Bluehost ‘WordPress Pro’ – Managed WordPress Hosting Reviewed: Worth the Extra Money?
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Bluehost may be known for their affordable shared hosting, but now they’re offering premium managed WordPress hosting alongside their low-cost options. So, if you’re wondering whether their new WP Pro managed WordPress hosting plans are worth the extra money or not, then this article will help you to decide.
In this review, we’ll explore what you get with Bluehost’s WP Pro plans, and compare the features and specifications with those of their lower-priced shared plans.
We’ll also look at the speed and uptime of our sites hosted on the Bluehost WP Pro and shared plans. The tests, conducted using Pingdom and Load Impact, also look at their ability to handle multiple visitors at once.
By the time you’ve finished this review, you’ll know whether the Bluehost WP Pro managed WordPress hosting service is right for your website, and if it’s worth the extra money compared with shared hosting and the other managed hosting plans out there.
Let’s get started…
About the Bluehost WP Pro Plans
With some of the lowest-priced plans around, which include impressive features and generous specifications, it’s easy to be tempted by Bluehost’s shared hosting plans.
However, low-cost shared hosting isn’t right for everyone. Some websites require more resources than shared hosting can provide to deliver a positive user experience. Not only that, but some website owners prefer to have the tasks involved in managing a WordPress website taken off their hands.
So, while the Bluehost shared plans represent great value for money — on paper at least — they’re not suitable for every type of website.
That’s where managed WordPress hosting comes in, and, in particular, the Bluehost WP Pro service.
What is Bluehost Managed WP Pro Hosting?
The launch of WP Pro sees Bluehost enter into competition with companies such as Kinsta, Pagely and WP Engine, which focus on managed WordPress hosting, as well as hosts such as DreamHost, which are primarily known for their shared plans, but now offer premium WordPress hosting plans too.
We’ll explore the features of WP Pro in more detail in this review, but some of the main reasons to consider this service include:
- a one-hour concierge call to help you to set up your account and website
- the ability to host your website on a server optimized for WordPress
- automated website backups
- optional automated WordPress software, plugin and theme updates
- the ability to host an unlimited number of WordPress websites
- no traffic, bandwidth or storage limits
- a revamped Bluehost website and account management dashboard
- access to Jetpack (subscription dependent on which WP Pro plan you choose).
The goal of these features is to help your site to load faster and perform better, while also simplifying the job of launching and looking after a WordPress website.
However, as some of these features are also available on the Bluehost shared plans, it can be difficult to decide whether or not it’s worth paying the extra money for the WP Pro service. By the time you’ve finished reading this article, though, you’ll know which is the right choice for your project.
Before we find out whether these new plans live up to their marketing claims, let’s see exactly how much Bluehost WP Pro costs and what these plans include, along with the price of their shared hosting plans for comparison.
Bluehost WordPress Pro Pricing
Here’s a breakdown of the plans that are available.
Bluehost WP Pro Managed WordPress Hosting Plans:
The recently launched Bluehost WP Pro plans have been created to compete with the managed WordPress hosting plans from companies such as Kinsta and WP Engine, and their prices reflect that.
While the headline prices are relatively affordable for managed WordPress hosting, they’re only available for new customers. Once your first payment period is over, you’ll pay the regular rates, which are listed below in brackets. However, as your first payment can cover up to 36 months of hosting, you could save quite a bit if you’re prepared to commit long term.
- WP Pro Build: From $19.95 ($29.99) a month for unlimited websites, storage and bandwidth.
- WP Pro Grow: From $29.95 ($39.99) a month for unlimited websites, storage and bandwidth, plus Jetpack Premium.
- WP Pro Scale: From $49.95 ($59.99) a month for unlimited websites, storage and bandwidth, plus Jetpack Professional.
The prices are comparable with those of other companies operating in this space. However, if you take into account the fact that each plan includes unlimited storage, bandwidth and visitor numbers, as well as the ability to host unlimited websites, the Bluehost WP Pro plans appear to offer better value — on paper, at least.
That said, as one of the main reasons to choose managed WordPress hosting is faster loading times, unlimited storage and bandwidth won’t matter much if you end up with a slow site.
Bluehost Shared Hosting Prices
One way to decide if the WP Pro plans are worth investing in is by comparing them with lower-priced alternatives.
When it comes to cheap hosting, Bluehost have some of the lowest-priced plans around, so, compared with the shared plans, which start at $2.95 a month for the promotional rate and then $7.99 a month at the regular rate, the WP Pro plans don’t appear to offer good value for money.
