Let’s Face it. Bluehost Sucks!
As you’ll read below, Bluehost has grown into a behemoth that cares little for efficiency or customer service. Worse yet, they use fear-based selling to up sell and cross sell you to death. Once you are in their clutches it can be very difficult to get untangled and move to a new host.
I turn into a raving lunatic every time I have to deal with them.
Image Credit: Karl-Ludwig Poggemann on Flickr (image modified)
Below you’ll hear a bit about my experience with Bluehost, my research to find better hosting and why I ended up choosing WP Engine. I’ve been a much happier and sane person ever since I made the switch!
Bluehost Nearly Put Me In the Loony Bin! Let Me Explain…
When I started with Bluehost back in 2012, they were the most promoted hosting company out there (and still are). They were cheap and offered a good affiliate commission so a lot of bloggers promoted them (and still do).
I didn’t know how long I would be blogging but I wanted to give it a try. There were a few bloggers I trusted so I took their advice and signed up with Bluehost.
Things were fine for a while. But then I started adding blogs and building eCommerce sites so my needs were changing. I needed SSL certificates, backups and so on.
Early in 2016 while on a support call to add an SSL certificate for PrivateLabelPreneur, the Bluehost rep “sold” me on their “WordPress Optimized” plan. It will be faster, he said. You’ll have a dedicated support team and won’t have to wait on hold, he said.
So I bit and upgraded plans.
Why I Hate Bluehost
They completely messed up my migration to the new servers. They jumbled up my SSL certificates and that somehow caused an endless redirect that never ever got fully resolved. Thank God for WP Fix It; I hired them to get things operational again.
As for the promise of a dedicated team of more experienced support personnel and short wait times, that went to hell in a handbag. The last time I called I waited over 45 minutes for someone to answer.
Besides that, I learned after the fact that my “new” plan didn’t come with secure emails. If I wanted secure emails, I had to pay for a “wildcard” SSL certificate. Well who the heck wants unsecured emails??? Grrrr.
Instead of paying Bluehost one more penny, I moved my email accounts to G Suite. Boom. That solved that problem for $10/month; secure emails come bundled with other services and great customer support. You can actually get a real person on the phone. Fast. And…they are actually helpful!
With Bluehost, everything costs more…
- Want security? Pay up.
- Want backups? Pay up.
- Want SSL on your sites? Pay up.
- Want secure email? Pay up.
Like banks, Bluehost wants you to buy as many services as possible making it harder and harder to leave. But I’m on to their game!
And, as I mentioned in the beginning of this post, Bluehost is a big company that is now owned by an even bigger company. Some people think that bigger is better, but I don’t agree with them.
Bigger Isn’t Always Better
Here’s a comprehensive list of companies owned by EIG. This list was created by Michael Bely over at Research As a Hobby and was updated as of January 30, 2017.
It seems that the more companies they acquire, the worse the service in each becomes. Don’t take my word for it, you can read the accounts of others like this post over at Oh! She Blogs or this Bluehost Review.
Why the heck WordPress.org still recommends them is a mystery…well, maybe not, perhaps they’re an affiliate, too!
I Resolved to Make a Switch to a New Host
My annual renewal was coming up and I was determined to jump off the Bluehost ship. If you ask me, I think those guys are just rearranging chairs on the deck of the Titanic!
So the research began.
Siteground Showed Promise…Until…
As I dug into the options SiteGround appeared to be the best fit for me. The prices were good, managed WordPress hosting applied to all plans, they give decent traffic and web space allowances, free SSLs and free backups to name a few cool features.
They were ranked well by a lot of review sites. So I called.
That’s when things fell apart for me.
You see, they are based in Bulgaria and their sales and support staffs are also Bulgarian. While the gentleman I spoke with did speak English, I had to strain to make sure I was understanding everything. Migrating to a new host is a scary proposition and I needed to feel confident I was making a good decision.
Now I have nothing against working with people in other countries. I’m in a master mind group with people in Wales, Spain and Switzerland. I hire artists in Germany, Poland, Bali and other countries.
