With all the plans, features, options, and add-ons, choosing a web hosting company for your website can be a bewildering experience. Use this head-to- head comparison between Bluehost and Network Solutions to clarify things and narrow down the choices.
Both Bluehost and Network Solutions have been in the web hosting business for over two decades. Bluehost has been offering services since 1996. Network Solutions got its start as a consulting firm in 1979, and in 1993 became the first, and only, domain registrar until open competition began in 1999.
Network Solutions still gets 45% of its profits from the domain registration business. In 2005, they began offering more products, such as web hosting.
BlueHost has more than 2 million sites hosted on its servers. BlueHost and Network Solutions both provide shared hosting, managed WordPress hosting, and VPS server plans. BlueHost also has dedicated plans, though BlueHost’s VPS and dedicated server options are recent additions.
Network Solutions does not offer dedicated server plans. Network Solutions does offer Linux and Windows options for shared hosting, while its VPS plans are Linux only.
BlueHost has many “best of” awards, including “Best Affordable Hosting,” and “Best Value Host.” Network Solutions was named for “Outstanding Customer Service” for one of its call centers from 2006 to 2010 by J.D. Power and Associates.
BlueHost was bought by Endurance International Group (EIG) in 2010. EIG owns many web hosting companies but lets them operate under their own banners. EIG sites are not clones of each other. However, there are some similarities between EIG owned hosting companies.
You may find that if you have had issues with one EIG company, you may find the same issues with another. Network Solutions has been bought several times, with the latest being in 2011 by Web.com. That purchase resulted in new leadership, staff reductions, and the closing of several offices.
Uptime and Reliability
Uptime. BlueHost lacks an uptime guarantee, but stats show uptime to regularly be 99.9% or better. Network Solutions says it has a 99.99% guarantee for Linux and 99.9% for Windows plans, however, there is no mention in their Terms of Service of refunds if that uptime isn’t met.
Performance. BlueHost builds its own servers and uses 16-core AMD Opterons.
A test of a site hosted on BlueHost resulted in a load time of 2.37s, faster than 65% of the sites tested on Pingdom. A test of a Network Solutions site yielded a load time of 3.21s, slower than 48% of the sites tested.
Reliability. The data center for BlueHost is located in Utah. For redundancy, the data centers are powered and cooled by multiple sources, and diesel backups are in place for emergencies. BlueHost does not have mirrored or redundant backups of data – except for their Cloud Plans. Backups are kept for a maximum of 30 days.
It is unclear where Network Solutions data centers are located, other than there are some in North America. It appears the data centers use clustered servers, made of HP and IBM blades, for redundancy. The data centers are powered and cooled with redundancy and diesel backups, are monitored onsite for security and reliability, and are backed up nightly.
Opinion on BlueHost and Network Solutions Performance
Network Solutions has an uptime guarantee but doesn’t back it up with any specifics. BlueHost doesn’t have an uptime guarantee, but it has consistently maintained uptime reliability. The tests for load and response times for hosted sites were faster for BlueHost.
Compare Key Features
Note: “Unlimited” or “unmetered” are terms used by web hosting companies when describing provided features. This marketing term does not mean “all you can use.” Instead, the terms refer to what is “deemed reasonable usage” by the hosting company. The hosting company can suspend websites for excessive usage – sometimes without warning.
Domain Registration. Both hosts are domain registrars – with Network Solutions being the first ever acknowledged domain registrar. BlueHost provides a free year of domain registration for new accounts. Network Solutions does offer a free domain for one year. However, the pricing for renewal of the domain the following year from Network Solutions is two to three times higher than what most registrars charge.
Website Builder. BlueHost provides the drag-and- drop Weebly Basic, which is limited to 5 web pages. Basic is free of charge, but an upgrade to the more powerful Weebly Premium is available for an additional fee. Network Solutions has Website Builder. This builder also has a drag-and- drop interface. For a fee, Network Solutions offers goMobi for building a website for mobile devices.
