BlueHost are known for two primary hosting plans (low cost shared hosting and reseller hosting), plus domain registrations. Founded in 2003 and based in an impressive 50,000 square foot head office, CEO Matt Heaton was in-post for eight years and oversaw much of the firm’s development, both in terms of the business and the technical infrastructure. He recently handed over the top job to Dan Handy, the former COO, in order to concentrate on development.
BlueHost is part of a family that also includes FastDomain and HostMonster, founded in 2005 and 2006 respectively. The group of companies have now been purchased by Endurance International Group based in Boston, MA.
As a company, BlueHost pride themselves on superb customer support (for example, on their website, they boast a call waiting time of less than 30 seconds - a bold claim).
BlueHost is a good choice if you want 100% in-house services from a specialised team. Nothing is outsourced: the company have their own fibre connections, their own data centres spanning 20,000 square feet, and even their own custom Linux kernel running on custom-built servers. This makes them an ideal solution if you prefer to have one point of contact when you need help and support.
BlueHost only provide Linux hosting, and they concentrate on providing a simple, generous web hosting package with huge space and bandwidth limits and competitive pricing.
Each of their packages is provided on shared servers, and prices are set depending on the length of the contract chosen. This places BlueHost firmly in the individual, non-profit and small business market, and makes them a good solid choice for PHP applications that don’t tend to hog resources, such as WordPress, Drupal, Joomla and other lightweight CMS installs.
For those who need to set up their domain and emails, all the standard Linux provisions - such as Cpanel - are provided. This gives each user all the usual shell, SSL, PostgreSQL, Ruby on Rails, MySQL and scripting capabilities of a standard Cpanel host. SimpleScripts permits easy one-click installs for useful scripts and programs.
In addition to budget shared hosting, BlueHost also provide reseller hosting. They don’t offer VPS, dedicated servers or cloud hosting.
BlueHost’s custom-built data centres provide all customers with power backups via UPS and diesel generator. In addition, all user accounts are backed up regularly (although it’s always best not to rely on this if your data is particularly valuable).
The company don’t make any headline claims about server uptime on their site: the most we could find was an offer of a toll-free refund policy should you leave as a result of a server outage. BlueHost do claim to monitor their servers round the clock, though, and their longevity in the hosting market - and dedication to controlling every minute detail of their hosting packages - does inspire confidence, despite the lack of any numbers.
Note that company don’t provide any redundant or clustered servers whatsoever, so if your website availability is business-critical, consider spending more on a provider who does.
BlueHost provide 24/7 support via phone, email and live chat, all linked through a central Helpdesk portal. Helpdesk staff are located in their Provo, Utah location. Telephone support is toll-free within the US, but there’s a second number for non-US customers.
Useful support information is linked from the portal via a Knowledge Base, and there’s also a user forum and a series of video tutorials for quick fixes to known problems. The portal also provides at-a-glance access to the server status page.
In the News
In March 2009, BlueHost were criticised for suspending a website paid for by Yaraslau Kryvoi, a lawyer based in Washington DC. BlueHost’s staff falsely flagged the account as being Belarussian and thus based in a country on the US government’s list of ‘rogue states’. The controversy was covered in Newsweek and raised questions about possible censorship at BlueHost.
BlueHost’s shared hosting packages all come with Cpanel as standard: this is included in the basic hosting price. It features various webmail options if you prefer to access your email this way, plus all the usual Cpanel controls for setting up name servers, checking your IP address and managing addon domains.
Note that Cpanel is presented alongside a number of other features in a customised BlueHost control panel. Cpanel is the first in a number of tabs which provide access to domain management and domain search, site builders, upgrades, Postini anti-spam software, dedicated IP settings, SSL certificate administration, profile and billing details screens. Note that some of these features do cost extra.
Despite there being two separate BlueHost control panels - the Cpanel tab and the rest of the admin screens - they are tightly integrated and accessed from the same login, making administration straightforward.
BlueHost offer access instant setup scripts and one-click installs. In the control panel, you’ll find simple installation instructions for Weebly, a WordPress blog and various other smaller applications packaged under SimpleScripts. Find these under the Site Builder tab in the control panel.
Users who sign up to a shared package also receive one free domain name for one year, complimentary vouchers towards Google Adwords and Facebook advertising, a free SEO report and a free Yellow Pages listing. There’s also an affiliate scheme offering a generous cash payment for every referral. In 2011 the affiliate scheme paid out $5 million.
Money Back Guarantee / Cancellation Policy
BlueHost’s money back guarantee lasts for 30 days after account registration. Fees for SSL certificates, backup services, SEO services, SiteLock and domain services are non-refundable once purchased.
The cancellation policy is straightforward. Within three days from registration, you’ll receive a full refund (not including the exceptions mentioned above). If you cancel between 3 and 30 days after registration, you’ll get a refund, minus any exceptions, minus any fees associated with subscriptions to extra services such as anti-spam. In addition, the free domain name offered on signup becomes chargeable.
Cancellation requests can be sent to BlueHost via email, phone or live chat - in other words, any of the regular support channels offered on the site.
BlueHost’s domain package is a simple, competitive option in the shared hosting market. Unlike competitors such as HostGator, they don’t offer anything other than shared hosting and reseller hosting, so they’re very specialised - and therefore efficient at providing this one type of web hosting.
If you like to keep things simple, you’ll enjoy the fact that BlueHost keep everything in-house, and their one-click installers offer enough to keep beginner and intermediate website owners busy. However, if you’re expecting spikes in server load, or you need an uptime guarantee, you may be better off spending a little more money with a different host.