Good managed WordPress hosting should offer much more than shared hosting when it comes to features, performance and service, though, which is why it costs more — and why people are willing to pay the extra.
Later in this review, you’ll find the performance test results that reveal whether WP Pro is a managed WordPress hosting service that’s worth the extra money.
Before that, though, let’s have a look at the features of the managed WordPress hosting plans, with comparisons of what’s available on the shared plans, to help you to decide whether or not paying extra for WP Pro is a good investment.
Jetpack Premium and Professional Access
As you can see above, the Bluehost WP Pro Grow and Scale plans (but not the entry-level Build Plan) include subscriptions to the Jetpack Premium and Professional plans, respectively. As the Jetpack Premium plan costs $9 a month and the Pro plan $29 a month, with some very useful features on both, this really enhances the value of the WP Pro plans.
Some of the highlights of the paid Jetpack Premium and Professional plans include:
- daily (Premium plan) and real-time (Professional plan) automated backups with VaultPress
- brute force attack protection, malware scanning and security fixes
- improved WordPress site search via Elasticsearch (Professional plan only)
- access to more than 200 premium WordPress themes (Professional plan only)
- plus much more.
Although you can host unlimited WordPress websites on all of the WP Pro plans, you can only use the features of the Premium or Professional subscription on one site from your account.
If you’d like to know more about Jetpack and how it can benefit your WordPress website, our ultimate guide to the service will get you up to speed.
While a Jetpack subscription is appealing, Bluehost WP Pro aren’t the only managed WordPress hosting service to include access to the paid Jetpack plans, with the DreamHost DreamPress, Pressable and WordPress.com Business plans also incorporating this add-on.
As you don’t get access to a paid Jetpack subscription on any of the Bluehost shared plans, this improves the value of the WP Pro Grow and Scale plans, while also helping to simplify the job of keeping your site safe and secure.
WordPress Website Backups
When it comes to website backups, depending on which plan you choose, there’s quite a bit of difference in the features you get access to. For example, as we’ve just seen, if you choose the Bluehost WP Pro Grow and Scale plans, you’ll be able to use VaultPress to back up your WordPress website.
As VaultPress is one of the best backup solutions for WordPress, this feature definitely shouldn’t be overlooked.
However, all of the WP Pro plans, including the entry-level WP Pro Build plan, include automatic daily WordPress website backups, with the ability to create backups on demand via CodeGuard. While CodeGuard is lacking VaultPress features, such as the ability to restore parts of a backup (e.g. just the database or only the themes folder), it does back up your WordPress website.
On the Bluehost shared hosting plans, the backup functionality is more limited. The top two shared plans — Choice Plus and Pro — include access to CodeGuard backups, although it’s a more basic version compared with the service available on the WP Pro plans. Because of this, you can’t create backups yourself, and instead must rely on the automatic daily backups.
Unfortunately, the two lower-priced Basic and Plus shared plans don’t include any backup tools at all, so you’ll have to find your own solution. However, you do have the option of paying Bluehost extra to add backups to your plan, but this will increase the costs of running your website.
If a fully featured backup system is important to you, then paying the extra for Bluehost WP Pro, especially if you get access to Jetpack, should be easier to justify.
Automated WordPress Plugin and Theme Updates
One of the benefits of choosing managed WordPress hosting over most types of regular hosting is that your WordPress software, plugins and themes are updated automatically.
However, with Bluehost, both the shared plans and the managed hosting plans give you the ability to enable automatic updates for the WordPress software and any plugins and themes you’ve installed. While you can’t enable this for individual plugins, it’s still a good time-saving feature that can help to keep your site secure.
When it comes to automatic updates, the WP Pro plans don’t have any features over the shared plans that make them better value.
As well as automatic software updates, other features designed to keep your site secure are available on the Bluehost plans. One example of this is access to SiteLock, a website security service. However, while both the Bluehost shared and WP Pro hosting include this, you get different levels of access to SiteLock depending on which plan you choose.
So, while with Bluehost shared hosting SiteLock will monitor your site for security issues, it’s only on the WP Pro plans that you’ll be able to use it to fix some issues when they’re found, such as malware.
There are a few other security features that are available on all Bluehost plans, such as the ability to check the integrity of the core WordPress files and free SSL certificate for all of the websites you’re hosting on your account. If your WP Pro plan includes a Jetpack subscription, then you get access to the security features from that service, too.
