Bluehost Web Hosting Experience, End of Use Review

I have been using Bluehost web hosting since 2006 and it was good and bad. But come this expiry in end May 2012, I will not be renewing the hosting. Bluehost was great when I first started using them way back then. However they have instituted many new rules and procedures that became no longer so interesting to use their services.

I first signed up with them as I was looking for a cost effective way to start up my websites. My very first website I was using the SiteSell Site Build It! or SBI for short. It was a great system but very costly. If I were to create many websites, I can't sign up each with it and there were many limitations using their web builder and thus decided to go for normal web hosting solution. I searched around the internet to find a suitable cost effective web host and settled down on Bluehost because they offered low cost for unlimited domains, storage and bandwidth. (Note that their current unlimited is not truly unlimited as there are terms and condition for file storage, bandwidth capacity etc). They also provided free domain privacy for domain registry but sadly this became an extra paid service same as Go Daddy except for the main domain that was registered in the account.

Using a shared hosting mean that the server box hosts many other people's website. And some website has heavier usage which reduced your own website performance. And some people actually abused the unlimited bandwidth so much that Bluehost decided to throttle websites. This hosting company is one of the few which throttles the CPU usage. Throttling would give fair usage to everyone in the shared hosting but would also give your website poorer performance. Despite being a lightweight website, they still throttled my website. This was not good it would mean slower web page loading giving a poorer visitor experience. When I reversed IP my site in WHOIS, it gives a fair idea of the number of websites hosted in the server box and there were a couple of thousand websites in the server box! With so many websites, I'm sure it would mean lower cost on capital expenditure for Bluehost for such a large amount of users (and lower cost to start up many website for yourself), but it would also mean poorer performance on your websites. (Also part of the reason I went searching elsewhere and found hosting that limits the number of accounts to a couple hundred or so).

Bluehost uses the CPanel control panel, one of the most popular webhosting panel used by most hosting companies. They have customized it a lot since the time I started using it. Some functions that were free then now became paid services. Such as the backup and restore services (they did a flip-flop, first it was free, then became paid, now back to free but included some payable premium backup features). I supposed they are trying to find some ways to up sell services to get more income, but making some features payable when it should be free is not good marketing. On the other hand they have some good feature for automated script installation. They have moved on from Fantastico De Luxe to Simple Scripts. Apparently Fanstastico De Luxe updates were slower than Simple Scripts and you know in order to keep your website secure as much as possible, you should update your script installation as soon as possible to plug in any security threat issues to avoid your site being hacked!

Simple Script was pretty decent. The script updates were very up to date unlike Fantastico, however it still had problems when it could not update my Wordpress installation when Simple Script itself was updated because it couldn't find my installed location! It probably happened because during its own update it lost the configuration file for my account and the only way to restore the automated update was to reinstall my Wordpress software. Reinstallation wasn't so difficult except that it was fairly tedious and you need to make backups and note down the configuration parameters to get it working again. Wordpress was not too bad as it is robust and easy to use software. But there were other software which would be less forgiving.

In my many years of using Bluehost, I had a few bad experiences.

1) Back in March 2009, the web server box was lagging so much that my websites didn't load due to someone else website hogging resources. They tried to isolate the culprit but could not do so effectively. It was getting so bad that I request for a transfer to another server box. They refused initially but in the end they relented as they could not isolate the problem. This was before they instituted the CPU throttling.

2) In Sep 2010 there was a power outage in the Utah state. Bluehost decided to shutdown to conserve power. Many users were caught surprised by the move. Some even question the purpose of the UPS power backup that was not used. They gave the reason that the power producer needed them to cut out all power usage in order to restart the power grid. After thinking it through, I think Bluehost just wanted to save cost by not using too much of their UPS power backup, after all fuel to run backup generator was expensive especially with the spiraling cost of energy cost. However it did leave many users fuming due to loss of business from a downed website. Due to that some has decided to move on to other hosting companies.

3) When they shutdown my website without warning in June 2011, that was the final straw for me. Apparently I had a runaway script installation that was hogging their resources. I have no idea what was wrong with my script installation. It could have been a bad PHP script in my Wordpress installation; it could have been me experimenting with Statusnet script. Whatever it was I could not isolate the problem and they gave me only three tries to find out which bad script was causing the problem! It has never been easy to do debugging and they only give you three attempts to solve the problem? The worst part was they threaten me that they would not want me as their customer if on my third attempt there was server spike when they re-enabled my website.

I think that is very poor customer service because I genuinely didn't want to abuse their system. But threats like this wouldn't go well with customers; after all you need customers to maintain your income right? Especially when there are so many other hosting companies around making it a very competitive service industry.

I decided it was time to move on and hunted for hosting nearer to my geo location. No need to host all the way out in the USA. Competition is fierce, and I managed to find good alternatives.

It was a good long six years of hosting experience with them. I still got about 2 more days of hosting time left and it was time to point the DNS nameservers of my last and final domain hosted in Bluehost to another hosting company. For the past few months, I've slowly shifted my various websites so with this last one moving on, it was time to say adious to Bluehost.

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