Before committing to a long-term hosting subscription, you should make an informed decision before putting your time and money into a service. Today, I will compare two of the industry’s leading web hosting providers: WPEngine vs Bluehost.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the most important components of your WordPress website are the theme, plugins, or version of WordPress you’re running.
While it’s certainly true that these factors are critical for your website’s success, you also need to consider the foundation upon which everything else is built…your hosting provider.
Hosting providers, despite healthy competition, are not created equally. Some have superior pricing models, while others offer better value with regards to the trade-off between price and features.
To begin, let’s take a look at each provider’s pricing model.
The pricing model of each provider varies wildly, and on the whole, I found that WPEngine has much less to offer than the typical hosting service. Which is not necessarily a bad thing.
It’s common to find providers offer VPS, dedicated server, cloud hosting, WordPress hosting, business hosting, and other similar types of packages. However, WPEngine only has four plans: Startup, Growth, Scale, and Custom.
The Custom plan is essentially a dedicated server, but you would need to talk to a sales specialist to determine what exactly it is you want and how much it will cost.
I will say this, however: I would expect Custom plans to cost more than $290 a month.
Because it consists of dedicated server hardware, I would expect it to cost more than the Scale plan. At any rate, let’s take a closer look at each provider’s pricing models.
The following outlines WPEngine’s pricing model:
- Startup: $35 per month
- Growth: $115 per month
- Scale: $290 per month
- Custom: variable pricing
In contrast, the following outlines Bluehost’s WordPress payment plans:
- Basic Plan: $2.95 per month
- Plus Plan: $5.45 per month
- Choice Plus Plan: $5.45 per month
As you can see, Bluehost is drastically cheaper. Bluehost’s basic plan is a mere $2.95 per month, which is far less than the price of a decent meal at a restaurant.
Furthermore, I would like to point out that Bluehost’s most expensive Choice Plus plan is far more inexpensive than WPEngine’s basic StartupPlan. True enough, this factor only regards pricing, but as discussed later, WPEngine has several less than agreeable features that produce a lower value.
Also, Bluehost has much more granular pricing options in a diverse variety of hosting types. For instance, Bluehost also offers VPS and Cloud Hosting, not to mention packages designed specifically for businesses. All in all, considering its features, Bluehost offers more value for your money.
Pricing Winner = Bluehost
Do They Offer a Free Trial Account?
WPEngine, unfortunately, doesn’t have a truly free trial account. It does, however, make up for the lack of a free trial account in two ways. Firstly, it does offer a 60-day money-back guarantee, which is longer than most.
It’s more typical to see a service offer a standard 30-day money back guarantee, so kudos to WPEngine for doubling the standard length of risk-free service. The second way it compensates is by discounting the price of an annual subscription.
WPEngine proudly boasts on its website that subscribers get two months of free WordPress hosting for annual subscribers, which is generous, but hardly a free trial account.
You will still be billed, only at a lower rate that, over the course of a year, adds up to two months worth of savings.
While these compensations are beneficial and agreeable, I do still wish there was a free trial account so users could test the waters a bit before fully committing to a subscription. Still, it’s better than nothing.
Bluehost offers the same thing, more or less, though there are more beneficial terms. Technically, Bluehost does not offer a free trial. Instead, it offers a 30-day money back guarantee…with benefits.
If at the end of 30 days, you are not pleased with the service, you can cancel your subscription and not be billed at all.
Still, I think that Bluehost is relying on the fact that most users will forget to cancel, and be automatically billed. If you do decide to cancel after the first month, however, you will not be charged for the next full month.
Instead, you will only be billed a pro-rated expense, meaning that you will only be charged per day for the duration that your account is active.
So, for example, if you were to cancel your subscription on the 37th day, you will only be charged for a week of service. No, it’s not truly a free trial (free trials are extremely rare in the hosting industry), but it’s better than most competing services offer.
So What About The Features and Benefits
In my opinion, there’s undoubtedly a clear winner when it comes to features and benefits, and it wasn’t even close. Before I reveal which provider I think has the best features, let’s take an objective look at what each provider offers.
