I know why you might be confused when it comes to selecting a web host for your WordPress site.
Recently, a client asked me to prepare a report comparing Bluehost, WP Engine, and WordPress.com. Each of these hosts has different plans, so making a fair comparison was part of my assignment. As familiar as I am with all 3 hosting providers, it turned out I learned quite a bit from speaking with sales people and reviewing their offerings as published on their web sites.
It is important to note that I am not just comparing the 3 services but a specific package offered by each service. My goal was to compare plans that are similar and compete with one another.
Here’s my breakdown of what I found when comparing all three.
|Plan Name||WP Standard||Starter||Business|
|Admin Type||Enhanced CPanel||User Portal||?|
|Visits Per Month||100M||25K||?|
|24/7 Support||phone, text chat, email||phone, text chat, email||text chat, email|
|Plugins||y||y – but a few are blacklisted||y – but a few are blacklisted|
|Free Domain||1 free domain for first year||n/a||?|
|Cancellation||30 day money back guarantee||60 days||?|
|Fee||$29.99/month ($359.88 paid annual)||$35/month ($420 annual)||$25/month ($300 paid annually)|
WP Engine has about 400,000 customers and does nothing but host WP sites. Compare that with Bluehost which is home to over 2 million WordPress sites, but that is not their exclusive business. Bluehost offers email and domain registration services. WordPress.com, as you might expect, hosts only WordPress sites and also has email and domain registration services. It is owned and operated by Automattic, the company that manages the WordPress Project.
While these plans offer some similar services like SSL and site backup, many services are different or not offered at all. It is those differences I highlight here.
What About WordPress.com?
WordPress.com’s Business Plan offering was launched in 2017, ostensibly to capture hosting business that was going to companies like Bluehost and WP Engine. As part of that initiative, they now allow users to install plugins and use any theme.
But they’ll have to do more than that to be successful. I’m still waiting to hear back from them which is why there are so many question marks in the table above and why my report has little to say about their service.
Here are the most important factors that you should be looking at:
- user experience
- security and performance
- the development environment
1. Hosting Environment
As it turns out, the terms “shared hosting” and “virtual private server” are used in different ways by these companies. As a result, I refrained from using those terms to define their services. Besides, most small businesses don’t really care to get into the weeds of what is a shared host or a VPS or the like, as long as the criteria I’ve set forth above are met.
2. Admin Type (User Experience)
Bluehost has an Enhanced CPanel (Control Panel). While I have not seen it in action, it is much like their standard CPanel. Their standard CPanel interface (of which I am all too familiar) is confusing and crowded with many icons of services and features – most of which you will never use. A new CPanel was to be rolled out this year, but it has run into problems which has delayed its launch.
Worse yet – and this may just be me – many times over the years my login efforts were timed out. Also, once logged into the CPanel, too often things did not work as they should.
WP Engine has a User Portal. The functions to admin your site are in a left sidebar and are simple to use. They have a convenient text chat feature where tech support is always as fast or faster than a phone call.
Now for the really great thing about WP Engine. Their system works. Always! There is no problem logging in. When a feature is used it works. Solid. No frustrations and no waste of time.
3. Security And Performance
WP Engine takes security and performance very seriously. For example, one must use Secure FTP to access files on their server. (That is not the case with Bluehost.) Plus some plugins are blacklisted from their service (as with WordPress.com) as they present security and/or performance issues.
Since I’ve not seen Bluehost’s WP Standard plan in action (nor can I find information that analyzes that particular plan and not their more well known shared hosting plans), my knowledge is not as complete. However, it is widely known that when it comes to uptime and caching technologies, WP Engine excels with those performance parameters.
4. Development Environment
Bluehost claims to have a way to push a staging site to a live environment and vice versa.
WP Engine definitely has a one click method of doing just that, making it easy to push a site to a live (aka production) environment from a staging environment. This allows site owners and developers to test themes and plugins before moving a site to the live environment. It is one of WP Engine strengths.
While both Bluehost and WP Engine offer round the clock phone and text chat support, it is the quality of the advice that makes the difference. With Bluehost it’s the luck of the draw as to whether or not you’ll connect with a knowledgable techie. With WP Engine luck is not a factor. You will be guided with someone who not only will help with your issue, but will teach you something you did not know.
As for WordPress.com, I’d expect their advice to be first rate – if only they’d respond to me.
6. Domain Name Registration And Email
Bluehost offers convenient domain name registration and management. It’s fairly simple to set up as many email addresses for a domain as is needed.
Because WP Engine is solely dedicated to WordPress hosting, they do not offer domain name registration or email accounts. This doesn’t seem to be stopping anyone from using their service as there are plenty of alternatives to get both of these.
WP Engine offers an industry leading WordPress development platform and hosting environment. Its security, performance, and development environment is first rate.
Their commitment to excellence is evident in all that they do. Their systems work and their tech support is second to none.
How do I know?
I am a customer and affiliate of both Bluehost and WP Engine for years.
Bluehost WP Standard Plan
The Starter Plan