If you’ve been considering HostGator for your web hosting, good choice! In this review we’ll walk you through the need-to-knows so you can decide if it’s the right host for you.
On the surface, web hosting companies all seem the same. They all offer shared server access at low prices, they all offer strong WordPress support, and they all promise high levels of uptime.
Yet when you dive a little deeper you start to see important distinctions, such as what the customer interface is like, perks like free domains, and marketing support for your site.
HostGator is one of the strongest — if not the strongest — all-round providers out there. It clocks in with 96% on our comparative research. We break down why in full below, but for those of you in a hurry here’s HostGator in a nutshell.
- Excellent uptime guarantee of 99.99%
- Tons of features for shared hosts including email marketing
- Best all-rounder in our hosting ranking
- Administration interfaces could do with modernization
- No free domain offering
You would think two web hosting companies owned by the same parent company would offer identical or nearly identical services. Well, if you thought that you’d be wrong. HostGator and Bluehost are both owned by Endurance Group.
While the two services do have their similarities, they are not carbon copies of each other. In many ways, HostGator is a better choice than Bluehost.
Top Web Hosting Providers – our comparative review of HostGator, Bluehost, and GoDaddy Hosting
HostGator came onto the hosting scene in October 2002, founded by a student at Florida Atlantic University. Hence the “gator” in HostGator.
While the company started out in the Sunshine State, it’s now based in Houston and Austin, Texas, the Lone Star State, with other satellite offices throughout the world. Endurance Group acquired HostGator in 2012.
HostGator, like Bluehost, is one of the top choices for both beginners and website-owning veterans. It hosts more than 8 million domains after all. HostGator offers excellent pricing, fantastic uptime, and a wide variety of hosting packages.
The downside is HostGator’s interface for the customer panel and cPanel is dated. For the most part you don’t need to dive deeply into the customer panel side, and if you use WordPress the same goes for cPanel. Still, we could see how new users would get frustrated with such a densely packed interface their first time out.
Before diving into any of the details about a web host, such as its unique features or special offers, it’s important to know how reliable a service is. HostGator is extremely reliable with a promised 99.99 percent uptime. In other words, if you land on a HostGator site, on average, it’s available nearly all the time.
A 99.99 percent uptime works out to less than an hour of downtime per year. That’s fantastic and exactly what you want — especially if you’re planning to roll out a commercial website with a store front. Time is money, afterall.
HostGator doesn’t offer a free domain like other services do, but it does have other advantages that make up for it.
Firstly, it offers unlimited email accounts, sub-domains, and FTP accounts (which allow you to transfer files from a computer to a network). It also offers unlimited storage and bandwidth. Unlimited bandwidth is quite common, but unlimited storage usually isn’t included in basic shared hosting plans.
HostGator offers its own drag-and-drop website builder for those who want to create their own site. There are quite a large number of templates to choose from in more than 20 categories, such as photography, restaurants, and portfolios.
That said, we’re not sure beginners will find these templates that easy to get around. While everything is customizable, it’s not that easy to use.
If you’d rather create a blog, HostGator offers WordPress hosting and one-click installs. It also offers support for the Joomla and Drupal content management systems, as well as Magento, a free ecommerce platform.
WordPress review – our full breakdown of WordPress.org and how to get the most out of it.
It offers many of the same add-ons that other website hosts provide, such as cloud backup from CodeGuard and added site security from SiteLock.
One original feature on the basic plan is that HostGator offers free email marketing tools to help anyone who wants to build their audience with newsletters. It also has tracking to help you see how well your campaign is doing.
Getting up and running with a HostGator account is simple. The company lays out its shared web hosting plans right-up front with three tiers:
- Hatchling, a beginner plan that is great value for money
- Baby, a solid option if you want help and tools to grow your site’s traffic
- Business, a good choice for small businesses that offers free SSL, a free dedicated IP address, and free VoIP phone service
After selecting the plan you want, you can register a domain on the next page or input a domain you already own. Then decide how long you want to commit to HostGator. To get its lowest possible price, HostGator requires a three-year commitment. If that’s too much, then opt for a single month plan at a higher price.
Be sure to scroll down and pay special attention to the additional services section at checkout. HostGator doesn’t offer as many options as Bluehost, but by default HostGator selects SiteLock protection and CodeGuard backups. You don’t have to take either option, just make sure you uncheck the ones you don’t want.
When you use HostGator — or really any site hosting service — you end up working within two different interfaces: the site administration side (your HostGator customer account) and the site interface itself.
For site administration, HostGator’s customer portal is fairly dated and could do with a modern overhaul.
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 these tabs are fairly self-explanatory, and the interface within each one is easy to understand. Yet we can’t help thinking of Bluehost’s clean and incredibly simplified customer portal, which makes HostGator’s feels crowded and cluttered by comparison.
HostGator uses the cPanel interface as its starting point for site administration, and overall it’s much cleaner than the customer portal. It is absolutely chock full of features and add-ons. This much information could be a little overwhelming for absolute beginners who may be more comfortable with a simpler interface.
HostGator offers a ton of support features for every level of user. If you have the time and the will, you are far better off digging through HostGator’s Knowledge Center to find a solution than going straight to live chat or the phone.
It seems counterintuitive, but the Knowledge Center route can often be faster than sitting on the phone and trying to communicate your issue to someone else. Plus, when you’re all done you’ll have far more knowledge about how your site works than you would if you used phone or chat support.
When diving into the knowledge base isn’t practical, HostGator can help you with issues via live chat, 24/7 phone support, email, and social media. On top of all that there are also video tutorials covering numerous topics.
All of this information is available at HostGator’s support site, which is relatively well organized. There are links at the top for phone, chat, and email support, with common knowledge base and video tutorial categories below. Again, the support site is in bad need of modernization, but it’s still navigable, if a little densely packed with information.
Let’s start small. With HostGator, you can spend almost nothing to get your site up and running. HostGator’s cheapest deal is shared hosting starting at $2.75 per month. That special pricing requires a three-year commitment, however, which may not be possible for some users.
Cloud hosting, which is a more robust form of shared hosting plan, starts at $5 per month, again on a three-year commitment. This offering is a great option for a site experiencing spikes in traffic that the basic shared hosting plan can’t handle.
Like Bluehost, HostGator has a dedicated WordPress hosting plan that starts at $6 per month. This plan offers faster load times than regular shared hosting based on how many site visitors you get per month. WordPress hosting also offers free backups from 1GB to 3GB depending on your plan.
Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting starts at $20 per month based on a three-year commitment. The basic virtual server offers a dual-core CPU, 2 GB of RAM, 120 GB of disk space, and 1.5 TB of bandwidth. Too techy for you? That means you probably don’t need to consider this type of plan.
Finally, there are dedicated servers, where you get the hardware all to yourself, starting at $119 per month. This is really only an option that medium and large businesses and those with huge traffic should consider.
As we’ve said several times already, HostGator’s pricing is very good for what you get, and it’s slightly cheaper than Bluehost. The guaranteed uptime means you shouldn’t run into many issues where your site goes down for hours on end, and there are tons of options for support when you need help.
HostGator is an all-rounder. It’s scored 97% in our research for a reason — it delivers on everything that matters. Whether you’re starting out or looking to host another 100 sites, HostGator has an affordable option for every situation.
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