The following outlines Bluehost’s Shared Hosting features and benefits:
- Basic: 1 website, 50GB storage, 100MB email storage per account
- Plus: unlimited websites, unlimited storage, unlimited parked and sub-domains, unlimited email storage, $200 value of marketing offers
- Choice Plus: all Choice Plus features, but adds domain privacy and CodeGuard Basic
The following outlines WPEngine’s features and benefits per package:
- Startup: 1 website, suitable for 25K monthly visitors, 50GB bandwidth, free CDN, SSL, and migrations, and page performance free
- Growth: 5 websites, suitable for 100K monthly visitors, 200GB bandwidth, free CDN, SSL, and migrations, and page performance free
- Scale: 15 websites, suitable for 400K monthly visitors, 400GB bandwidth, free CDN, SSL, and migrations, and page performance free
Personally, the biggest thing that irks me regarding WPEngine is that bandwidth isn’t unlimited. I very much dislike the fact that they put a monthly bandwidth cap on your website, which is absolutely atrocious.
Also, note that the only real differences between the Startup and Growth packages are the ability to host five sites and an extra 150GB of monthly bandwidth.
I personally don’t see a whole heck of a lot of value in that, especially considering that it costs an extra $80 per month.
If you ask me, ultimately, the largest flaw with this model of service tiers is the correlation between monthly bandwidth and price, and I think the largest encumbrance is with the StartUp plan. Anyone who has run out of data on their smartphone knows just how quickly 50GB can be eaten up.
But just imagine how much faster data will be expended and multiplied if you host videos, high-quality images, or files to be downloaded.
Sure, there are compression protocols designed to make the transfer of image data more efficient, but those types of plugins aren’t going to put a dent in your monthly bandwidth allotment.
Storage Space Issues
For instance, let’s pretend that one of your web pages hosts a JPEG that’s 500KB in size, which is fairly common and not unreasonable for the sake of this example.
Furthermore, consider that higher quality images can easily be several megabytes in size. Nevertheless, let’s then suppose that over the course of a month that one page is viewed 1,000 times.
That single picture, all by itself, just ate up 500MB of your monthly data cap, not to mention other types of overhead such as HTML and other data. How many pictures do you think you could feasibly serve to visitors each month before hitting your bandwidth cap?
And this doesn’t even begin to account for larger files, such as locally hosted video. It’s just far too much of an encumbrance to be practical for all but the smallest of websites.
For instance, consider a local Mom & Pop bakery that created the simplest of websites so users could find their store, as well as present users with their contact information.
In such a low traffic and incredibly low demand scenario, hitting the 50GB limit might be incredibly unlikely. Still, why have the data cap at all? You could save $32 bucks a month by opting for Bluehost and not have any monthly data cap at all!
The second major factor that’s different between WPEngine and Bluehost, a factor that I find irritating, is the amount of storage space.
Bluehost’s basic plan not only limits the account to 50GB of local storage, but it also places a 100MB storage limit on each email account. That 100MB could easily be eaten up by attachments.
However, I was pleased to see that both the hard drive storage limit and email storage limit are completely removed for the mid and high-tier accounts.
Yes, you heard me right. The mid and high-tier accounts have unlimited storage, which is a wonderful reason to opt for a package that’s superior to the basic plan.
But unfortunately, WPEngine doesn’t offer nearly as much local storage, which really surprised me given that it’s so much more expensive. In fact, WPEngine’s StartUp plan only comes with a measly 10GB of local storage. 10GB, that’s all!
Consider that a DVD can only hold about 4.7GB of data, so the StartUp plan’s equivalent storage capacity is really only about two DVDs worth of data. Higher level packages don’t have much more to offer, either.
The mid-tier package only allows 20GB of local storage, and the highest level package only has 30GB of storage.
Compared with Bluehost’s unlimited storage, WPEngine’s scant amount of finite storage is laughably insignificant.
A Brief Look at ‘CodeGuard’
The most expensive Bluehost plan does not only offer unlimited storage and bandwidth, but it also comes with CodeGuard Basic, which is normally a separate service and subscription.
What does CodeGuard do exactly? Well, it offers a lot of features including daily backups, WordPress plugin updates, and an anti-malware feature.
Let’s unpack each of these features a bit more because they can really save you a lot of headaches, time, and trouble. First off, the daily backup feature is a huge time saver.
If you implement any change in your website that leads to code issues or unpredictability, CodeGuard’s daily backups will help you revert to the last acceptable state of functionality. Instead of losing all the time, energy, and work you put into building your website, at most, you will only lose 24 hours of work.
Given that Bluehost’s most advanced WordPress package is cheaper than WPEngine’s basic plan, I think the CodeGuard feature is, on its own, worth the price of admission.
Second of all, the CodeGuard feature automatically updates your WordPress plugins. On the surface, this feature may seem trivial. But anyone who knows how important updates are with regards to security will beg to differ.
