Today, we are going to be looking at Bluehost vs. WpEngine. As usual, these two Web-hosts will be going head to head on different aspects of their hosting service, and in the end, we get to see a winner. This is going to be an in-depth and unbiased view of both Web-hosts and we are going to see exactly what makes them special— and exactly why one should be chosen over the other.
Are you ready? Let’s go.
Bluehost vs. Wp Engine: A Complete Overview
Do you think that it’s a big deal for a content management system that powers over 30% of the internet to recommend a particular Web-host? We do. That’s why we are going to start with that— Bluehost is one of the three officially recommended Web-hosts by WordPress. What does this tell us? You’d probably be better served if you hosted your WordPress site with Bluehost.
This doesn’t tell the whole story, though. Founded in Utah by Matt Heaton and Danny Ashworth, the company started operations in 1996 and has grown to be one of the biggest names in Web-hosting today. Bluehost has a variety of plans from shared hosting, WordPress, to VPS and dedicated hosting services. Soon enough, as is becoming the trend in hosting today, Bluehost was acquired by EIG, a firm that owns most Web-hosting services.
Is Bluehost as good as they claim to be? And if they are, are they as good as WpEngine? Let’s find out.
Unlike Bluehost, WpEngine doesn’t offer a wide range of services. It is a specialized WordPress hosting provider that only offers the option for managed hosting. This means that WpEngine only offers WordPress hosting— no other content management system can be set up on WpEngine servers. WpEngine’s major selling point is convenience. People who buy WpEngine’s hosting plans don’t need to worry about installs, updates, security patches or Plugins. Does WpEngine deliver on these promises though? And how do they fare in other aspects of hosting? We’ll find out soon enough.
As we also stated over and over in our Bluehost Review, this is hardly a contest. There are only a few Web-hosts more popular than Bluehost and WpEngine isn’t one of those. Not that it matters in any case, many times popularity just means a huge marketing budget, not a great performance.
When you purchase a Web-hosting plan, you must have some basic expectations. At the top of the list must be great uptime and great speed. Your website must be accessible and it must be accessible quickly. Obviously, the better performing Web-host is the one that meets these requirements better than the other. So how do Bluehost and WpEngine measure in terms of speed and uptime? (Check out the WP Engine Review for more in-depth stats about WP Engine Performance over the past year)
We purchased a basic Bluehost plan and went to work on determining the average speed of the Web-hosting giant. We were mildly surprised by an average speed of 461ms. This is surprising because most of the narrative surrounding BlueHost has always, canonically at least, pointed to sluggish speed. The narrative is that Bluehost is a cheap option with great features but less than average performance. Clearly, this isn’t true, at least in terms of speed. Perhaps Bluehost’s speed is impressive because it makes use of CDN? We can’t exactly tell for sure.
Bluehost Speed Tests
However good Bluehost’s speed is, though, it isn’t quite at an elite level. Google says that response time should be at most 200ms for maximum performance, and BlueHost was rarely able to give us that. The problem, perhaps, is with Google, as we’ve tested a lot of Web-hosts and very few were able to average around 200ms. When we say very few, we mean like one or two at most. In order to see whether Bluehost’s speed is fake, we sent about 100 virtual users to the site and the speed remained stable. So BlueHost has comfortably above-average speed and can handle traffic well. Does it get better than this? Let’s check out WpEngine.
WpEngine Speed Tests
WpEngine has CDN enabled on all their plans and has up to nine data centers in London, California, Belgium, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. We also purchased a WpEngine plan to run speed tests, although we had run some tests on them a while ago when we awarded them the #1 Bluehost Alternative spot, we wanted to be sure that nothing has changed. From WpEngine’s admin portal, you can run performance tests to check out exactly how your website is doing in terms of load speed and response time. We measured an average TTFB (response time) of 291ms. This is better than almost all of the Web-hosts that we’ve tested. The average load speed blew us away too, coming in at 478ms. So, 99 out of 100 times, your website is fully available in less than half a second. If that isn’t amazing, we really don’t know what is.
VERDICT; Bluehost performed well, and if it were against any other host perhaps it would have come out on top. WpEngine, though, is a freak of nature. Average response time of 291ms is probably what people refer to as lightning-fast speed.
