Best Overall Hosting Provider
Is HostGator the Best Provider for Your Site?
So you’re thinking of starting with or switching to HostGator. It’s certainly a hugely popular hosting provider – 46% of people we surveyed knew about HostGator. You can’t really go wrong with this hosting provider, but we’ll let you in on the good and the bad so that you can make the most informed choice.
To start, here’s HostGator at a glance:
HostGator scores 4.6/5 stars in our research, which earns it the title of Best Overall Hosting Provider – so you’ll definitely be in good hands. Read on to weigh HostGator’s positives and negatives, and to decide if it’s not only the best provider overall, but the best provider for you.
- Uptime: HostGator offers an unbeatable uptime guarantee of 99.99%
- Features: HostGator offers more features on its shared plans than most hosting providers, including free email marketing software to take your site to the next level
- Help and support: HostGator’s customer support knowledge base is a searchable treasure trove, and its live chat function is fast and reliable
- HostGator’s plans are slightly more expensive than those of other top competitors
- HostGator’s control panel and site design are a little dated, which makes for a clunky user experience
HostGator had humble beginnings in a dorm room at Florida Atlantic University in 2002 (which explains the “Gator,” in case you were wondering). Since then, the company has opened offices around the world, and hosts over 8 million domains.
|Overall Rank||1st out of 11 hosting providers|
|Pricing||Starting at $2.75/month (renews at $6.95/month)|
|Hosting Plans||Shared, WordPress, VPS, Dedicated, and Cloud|
|Help & Support||24/7 live chat, phone, and email|
|Features||SSL certificate, unlimited bandwidth, email marketing software|
HostGator offers a 99.99% uptime guarantee, which equates to the best on the market (it’s impossible to guarantee 100% uptime). This means that your site will experience less than an hour of downtime per year. If you’re looking for reliability, HostGator is the cream of the crop – this kind of consistency is ideal for any site, but especially if you’re looking to set up an ecommerce store. Time is money, after all!
HostGator offers five different types of hosting: Shared, Managed WordPress, VPS, Dedicated, and Cloud. Here’s a basic breakdown of each type:
- Shared hosting is the easiest and most affordable hosting option, in which you share a server and its resources with other sites. Prices start at $2.75/month.
- Managed WordPress hosting is the fastest and most integrated way to host a WordPress site. This type comes with free migration, so if you have an existing WordPress site, you can transfer it over to HostGator at no cost. Plan prices start at $5.95/month.
- VPS (Virtual Private Server) hosting is more expensive, but you get what you pay for – or in this case, more server resources specifically for your site. VPS is worth considering for small businesses, while personal/non-ecommerce sites won’t need to spend the extra money. Prices start at $29.95/month.
- Dedicated hosting is the most expensive type of hosting, and it’s only necessary for large ecommerce businesses. However, if that does sound like you, then the scalability and power offered by dedicated hosting is unmatched. Prices start at $118.99/month.
- Cloud hosting is a revamped form of shared hosting that promises better speed, reliability, and resources. Cloud hosting is considered more secure than shared hosting, and for these reasons, it’s a little more expensive. Prices start at $4.95/month.
Every HostGator plan comes with a free SSL certificate and unlimited bandwidth. You also get a free domain for the first year (after that, you’ll have to pay to renew your domain name). These features aren’t uncommon, but HostGator stands out by also offering unlimited email accounts, sub-domains, and file transfer protocol (FTP) accounts (which allow you to transfer files from a computer to a network). HostGator also includes unlimited storage in its shared hosting plans, which most providers hold out on until you upgrade to more advanced hosting.
HostGator gives you the option to use its own drag-and-drop website builder to create your site. The builder offers a large number of templates across 20 categories, including photography, restaurants, and personal portfolios. However, while these templates are customizable, they’re not very easy to navigate – so if you’d rather not commit the time, you don’t have to use HostGator’s own website builder!
If you plan to create a website using a CMS system, you’ll be pleased to know that HostGator’s WordPress hosting option comes with convenient one-click installation. It also offers support for Joomla and Drupal, and the ecommerce platform Magento.
The standout feature on HostGator’s basic plan is the free email marketing software it provides through Constant Contact. This feature is incredibly valuable, because it allows you to build an audience through consistent newsletters and automated email campaigns. Just like strong uptime, email marketing is an asset for any site, but it’s particularly helpful for ecommerce sites.
You can sign up for a HostGator plan with time frames that vary from one month to three years. The more time you commit to in advance, the cheaper your equivalent monthly price will be. For example, let’s take a look at HostGator’s most basic shared plan:
We think three years is a huge commitment, so we recommend sticking to the annual billing option – you’ll still save money, but you won’t be locking yourself in for too long. You’ll still have to pay the full twelve months in advance at the start, and most hosting providers organize their payment plans this way.
Every web hosting provider will try to draw you in with bargain promotional prices. If you see an asterisk next to a pricing plan on any provider’s website, that means you’ll be paying more than the advertised price after your first term.
In the table below, we’ve summarized both the promotional and annually billed renewal prices of each of HostGator’s plans, so you can compare:
|Hosting Type||Promotional Price Range||Renewal Price, Billed Annually|
HostGator scores 3.9/5 in our research for value for money, which puts it in the middle of the pack (5th place out of 11, to be exact). HostGator’s introductory price range of $2.75-148.98/month is slightly more expensive than top competitors like Bluehost and A2 Hosting, which range from $2.95-119.99/month and $1.98-141.09/month, respectively.
