HostGator Review

HostGator is a hosting service that barely needs an introduction. It’s one of the most popular hosting providers on the planet, and hosts more sites than many of the smaller shared hosting services combined.

It was founded in 2002, and has been steadily growing ever since. However, is its growth backed by a top-notch service? Or rather just a huge marketing budget?

Well, you don’t have to make any guesses, as we will find out for sure in this extremely thorough and in-depth HostGator review. But before that, let us understand the different types of hosting that you can buy and what exactly they bring to the table.

If you already know what type of hosting you need and are here just for our HostGator review, you can just skip this section and find the review below it.

A Look at the Different Types of Hosting

If you’re hosting your website for the first time, it’s only natural for you to want to know which type of hosting you should be going with. After all, there are many different types of hosting services out there, and they vary quite a bit from one another with respect to both the price and other important factors.

Hence, before we review HostGator as a hosting service in great detail, it makes sense to try and figure out which type of hosting is going to be ideal for your website.

Shared Hosting

Shared hosting is undisputedly the most popular type of hosting ever introduced to webmasters. A vast majority of sites use a shared hosting service, and there are way more hosts offering shared hosting services than any other type of hosting.

You must be wondering whether there’s a reason for shared hosting being wildly popular. And guess what? There’s more than one.

First and the most obvious one, however, is the price. Shared hosting services are the cheapest, and you can get a decent hosting plan for as low as about $3 to $4 per month. And of course, the sites that have just went online can’t afford to spend a lot more, so they stick to a type of hosting that they can get for the cheapest price.

However, if the incredible affordability of shared hosting wasn’t backed by a surprisingly good quality of hosting, it probably still wouldn’t be as popular. If you do your research before deciding on a shared hosting service, you’re likely to enjoy a great balance of affordability and performance, which turns out to be more than enough for most new sites out there.

Now that you have got a general idea about shared hosting, let’s get a bit technical. As the name suggests, shared hosting refers to a lot of sites – which often range from hundreds to even thousands of sites – being hosted on the same server.

All the sites share resources from the same server, and they are kind of tied to one another due to that. You wouldn’t find this to be a problem in any way, though, unless one of the sites hosted on the same server as yours is hit by a hacking attack or other similar issue.

This is because it may very well lead to all the other sites on the sever going down, and staying offline until the hosting provider manages to come up with a fix.

With some of the reputed and reliable hosts like HostGator, you can expect your site to recover and go back online fairly quickly, but many other cheaper, not-so-reliable hosts may take days to be able to get things back on track.

Another major issue with shared hosting is that, many times, there are sites that consume a lot more of the server’s resources than most others. The reason this is a problem is that it leads to a slower loading speed for all the sites hosted on the server, including the ones that aren’t consuming a lot of resources.

In other words, you can sometimes end up being on the receiving end of performance issues due to one of the sites on your server going popular out of nowhere.

However, just like with the issue we discussed above, most of the reliable shared hosts are going to be much better equipped to deal with situations like this these than other smaller and cheaper hosts. If a site is using a lot more of the server’s bandwidth than it should, and making the other sites suffer due to it, then a good host will likely prevent the site from using more server resources than it’s supposed to, and the site will automatically go offline when it hits the limit set by the host.

Well, we think that’s pretty much about it. As you can tell if you have read through everything that you see here, a shared hosting service can actually be a pretty good option for most sites if the site owner manages to find a shared hosting service that really cares about its customers.

A shared hosting plan would turn out to be a great option for:

  • Most new sites out there that are sure to not receive a huge amount of traffic right off the bat
  • New and even established blogs
  • Business sites that usually only receive a few thousand hits every month
  • Even ecommerce sites that are tight on budget and aren’t getting tens of thousands of visitors yet

VPS Hosting

When a site owner doesn’t want to go with a shared hosting service, but also doesn’t want to spend a hefty amount in hosting costs every month, the first option that comes to their mind is VPS hosting. Or at least it used to, before cloud hosting became a reality; we will get to this in a bit.