Databases. BlueHost offers unlimited MySQL databases. Network Solutions’ MySQL database allowances vary, depending on the plan chosen. For the three shared plans, the limits are 25, 50, and unlimited.
Email Accounts. BlueHost provides unlimited email accounts and email forwarding. Email allowances for Network Solutions’ shared plans are 1000, 2500, and unlimited for the three plans.
WordPress Hosting. BlueHost and Network Solutions both offer managed WordPress plans. Managed WordPress plans often cost more than a standard shared plan. Some of that extra cost is because managed WordPress plans are usually hosted on optimized servers with caching and extra security to provide enhanced performance and stability. However, the main advantage managed WordPress hosting brings is that automatic backups and updating of your WordPress sites are done for you. You can leave the technical stuff alone and focus on what’s important – your content.
eCommerce Solution. BlueHost provides free shopping carts through its control panels, such as Magneto, ZenCart, PrestaShop, and others. Network Solutions offers a built-in storefront builder in three plans with monthly fees – one allowing 25 products, another 300 products, and the top tier 100,000 products. Network Solutions also has a Jumpstart feature that sets up your store with up to 25 products for a one-time fee of $299.
Backups. BlueHost provides daily, weekly, and monthly backups, and also offers SiteBackup Pro for a fee – though it is free with the Business Pro shared plan. SiteBackup Pro allows backup and restores at the file level. Network Solutions offers snapshot website backups and restoration free through the control panel and keeps them for seven days.
Hosting Security. BlueHost provides the basic SiteLock service, which seeks out and eliminates malware, free on its lower tiers, and SiteLock Pro free on its higher tier plans. BlueHost has internal processes to protect against DDoS in place, as well. Network Solution scans and proactively acts against DDoS threats, malware, and viruses for its WordPress plans. With the upper two tiers of shared hosting, Network Solutions does automatic malware removal and prevents common hacker attacks. It also provides SiteLock for a monthly fee.
All Bluehost plans have a free Shared SSL certificate, with the top shared plan coming with a free Private SSL certificate. Network Solutions provides free shared SSL for its upper tier of shared hosting, and Private SSL may be purchased.
Control Panel. BlueHost’s control panel is based on cPanel but has a modified interface. Network Solutions has a proprietary control panel. It has the basic features needed but takes some getting used to, especially if you previously came from a cPanel host.
Affiliate and Reseller Programs. You can make $65 per referral, with no monthly caps, with the BlueHost affiliate program. With Network Solutions’ affiliate program, it is possible to make up to $150 per month. Network Solutions’ reseller program is through a third-party, SRSplus.
Opinion on BlueHost and Network Solutions Key Features
There are many similar features between these two. However, BlueHost has more “unlimited” features in its shared plans. If you are in need of a Windows shared hosting plan, Network Solutions is your only choice between these two.
Hosting Plans & Pricing
Note: Constant changes in pricing is common with the web hosting companies because of the intense competition. Promotional pricing is typical. Promotion prices are usually limited to the first term of service, so you will have higher savings by signing up for longer terms of service. Even without promos, longer terms of service usually result in a break in pricing. The prices below are based on the host web pricing at the time of this comparison.
BlueHost. There are three shared plans offered by BlueHost. The lowest tier, Basic, permits one site, provides 50 GB of storage, and allows unlimited bandwidth and email accounts, for $3.95 per month. Plus, at $6.95 per month, increases storage to 150 GB, allows ten sites, and comes with a CDN. The Business Pro, at $14.95 per month, offers unlimited sites, as well as unlimited bandwidth, storage, and email accounts. A CDN, Private SSL, dedicated IP, and Sitebackup Pro are included in this top tier plan. All the shared BlueHost plans come with a free domain registration for one year.
BlueHost offers three scalable Cloud plans for an additional fee, which mirrors your data in three places for reliability and faster load times.