Paying extra for WP Pro does get you access to more security features, helping to make it a better investment for those who are serious about keeping their site secure.
Whether you choose one of the Bluehost shared or WP Pro plans, you’ll be able to contact support staff 24/7 via live chat or telephone.
If you’d like to be able to contact the support staff via email, then you’ll need to choose either the Grow or Scale WP Pro plans, but not the entry-level Build plan. These two WP Pro plans also include access to the Bluehost Blue Sky service that enables you to contact WordPress experts who can help you with your website.
When using Bluehost for this review, it was easy to connect to the live chat staff, but their suggestions didn’t always seem to be as helpful and knowledgeable as those of other hosts, such as SiteGround and WP Engine.
If you think the standard live chat and telephone channels will suffice, then there’s not much reason to invest in WP Pro when it comes to support. However, if you’d like a bit of extra help setting up your site, and the ability to turn to ‘WordPress experts’ when something goes wrong, you may find that the WP Pro plans are worth paying extra for.
Bluehost User Experience
Whether you choose Bluehost shared hosting or their premium WP Pro service, getting started is very easy. Simply find the plan you want to sign up for on the relevant page of their website, and then enter your details.
If you’ve yet to register a domain name for your website, you can do so during the Bluehost sign up process, and, as you get the first year’s domain registration for free, this can help to reduce your website setup costs. If you already have a domain name, or you decide to register one elsewhere, you can easily assign it to your Bluehost account.
WordPress Website Wizard
Once you’ve paid and finished signing up, you can start setting up your new WordPress website right away. If you’re creating a new WordPress website, both the shared and managed hosting plans have a helpful wizard that walks you through the process.
You can answer a few questions about your new site during the wizard, and Bluehost will then recommend relevant plugins and configure your site appropriately, e.g. by creating a blog or activating an ecommerce plugin. You also get the chance to choose a theme for your new site from the selection that’s freely available via WordPress.org. The top tier WP Pro plan also includes access to more than 200 premium themes from WordPress.org, via the Jetpack subscription, helping to reduce some of the costs involved in launching a new site.
Helpfully, a coming soon page is displayed on your website until you’re ready to go live.
Also, if you sign up with one of the WP Pro plans, you can get help setting up your website or solving problems from a Blue Sky WordPress expert by using the included one-hour concierge call.
Website and Account Management Dashboard
The Bluehost account and website management dashboard was recently refreshed and now looks good, while also making it very easy to find the settings and extra features available on your plan. Both the shared and managed hosting plans use the same dashboard, but you get access to different settings and controls depending on which plan you’ve chosen.
Thanks to the ease of use, you can quickly configure features such as the caching system and automatic updates, and also access the backups.
If you prefer, you can also use the cPanel software to configure your account and work with the available features. cPanel isn’t often available on managed WordPress hosting plans, but, if you need this level of access, the WP Pro plans provide it.
The Bluehost portal also includes links to places where you can purchase themes and plugins for your website, as well as add-ons for your account. Because of this, Bluehost manages to deliver a central location where you can create and manage your website, and also find tools and services to enhance it.
Now that we know what you get on the different plans from Bluehost, it’s time to see how our websites hosted on the shared and WP Pro plans performed in our tests.
Bluehost WP Pro vs Shared Hosting Performance Test Results
To help you to decide if it’s worth paying extra for WP Pro, we used Pingdom to monitor the loading times and uptime of our test websites hosted on the Bluehost shared and managed WordPress plans. We also used the Load Impact service to simulate multiple visitors accessing these sites to see how they handle surges in traffic.
Here are the results…
Loading Time Test Results
To evaluate the performance of WP Pro, we set up WordPress websites on these plans and on the Bluehost shared plans. We then installed either a free lightweight theme or a premium heavyweight theme and used Pingdom to monitor the speed of these sites over a period of seven days to find their average loading times.
Lightweight Theme Site Speed Results
To find out how Bluehost WP Pro compares with the lower-priced shared service when it comes to hosting a basic blog or simple website, we installed the Twenty Nineteen theme on two of our test sites. Twenty Nineteen is a good example of a popular, lightweight and relatively minimal theme.
After publishing a blog post containing text and an image, Pingdom was set to record the speed of that page at 30-minute intervals. After seven days of monitoring, the average load times were 1.08 seconds for the site hosted on the shared plan and 1.44 seconds for the WP Pro-hosted site.
Surprisingly, our test site hosted on the cheaper shared plan was faster than our test site hosted on the much more expensive and supposedly higher performance WordPress Pro plan.
