A few months ago I went in search of new servers for this site. We’d been with our old servers, WP Engine, for six years, and they were the best of the best, but with that came a very hefty price tag, and we were outgrowing our plan. To scale up for a large site with heavy bandwidth our overhead would’ve skyrocketed, so with a heavy heart I began to look elsewhere.
I knew I needed somewhere to migrate to that had reasonable bandwidth prices, would allow us to scale as we continue to grow, and offered managed WordPress hosting that was within my skillset to handle. I began doing my research, and the same name came up again and again – Bluehost. Article after article put them at the top of the lists, and WordPress themselves have them listed as their preferred hosting provider.Their prices were also phenomenal comparatively; unlimited bandwidth on shared hosting for bargain basement prices, it sounded too good to be true. I immediately thought, this is the chance to finally get a VPS or private server, which we’ve long needed, for an affordable price.
I made the first call to their customer service to ask them my endless questions about bandwidth throttling, backups, security, management, CDN compatibility, migration, downtime, and prices. At each turn they had the right answers – they allegedly never throttle if you’re a “noisy neighbor” on shared hosting; they have SiteLock to scan your site for malware and brute force attacks, and CodeGuard will allow you to have daily backups with quick restoration if something has gone wrong. The prices were a tiny bit less than what I’d been currently paying, but we’d be able to stick to and stay on this plan indefinitely, as opposed to the one we were on that we were rapidly outgrowing. They even had a professional migration team that would handle everything for me, negating the biggest headache of all. I was sold and ready to sign on the dotted line.
And that’s when the problems started. I made a plan to kick things off with my representative, we’ll call him B, as soon as I’d let WP Engine know we were leaving. The first meeting with B came and went and he blew me off. The second one came and went with the same. Apparently their internet was out… at a hosting service provider company. We finally connected, and despite a few alarm bells in my head going off, we kicked off the process.
First things first, we had to set up the account, which required B to know how to spell, which was apparently too big of an ask. He set up our domain name as ‘litteralydarling.’ I caught it and corrected him, and then he fixed it to ‘literalydarling’ and submitted it without checking with me again. You wouldn’t think a simple spelling mistake would be hard to correct, but it’s Bluehost, so you’d be wrong. The entire domain was incorrect from the start, B couldn’t fix it, and it took upper level ticketed tech support five days just to get us the right name.
Then it came time for migration. B told me their services would start that day and not to make any changes to the site. I filled out all the forms, I was ready and waiting, and I waited, and waited, and waited, for a week. I emailed. I called. I called. I emailed. No one could tell me when migration would start or if it even had. Time being money, this was already beginning to cost me a mint as clients were put on hold, articles weren’t going up, and the site wasn’t being updated as we waited indefinitely.
Nearly ten days later, I finally got confirmation that migration was beginning and that part, thankfully went smoothly. As soon as I QA’d the test site, I called customer service to walk me through setting up the DNS records and pointing the site away from WP Engine and to Bluehost. Now one would think that this is a straightforward process, but we’d been using Cloudflare for years and apparently understanding that was beyond a Bluehost technician’s ability. I had to explain the CDN to them, and that our domain was registered with our original servers, Dreamhost. This apparently baffled them beyond expectation. I asked to speak to manager and was sluffed off. I updated the CNAME and A Records as per their highly confused directions and was told to twiddle my thumbs while the DNS records propagated around the world, and that it could take up to 24-72 hours of downtime. Google tells you it’s normally done within four.
I waited a full 48 hours and the site never came up. I lived on the phone with customer support, and each person told me something different. Apparently their techs aren’t trained on VPS hosting, so they had to submit tickets for a different tier of support. A tier, I might add, that you cannot speak to directly, and that there is a 72 hour lag time in their responses. Finally it was determined that Bluehost VPS is not compatible with Cloudflare and we had to bypass the CDN entirely and point the DNS directly at Bluehost. 24 hours after this was determined, the site was finally live – for a little less than 36 hours.
Over the next week, Bluehost managed to keep my site up for maybe 40 hours total, and none of it consecutively. I spent at least 20-30 hours that week on the phone with customer service, in 2-3 hour phone calls at a time, most of which was spent on hold. Managers dismissed me and hung up on me because I expected the service to work. At every turn, the issue was on their end, and they just didn’t care. One even told me that maybe I should try having less traffic – for my growing business. The VPS dashboard was broken. No one knew how their CDN worked. The SiteLock they said I needed wouldn’t scan. They couldn’t set up the CodeGuard that they sold me that would allow me to have backups. After five calls just about that, I finally found out that they sold me the 1GB backup option despite being told the site was 23GBs. To get the size I needed, I would’ve had to spend an additional $200- just to have daily backups with restoration points. I demanded they comp it since it was yet again a misrepresentation and error on their end. They refused.
