HostGator, based in the United States, provides shared hosting, VPS hosting, dedicated hosting, cloud hosting, and even reseller hosting. While dedicated hosting plans offer the option of using either Windows or Linux as the underlying operating system, all shared hosting and VPS plans are based on Linux. For all Linux installations, HostGator uses CentOS 7, but you can request CentOS 6 if that’s more your speed.
Because of the unlimited disk space and bandwidth, the shared hosting plans start at $2.95 per month for a three-year subscription. Keep in mind that if your needs exceed 25% of the total available resources, the hosting provider will ask you to reduce your resource usage. Nonetheless, HostGator claims that its shared hosting plans are adequate for small and medium-sized businesses.
Unlike many other hosting providers, HostGator requires you to purchase the CodeGuardBasic service separately for $2 per month, unlike many others. You can restore the entire site, or any file, to a previous state with a single click, and the service includes daily automatic backups, 1GB of storage space, and three restorations per month.
HostGator’s shared hosting plans start with a bang. Hatchling, the cheapest shared hosting plan, includes unlimited disk space, bandwidth, MySQL databases, email, and FTP accounts, as well as a free SSL certificate, easy WordPress and shopping cart installation (osCommerce and ZenCart), and full-featured cPanel-based site management. That’s more than enough power for many personal and business websites, and the three-year plan costs only $2.75 per month ($6.95 per renewal).
The Business plan, which is at the top of the line, allows you to host an unlimited number of domains and includes professional features like a free dedicated IP and a premium SSL certificate. This has a very low headline price of $5.95 per month for three years, and it renews for $14.95-$16.95, depending on subscription length (1 month to three years.)
All plans come with a generous 45-day money-back guarantee, subject to the usual caveats (for example, if HostGator has already paid to register a domain for you, this will not be refunded).
The only minor flaw we found was HostGator’s selection of automated installers. Softaculous, a smart platform that simplifies the process of installing WordPress, Joomla, phpBB, PrestaShop, Drupal, Magento, and hundreds of other popular web apps, is available from many web hosts. With only a few exceptions, HostGator is primarily focused on WordPress. Most users will be satisfied with this, but if you require something different, you may have to install and configure it yourself.
HostGator provides basic WordPress hosting at a low cost, but it lacks some of the more advanced features found in the more specialized competition.
For $5.95 per month over three years ($9.95), the Starter plan supports a single site with an average of 100,000 monthly users. The Business plan has more resources, can handle three sites and 500,000 monthly visitors, and costs $9.95 per month for three years, then $22.95 per year after that. HostGator also provides a free migration service to move your existing WordPress site to the new account, and automatic WordPress updates should keep your site patched and secure.
The WordPress plans from Liquid Web include a staging environment for testing updates without breaking your live site, as well as a sophisticated updating system that can update WordPress and plugins automatically and notify you if there’s a problem. The bandwidth is ‘limited’ to 2TB per month, which should be sufficient for most users. It’s a great product, but at $19 billed monthly or $15.83 billed annually, it’s still the better deal if you only need the WordPress basics.
Creating a website
HostGator’s shared hosting packages come with a variety of tools to help you create and manage a website after a simple signup.
For example, there’s a link to install WordPress. This takes you to a page where HostGator offers to set up WordPress for a fee (starting at $99 with a $49 WordPress theme credit), and it’s easy to assume you have to choose one of these options if you’re not paying attention. They’re just some overzealous upselling, and you can install WordPress yourself by simply entering a few blog details such as the title, admin username, and email address.
A Softaculous installation allows you to quickly install 400+ other apps, including Drupal, Joomla, Magento, PrestaShop, phpBB, MediaWiki, and more. Although it’s probably the best of the auto-installers, HostGator includes a similar (but less powerful) One Click Installs tool of its own.
A free Weebly Builder plan is included in the shared hosting packages. This site has a great drag-and-drop editor, can be hosted on your own domain, and comes with free SSL. What’s the catch? There are two: your site is limited to 500MB in size and contains advertisements.
