Picking the right hosting provider for your new website isn’t always a simple task. There is definitely no shortage of choices, even your ISP likely has some hosting plans available. Only a handful of these companies are worth your time though, and we are going to look at two of the biggest names in the business, Namecheap and Bluehost.
While they both cater to the same market, they started out on different ends of the spectrum. As one of the largest domain registrars in the world, Namecheap later decided to encompass the hosting market as a secondary service. In contrast, Bluehost has been a full scale hosting provider from the very start, offering domain registration as a convenience to customers. Servicing different needs of the same clientele, these two companies have expanded into each others territory, but which one ultimately provides a better platform for hosting?
Whether you are looking to start your first blog or launch a full scale e-commerce store, the provider is your platform to build an online presence. Over the course of this article, we will check out the plans, performance and support available to see which of these is the right option for you.
Namecheap vs Bluehost: Who Has The Best Shared Plans?
Shared hosting plans are a staple of the hosting industry, the very foundation on which much of the internet operates. While physical servers are an expensive and complex venture, customers can lease a small bit of real estate on these machines in order to host their own website(s). As a single server can house potentially hundreds of individual clients, the cost of such plans are considerably reduced. In exchange, you agree to certain Terms of Service such as shared resource distribution, much like you would find when living in an apartment.
Every hosting provider offers these packages, often in a set of 3 incremental tiers, allowing you to choose one that best fits your needs. This offers a much more affordable point of entry into hosting, while ultimately simplifying the experience through gorgeous GUI control panels and automated features.
Namecheap Shared Hosting Plans:
With some of the absolute cheapest plans on the market, Namecheap advertises the phrase “hosting that costs less than a domain”. They have a 4 tier package layout that range from the entry level “Value” plan for those just starting out, up to a high performance “Business SSD” option for more demanding applications. All options come with the choice between a US or UK based data-center, 100% service up-time and 14 day money-back guarantee.
At just a mere $9.88 per year (or $0.82 cents per month), the aptly named Value Plan is an absolute steal of a deal. Capable of hosting up to 3 websites, this entry level package is perfect for those looking to get started without draining the bank account. Certain restrictions such as the 20GB storage space may be a concern, but this is fairly standard practice for the performance SSD drives they use. Otherwise, they feature unmetered bandwidth, 50 MySQL Databases and 50 E-Mail Addresses. As far as technical specifications go, this is one of the most generous introductory plans available and you would be hard pressed to find a better offer.
In what they proclaim to be as their most popular service, the Professional Plan is $19.88/year and essentially ups all the limits we saw on the “Value” package. After increasing the maximum websites supported to a total of 10, they subsequently raise the SSD storage space to 50GB and bump the other limits up to 100 (MySQL Databases, E-Mail Addresses, Sub-Domains, etc). This is very similar to the previous choice with the exception of just having more of everything all around.
Coming in as the most competitive option and geared towards power users, the Ultimate Plan is $29.88/year and moves us into the realm of unlimited resources. As long as you remain within compliance of their Hosting Agreement, you can practically host as many websites and use as much space/bandwidth as needed to operate.
The limits we saw on the previous packages are completely lifted and you are free to do as you please. This is pretty impressive considering the cost works out to just $2.49/mo, less than that of most entry plans from other providers.
Lastly, as the fourth and final tier, Business SSD is their fastest hosting service and priced at $19.88/mo. Considering the massive price hike though, they actually back track from the unlimited resources, dropping SSD storage down to 20GB and limiting bandwidth to 5TB.
These customers are supposedly placed on low utilization, PCI complaint machines… but this is a niche market to say the least. While there is definitely a need for this particular service, it just doesn’t seem to align with the fantastic value found in their other plans.
BlueHost Shared Hosting Plans:
Regarded as the best host for WordPress based sites, Bluehost has long since established themselves among the industry giants. Recommended by the likes of WordPress.org and WPBeginner.com, they are often the first choice for many customers in search of hosting. With a traditional 3 tier layout for the shared hosting plans and a truly unlimited platform, their services are all inclusive and designed to grow alongside your brand.
As they are often one of the most affordable choices in hosting, it is strange we find ourselves with Bluehost as the more expensive of these two. The entry tier Basic Plan, priced at just $2.75/mo, is actually more than 3x the cost of Namecheap’s equivalent and somewhat more limited by comparison. Capable of hosting just a single website, they include 50GB of storage space, unmetered bandwidth and up to 5 e-mail addresses (100MB space/each). We still favor this option because ample storage is a necessity, however it does feel cramped and expensive against the value priced competition. Still, with free domain registration and other bonuses included, it does help to offset the imbalance.
The Plus Plan and Prime Plan are where Bluehost actually shines in this showdown, utilizing the full power of their unlimited platform. Comparable to the Ultimate package at Namecheap, these lift all restrictions and hosting limitations, providing unlimited websites and resources for $5.95/mo. They are however priced the exact same and nearly identical in features, so it only makes sense to choose Prime in this particular case, which features a few extra goodies at no additional charge.
Although it is not considered a plan itself, Bluehost does ultimately offer yet another option which they call the Pro service. At $13.95/mo, this is inline with that of the Business SSD we saw at Namecheap, where your websites are placed on high performance, low utilization machines. Furthermore, they also toss in a free Dedicated IP address and SSL Certificate, as well as the domain privacy and backup tools found in Prime. While they are not directly comparable, this is actually a more value oriented option for those with demanding applications or high volume websites.
