Hostgator: web hosting review
Based in the US, HostGator offers a range of solutions including shared hosting, VPS hosting, dedicated hosting, cloud hosting or even reseller hosting. While the dedicated hosting plans give the choice of Windows and Linux as the underlying operating systems, all shared hosting and VPS plans are Linux based. HostGator defaults to CentOS 7 for all it’s Linux installations, but you can request CentOS 6 if that’s more your speed.
The shared hosting plans start at $2.95 /Month for a three year subscription and might seem tempting because of the unmetered disk space and bandwidth. Keep in mind however that the hosting provider will ask you to scale down usage of the resources if your needs exceed 25% of the total available resources. Even so, HostGator claims its shared hosting plans should suffice for small and medium business websites.
Unlike many other hosting providers that allow backups out of the box, with HostGator you must separately purchase the CodeGuardBasic service for $2 /Month. The service provides daily automatic backups, 1GB storage space, and three restorations per month, and you can also restore the entire site, or any file, to a previous state with a single click.
Pricing and payment methods
HostGator offers a wide range of hosting solutions, and irrespective of your budget or needs, there’s bound to be one that best suits you. These include shared hosting, VPS, cloud and dedicated hosting, apart from reseller hosting.
HostGator’s shared hosting plans start with the Hatchling plan, which is priced at $2.75 /Month for a three year subscription. As with most hosting providers, the initial purchase price is quite enticing, but the renewal costs are high. You’ll have to shell out $6.95 /Month for renewals. While most hosting providers take great pains to explain how their different plans differ from one another, HostGator’s Baby and Hatchling plans boast of the same features, and yet the former plan costs $3.50 /Month.
All shared hosting plans include some of the most used features, including a free email account. This is quite surprising as most hosting providers insist that you shell out extra for a professional email address that matches your chosen domain name. By its own admission, HostGator claims that its shared hosting plans should suffice for most small and medium businesses, but the premium plan does include useful benefits such as dedicated IP.
HostGator also widely promotes its WordPress hosting plans. You can choose from between three plans, with the cheapest Start plan priced at $5.95 per month for a three year subscription, with each renewal at $9.95 /Month. The Start plan allows you to deploy a single website, and limits the number of monthly visitors to 100k. Also included is a free domain name, professional support, SSL certificate, etc. The other plans scale up the number of websites you can deploy on the shared hosting space, as well as the number of monthly visitors.
It’s also possible to easily deploy additional applications and HostGator supports single-click installation of dozens of different applications across different genres such as e-commerce, podcast, wiki, music, gaming, file management, etc.
Users looking for more resources on their server must opt for either VPS or dedicated hosting. HostGator offers three VPS plans, starting at $19.95 /Month (renews at $79.95 /Month). It’s also not possible to customize the plans to your needs, so you must opt for the next closest plan. For instance, you must opt for the plan that offers 8GB RAM, even if all you really need is 6GB.
For large businesses, HostGator also offers three managed dedicated hosting plans, ranging from $89.90 /Month to $119.89 /Month.
You can also opt for add-on services such as CodeGuard for daily backups, web design service to design a professional website, pay per click service to manage Google Ads, and even SEO service, to improve your search engine rankings.
The money back guarantee only applies to the hosting plans and not to other services like domain registration, domain transfer or add-on services. According to their refund policy, no refund will be given if payment was made by wire transfer, western union money transfer, check or money order. In addition to this, a refund request has to be given in writing, and refunds can take up to 90 days to process.
As with many other hosting providers, HostGator supports payment from almost all major credit and debit cards, PayPal, Money order to their Houston address, bank wire transfer, and some regional payment methods accepted via PayPal and certain electronic gift cards. Payments in Bitcoins and other crypto currencies are not accepted.
HostGator’s Baby plan includes a free domain for a year, unmetered disk space, free site migration, free email account, SSH access, and 1-click installation of dozens of applications using Softaculous package manager and more.
All hosting plans include a 45-day money back guarantee, and you can also utilize $150 credit for GoogleAds.
The Baby plan and the Hatchling plan are essentially the same in terms of the features it offers. The only difference being that the Hatchling plan allows you to manage a single website whereas the Baby plan lets you deploy multiple websites. If you don’t want your website to be flagged as unsecure, you must deploy a SSL certificate, which is offered for free with the Business plan, along with a dedicated IP address.
When you login to your account, the HostGator Dashboard provides quick access to frequently used features such as cPanel, set-up email accounts, install WordPress, and more. The panel on the left features additional categories such as Hosting, Marketplace, Email & Office, Domains, Billing, etc.
Investing in this Texas-based hosting provider enables you to buy add-on services such as backups, malware protection, Office 365, SEO tools, and more from the Marketplace.
The Dashboard also makes it easy to migrate your existing website to HostGator, but if you’re starting fresh, you can use the website builder to easily create a new website. Head over to the Hosting section, click Manage under your domain name, and scroll down the page to Website Builder, and click the Manage button. You’ll then be presented with the many design templates based on the motif of the website. You can restrict the templates based on the type of website, for instance the website for a restaurant will have a different structure and layout than a e-commerce store.
One key advantage of utilizing an industry standard control panel such as cPanel is that it makes it easy to access different components and configure disparate elements of your website, such as setting up email accounts.
The website builder is useful, but restricts you to only six pages. If you wish to deploy a more complex website, you must either create it yourself, or purchase a website builder plan. HostGator offers the choice of Professional Website Builder plan, priced at $6.99 per month, while the Business Website Builder plan will cost you $15.99. If you wish to deploy an e-commerce store, you must opt for the latter plan.
If you’re looking to deploy a WordPress website, it makes little sense to opt for HostGator’s website builder plans as WordPress is rather adept at helping you deploy professional looking websites with ease. More importantly, if you are well versed with the intricacies of deploying a website, you can comfortably opt for the shared hosting plans.
However, if you do need some hand-holding and would rather work with a website builder, it makes more sense to pick one of HostGator’s website builder plans as opposed to choosing a shared hosting plan, and separately purchasing a website builder.
We began our performance testing by setting up a simple static website on our HostGator plan, then using the site Uptime to check its availability and response time for a week.
Our site was never down during the monitoring period. That’s what we would expect after only a week of testing, but it was still good to see.
Response times averaged 378ms, at the slower end of the basic shared hosting market (most providers average between 200-400ms.)
There’s better news in HostGator’s ‘worst case’ time. In more than 2,000 tests, the slowest response logged was only 556ms, considerably better 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 check the load time of our site from 16 locations around the US and Europe. This delivered much better results of around 870ms, putting it in the upper mid-range of the shared hosting competition.
That’s good news for HostGator, but keep in mind that these comparisons are based on the low-end shared hosting products for each provider. If you’re looking to buy a VPS or other more high-end plan, the results may be very different.
HostGator’s high-end VPS and dedicated plans are short on configurability, but its shared hosting plans offer loads of features for a very fair price, there’s top-quality support to ensure everything runs smoothly, and a generous 45-day money-back guarantee ensures there’s no risk. A smart choice for shared hosting users who need more.