VPS hosting, also known as Virtual Private Server hosting, is a fairly popular type of hosting, too. Although its popularity seems to be going downhill lately due to the emergence of cloud hosting. But we think there are still many interested in VPS hosting, so it deserves a detailed explanation all the same.

VPS hosting is actually not much different than shared hosting, but there are a couple of major differences that make it a much better option. First, although you share the same server with other sites even when going with VPS hosting too, you have your own dedicated place on the server that can’t be accessed by other sites on the server.

So although you’re on the same server just as with shared hosting, you don’t have to worry about your site getting affected due to something disastrous happening to another site on the server. There’s a slight chance your site may be affected, but it’s very rare, especially when compared to being on a shared hosting server.

The second biggest difference is that with VPS hosting, you share the server resources with far less sites than with shared hosting. As against hundreds or thousands of sites that are typically hosted on a shared server, a VPS hosting server usually only allows up to 30 or less sites.

Also, even with the 10-30 sites hosted on the server, there’s no uneven distribution of resources as with a shared hosting server. The server’s resources are literally split into as many parts as the hosting provider intends to sell, with each part getting to use a fixed amount of resources.

This means that no matter how large the amount of traffic the other sites on your server are getting, your site wouldn’t experience any performance issues or have a higher loading time.

A VPS hosting also allows you to configure a lot of stuff, which is obviously not an option at all with shared hosting. This is because all sites on a shared hosting server share the same hosting environment, meaning that if you try to configure things your way it will change the environment for ALL the sites hosted on the server.

However, as this is not the case with VPS hosting and all sites on the server have their own private and dedicated place on the server, they can use it the way they want by configuring it based on their requirements. This makes it a great option for developers.

On the downside, however, you often need to have more technical knowledge to set up and manage VPS hosting than shared hosting. Also, most people would probably have a much better and more affordable hosting option in cloud hosting than VPS hosting. It wouldn’t be as flexible, but if you can live with that, then a VPS hosting may not make a lot of sense unless you have some specific needs.

With that said, VPS hosting is often the preferred choice for:

  • Sites that used to be on a shared hosting server but have grown large enough to not be allowed on one anymore
  • Sites that are getting a large amount of traffic that a shared hosting service can’t handle
  • People working on specific projects that demand a lot of server customization and access to configuration options
  • Site owners that don’t want their site to be affected due to something going wrong with the other sites on their server

Dedicated Hosting

Dedicated hosting is something where you’re not sharing a server with anyone else. You get a server to call your own, and would decide how to use it as well as everything else about it.

This is obviously a huge upgrade over VPS hosting, where you would still have to share the server with others and could have bad neighborhood problems. However, with a dedicated server, there’s going to be no performance issues as there will be no other site affecting the performance of your site.

Another significant advantage of dedicated hosting is that you get a lot of power for your site, with your site being the sole user of all of the server’s resources. This means that your site would work just as fine and load up fairly quickly even when you’re getting a huge amount of traffic.

This is the reason most of the biggest sites out there use a dedicated hosting service, as there are probably not many better ways of handling the kind of traffic they get.

Similarly, as you’re the only person using the server you have rented, you can customize and configure it the way you want. While a VPS does allow a great level of configuration as well, the amount of control you have with it is nowhere near to what you get with a dedicated server.

With a dedicated hosting plan, you have the freedom to choose the operating system you need, the type and amount of memory, as well as other important factors that affect how the server works. This can come in really handy when you’re working on some specific software that requires to be run in specific server conditions for testing purposes and to improve its user experience.

That said, dedicated hosting isn’t a perfect hosting solution by any means, especially for users not very familiar with technical stuff. Anyone buying a dedicated hosting plan would be required to deal with many technical things, which may include installing the OS, tools needed for your project, taking care of the security of the server, preventing issues like malware infection and many more.

