Image credit: agwagon2000. This image is published under this creative commons license.
This article is for people who are looking for a suitable web-host to host their websites. And for people who are looking for a suitable web-host to switch-over. I have been using Bluehost to host this site for around three years, and in this article I would like to detail my experiences.
Before we get to that, let us look at what someone expects from their web-host.
- Trouble-free platform to host multiple sites
- Cost effective
- Dependable support, to solve any problems with hosting
- Easy to use
- Multiple features and upgrade options
Overall, Bluehost does a wonderful job in all the above mentioned aspects. Of course, as with anything else in life nothing is fully perfect.
My first (rather) shocking experience:
I would like to begin with my first (rather) shocking experience when my sites were taken down for around 12 hours. Back then, I was new to hosting a site by myself and I was all excited. I wanted to reach the maximum possible audience and in my new-found enthusiasm, I was sending mails to everyone in (my) industry. In short: I was spamming.
I thought it was just a promotional activity and I was rather cool about it. One day, I find both of my sites down. I think I was intimated about this, but I am not sure. Anyway, I communicated with Bluehost support and they conveyed to me that they have received complaints from a few people about my spamming activities and they were pretty much sure that the spam mails were sent by me.
How could I refuse? I accepted it and gave them a commitment that I will not indulge in spamming in the future. My sites were immediately active. Though I was quite upset initially, I started to admire this activity later on. I was clearly doing something wrong (also against their ToS) and how many hosts do you think will take action against their customer based on complaints from anonymous people? Not many.
But Bluehost did. Their action was actually a token of their commitment to quality hosting and I was glad that I hosted my sites with Bluehost. After this, I was sure that I would get good support and I was indeed impressed with their proactive support team.
To be honest, I don’t think my sites were always up and running smoothly like how they are now. With any web-host, you can expect some down-time and during the initial phase of my hosting period (around 2-3 years back), I too experienced some downtime.
Since I am always on the net creating content for my websites, I was able to identify such downtimes and I would contact their support. I could send an email, but I wanted a more immediate response. Calling them over phone is possible, but I live far away and inter-country calling is quite expensive from here. Hence, I used the customer chat option.
I login to my cPanel account and start a chat with a support personnel. I was able to connect to someone quickly and mostly my sites were restored immediately. I remember only one instance when they were not able to do it immediately and even then my sites were up and running by the time I came back after finishing my dinner.
Of late (perhaps for the last one and a half years), I did not experience any downtime and only on one occasion I received a mail saying that they were upgrading the servers and there might be a small downtime. I didn’t even notice it. Perhaps I should have been sleeping then, I guess. Hence I can confidently say that their services have been reliable, especially over the last 1.5 years.
About ease of set-up and use:
Before deciding to host my own sites, I was blogging in community hosted sites like wordpress.com and blogger.com. They host the blogs for free, but the features and functionalities are limited. It’s fine for social networking, creative indulgence and having fun but I realized even then that one always needs a professional platform for professional blogging.
When I decided that I was going to blog on computer networking and IT related topics, I wanted to host my blog using the free-to-use CMS software from WordPress (wordpress.org). Back then, I was pretty confused about the technical aspects involved in hosting our own websites and hence I spent two whole days researching on how to install WordPress using a hosting account.
When I actually created my hosting account with Bluehost, I was offered the Simple Scripts installation interface. I was able to buy a domain name and install WP for that domain in less than half an hour! It was a single-click install and shazaaam – My site/blog was already up and running! I love Bluehost for providing me with such an easy installation interface. Technical audience may not be concerned about these trivial things and they can follow the longer way of doing things, if they want to 🙂
One can actually install a number of programs like WordPress, Drupal, Joomla (CMS – Content Management Systems), phpBB (forum), Zencart, Prestashop (shopping cart, e-commerce), Roundcube (web-mail), Weebly (website builder) right from within the management interface with just a single click (without having to use any FTP)! Best of all, these are free to download/use.
About the cost/pricing:
Frankly speaking, one can host their blogs/sites for free in a few ad-supported web-hosts and community based web-hosts like Blogger. But then, there are a lot of limitations of using a free host.