Outdated plugins and code versions are a common source of security holes, but automatic updates will seamlessly patch your plugins to ensure that as soon as a plugin developer releases the latest bug fixes, your website’s code will batten down the hatches and plug the holes.
I perceive a tremendous amount of value in automating patch updates. Unfortunately, some people wait too long to update plugins because they don’t perceive it as a priority.
Thirdly, CodeGuard has a built-in anti-malware feature, which is tremendously helpful. I think the vast majority of people know they should install antivirus and anti-malware software on their laptops and mobile devices.
But folks new to website development don’t think twice about forgoing website security. The ugly truth is that multitudes of websites are hacked every darn day.
Protection against nasty worms and faults of code is imperative and can save you the pain and struggle of trying to recover from a malware attack.
Even though there are daily backup features to revert to an older and cleaner version of your website, the anti-malware features also protect the visitors to your site, which enhances your digital credibility.
To recap, CodeGuard will back up your website every day so you aren’t left hanging after a disastrous change to your website (be it a coding error, faulty plugin, or a virus encounter).
Additionally, it will automatically update plugins so you don’t have to worry about manually patching outdated plugin versions riddled with security flaws. And finally, CodeGuard is a proactive defense against malware. What’s not to love?
Features & Benefits Winner = Bluehost
How Does The Customer Service Stack Up?
As expected, both providers offer 24/7 support, with several caveats. Bluehost does offer 24/7 technical support, but with regards to other types of support, such as billing and account support, it does not offer 24/7 assistance.
Believe it or not, customer support is the feature I like least about Bluehost, and I’ll tell you why. Customer support needs to be as streamlined and effortless for the user as possible.
When you’re troubleshooting website problems, the last thing anyone wants is a lot of red tapes that accentuates their throbbing headache and turns a five-minute problem into an hour-long ordeal.
For that reason, I dislike Bluehost’s customer support, because it is fractured, inconsistent, and with regards to a few key elements, even a little confusing.
I should mention that Bluehost does offer all the common contact methods, including live chat, opening a ticket via a web form, and calling via your telephone.
That may sound all well and good, but here’s the problem: there are a gazillion sub-departments, each with their own hours of operation, live chat systems, and different phone numbers!
Bluehost’s support department is divided up into three main categories: sales, technical support, and account management. Then, under each of those three umbrellas are even more subdivisions.
For example, under the sales category, the following subdivisions exist general sales questions, new businesses, new hosting customers, personal websites, website speed and performance, traffic generation, web security, and website services and solutions. What a mess!
Admittedly, WPEngine takes a similar (but not exactly the same) approach towards their customer support. But there are only three main subdivisions, as follows: billing help, sales questions, and technical support.
I think this makes one heck of a lot more sense than the structure of Bluehost’s support, and naturally, do note that WPEngine’s support is also 24/7.
Although unless you’re already a subscriber with login credentials, you can only live chat with the sales department and ask sales-related questions.
Furthermore, I do need to mention that both providers offer extensive support documentation, which may even negate the need to contact technical support.
I was reasonably impressed with each provider’s high-quality guides. Yet again, I did think the layout and accessibility of Bluehost’s knowledgebase could stand to be tidied up a bit, but other than that, it’s undoubtedly a great resource for configuration guides, troubleshooting assistance, or general information.
But overall, I have to award WPEngine the victory with regards to customer support. Bluehost just feels too chaotic and disorganized.
Features & Benefits Winner = WPEngine
Conclusion and Editor’s Opinions Between WPEngine vs Bluehost
Despite my grievances with its support department, I have to award the final victory to Bluehost.
I do wish that both companies were based outside the US, but since they are both US firms, we are comparing apples to apples. Bluehost is undeniably very inexpensive, and at the same time, offers more features.
Not only does Bluehost offer more in terms of local storage, but it also offers more in terms of bandwidth. I dislike the fact that the basic plan limits email storage, but overall, it is the better option.
Furthermore, even though its support department is chaotic, for your money, Bluehost is the better option.
Even if customer support is your primary focus, I doubt that the vast majority of people would want to spend inordinate amounts more per month for purely the reason for technical assistance.
Had the pricing and features been more even, I would have recommended WPEngine. And I can honestly say that WPEngine is a fair hosting service with decent features.
To put it more bluntly, you could do a lot worse than a subscription with WPEngine. Still, because Bluehost has unlimited storage and bandwidth with its mid and highest-tier packages, and because it is multitudes more inexpensive, I think Bluehost is the best choice.