What is the main job of a Web-host? To keep the website of users available, or up. So let’s check out the uptime of both Web-hosts and see how they measure in relation to each other.
We tested Bluehost’s Uptime
Throughout our testing period, Bluehost showed no signs of slowing down. An uptime of 99.99% is probably the highest that a Web-host can promise— and very few actually deliver on that promise. But here is where Bluehost shocked us. We recorded a 99.99% uptime, further shattering the narrative that Bluehost doesn’t offer great performance. However, unlike most Web-hosts In the market, Bluehost doesn’t offer an uptime guarantee. This means that if uptime were to suffer, users can only complain. There is no path of redress or compensation. If Bluehost continues providing great uptime, though, we don’t see why this should be a problem.
We tested WpEngine’s Uptime
WpEngine also provided top-notch uptime through our testing period. 99.99% isn’t so easy to achieve, but both these Web-hosts are showing us that it can be done. An uptime of 99.99% means about only 4 minutes of downtime per month and 48 minutes of downtime per year. Is that negligible? We would hope so, yes. WpEngine does one thing better than Bluehost, though. The Web-host provides a 99.95% uptime guarantee, which isn’t very much as most Web-hosts tag theirs at 99.99%— but it is better than nothing. What this means is that if you notice that WpEngine’s uptime has gone below 99.95%, there’s a path of redress and you’re eligible for some compensation. However, you have to be certain that the downtime experienced was not as a result of scheduled or emergency maintenance, beta services or major events.
VERDICT; So, both Web-hosts were almost perfect regarding uptime, but we have to choose a winner. What divides them, at this point, is a simple fact that WpEngine offers an uptime guarantee while Bluehost doesn’t. WpEngine wins this one for us then.
Ease of Use for Bluehost compared to WpEngine
Very few people would want to make use of a Web-hosting service with a complicated backend or user interface. Even advanced users sometimes want to get things done as quickly as possible without needless tinkering with codes and plugins and whatnot.
Bluehost makes use of cPanel, the generic and most popular hosting interface. It isn’t just cPanel, though, as Bluehost has customized its features to allow for even easier manoeuvering by users. Everything you will need to get started such as one-click installs and WordPress installers are readily available on the dashboard. Other popular content management systems like Drupal and Joomla can also be installed with one click.
If you’re new to the world of hosting, Bluehost has got you covered with Drupal or Weebly, website builders that have drag and drop functionality that will help you get your site up in no time at all. Everything you need to set up and manage your account is located in one place, so it is unlikely that newbies will get “lost” on different pages. Bluehost’s added features include My sites— a feature that allows users control multiple websites with one account, Marketplace— a feature that allows users buy professional services, add features and functionality to websites, buy new add-ons and themes, etc, Email and Office— a tool that allows you access any productivity tools bought and access cloud-based word processing, email clients from Microsoft or Google, and spreadsheet tools. There is also an advanced section that houses the advanced Web-hosting settings that advanced users might be interested in. Bluehost also offers free SSL certificates and domain names on basic plans so that new users have fewer upsells to pay for.
WpEngine does not use cPanel. For users concerned with how easy it will be to handle a Web-host’s backend, this might be something of a problem. While WpEngine’s proprietary user interface is intuitive and easy to use in its own right, it may take some getting used to. We aren’t entirely sure that it is a good thing. WpEngine’s User portal displays the number of storage, visitors and bandwidth that has been used. Ideally, this sounds like a good thing. But when you think of the fact that WpEngine’s plans have no “unlimited” option like most other Web-hosts, things begin to get a bit icky.
As far as we could see, that was the only problem we could find with WpEngine’s backend. The Frontend had more issues for us, though. First of all, we found it difficult to navigate. As most Web-hosts do, we were bombarded with a lot of information, but it doesn’t mean very much if users cannot make a head of the information being given. The fact we had to read more than necessary in order to find answers to simple questions didn’t exactly fill us with pride either.
To make the job of users easier, WpEngine automatically upgrades WordPress when minor patches are released. When major updates are released, WpEngine tests the update to make sure they arr safe before recommending them to users. Users interested in upgrading their WordPress application with major updates have the option of working with experts provided by WpEngine. This ensures that the process is quick and efficient.