One can also host their sites at a price that is lower than what is offered by Bluehost, but remember that you always get what you pay for. Good quality and support has a price tag associated with it and I feel that Bluehost has the right pricing structure. Like other hosts, hosting charges for the first year are very less and you return to the normal pricing tab from the second year onwards. I have renewed my hosting account three times and I was always glad that I did.
One small qualm I have about their pricing is what they charge for the domain name. It’s not a huge price, but still I think they should be on-par with industry pricing on that one, especially as they are an independent domain registrar. Why charge more?
About the features/functionalities (What you get):
Frankly speaking, its difficult for other hosts to beat this one. Have a look:
- Unlimited bandwidth
- Unlimited hosting space
- Unlimited domains (parked domains, add-on domains) and hence one can host unlimited number of sites
- Unlimited e-mail accounts (support for POP3 and IMAP, unlimited forwarders, auto-responders, mailing lists, etc)
- Unlimited FTP, Secure Shell Access
- 1-click installation (via Simple Scripts) for most of the popular software packages
- cPanel control panel/management interface
- Log files and site statistics
- Support for most of the common databases (MySQL, Postgre SQL, etc)
- Streaming video/streaming audio support
- Courtesy site back-up/restore (manual)
- Password protected directories, deny access based on IP address, Custom 404 settings
What else would anyone want?
About Upgrade options:
Not all hosts offer all the premium upgrade options available with Bluehost. Have a look at some upgrades that are available for a small additional cost:
- It is possible to offer an encrypted https:// option instead of the normal http:// for additional security of your websites by purchasing SSL certificates directly from Bluehost. This is especially useful for users who conduct e-commerce transactions on their sites.
- Dedicated IP (required for SSL upgrade) is a useful feature and it is even supposed to give an SEO advantage (not sure how far this is correct).
- Domain privacy protection shows Bluehost name/address instead of user’s name/address when a whois query is done. Some people might want to enable this privacy option.
- Site back-up pro offers automatic daily back-up of individual accounts. Although they offer courtesy back-up and manual back-up options, this is a better option as it enables users to be very sure that their sites will be reinstated in case of hardware/server failures.
- Postini e-mail filtering service is available in addition to the free spam-assassin to detect and block spam in email.
- There are many more upgrade options, and they can be accessed from the cPanel page.
About hosting infrastructure:
Bluehost has been in the hosting business for more than 15 years and they have their own data centers as they host the sites of millions of customers. They have a total of 20,000 square foot of data center space that is fully furnished with servers, air-conditioning equipments, security equipments, bandwidth, redundant power (UPS, diesel generator), etc. They seem to host sites on powerful dual-quad servers running secure Linux/Apache platforms. They also have a large team for 24×7 network monitoring and customer support. Since their primary data center is in their head office premises, they claim that access to people/systems is faster. Frankly I don’t want to know about all these things but I am just glad to know that these factors translate into better hosting experience for users.
I have already mentioned about the good support offered by Bluehost. Here are some additional points. Their support engineers are based out of US and all types of support are available 24 x 7 (important for people hosting sites from abroad, like me). They offer phone, chat and email support and have a proper support ticketing/tracking system.
I need to mention about the wealth of documents/videos available in the support portal that would enable anyone to install/maintain sites on their own. Technical knowledge is not required to host and maintain websites, at least for WordPress (I don’t have it for sure) and that’s good news for beginners/non-technical people.
About hosting multiple domains/multiple sites:
One great thing about Bluehost is the fact that one can host any number of websites using just a single account. Combine it with unlimited bandwidth and disk-space and it makes a lot of sense to host sites with them. They offer domain parking where extra domains can redirect to the primary domain (if required), they offer add-on domains which allows users to install various sites with different domain names. They are a domain registrar so you can buy domains directly from them and this makes setting up various sites easier.
I can go on and on, but I need to stop somewhere! I guess this article has provided all the information required for you to decide on a hosting service provider. If you are convinced, hop-on to Bluehost and register an account with them. Of course, I recommend it.