Within a shared hosting plan, you can upgrade for $5.99 per month for three years, which removes the ads and space limits and adds features like site search, password protection, HD video and audio support, and more. If you want drag-and-drop ease, start with HostGator’s Gator Website Builder, which starts at $3.84 per month and includes e-commerce support for under $10 per month on the first term.
If you’re a seasoned webmaster who doesn’t require any assistance, that’s fine; a full-featured cPanel installation includes all of the FTP, SSH, database, file management, and domain management tools you’ll need to get your site up and running.
The customer portal at HostGator is an online dashboard where you can manage your account and have complete control over your web space.
There’s a lot of text here, and there are a lot of links, but many of them are for optional extras. For example, ‘CodeGuard Backup’ sounds interesting, but unless you bought it during signup, you’ll just get an upselling attempt to persuade you to buy it now.
Despite these drawbacks, the dashboard earns points for its numerous useful features. A ‘Control Panel’ section contains links to common site management modules such as Email Accounts, Webmail, Databases, and File Manager, allowing you to upload files, create email accounts, and do whatever else you need to do.
Are you unsure how to complete a task? Start typing in the search box, and the site will show you relevant articles right away. There’s a lot of content here that’s well-organized, and we were able to find what we needed in just a few clicks.
If you’re not so lucky, live chat and phone support are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (toll free in the US.)
HostGator’s support has always been excellent, and this time was no exception. When we tried live chat, a helpful agent responded in under two minutes, immediately understood our question, and provided us with sound and accurate advice: exactly what we needed.
We started our performance testing by creating a simple static website on our HostGator plan and monitoring its availability and response time for a week using the site Uptime tool.
During the monitoring period, our website was never down. After only a week of testing, that was to be expected, but it was still encouraging to see.
The average response time was 378ms, which is on the slower end of the basic shared hosting market (most providers average between 200-400ms.)
In HostGator’s ‘worst case’ scenario, there’s some good news. The slowest response logged in over 2,000 tests was only 556ms, which is significantly faster than many hosts (the current average for our last 30 reviews is 891ms.)
As a final check, we used Dotcom-Tools’ Website Speed Test to measure the time it took for our site to load in 16 different locations across the United States and Europe. This gave much better results, around 870ms, putting it in the upper mid-range of shared hosting competitors.
That’s great news for HostGator, but keep in mind that these comparisons are based on each provider’s entry-level shared hosting plans. If you’re looking to purchase a VPS or another high-end plan, the results may differ significantly.
It’s difficult to choose between all of the hosting options, but we’ve narrowed down five of HostGator’s competitors based on their features and pricing.
Hostinger, too, offers shared hosting, VPS, and other services, but not dedicated hosting. Although HostGator is slightly more expensive than Hostinger, each plan includes more features, including a website builder.
Liquid Web is a web hosting company based in the United States that provides premium managed web hosting services that exceed many industry standards in terms of speed, security, sophistication, and support. LiquidWeb, which specializes in fully managed VPS and dedicated hosting solutions, is well suited for medium businesses, but its pricing will put most new and small businesses out of pocket.
GoDaddy, like HostGator, offers a wide range of hosting options. Its extensive library of articles and blog posts, combined with excellent customer service, make it a popular choice for both newcomers and established businesses. The starter plans are underpowered, and the server response times are slow, which can become a problem as your site’s traffic grows.
Bluehost also offers WordPress and WooCommerce hosting plans in addition to shared, VPS, and dedicated hosting. The CodeGuard add-on plans are more expensive than HostGator’s, but they make up for it by providing a free CDN service, which most hosting providers charge a premium for.
The final word
HostGator’s high-end VPS and dedicated plans lack configurability, but its shared hosting plans pack a punch for a low price, with top-notch support to ensure everything runs smoothly and a generous 45-day money-back guarantee to ensure there’s no risk. For those who require more from their shared hosting, this is an excellent option.
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