All plans are provided with a staging area. In this area, users can test run changes made to their websites without actually making those changes. In addition, it allows a seamless update resulting in no downtime. Users of WpEngine do not have to worry about plugins, updates, installs and all of that— all that is needed to get their WordPress account online is a one-click installation. WpEngine has a tool, which they call their most popular, called “Application Performance”. This tool provides code-level visibility to assist teams in troubleshooting faster, optimizing WordPress experiences, and increasing development agility. The main function of this tool is to give the IT team the visibility needed to build and maintain a great WordPress digital experience. WpEngine offers the Genesis Framework and access to more than 35+ premium themes. In contrasts, Bluehost only offers access to eight themes.
WpEngine doesn’t offer domain registration or email hosting. To have access to those services you’d have to purchase them from another Web-host.
For some reason— the official narrative is that alien plugins can cause problems with WpEngine’s infrastructure, WpEngine has a compiled list of disallowed plugins. Some of the most popular disallowed plugins are
EWWW Image Optimizer
Related Posts plugins like YARPP and Similar Posts
Broken Link Checker
Backups plugins like WP DB Backup and BackupWordPress
Caching Plugins like Super Cache and W3 Total Cache.
VERDICT; Most people would rather just make use of a cPanel interface, regardless of how simple WpEngine’s proprietary user portal ends up being. Bluehost wins this round for us.
Money-Back Guarantee Policy
After choosing a web host, signing up for a Web-hosting plan and paying for a plan, it is possible to have a change of heart. It is possible to look at the quality of the service provided and think that you would be better served with a different Web-host. What happens then!
Will the money paid to be refundable? And how long is the period where refund requests can be made?
Bluehost has a 30-days money-back guarantee policy. If payment is made for a plan, a maximum of thirty days is allowed to explore Bluehost services and decide if you are interested in sticking with them. If refund requests are made, the request will be made honored under three conditions;
Firstly, any request for cancellation made after thirty days will not be honored.
Secondly, refunds can only be made on Web-hosting costs, not on other domain products.
The last condition is that a fee of $15.99 is deducted if a free domain name has been received. Before signing up for Bluehost services, it is important to be aware of these conditions.
WpEngine has a 60- days money-back guarantee on its scale, growth and startup plans. This means the sign up for WpEngine is risk-free (within the first sixty days, of course) and if the services offered are found to be unsatisfactory, full refunds are guaranteed as long as they are made within the period of the first sixty days.
VERDICT; It is obvious the winner of this round is WpEngine since it provides for 60 days money-back guarantee against Bluehost’s 30 days money-back guarantee.
Bluehost vs WP Engine: Customer Support and Reliability
One of the most important aspects of a Web-host is the quality of customer support that they have. Are customer service reps responsive? Are they knowledgeable? Does it take forever to get a hold of them? How effective, overall, is their customer service infrastructure?
Bluehost offers a knowledge base, live chat support, ticketing system, and phone support. All these are reportedly available 24/7, so they’ve got the basics right. We tried out their live chat support and endured varying degrees of wait time— never more than seven minutes though. Could this be better? Yes, but it isn’t exactly terrible and a maximum of seven minutes isn’t an age of wait time to endure. The reps we got a hold on were friendly, willing to help and knowledgeable. However, we couldn’t help but notice that some of our more technical questions were not replied quickly. We suspect that the answers had to be confirmed from other sources.
Bluehost has a special customer care feature called Blue flash. This feature is made especially for WordPress users and it comes free with all plans. According to Bluehost, “Blue flash is powered by a team of WordPress experts specifically trained to assist with everything from getting started with WordPress and installing plugins to account navigation and initial set up questions”. Sounds great, right? We think so too. Users can simply contact Bluehost’s 24/7 support team at 844-741-1192 and ask to begin their Bluehost Flash call. Impressive, but we feel that the Blue Flash feature could be better if implemented in live chat form. Regardless, Bluehost’s customer support structure is sound and would solve most customer’s problems satisfactorily.
WpEngine, like Bluehost, is known for its exceptional customer support. Generally, we’ve discovered that smaller Web-hosting services usually have superior customer support services. This makes us appreciate the nature of Bluehost’s customer support even better because it’s such a big company.