But when I need to resolve an issue with my website, I must be able to clearly understand every word without having to strain. Communication is critical and the language barriers ended up being a deal killer for me.
Next up, WP Engine
WP Engine also rose to the top of the list based on recommendations I read. This one, on PCMag.com, gave a great overview including a detailed overview of the “uptime” testing they performed.
Here’s what they had to say…
Excellent uptime, reliable customer service reps, and many WordPress-friendly features make WP Engine worthy of hosting your WordPress site. A few omissions keep it from a top score, however.
What were the omissions you ask? We’ll for me they actually make WP Engine a better choice. Let me explain.
WP Engine does NOT offer:
- Email hosting or
- Domain names
In my opinion that’s a plus. Why? Because it means they have to be EXCEPTIONAL at their core product, which is hosting your WordPress accounts. If they fail at that, it’s easy for customers to leave.
I like having my email and domains hosted separately. It makes it easy to move if service starts to fail…just point your MX, A or CNAME records to a different host and boom, you’re done.
- All of my domains are purchased through GoDaddy and remain there. They are a solid, reputable company with an easy-to-use interface for researching, buying and selling domains.
- My email account MX records point to Google’s G Suite. I love Google’s email system and I can get all my business email accounts to flow into one Gmail account for easy management. Besides, their customer support is superb.
Migrating to WP Engine
Look, I’m not going to say that migrating away from Bluehost was a breeze. It wasn’t. Despite WP Engine’s slick migration plugin, you still need to complete a number of steps.
Without having the ability to speak with someone on their support team, I don’t think I could have done the migration myself. I’m no technical wiz
kid. But, with their excellent phone support, I migrated all five of my websites without a hitch. And it was free.
In order to make it easier for you, should you decide to make the jump, I’ve listed the steps I followed to migrate. For each website you plan to migrate, you need to complete these steps:
- Back up your site(s) on your existing host.
- From your WP Engine Dashboard, create an “Install” for your domain. Just click the Add Install button and follow the instructions.
- Log into WordPress and install the WP Engine Migration plugin. It looks like this:
- Run the migration from the plugin. You’ll find the installed plugin toward the bottom of your WordPress menu on the left.
- After running the migration, check to make sure the migrated site looks like you expect and the links work. I migrated five sites and all went smoothly.
- Go back to your WP Engine dashboard, open the install you are working on, choose Domains from the side menu and add your domain to the list. You should add the www.DOMAINNAME.xxx and DOMAINNAME.xxx variations to the list. Set one of them as the primary and the other to redirect to the primary.
- Go to both your WordPress and your domain host and make sure that the variation of the domain you marked as primary in the previous step is the same variation as shown in your General Settings in WordPress and on the domain host as well. Meaning they should all show the www or all exclude it.
- While still in WordPress, rerun the migration. This will finish the install and delete the plugin from WordPress.
- Set your Domain Name Server (DNS) to point to WP Engine. To do this you’ll need to log on to your account where your domain is hosted, for me it’s GoDaddy. Once logged on, you can change the A record or CNAME record to the one displayed on WP Engine at the top of the Domain’s page (where you added your domain names). GoDaddy won’t let you change the CNAME record so I used the A record as instructed by the WP Engine support person I worked with and everything works fine.
- Now it’s time to add your free SSL certificates! Even if you didn’t have one before, it makes your site look more professional and you may see a bump in your Google ranking. To do this, choose the SSL option in the menu list from your WP Engine install. Click Add Certificates and then choose the first option (free). Follow the online instructions and enjoy your fee encryption!
I’m Very Happy with WP Engine!
I’m giddy with joy at having escaped the clutches of Bluehost. And, I just love WP Engine; here are a few of the things I’m over the moon about:
- They are a US based company out of Texas. Everyone I spoke with was a native English speaker and I had no trouble understanding them.
- WP Engine’s dashboard is so user friendly and shows useful data about your websites immediately upon logging in. You see traffic data, bandwidth usage and storage. All important data to be able to see.
- I have free SSLs on all of my accounts. BlueHost was charging me $49.99/year and never even told me there was a free option.