BlueHost has four managed WordPress plans based on VPS technology. The smallest plan, blogger, at $12.95 per month, is limited to 100 million visits, 30 GB of storage and five sites. The top plan, enterprise, priced at $85 per month, has 240 GB of storage, unlimited bandwidth, and 30 sites. The other two, professional at $37.50, and business at $60 fall in between. All have free CDN. SiteLock Pro is offered on the bottom two tiers; the business tier has SiteLock Premium, and the top tier comes with SiteLock Enterprise.
Network Solutions. Pricing on Network Solutions’ web page is unnecessarily confusing. Prices seem to change (without explanation) on different pages. Network Solutions offers three shared plans. The apparent pricing of $9.96 per month for the lowest tier plan, Web Hosting, limits disk space to 300 GB. It allows 25 databases, unlimited bandwidth, and unlimited email forwarding – though there is a limit of 1000 email boxes. Professional Hosting is $15.78 per month for unlimited storage, 2500 email boxes, 50 databases, free CDN, and unlimited bandwidth. The Premium Hosting is $21.26 per month for free CDN, free SSL, Unlimited email, databases, bandwidth, and storage. All the plans come with one year of free domain registration.
Network Solutions has one managed WordPress plan, starting at $35 per month. The plan provides scanning for malware and viruses, has WordPress expert support, provides unlimited storage and bandwidth, has an SSL certificate, and provides Staging. The Staging feature allows you to create your website offline, and when satisfied, take it live. It lets you modify and tweak without affecting the live site. It appears one domain is allowed by the WordPress plan.
VPS and Dedicated Plans: BlueHost has four VPS plans. BlueHost’s $14.99 per month standard VPS tier would be suitable for an individual or small business that needed slightly more performance than a shared plan would allow, but it is too limited for much more than that. The other three plans have better features and are priced at $29.99, $44.99, and $55.99 per month. BlueHost VPS plans have bandwidth limits of 1 TB to 4 TB. Network Solutions has two VPS plans, Essential at $40 per month, and Professional for $80 per month. BlueHost’s tiers have better features for less, with the exception that Network Solutions supports more managed domains per tier than BlueHost.
BlueHost has three dedicated tiers, allowing 3, 4, and 5 IPs, priced at $74.99, $99.99, and $124.99 per month, respectively. Network Solutions does not offer dedicated server plans.
Money-Back Guarantee: BlueHost has the industry standard 30-day guarantee, as does Network Solutions. However, if you cancel a long-term contract with Network Solutions, you may be liable for substantial early termination fees. If you have the free domain registration on BlueHost or Network Solutions, they will withhold a domain registration fee from any refund, and you will keep the domain name.
Opinion on Hosting Plans Pricing
Network Solutions’ excessive penalties for early cancellation and its higher pricing gives the advantage to BlueHost, except for managed WordPress. If you need the features a dedicated plan offers, BlueHost is your only choice here, since Network Solutions doesn’t have a dedicated plan. The Staging and “unlimited” features give Network Solutions an edge with WordPress users.
Ease of Use
Control Panel. BlueHost uses cPanel, but with a modified interface, so regular cPanel users will need to make some adjustments. Network Solutions’ proprietary control panel has most of the features you will need. However, it is confusing and frustrating to navigate, taking more digging and more clicks than should be necessary. Network Solutions’ Windows plans use the standard Plesk control panel.
One-click Installer. BlueHost provides the easy-to- use MOJO Marketplace one-click installer for installing nearly one hundred applications. Network Solutions has a one-click installation for WordPress and Joomla. While there are some other one-click apps available in their control panel, it can take up to nine steps to get to those one-click apps.
Website Navigation. Both Bluehost’s and Network Solutions’ sites provide the information you need to choose a plan. Bluehost has helpful comparison charts for comparing tiers in their plans. Network Solutions does as well, but they take a few clicks to find.
Pricing is confusing on the Network Solutions site. In fact, on the Network Solutions home page, except for the menu saying “Hosting and SSL,” there is no mention of web hosting – the other products and services from Network Solutions are featured instead.