Who Has The Best Performance?
Instant Gratification. That is the luxury that technology has afforded us and we have now come to expect. Website visitors are no different, they want page content delivered quick and seamless, not waiting at white screens and watching loading symbols spin continuously. With such high expectations, a website’s performance is one of the most important considerations when choosing a host.
DoubleClick, the research division of Google, conducted a study called Mobile Speed Matters and determined the average website takes 19 seconds to load on mobile 3G. In the same survey, it was found that 53% of mobile users will abandon a website taking more than 3 seconds to load, losing over half the total visitors. Considering the vast impact this can make on a business, especially those reliant on their online presence, it is essential to pick a provider that takes their uptime and performance serious.
Using the automated tests from down.com, we can observe website uptime for both providers, where these are polled every 60 seconds for accurate results. While the comprehensive date range can skew results in favor of one, the detailed breakdowns actually paint a much clearer picture. Respectively, Namecheap has an average 99.94% uptime and Bluehost has 99.93%, appearing nearly identical in this regard.
As we look at the daily statistics however, we see a much different scenario. Since January 1st, 2018, Namecheap has experienced 12 outages with the worst lasting a total of 15 minutes. In comparison, Bluehost has had just 2 outages during that same period of time, with the longest being just 5 minutes. While the averages reflect an extended downtime that occurred last year, Bluehost is actually a considerably more stable host overall.
Per the findings of the aforementioned study, we can also view the raw page loading speeds from each provider as well. In these, Bluehost actually comes in 4th place with an average page speed of just 3.07 seconds, while Namecheap falls to 7th with 3.17 seconds. The differences are negligible, yet fractions of a second can be the deciding factor between keeping traffic on your website. If we look at their best numbers, Bluehost has managed an incredible 0.30 second page speed at times, while Namecheap was an unremarkable 2.22 seconds.
As lengthy averages don’t tell the whole story however, we compared the daily numbers for the last month between the two. While Bluehost seems to squeak out the win in terms of performance, the numbers are just not different enough to matter. Over the last 30 days, both companies have managed an excellent 2.5 second load speed, more than sufficient for modern browsers and internet connections.
Who Has The Best Customer Service?
If there is one thing that can make or break your hosting experience, it is most definitely customer service. Problems happen in the hosting industry, that is to be expected from time to time, but waiting for hours to get help is often when you realize you chose the wrong provider.
When something breaks and you are losing precious time, you need a company that is fast, friendly and professional to swoop in and save the day. Both Namecheap and Bluehost offer 24/7 customer support, but they have considerably different channels in which this is available. We will look at what you can expect from each when assistance is needed.
Namecheap Customer Support:
Namecheap has just one single option for 24/7 customer service, the live chat system. Considering this is one of the largest domain registrars in existence, the lack of an 800 number is somewhat shocking to say the least. Furthermore, their chat isn’t exactly what we would consider accessible either, buried at the bottom of a page beneath quite a bit of unrelated text. Once you manage to locate it, their agents are quick to respond and helpful enough, but it is rather obvious that live chat takes a back seat to their support desk.
For a company that prioritizes support tickets however, their response times are abysmal. The knowledge-base article Do you provide any support? What is your response time? actually states that a 2 hour response time is average, not exactly the best by any means. Scrolling further down the page though, there are dozens of comments indicating it has taken much longer than advertised, with upset customers reporting wait times of 2-3 days or more for help. This may just be rare circumstances, yet we get the feeling that customer service isn’t the highest priority at Namecheap.
Bluehost Customer Support:
In contrast, Bluehost pulls out all of the stops when it comes to customer service. They have 24/7 support available via phone and live chat, linked prominently at the top of their website. It is obvious they not only prioritize these channels, they want to make sure customers can contact them without any fuss. This is a far cry different from Namecheap and something we can appreciate, especially when you take into account the fact they power more than 2 million websites worldwide.
With more than 700 personnel, Bluehost takes their 24/7 support department serious. These aren’t just trained agents either, they employ some of the industries best and brightest minds. They have WordPress developers and core contributors on their team, the men and women that build the software powering more than 25% of all websites. The in-house experts are always available and ready to help with anything, from purchasing a plan to growing your online presence.
For those less urgent matters, it is worth mentioning their self-help resources as well. They have a vast library of articles covering nearly every possible topic in hosting. This may not always be the best option when time is an issue, but it’s a great place to learn more on your own accord.
Winner Between these Two Hosting Companies?
When comparing Namecheap, a domain registrar that offers hosting, to one of the largest hosting providers in the industry, we would expect there to be no contest.
While they fall short in several areas of importance, they were a surprisingly strong contender in this match-up. For those on an extreme budget and looking to save every penny, the plans available at Namecheap are unmatched. With that said however, Bluehost is still first and foremost a website host, and one of the best in that regard.
From a consumer standpoint, we can see the value in a business that emphasizes quantity over quality, it appeals to a certain demographic and keeps competition honest. On the flip side, we as webmasters need the full package and that is what Bluehost provides.
With comprehensive 24/7 live support, unlimited hosting plans and blazing fast performance, we can sleep easy at night knowing our stores, blogs and boards are online and working as expected. You can’t put a price on that peace of mind, but in this case, Bluehost gives us just that.
- Rated 5 stars
- Namecheap vs Bluehost
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