid numbers, but AccuWeb (3.36 Per Month at AccuWeb Hosting) —the PCMag Editors’ Choice for dedicated web hosting—one-ups Bluehost with a choice of Linux or Windows operating systems. That Windows server option is important for those who build their sites using Microsoft’s site-building tools.
WordPress Web Hosting
WordPress is the content management system that powers a good portion of sites on the web. It’s easy to use, and has a thriving theme and plug-in ecosystem for expanding your site’s functionality. If you’re looking to create a WordPress-powered website, consider Bluehost’s three Linux-based packages: Basic, Plus, and Choice Plus.
Basic (starting at $7.99 per month) lets you host one website, and includes 50GB of SSD storage, a free SSL certificate, and a free domain for a year. Next up the ladder is the Plus plan (from $10.99 per month), which includes unlimited site hosting and unlimited SSD storage. The top-tier Choice Plus plan (starting at $14.99 per month) tosses in CodeGuard Basic backup software.
Bluehost has an advanced WordPress hosting category: WP Pro. Available in three tiers, WP Pro is a managed WordPress offering that gives your site’s back end the white-glove treatment, and includes SEO, social media, and email marketing tools. WP Pro’s three plans (Build, Grow, and Scale) all boast unlimited site hosting, monthly data transfers, domains, subdomains, and storage. WP Pro accounts also come with staging areas to test sites before they go live to the web. Build, Grow, and Scale start at $29.99 per month, $39.99 per month, and $59.99 per month, respectively.
The Build plan comes with 100 free WordPress themes, daily scheduled backups, malware detection and removal, and domain privacy protection. The Grow plan uses the Build plan as a foundation and adds SEO tools, 10GB of video compression, and live ticket support. Scales tops all WP Pro plans by adding live chat support, unlimited video compression, PayPal integration, and unlimited backups and restore.
Bluehost doesn’t require you to install the content management system, as it comes preinstalled. Once you’re logged into WordPress, you can create posts, pages, and galleries as you would with any other self-hosted WordPress site. A free WordPress migration tool lets you easily export your existing site as a .XML file, and upload the .XMLfile to the new location. In a nice touch, Bluehost now lets you migrate a single WordPress-powered site from another web host—free of charge! If you want to migrate multiple sites, Bluehost has a $149 plan that lets you move up to five sites and 20 email accounts. On the backend, Bluehost’s managed WordPress plans boast bot protection, automatic SSL installation, brute force protection, and other features.
Bluehost’s WordPress plans are quite good, but the Linux-based A2 remains the PCMag Editors’ Choice for WordPress hosting. A2 offers four excellent WordPress hosting tiers, starting at $7.99 per month, offers unlimited storage and monthly data transfers across the board. The plans top out with the $24.46 per month Managed package that includes unlimited databases and websites. You also get a free SSL certificate with all plans, too.
For more on the fantastically popular content management system, you should read How to Get Started With WordPress.
If you’re looking to get into the web hosting business, but you don’t want to deal with infrastructure matters, check out Bluehost’s reseller hosting packages. The four plans, starting at $18.99 per month, boast unlimited email, website hosting, and cPanel creation across the board.
The servers are of the Linux variety, but Bluehost doesn’t supply them with unlimited storge and monthly data transfers at each tier, as the Editors’ Choice Hostwind does with its offerings. On the upside, Bluehost lets you apply your own branding to the servers you rent, and it also supplies 24/7 tech support.
Lacks Cloud Hosting
With cloud hosting, the resources that your site needs to operate are shared across multiple servers. The benefits? You can scale resources in real time, as your site isn’t limited to physical server constraints.
Bluehost, unlike many other web hosts PCMag reviews, does not offer cloud hosting. If you want to explore cloud hosting, I suggest checking out DreamHost or 1&1 Ionos. The former is the Editors’ Choice for standard cloud hosting, while the latter is the Editors’ Choice for enterprise-level cloud hosting.