- I tried WP Engine’s live chat and their phone support. Both were exceptional but I prefer to speak with a person.
- I must have called at least 10 times to get through my five migrations and I never waited longer than 2 minutes to speak with someone…and I was never put on hold!
- I was able to ditch my subscriptions to SiteLock (which I was scared into buying). WP Engine has built malware detection and cleaning into their system. They don’t integrate with SiteLock because it’s not needed. Another hundie back in my pocket!
- Free backups. Holy smokes…trying to get a back up from Bluehost was difficult. It’s so simple with WP engine. In fact, it’s mindless because they do it for you. And they’ll notify you to make an interim backup if you are going to do a major update to your site. Nice!
Look, I could go on and on, but I think you get the point! Bluehost sucks and WP Engine is awesome!
The Downside to WP Engine
As they say, nothing is perfect so finding the perfect hosting company isn’t possible. But WP Engine is darn close! To be honest, there are only two potential negatives that I can see:
WP Engine is pricey.
Yeah, they are on the expensive side, but I believe you get what you pay for. The Personal Plan is $29/month. I purchased the Professional Plan and chose to pay the annual fee up front for a significant discount; I paid $990, which averages out to $82.5o/mo. Even with the savings for the services I dropped I’m still paying about $100 more annually than I was paying Bluehost.
But, with that said, I would gladly make the same choice again because WP Engine is that good and I want service that’s easy to use and support I can count on.
You can get a smoking good deal and pay less than I pay because WP Engine has given me a special discount code for my readers. Click this link to check out the plans and grab your discount: WP Engine Special Discount for PLP Readers
WP Engine’s website states that it only includes phone support on the Professional and higher plans.
If you have only one website, the Personal Plan is all you need. So if you’re a tech-savvy person who is comfortable with communicating via chat, this clearly won’t be an issue for you.
However, if you’re like me you prefer to talk to someone on the phone.
Don’t despair! You will likely still be fine despite what the website says about limiting phone support. How is that you ask? Because I have inside scoop and I’ve learned that WP Engine won’t turn any customer’s call away, regardless of the plan they are on. So, this may not be a negative at all.
WP Engine vs Siteground vs Bluehost
Finding the right company to host your website(s) can be a daunting task. And it can be subjective given your level of technical skill and the services you feel you need.
Below is my comparison of WP Engine vs Bluehost vs Siteground. While I may not be so scientific in my approach, I hope my comparison of these three companies is of some value to you!
|Rating Factor||WP Engine||Bluehost||Siteground|
|Ree's Overall Happiness Rating||100||0 - a big fat zero||Unknown - but know it would be below 90 due to the language barriers, G2 Crowd rating and single-site migration service.|
|Headquarters||Austin, TX||Provo, UT||Sofia, Bulgaria|
|Private or Publicly-held Company||Privately Held||Publicly Held||Privately Held|
|G2 Crowd Customer Service Rating (Winter 2017) *||92||58||80|
|Phone Support||Officially offered on the Professional Plan and above (however, they never turn a callers away)||Available on all plans, but it's worthless and you'll grow old on hold.||Available on all plans but no native English speakers available.|
|Free SSL Certificates on all Plans||Yes||No||Yes|
|Free migration of existing website(s)||Yes||No...they charge $149.99||Yes, but for only one site|
|Simple-to-use Staging Environment for all plans||Yes||No||Don't know|
|User Dashboard/cPanel||Awesome!||It sucks||Don't know|
* The reference to G2 Crowds Winter 2017 Customer Service scores comes from research they conducted to find the best website hosting providers. Their complete report is interesting and you can find it here. When you look at their report, you see that WP Engine sits at the top of the leader list for both customer satisfaction and G2’s overall score!
Call to Action
Have you been frustrated with your hosting company? Did you find anything useful in this post? I’d love to hear your story and any advice you have to offer readers based on your own experience.
And remember, WP Engine is giving PLP readers an extra 20% off – view plans here!
Now back to work for me!
Want to follow along on my journey?
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