Although HostGator is a little more expensive, you do get what you pay for. It’s ranked first overall (out of the same 11 providers) because that slight jump in price comes with lots of features and unbeatable uptime. A lot of people tend to value features over money, too – of people looking to switch hosting providers, the most important factor among those we surveyed was “hosting features” at 32%. “Pricing” actually came as a second priority, at 27%. This shows that people who already have experience hosting a website have found that you often do “get what you pay for,” and it’s worth spending a little extra for the right plan and support.
HostGator also offers a 45-day money-back guarantee, which extends beyond the industry standard of one month. The usual fine print applies, however: the refund doesn’t apply to dedicated server plans, and plans paid for by check, money order, or bank wire transfer are also ineligible.
In addition to the free SSL certificate that comes with every plan, HostGator also protects against Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, which occur when a large volume of fake traffic floods a web server and overwhelms its resources so that regular visitors can’t access the site. HostGator’s data centers can enable flood protection to avoid DDoS attacks. The provider also promises that its data centers themselves (i.e. where the physical servers are housed) are highly secure facilities with restricted access.
If you want to make sure your site is extra secure, HostGator offers a SiteLock security add-on starting at $1.94/month. SiteLock is a tool that scans your website for potential threats and vulnerabilities, and can also fix many of the security issues it detects. When a SiteLock scan finds anything suspicious on your site, you’ll be alerted via email and on your HostGator control panel.
There’s no doubt that SiteLock is a great tool to have in your arsenal. But heads up: promotional prices still apply here. That $1.94/month only applies when you buy a three year package, while the cheapest SiteLock plan you can buy through HostGator bills at $2.08/month for one year. The most expensive plan bills at $41.67/month for one year – although most smaller websites won’t need to worry about spending that much on protection.
HostGator scores a perfect 5 out of 5 in our research for help and support. The provider offers 24/7 live chat and phone service (toll-free), but that’s not where it stands out from the crowd. HostGator’s extensive Knowledge Base puts you a few clicks away from all the information you need – it’s a virtual treasure trove, and you won’t need to bother with any dial tones or call transfers to access it.
The searchable knowledge base covers everything from domains to design, and also offers forums where you can hear directly from other HostGator users. Of course, HostGator’s live chat and phone support are assets as well. One user named Michael says of his live chat experience:
“They have answered and tried to help me in every way. They even answered questions that were not related to their hosting, or their fault.”
And this was our experience, too. When we tested HostGator’s live chat, we were connected to a real person immediately, and all of our questions were answered within a few minutes of asking. Speed isn’t the only factor that makes this service great, either – all of the answers we received were detailed and helpful.
When it comes to customer support, HostGator performs really well. But when it comes to ease of use, HostGator’s design is a little dated.
At the top of the window are tabs for all the various components you need for website hosting: My Account, Billing, Hosting, Domains, Support, and Marketing. All of this is easily accessible, which is the most important thing. But the layout could do with a modern overhaul. The good news is, only you will see your site administration pages on HostGator – these pages won’t affect how visitors perceive your site!
Another thing to keep in mind when using HostGator is that, like most hosting providers, HostGator will automatically include certain add-ons in your cart at checkout. This means that if you’re purchasing, say, the shared “Hatchling” plan for one year, then nonessential add-ons like SiteLock protection and CodeGuard backups will be added to your cart. This is easily undone – all you have to do is untick those boxes – and HostGator includes these items because they’re great supplements to any hosting plan. But keep an eye out to make sure you don’t unknowingly pay for any extras!
HostGator ranks first overall in our ratings for good reason – indeed, its unbeatable uptime guarantee alone makes it a strong option. On top of that, good customer support and lots of features (even on shared plans) make HostGator an option we would recommend to anyone.
So, you can’t go wrong with HostGator, but it’s not the only way to go right. If you’re particularly concerned about WordPress integration, then Bluehost may be your best bet. If you know you’re ready to skip the shared plans and go straight to VPS, then InMotion is worth looking into. Leave a comment below and let us know what your top priorities are!
Yes. You can upgrade your HostGator plan to any type at any time by filling out a simple upgrade form onsite. The only cost would be the price difference between plans. This easy upgrade system is a great reason to start off on a cheaper shared plan.
You can create any type of website with HostGator, including a blog, a photo gallery, an ecommerce store, and more. HostGator is equipped to store and power whatever you can come up with!
On a cloud hosting plan, website files exist on multiple shared servers rather than just one shared server. The main difference is reliability – if one cloud-hosted server goes down, then the other servers ensure that the website will still be available.
Website Builder Expert aims to provide you with honest data. That’s why we conduct our own research and obtain direct, personal insight. Analyses and graphics in this article are based on authentic sources cross-validated by our in-house experts.
We take great care to ensure the information we publish is reliable and accurate. However, WBE takes no responsibility for any inaccuracy in information supplied to us by users, research participants, or other entities.
Please note the insight contained within this article is for general information purposes only. We’re glad to answer any questions you may have about this article and its supporting research. For further information, please contact Website Builder Expert directly via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.