WpEngine has over 200 service experts on hand to handle customer questions. Customers have the choice of round the clock live chat support, 24/7 phone support (on select plans) a dedicated billing support section for addressing questions regarding accounts, and a knowledge base that is filled with tutorials and articles on how to handle common problems. However, there is a tiny problem with WpEngine’s phone support— it is only offered to customers on plans higher than the Startup plan. To us, this sounds kind of weird because users who buy the Startup plan are most likely inexperienced users who need customer support more than any other demographic.
WpEngine provides one-on-one support— at least that’s what they claim. How can we verify this claim? We try them out.
We tried the live chat channel and connected to a live rep in less than three minutes so we didn’t have to wait long. That’s a good sign. The representatives that we spoke to were friendly and knowledgeable— exactly what you would expect from efficient customer support.
VERDICT; Without the newly introduced feature of Blue flash, we would probably have taken WpEngine over Bluehost. But blue flash exists, and we cannot overlook a free service of consultation with WordPress experts. It was close, but Bluehost wins this one for us.
Not only do you trust your Web-host to keep your site up and easily accessible, but you also trust your Web-host to keep your website secure. That is why the security measures taken by Web-hosts and the security provided with basic plans are important.
Bluehost Security Features
Bluehost provides a lot of security features by default such as SSL certificates from Let’s Encrypt (It is to be noted that there is the option of purchasing a private SSL certificate through Bluehost’s help. However, this purchase comes with the obligation of purchasing a dedicated IP address from Bluehost) and a domain privacy feature that hides private information from public WHOIS listing. This stops hackers from using personal information of users in organizing phishing attacks. Bluehost also has Sitelock that helps to prevent malware attacks. Bluehost has Codeguard, a form of protection that provides daily backups (Bluehost doesn’t in itself, and not all Web-hosting plans have Codeguard installed) of your files in case your website gets hacked. Bluehost also has Postini from Google, a tool that provides spam protection for your email so that you are protected from suspicious-looking emails. You can also protect your account from being hacked into with Bluehost’s two-factor authentication with a six-digit code. However, most of Bluehost’s high-end security features like Sitelock and Codeguard only come with higher-tier plans, not basic ones. Bluehost believes that website security is a shared responsibility (and we agree), and in line with this thinking, customers are provided with a checklist of things they ought to be doing to protect their websites.
It is be noted that Bluehost doesn’t guarantee backups— although your website may be backed up occasionally as a courtesy if you do not have a Codeguard installed plan. What this means, basically, is if you’re on a cheaper plan, Bluehost may do you the favor of backing up your website, but they are under absolutely no obligation to do so. Bluehost also doesn’t offer any assistance with site restoration if your site gets hacked.
Make of that what you may.
WpEngine Security Features
WpEngine offers customers a number of high-end security features to equip their website with. The first is something that Bluehost doesn’t offer, at least not directly, and it is free automatic updates. WpEngine carries out daily backups and has a one-click restore option in case anything happens to your website. Like Bluehost, WpEngine also offers free SSL certificates from let’s Encrypt on all their plans. Automated patching and updates are also offered. The core of WordPress is automatically patched so you don’t have to worry about being exposed to vulnerabilities. For example, IP addresses that are known to belong to hackers or spammers are automatically blocked from accessing your site.
VERDICT; Once again, this one goes right down to the wire. Either of these two Web-hosts could come out the winner and not a lot of people would have a lot to say against it. But we must decide a winner, and WpEngine takes this one for us because they offer the same level of security from the ground up. The higher-tier plans get the same attention to security detail as the lower tier plans and this impressed us a lot.
Bluehost and WpEngine: Plans & Pricing
To be honest, price is what most people look at before choosing a Web-host. This is because, while there are genuinely terrible Web-hosts out there, most of the companies in the business actually offer quite decent services. So the price is what differentiates most Web-hosts from the other— at least to most people. That sort of thinking, though, would mean missing out on objectively superior deals. This is because the truth is that some Web-hosts offer more value for less and others less value for more. Take it from us; there is always a better deal. Nine out of ten times at least.
In the spirit of looking for the better deal let’s take a look at two of Bluehost’s categories of plans— their shared hosting plans and their WordPress Pro plans.
Bluehost has four shared hosting plans and they are; The Basic, Plus, Choice Plus, and Pro plans.
Let’s look at what the quality that their lowest tier plan, the basic plan, packs.