Here’s the breakdown of the loading times recorded by Pingdom for the test site hosted on the shared plan using a lightweight theme:
This is the breakdown from Pingdom of the loading times of the test site using a lightweight theme hosted on the WP Pro plan:
While the shared-hosted site was faster than the site on the managed WordPress hosting plan, it still wasn’t loading particularly quickly. As the loading time results from our SiteGround review show, the test site on the Bluehost shared plan was slower than our test sites hosted on similarly priced plans available elsewhere. Bluehost were also the slowest host when we compared them with GoDaddy and SiteGround, and in our Bluehost vs HostGator comparison.
Because of this, it’s fair to say WP Pro didn’t just look slow because the site on the shared hosting plan was so fast — it was actually loading slowly.
However, perhaps the Bluehost WP Pro plans are better at hosting more complex websites using heavyweight multipurpose themes. Let’s find out…
Heavyweight Theme Site Speed Results
If you want to create a more advanced website, then choosing one of the modern multipurpose themes that are available for WordPress is a great idea. However, they can increase the file size and complexity of your website considerably, often resulting in slower loading times, especially compared with lightweight themes, such as Twenty Nineteen.
So, with that in mind, we also monitored the loading times of two test sites using Avada, one of the best-selling multipurpose WordPress themes available today. Like before, one site was set up on the Bluehost shared plan and the other on the Bluehost WP Pro managed hosting plan.
After importing the Avada Agency website demo and activating the recommended plugins, the speed of the homepages of the test sites were recorded every 30 minutes. After seven days of monitoring, the average load time of the site hosted on the shared plan was 2.76 seconds, while the average load time of the site on the more expensive WP Pro plan was 3.53 seconds.
Again, according to Pingdom, the site hosted on the shared plan was faster than the site on the WP Pro service, which is marketed as having ‘optimized performance for blazing site speeds’.
Here’s a breakdown of the loading times recorded by Pingdom for the site hosted on the shared plan using the Avada theme:
This is the breakdown of the loading times for the site hosted with WP Pro using the Avada theme:
Why so Slow?
When talking with Bluehost support via live chat about why the sites hosted on the WP Pro plans were loading relatively slowly, the staff member did state that the sites shouldn’t be slow and that I should try to optimize them to improve performance.
While the Bluehost caching and CDN were turned on for all four test sites before the monitoring started, I didn’t feel it was fair to take other steps to optimize the sites, such as installing third-party caching plugins and using additional services, as that wasn’t what we’d done when reviewing other hosting services.
However, out of curiosity, I did install WP Super Cache, one of the most popular WordPress caching plugins, but even that had no noticeable effect on the loading times. However, there are other caching plugins out there, such as the premium WP Rocket and free W3 Total Cache, which you could use to try to speed up sites hosted by Bluehost.
WP Pro Site Speed Summary
Overall, the loading times of the four sites hosted on the Bluehost shared and WP Pro plans were very disappointing. Surprisingly, the sites on the shared plans were faster than those on the WP Pro plans, but, as mentioned, they were slower than other shared hosting providers, such as HostGator, GoDaddy and SiteGround.
Load Impact Performance Testing Results
As well as monitoring the speed of our test sites with Pingdom to find their average load times, we also used the premium Load Impact service to see how well the sites hosted by Bluehost were able to handle multiple visitors accessing them simultaneously.
To find this out, Load Impact was set to simulate multiple users accessing the site at the same time, starting with one virtual user (VU) and increasing to 200 over a five-minute period. As the test was running, Load Impact continually recorded the response times of the sites to see what effect the traffic had on their performance.
For these tests, the homepages of the sites on the shared and WP Pro plans that had the heavyweight Avada WordPress theme and its Agency website demo installed were monitored. Here are the results…
Bluehost Shared Hosting Load Impact Test Results
In the results below, the blue line represents the number of virtual users (VUs) accessing the site, while the green line shows the response times of the page being monitored.
The response time of the site on the Bluehost shared hosting plan remained within an acceptable range until around 89 VUs were accessing it at the same time. After that, the site became unresponsive. For low-cost shared hosting, this is actually pretty good, demonstrating that if you host a site using a heavyweight theme on the shared plan and your site experiences a small surge in traffic it should remain responsive.
Bluehost WP Pro Load Impact Test Results
To show if WP Pro is worth paying extra for when it comes to performance, the same test was run on our site hosted on the Bluehost managed WordPress service. On the graph below, the blue line again represents the number of virtual users (VUs), while the green line shows the response times of the page.