Opinion on Ease of Use
BlueHost’s one-click installer has more applications, and, though modified, the control panel is based on the industry standard cPanel. It appears that Network Solutions concentrates on other services more than web hosting.
Technical and Customer Support
This is one area BlueHost falls short, according to customer reviews. Despite one of its call centers winning awards, Network Solutions, too, has far more complaints about customer service than praise.
BlueHost and Network Solutions both have phone and email, 24/7. BlueHost has a live chat, Network Solutions does not. Both have an extensive knowledge base with tutorials and FAQs. Both have a forum, although Network Solutions’ forum is actually a link to Web.com’s forum.
Network Solutions has had controversy in its past. In 2009, Network Solutions began publishing daily lists of the domain name searches conducted in its website domain search box. In 2008, without user permission, Network Solutions began putting ads on subdomains if they weren’t active – turning them into ad-filled parked pages for Network Solutions.
In 2008-2009, Network Solutions was accused of domain front running. They would put a hold on domains searched, temporarily taking ownership, so you could not register the name elsewhere after making a search on Network Solutions. Individuals, known as “domain tasters”, would subscribe to this information, and as soon as Network Solutions deregistered after four days, people would immediately buy the domain and offer it for sale at a higher price. Reports of these types of practices ceased after the Web.com buyout in 2011.
Opinion on User Support
Neither host is perfect here. BlueHost might have a slight edge, due to having live chat, and because of doubts raised by Network Solutions’ dubious practices in the past.
Note: Reviews should never be used as the deciding factor in choosing a web host. Since reviews are usually posted by those who are passionate, most reviews are either strongly negative or strongly positive. However, when the same thing receives a consistent comment, it may be something to consider.
Negative Reviews for BlueHost and Network Solutions
BlueHost. BlueHost’s reviews for customer support are overwhelmingly negative. The complaints include long wait times, rudeness, and repeated tickets for the same issue.
Network Solutions. It is difficult to find a web host that has more negative reviews than Network Solutions has. From poor service to difficulty in setting up a website, Network Solutions gets low marks from customers. Just about every facet of the company has had complaints.
Positive Reviews for BlueHost and Network Solutions
BlueHost. Most positive reviews from customers of BlueHost praise the prices and the features provided in the plans.
Network Solutions. Positive customer reviews are few and far between. There are only two customer testimonials on the Network Solutions website, and one of those sites appears to be hosted elsewhere at this time.
Opinion on User Reviews
As noted, customer reviews are only one indicator of web hosting quality. However, the sheer number of negative reviews Network Solutions gets from customers should be a potential red flag.
Which hosting is best for you?
There are features from both BlueHost and Network Solutions that stand them apart from each other.
Reasons to choose Network Solutions over BlueHost:
- Not EIG owned (a concern if you have had issues with EIG in the past)
- Linux and Windows shared hosting plans
Reasons to choose BlueHost over Network Solutions:
- Free SiteLock
- Uses cPanel – though with a modified interface
- More applications available for one-click installation
- Dedicated server plans for those that need one
- Much lower domain registration renewal fees
Network Solutions states that it is geared to small businesses. It does offer low prices for the first month, but they go up quickly after that.
BlueHost’s managed WordPress plans may be more expensive than those from some other hosts, but the features offered seem to be very popular – as indicated by the fact that more than 1 million WordPress sites are hosted on BlueHost.
For small-to- mid-sized businesses, the VPS and dedicated plans of BlueHost would be appealing.
Not offering dedicated server options might limit the appeal of Network Solutions to larger businesses.
Neither company has sterling customer support, so if that is an important consideration, you might want to look elsewhere.
If you’d like a host with fast load and response times and premium features – and don’t mind paying a little more than budget host pricing SiteGround would be worth looking into.
For WordPress users,InMotion Hosting is a hosting company with excellent features and one of the best money-back guarantees in the business.
Do you have any questions about BlueHost or Network Solutions? What have been your experiences with web hosting in general? Leave your comments and let us know.