At every step, every single interaction was a money losing nightmare. They couldn’t keep the site up and thought I was ridiculous for thinking that was a core component of their job. They migrated the site onto a VPS server that was scheduled to be retired within a month. No one knew how to do their job, and the delays in response were days long. For anyone that runs a site, you know that every moment of downtime is a SEO firing squad. Google penalizes you for downtime and broken links, and my site had been down for the better part of a week. To say I was frustrated would be an understatement, but I was also scared of destroying my business because I chose the most recommended server on the internet.
After staying up until 3 AM fighting with the servers for the eighth sleepless night in a row, I finally decided to call it quits. I was terrified that by starting the server hunt all over again that I’d risk even more downtime. I was positive that even with a 30 days money-back guarantee, Bluehost would find a way to screw me over and I’d be out an entire year’s worth of server fees that I had to pay upfront (there’s no monthly payment option). I went back to the drawing board and instead of searching for unlimited bandwidth options, I started looking for articles about my old servers, WP Engine. They were too expensive to return to, but they were considered the premier WordPress hosts, and I thought any other provider mentioned alongside them might be worth investigating.
I wanted a host that worked exclusively with WordPress, that knew it inside and out, didn’t have massively complicated support structures, and prioritized uptime as their biggest selling point. Pressable, owned by Askimet, creator of Jetpack, was the winner time and time again. They offered free Jetpack Premium which comes with far better security than any other server I researched, backups and restoration, 24/7 chat support, and were half the cost of Bluehost. I called them the next morning, told them my sob story, kept the guy on the phone for an hour asking questions, and decided to switch then and there. And it was effortless.
Pressable migrated the site that day without issue, we hooked up the DNS the next morning, and we had zero downtime. Within four hours the DNS had propagated around the globe and the site stayed live throughout the entire process. Our first backup was completed within two hours of transferring the site over. It wasn’t possible for the process to be any simpler or easier. We’ve now been on their server for six weeks and I’ve been able to have the kind of relationship with my host that I prefer – I forget they exist. All the brute force attacks we’d been dealing with stopped immediately, the site runs faster, we’re not throwing any errors, and if we get a traffic spike, we won’t be throttled. It’s a night and day difference between Bluehost.
Naturally, the canceling process for Bluehost was just as difficult as everything else involved with them. I was on the phone for 90 minutes, most of which was spent on hold, to cancel my account. They did agree to refund me the server, SiteLock, and CodeGuard fees, but the professional migration services were a different matter entirely. On that first phone call it was escalated to two managers who both agreed based upon the tome of service records and tickets I’d accrued in one week with them, that the entire fee should be refunded. Of course instead it had to be ticketed and go to a different billing tier who was going to review all of the customer support calls to make their decision. I knew then that I was never getting the money back, but frankly making them live through the 20-30 hours I spent on the phone with their tech support was payback enough. Unsurprisingly, despite following up once a week for three weeks and no one I spoke to ever having a clue what the status of the ticket was, they ultimately canceled the inquiry, declined to refund it, and had no plans of informing me of the matter. It seems that Bluehost intended to end our relationship as it began, horrifically and with no consideration to their customer.
Afterward I did a deep dive into forums trying to figure out the discrepancy between Bluehost having countless recommendations with their dumpster fire of a customer service. While I generally take Reddit threads with a grain of salt, quite a few threads said Bluehost is notorious for having a huge marketing budget that buys reviews, comments, and the infamous partnership with WordPress. Whether that’s true or not, I cannot say, but I will tell you it aligns with my experience. They clearly advertise a big game but have no ability to follow through on it.
Perhaps for the average small WordPress blog that is paying $3 a month, they fit perfectly within the shared hosting model on Bluehost. But if you own a business and don’t have a dedicated web master well versed in the intricacies of server technicalities, run as far and as fast as you can. You can’t afford the incompetency or the downtime that comes with waiting for a technician that’s actually trained on their advanced offerings, because your audience is fleeing by the hour that they can’t reach your site. I can only tell you what I said to Bluehost on our final call: “Choosing your company was the worst business decision I’ve ever made.” Don’t make the same mistake I did, choose literally anything else if you value your sanity and business.
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