The basic plan costs $3.95 (or lower because of different discounts running throughout the year) per month (although you might have to pay $7.99 if you want to renew your plan) and has the following features.
- 1 website
- 50GB of storage
- Unmetered bandwidth
- Free SSL certificate
- 1 domain
- 5 parked domains
- 25 subdomains
The next plan on the ladder is the Plus plan which costs $5.95 per month. (It normally costs $10.99). The plan comes with all the features of the basic plan plus the following
- Unlimited websites
- Unlimited storage
- Unlimited domains
- Unlimited subdomains
- Unlimited parked domains
- $200 marketing offer
- Spam experts.
At $5.95 per month, this plan packs some real power. The next plan is the Choice-plus plan. The plan costs the same as the Plus plan (although renewal is pegged at $14.99) It has all the features of the Plus plan and comes with the following.
- Site backup- Codeguard basic
It looks like Codeguard basic is a huge upgrade. We don’t understand why we have to pay so much for “guaranteed” backups— a service that WpEngine offers for free, though.
The most expensive shared hosting plan is the Pro plan. An initial subscription costs $13.95 per month (renewal fees start from $23.99 per month) and it has all the features of the Choice-plus Plan plus high performance. We presume that this means better speed and the capacity to support a higher number of visitors.
There’s one more thing. We aren’t entirely sure whether this is a good or bad thing but we are sure that it is something that prospective customers of Bluehost ought to know. The initial prices that are so sweet and so low are only available for those who intend to buy annual (at least three years) plans. In addition to this, there are no plans shorter than twelve months available so if you want to make use of Bluehost you’d have to be ready to stick with them for a year or more. Inconvenient? Most likely.
Bluehost’s WP pro (a WordPress managed hosting plan) has the three plans which are the Build, Grow, and Scale plans. The build plan costs $19.95 per month initially, and $29.99 on renewals. It comes with Jetpack Site Analytics (Basic), 100+ Free WordPress themes, daily scheduled backups, Malware detection and removal, and domain privacy plus 1 office 365 mailbox – free thirty days. This plan is great for beginners looking to build a professional WordPress Website.
The Grow plan comes with an initial price of $29.95 and a renewal fee of $39.99. The plan comes with all the features of the Build Plan plus Jetpack Premium Included, Business Review Tools, Bluehost SEO Tools, Jetpack Ads Integration, 10GB video compression, and BlueSky Ticket Support. This is a great plan for people looking to grow their WordPress audience from a few hundred visitors per day to thousands per day.
The Scale plan is for those interested in running an eCommerce WordPress website. It normally costs $59.99 but an initial plan can be bought at a discount price of $49.95. The plan comes with everything in the grow plan plus included Jetpack Pro unlimited backups and restore, PayPal integration, unlimited video compression, and Blue Sky Chat support.
Bluehost’s mixes the magic of great pricing with the bliss of variety, providing the perfect (or almost perfect, as we believe there is always a better deal) collection of Web-hosting plans with the very competitive prices.
Let’s look at the pricing structure of WpEngine and see how they fare against Bluehost.
Since WpEngine only offers managed WordPress hosting plans, there is only one group of plans to look at. Four managed plans are offered and they include the Startup, Growth, Scale, and Custom plans.
The StartUp plan costs $28 (normally $35) and comes with a capacity of 25000 visits per month, 10GB of local storage, 50GB bandwidth per month, and one website. Other features such as Genesis Framework, 24/7 chat support, transferable sites, largeFs, global CDN and automated SSL certificates are included for free.
The next plan costs a lot more at $92 per month (normally $115 per month). Users get 100000 capacity for visitors per month, 20GB of local storage, 200GB of bandwidth per month and five websites. Other included features include Genesis Framework, 24/7 chat support, transferable sites, largeFs, global CDN, automated SSL certificate, imported SSL certificate, and 24/7 phone support.
The Scale plan costs $232 per month (normally $290 per month) and comes with a capacity for 400000 per month, 30GB of local storage, 400GB of bandwidth per month, and fifteen included sites. Genesis Framework, 24/7 chat support, transferable sites, largeFs, global CDN, automated SSL certificate, imported SSL certificate, and 24/7 phone support are also included at no extra charge.
The fourth plan is the custom plan and it has no price tag— you’ll need to reach out to the team at WpEngine to create that if you so wish.
