HostGator review

Today, every business needs a website, whether it’s a fully functioning e-commerce setup or a regular blog to post daily updates. Either way, you need a web hosting service. The HostGator is a top choice, with a quality cloud, reseller, virtual private server (VPS), and dedicated server packages. Still, it’s the company’s shared plans that stand out from the jam-packed web hosting package. This is our HostGator review.

Getting started

It is a good thing that HostGator sends a getting-started email with links to all the resources you need to create a website because the interface takes a bit of getting used to. HostGator has a Billing Login link at the top of the site leading to the customer portal where all payment information, details about your plan, and options to buy add-ons are listed. This page has tabs at the top for account and domain management.

HostGator review

The Hosting tab shows the actual control panel with tools for site building, applications, website statistics, and more. The introductory email also has a direct link for the control panel, but it looks different from what you would get through the Hosting tab, making the experience a little confusing at first.

HostGator has several options for building a website, including HostGator’s website builder. The drag-and-drop functionality allows me to quickly create an attractive page, complete with slideshows, contact forms, social media links, and more in a snap. You can also install WordPress or other CMS platforms like Drupal, b2evolutions, Joomla, Mambo, and Tiki, to name but a few. With a File Manager tool, you can manually upload files to the server to create the website that way. The tool is better than a primary FTP client because you can edit the files directly or use a built-in HTML editor.

HostGator blesses you with a free domain name if you sign up for at least 12 months of cloud, shared, or WordPress hosting-dedicated and VPS hosting are not eligible. This is not an unusual feature in the web hosting space, but it is a nice bonus. However, there are two caveats. The no-cost period lasts one year, and your desired domain must end up in the .com, .org, or .net extensions. If you already own a domain name ending in one of the mentioned extensions, HostGator will move it to a free server.

HostGator Review: Creating a website

After a simple registration, HostGator’s shared hosting packages have a range of tools to help you create and manage a website. For example, there is a WordPress link Install. This takes you to a page where HostGator offers to set up WordPress for a fee (starting from $99 with $49 WordPress theme credit), and if you are not paying attention, it is easy to assume that you have to choose one of these options. They are just some over-enthusiastic upselling, though, and you can install WordPress yourself by just entering a few blog details: title, admin username, email, and so on.

A Softaculous setup allows for quick installation of 400+ other apps, including Drupal, Joomla, Magento, PrestaShop, phpBB, MediaWiki, and more. It’s probably the best of the auto-installers, but for some reason, HostGator also includes a similar (but more basic) One-Click Installs tool.

The shared hosting packages also include a free Weebly Builder plan. This has an excellent drag-and-drop editor, the site can be hosted on your domain, and free SSL is thrown in. The catch? Well, there are two: your site is limited to 500MB in size, and it displays ads.

You can upgrade within a shared hosting plan of $5.99 per month over three years, which drops the ads and space, and includes site search, password protection, HD video, and audio support, and more. But if you’re after drag-and-drop simplicity, check out HostGator’s Gator Website Builder first – prices start at $3.84 a month, and you can get e-commerce support for less than $10 a month on the first term.

If you’re an experienced user who doesn’t need any of these handles, that’s ok; a full-featured cPanel installation gives you all the FTP, SSH, database, file management, and domain functionality you need to get your site up and to run.

HostGator Review: Performance

We started our performance tests by setting up a simple static website on our HostGator plan, after which we use the site Uptime to check availability and response time for one 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. The response time averaged 378 ms, at the lower end of the basic shared hosting market (most providers average between 200-400 ms).

There is better news in HostGator’s worst-case time. In over 2,000 tests, the slowest response was only 556ms, significantly 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 our site’s loading time from 16 locations in the US and Europe. This yielded much better results of about 870ms, putting the site in the upper middle of the shared hosting competition.

This is 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 are looking for a VPS or other more high-end plan, the results can be very different.

HostGator Review: Shared hosting

HostGator’s shared hosting offering delivers from the start. Even the cheapest shared hosting plan, Hatchling, gives you unmeasured disk space; unlimited bandwidth, MySQL databases, email and FTP accounts; a free SSL certificate, easy WordPress and cart installation (osCommerce and ZenCart), and full-featured cPanel-based site management. That’s more than enough power for many personal and business websites, but it’s priced at just $2.75 a month on the three-year plan ($6.95 on renewal).

At the top of the range, the business plan supports hosting unlimited domains and adds professional features like a free dedicated IP and a premium SSL certificate. This has a low headline price of $5.95 per month over three years and renews at a still reasonable $14.95-$16.95 depending on the subscription’s length (1 month to 3 years). All plans are protected by a generous 45-day money-back guarantee, subject to the usual restrictions (for example, if HostGator has already paid to register a domain for you, it will not be refunded).

The only small problem we could see was in the choice of HostGator’s automated installers. Many web hosts offer Softaculous, a smart platform that simplifies the installation of WordPress, Joomla, phpBB, PrestaShop, Drupal, Magento, and hundreds of popular web apps. HostGator is mainly focused on WordPress, with only a handful of others. That will be fine for most users, but you may need to install and setup it yourself if you are looking for something else.

HostGator Review: Application hosting

HostGator offers simple WordPress hosting for a low price, but you get more specialized competition without some of the high-end features.

The Starter Plan supports a single site with an average of 100,000 users per month for $5.95 per month over three years, for example ($9.95.) The Business Plan includes more resources, can handle three sites and 500,000 visitors per month, and is priced at $9.95 per month over three years, $22.95 on renewal. HostGator also offers a free migration service to transfer your existing WordPress site to the new account, while automatic WordPress updates should keep your site securely patched.

Liquid Web’s WordPress plans include a staging environment to test updates without breaking your production site and an ingenious update system that can automatically update WordPress and plugins and issue a warning if there is a problem. Bandwidth is ‘limited’ to 2TB per month, probably enough for most users. It’s a great product, but it’s priced at $19 billed per month or $15.83 on the annual plan, so if you need the basics of WordPress, it’s still the better deal.

HostGator Review: Customer support

Just like HostMonster, HostGator offers both 24/7 telephone support and online web chat – I tested both help methods. I turned on telephone support on a weekday afternoon to ask how to import my WordPress.com blog into my HostGator site. I received detailed instructions via email and was very satisfied.

HostGator review

After typing my question into a form and starting the chat with HostGator’s online webchat, I was shown my estimated waiting time: two minutes. Less than a minute later, a customer service representative appeared and gave me easy-to-understand instructions on how to import the blog.

Final words

HostGator’s high-end VPS and dedicated plans are short. Still, the shared hosting plans offer many possibilities for a fair price. There is top-quality support to make everything run smoothly, and a generous 45-day money-back guarantee ensures there are no risks. A smart choice for shared hosting users who need more. It’s also an overall top choice for web hosting, along with DreamHost, Hostwinds, and the business-friendly LiquidWeb.

9 Total Score
Our Verdict

HostGator is an excellent web hosting service that is easy to use and offers a range of useful plans for consumers and small businesses. It is our top choice for shared web hosting and beginning webmasters in general.

PROS
  • Good value
  • 'Unlimited everything' shared hosting
  • Speedy and helpful live chat support
  • 45-day money-back guarantee
CONS
  • Limited VPS/ dedicated server configuration options
  • Managed WordPress hosting covers basic features only.
  • Average server response times
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