Bluehost has a lot of tools for building sites, filtering spam, managing email, collecting site statistics, and managing domains. For building a website, you can use the WordPress content management platform or Weebly (an excellent website-builder), upload files using FTP or File Manager, or use the goMobi Mobile Web builder if you bought the add-on.
Weebly’s drag-and-drop functionality let me quickly build an attractive page complete with slideshows, contact forms, social media links, and more. Weebly’s free version gives you basic functionality (you can create six pages and add custom HTML), but upgrading to the $8.99 per month Professional tier offers even more flexibility (custom themes, password protected pages, and more). Check out the PCMag Weebly review for a deeper dive.
You can also go to the Mojo Marketplace to download other content-management systems or site builders. It’s an entirely separate interface, but if you want to expand your site’s capabilities, the marketplace is a good place to start. Using Bluehost’s Mojo Marketplace is a similar to running sister-site iPage’s marketplace.
You can grab email-marketing tools such as DaDa Mail (starting at $34.95 per year), software that lets you send email-based newsletters to a subscriber list. For an online store or the ability to accept payments, you can get e-commerce applications such as Magento, ShopSite (for shopping cart software), and TransFirst payment gateway. With Magento, I was able to create an attractive store by dragging and dropping website elements. Magento has more flexibility than ShopSite, but if you aren’t looking for an elaborate online storefront, ShopSite’s simpler interface may get you up and running faster. For small businesses, that time saved may be worth it.
I also like the fact that Bluehost supports PostgreSQL along with the more popular MySQL. This means I’m not limited to installing software that runs only with MySQL.
Bluehost’s security features are pleasantly surprising. It offers three antispam tools—Apache Spam Assassin, Spam Experts, and Spam Hammer—as well as hotlink protection. You can also create filters for email accounts and users, password-protect directories, create IP address blacklists, and manage private keys and digital certificates. I’m always pleased to see secure shell (SSH) access, because it means administrators have a secure way of accessing specific configuration files.
I’m impressed that Bluehost offers CloudFlare, which enhances performance and security features. If you want SSL on your site, or you are worried about distributed denial of service attacks against your site, CloudFlare is worth considering.
Website uptime is a vital element of the web hosting experience. If your site goes down, clients or customers will be unable to find you or access your products or services.
For this testing, I use a website monitoring tool to track my test sites’ uptime over a 14-day period. Every 15 minutes, the tool pings each of my websites and sends me an email if it is unable to contact a site for at least one minute. The data revealed that Bluehost is extremely stable. In fact, Bluehost didn’t go down once in the two-week period. You can count on Bluehost to be a dependable web host.
Terrific Customer Service
Bluehost offers 24/7 telephone support, online web chat, a ticket-based system, and a knowledgebase—another way Bluehost is similar to HostMonster.
I tested Bluehost’s web chat on a weekday morning to ask about the differences between regular WordPress and WP Pro. The rep quickly fielded my questions about the differences between regular WordPress hosting and managed WordPress hosting, and I was satisfied with the person’s response.
I called the phone support system later in the evening to ask a representative about how to import my WordPress.com setup into Bluehost. A person came to my assistance in under five minutes, and the representative walked me through the steps. That’s another win for Bluehost support.
Bluehost’s hosting packages come with a 30-day money-back guarantee, which is standard fare in the web hosting space. That said, DreamHost bests it with an impressive 97-day money back guarantee.
A Good Web Host
Bluehost is a respectable and highly stable web host that makes setting up a website a breeze. Sure, the company may lack a feature or two that prevents it from competing with rivals like the Editors’ Choice award-winning A2, Dreamhost, HostGator, and Hostwinds, which offer slightly more well-rounded packages, but it’s one you can trust to meet your business or personal hosting needs.
For more on getting started online, read our tips on how to create a website. You might also want to check out our story on how to register a domain name for your website.
Bluehost Web Hosting
Excellent uptime in testing
Useful Weebly site-building software
Lacks Windows-based servers
No cloud hosting
No monthly shared hosting plans
THE BOTTOM LINE
Bluehost makes it easy to create attractive, functional, and stable pages for your business. Don’t look here for Windows servers or cloud hosting, however.