After recently “upgrading” to what I hoped would be a more reliable Bluehost server for about $23/mo (Pro Cloud Hosting plan), my site went down mid-day for 22 minutes – just two days after the “upgrade.”
The Bluehost customer service rep. I chatted with online about it suggested I “optimize” my WordPress site and linked me to an article that offered some basic tips about deactivating plugins and simple tips that would improve site speed – not stop Bluehost’s server from going down. I explained to the rep. that his tips didn’t appear to have the potential to stop my site from going down – and he just said “oh ok” and then asked if there’s anything else I’d like help with before ending the chat. I figured I wasn’t going to get anywhere with the guy, so I just hit “end” and rated the experience as a “zero-out-of-10.” (I know the issue isn’t with plugin conflicts on my site, since I had checked another one of my sites on the same shared account and had seen the same “404 Not Found” page.
“404 Not Found”
Tired of hoping no customers would hit the site during the habitual down times (happens about twice a week), I typed in “Bluehost server down” into my search engine and found an article about a guy leaving Bluehost after six years and finding WPEngine.
Hosting alternatives: WPEngine
That peaked my interest into finally looking into Bluehost alternatives, so I checked out the site. I noticed they offer up to $200 commission on sales (whatever the first month of hosting cost is, they pass on to the referrer), compared to Bluehost’s $65 referral rate. This can be a good sign, that there’s money to be made in referring people to the service – IF its actually good. But it can also be bad, as in the case of Bluehost and the multi-level marketer friends we all have, where the money offered for referrals turn can into bribes. By bribes, I mean when the referrer doesn’t promote the service because the SERVICE is great for YOU, but rather because the MONEY is great for THEM. (Notice I don’t have affiliate links peppered in this article — I’m not making a cent on this. Just writing to help others not have to go through the same experience.)
PRICE: The first downside I noticed was the price being $29/mo for only 25,000 visitors per month. Bluehost’s Pro Cloud Hosting plan currently costs me about $23/mo for a 1-year term, and doesn’t have such a cap (as far as I know).
But I was willing to pay a bit more for better service, so I kept checking around on WPEngine’s site.
CUSTOMER SERVICE: The biggest red flag I saw was when I discovered I couldn’t ask a question online quickly through their “chat” box, as it said they were currently offline (it was about 5:30 p.m. on a Saturday). Compared to Bluehost, I’ve always been somewhat relieved to find that their online chat is available 24/7 – even though I’ve had to wait 45 minutes to get someone on the other end (usually it’s under 10 minutes).
Although I prefer online chat for customer support, I thought perhaps WPEngine prefers phone calls and has great phone support. So I called in and was happy to be immediately greeted with a “this call may be recorded” message, assuming that meant I’d get a live person. It asked me to hit “1” for sales, so I did – and then it said their sales department is only open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Wow. That was the deal breaker.
I don’t care how reliable WPEngine *might* be – I know there would be times when I’d need to reach them about a critical hosting issue and not be able to reach anyone on a weekend or after 7 p.m. (which aren’t dead web traffic times). I’ve also found that companies will always prioritize their sales line, rather than their “customer service” line – since at that point there’s no money to be made, unless they lose you as a customer.
If I can’t reach a company for their sales dept. – either online or on the phone – I don’t even need to ask what their customer service is like.
Updated Dec. 8, 2016: So where am I at now? I’ve been with a service called SiteGround for over a year now and am very happy. See my article for more: Why I left Bluehost website hosting