Is this a bad deal? No, not if you are planning on hosting a professional WordPress website. In fact, if we were to remove our “cheap tinted” glasses for a moment we’d see that it is possible that WpEngine’s plans worth all the dollar signs you’d have to throw out of your bank account to purchase their plans.
VERDICT; Both Bluehost and WpEngine have great deals. While Bluehost plans (at least their shared hosting and managed hosting plans) mainly caters to people who can afford to spare only a little cash in exchange for a place for their website to call home, WpEngine’s plans are for professional users looking for the greatest level of performance and are willing to pay a premium for it. This looks like one of those rare moments where our judgment will be subjective. So who wins the duel for us? Bluehost, of course. Why? Sometimes cheaper is better. Especially when cheaper has great value for money.
All (well, not all) Web-hosts have that extra thing that stands them apart from the crowd— whether it is green technology or some extra incentive, it is important to go through the extra features of a Web-host before going with a choice.
Bluehost has lots of extra features, but we are only going to list the ones that might interest you;
- In case you need to manage your domains through them, Bluehost has a domain manager
- One-click installations for over 100+ apps from MOJO
- Bluehost has CDN access
- Bluehost offers hotlink protection to protect your data
- Bluehost supports the use of PHP PEAR packages, Perl modules, Cron jobs, and Apache handlers.
- Bluehost supports both MySQL and PostgreSQL databases and you can use either phpMyAdmin, Remote MySQL, or phpPgAdmin to manage your databases.
- Bluehost is an officially recommended web host by WordPress
- Bluehost doesn’t make use of SSD’s for shared hosting servers, and if you know your tech, that might eventually translate into some speed problems.
- Bluehost offers the services of website builders like Drupal and Weebly.
WpEngine also has some pretty exciting extra features;
- You can choose where you want your servers to be located when you sign up. You have the option of between places like Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Taiwan, the UK, and the US.
- WpEngine’s architecture is built on a proprietary technology called EverCache. It one of the best systems for caching WordPress available. This system allows your website to experience and handle traffic spikes without a drop in performance.
- WpEngine has global CDN installed on all plans
- All plans come with an SSL certificate
- WpEngine comes with staging areas
- We are not entirely sure this is an extra, but we feel that you must be informed that WpEngine imposes a limit of visitors that can make use of your site. And it comes with a price— if you go over the limit imposed, you’ll be charged for it. The good side of this is that when within the set parameters of your plan, performance is top-notch. Outside the parameters, it is still top-notch, but you have the pleasure of paying extra.
- WpEngine has the option of a custom plan where a Web-hosting plan is created specifically to suit the needs of your websites if they prove too much for their normal plans to handle
- WpEngine provides daily automatic backups
- WpEngine allows users to run page speed tests from their backend without third party interference
VERDICT; The extras section is always so difficult to round up. This is because even the most mediocre Web-hosts usually have impressive extra features. Regardless, we found Bluehost’s extra features to have that extra thing we need. WpEngine simply didn’t have that for us.
Major Differences between WpEngine and Bluehost
- Let’s recap. What are the most important things that set these two Web-hosts apart?
- Bluehost has a lot of plans while WpEngine only offers managed WordPress hosting.
- WpEngine is much more expensive than Bluehost
- WpEngine offers free daily backups, Bluehost doesn’t (or does, it really is a matter of language when you think of it).
- WpEngine has limits on visitors and charges extra when those limits are exceeded, BlueHost doesn’t.
- Bluehost offers 24/7 customer support on all channels on all their plans, while WpEngine’s cheapest plan doesn’t come with phone support.
Bluehost vs. WpEngine: Our Pick
It would be a bit disingenuous to come up with a straight answer here. In terms of performance, WpEngine absolutely destroys Bluehost. But in other areas like pricing and customer support, Bluehost came out on top. However, we wouldn’t want to reach a straight cut conclusion that one host is better than the other. We have something much better—a piece of advice.
If you don’t plan on creating a WordPress site, then Bluehost is the Web-host for you. However, if you want to create or you own a WordPress site and you are willing to pay heavily for elite performance, then WpEngine is the Web-host for you.
So who is the winner between Bluehost and WpEngine? Well, it depends on the kind of hosting you want, really.