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 4.7/5 stars in our research, which earns it a very close second place just behind Bluehost – so you’ll definitely be in good hands. Read on to weigh HostGator’s positives and negatives, and to decide if it’s 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||#2 out of 12 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 $89.98/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 3.5/5 in our research for value for money, which puts it in the middle of the pack (6th place out of 12, to be exact). HostGator’s introductory price range is similar to competitors like Bluehost and A2 Hosting, which range from $2.95-119.99/month and $1.98-141.09/month, respectively.
Overall, HostGator is ranked second (out of the same 12 providers) because its pricing plans come 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), which is great in principle. But we wanted to know what HostGator’s support is actually like when you need real answers to real questions. So we put it to the test!
We put HostGator’s live chat and knowledge base to the test, and overall HostGator did pretty well – in fact, it exceeded our expectations by 3%. That might not sound too impressive, but it was one of only two hosts that surpassed our expectations. It outperformed both InMotion and A2 Hosting in the same support testing!
Where HostGator wowed us the most was with its extensive Knowledge Base, which 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. When we tried it out ourselves, HostGator’s Knowledge Base exceeded our expectations by 18%!
The searchable knowledge base covers everything from domains to design, and also offers forums where you can hear directly from other HostGator users.
So, how did HostGator’s live chat perform in our testing? Honestly, it didn’t live up to our expectations. HostGator’s live chat support fell below our customer service expectations by 11%. Sadly, support agents’ responsiveness to our questions were slow, and at times we were left confused about the information we were being given, leading one user to say:
“My agent didn’t seem to have a thorough understanding of HostGator’s products. For some questions I never got a straight answer, and at times I was even questioning the information being given to me.”
We would have liked clearer and more confident replies from HostGator’s support agents, but have to give them credit for being polite and not pushy, like some other live chats we’ve tried.
Overall, though, HostGator’s live chat really lets it down. If you need support from HostGator, we highly recommend trying out its Knowledge Base first, before turning to its live chat.
HostGator’s impressive Knowledge Base managed to just about undo the damage caused by its live chat, and overall HostGator’s support ended up exceeding our expectations by 3%.
We’ve dug deep into HostGator’s support, but what about its ease of use? Well, 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 second 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.
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