The site on the WP Pro plan did perform a little better than the shared hosted site, remaining responsive until there were around 97 simultaneous VUs accessing it. However, we’ve tested other managed WordPress hosts in the same price bracket that have handled 200 simultaneous VUs without a problem, including Kinsta and WP Engine.
So, while the shared plan performed relatively well under pressure, WP Pro wasn’t able to match the performance of other managed hosts we’ve tested.
Uptime Monitoring Results
Unlike many web hosts, including lots of cheap WordPress hosting services, Bluehost don’t have an uptime guarantee in place. While they aim for 99.7% uptime, they don’t back this with a money-back guarantee, as is common with many other hosts.
However, while Pingdom did detect downtime on three of our test sites when monitoring them for a week, the downtime levels didn’t drop below 99.93%. It’s worth pointing out that while 99.93% uptime sounds impressive, it’s still the equivalent of six hours and eight minutes of downtime over the course of a year.
Notably, it was the two sites hosted with WP Pro that experienced the most downtime, suggesting that it’s not worth paying extra for this service if uptime is a priority.
Bluehost WP Pro Technical Details
Here are some more technical details about the Bluehost WP Pro managed WordPress hosting plans to help you to decide if this is a service you want to pay extra for:
- Website caching: The Bluehost in-house caching system is available on all plans.
- Content Delivery Network (CDN): All plans include access to a global CDN.
- PHP: Choice of PHP versions including 5.6, 7.0 and 7.2, automatically applying the latest version.
- HTTP/2.0: HTTP/2.0 is enabled on all plans.
- SSL: Free SSL certificates from Let’s Encrypt are applied to your sites automatically, or you can use your own certificates from elsewhere.
- SFTP: You can access your server space via SFTP and your choice of client.
- Server file manager: The server space can be accessed via the cPanel browser-based file manager.
- Database access: The WordPress website databases can be accessed via phpMyAdmin.
- Email service: The plans come with an email service.
- WordPress website management: You can enable automatic WordPress core, plugin and/or theme updates.
- Plugin restrictions: Unlike some other managed WordPress hosting plans, there are no restrictions on which WordPress plugins you can install on the WP Pro plans.
- Security measures: Security features are provided via SiteLock and Jetpack, which is available on some of the WP Pro plans and has its own security features.
- Post-hack clean-up services: Bluehost don’t have a service to fix sites that have been hacked, although some plans include access to SiteLock which can help with this.
- Data center locations: The Bluehost data center is in Utah, Western US, and that is where they host all of their customers’ websites. However, you can use the included CDN access to distribute your website content around the world.
- Staging sites: The plans include a staging tool for WordPress.
- WordPress website migration: While there isn’t a free WordPress website migration service, you can pay $149 for Bluehost to transfer up to five of your WordPress websites to their servers. Alternatively, you can do it yourself using a migration plugin.
- Uptime checks and guarantee: Bluehost don’t check the sites they host for downtime, and, while they aim for 99.7% uptime, there’s no guarantee or SLA in place for this.
- Support channels: 24/7 live chat and telephone support are available on all plans. Ticket support is available via the Bluehost Blue Sky service that’s included with some of the WP Pro plans. Some of the WP Pro plans also include access to the premium Jetpack support channel.
Hopefully, that answers any remaining questions you may have about the Bluehost WP Pro hosting service.
When it comes to value for money, you certainly get access to lots of features and generous allowances if you sign up to the Bluehost WP Pro managed WordPress hosting service.
The prices compare well with the managed WordPress hosting plans from other companies in this space. And, as we’ve just seen, you do get a few more features for your money compared with the lower-priced Bluehost shared plans.
However, it’s impossible to ignore the relatively poor performance of our test sites hosted with WP Pro.
Our sites hosted on the WP Pro plans were even out-performed by our sites on the much cheaper Bluehost shared plans. So, while you may get access to more features on the WP Pro plans, such as a better backup system and a Jetpack subscription, it’s hard to state that upgrading from the shared plans to the WP Pro plans is worth the extra money.
Furthermore, considering there are faster managed WordPress hosts out there with comparable prices, if performance is important to you (which it should be), you’ll get better value elsewhere.
There is a 30-day money-back guarantee in place, so, if you’re still tempted, you can sign up, create your site and see how well it performs to find out for yourself if WP Pro really is worth the extra money.
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