It may not really seem like a downside to some of you, but it can be a nightmare for those that have never managed such technical things or have any experience with server technology.

A site using dedicated hosting may also have to face a significantly longer downtime if the server goes down or, worse, there’s a hardware failure. While a cloud hosting plan can effectively deal with such an issue by simply employing other memory modules, VPS and dedicated hosting plans cannot be as flexible.

However, even a VPS hosting plan may allow the use of another memory module in such a case, preventing major downtime issues. And if it cannot, then it may at least replace the current module fairly quickly.

But with a dedicated server, you may find yourself waiting a lot longer for your site to be up and running again. The wait may be even longer if you’re the one responsible for everything related to the server’s maintenance.

So taking these factors into consideration, a dedicated hosting plan may only be a good option for:

  • Large sites getting a massive amount of traffic – something that no other type of hosting may be able to handle effectively
  • Large online stores that have a growing userbase and need to store a lot of user data securely
  • Any developers or users that want to do a lot of testing for their software or tools and need a lot of flexibility and control over the server and its resources

WordPress Hosting

WordPress hosting isn’t technically another type of hosting like the others we discussed above are, but it’s more of a hosting service packed with additional features specifically designed for WordPress sites. It’s basically a hosting option for people relying heavily on WordPress for their sites, but don’t want to spend hours every week to manage the technical aspects of using the CMS or dealing with things that are essential to keeping their site running in an efficient manner.

To get a bit more specific, a WordPress hosting service takes care of things like ensuring a faster loading speed, higher level of security, installing updates in a timely manner, taking regular backups and more. In fact, if you go with one of the better WordPress hosting service providers like Host Gator, they will help improve your WordPress site’s speed quite a bit.

For instance, Host Gator promises to help load your WordPress site as much as 2.5 times faster. Similarly, Gator Host’s WordPress hosting plans come with advanced security features for your WordPress site.

While it might not sound like a big deal, they may actually turn out to be much more important than you may think, especially with hacking and other types of attacks on WordPress sites being on a rise.

A good WordPress hosting service would also make it a lot easier to manage your site’s content efficiently. There would be an easy-to-use control panel where you would find everything you may ever need, ensuring a great level of user-friendliness.

There would also be automatic backups so you don’t even need to remind yourself to do it every day, which can be a time-consuming task in itself. However, an even better thing is that in the rare case something gets messed up with your site, you would be able to restore these backups with just a click, which explains the ease of use a WordPress hosting plan offers for WordPress sites.

Talking about ease of use, you would also be able to handle traffic spikes to your site much easier, as scaling up the plan, too, would require nothing more than a click of a button. Finally, being able to easily manage your email accounts is another useful feature of a WordPress hosting service, and adds even more to the already incredibly high level of ease of use it offers.

A WordPress hosting service may turn out to be your best bet if:

  • You have a WordPress site but you don’t want to deal with any technical stuff
  • You have a steadily growing WordPress site that’s experiencing a slower loading time with the growing traffic with your current shared hosting plan
  • You own a WordPress site and don’t want to risk its security in any way
  • You would like to have a very easy way of managing your WordPress-based site

Cloud Hosting

If you’re even remotely familiar with the web hosting industry, you know cloud hosting is all the rage in the industry today. Its popularity has been soaring right from when it was introduced to the world.

But that’s for a reason. Cloud hosting has managed to offer pretty much the best hosting experience you can get for your site, at a fairly affordable price. What’s more, it also easily manages to get around some of the typical, most worrying issues associated with some of the traditional types of hosting like VPS and dedicated server hosting, and even shared hosting.

As against the traditional types of hosting, cloud hosting doesn’t involve a single server, but rather a network of servers. Now, what this does is allows your site to use as much or as little resources it wants, based on its changing needs.

For instance, if there’s a sales season and you have done some large-scale promotions, you will have an unusually large amount of traffic coming in from various sources. Now, in such a situation, a shared hosting service may disappoint you; your site’s loading time may go up or it may even go offline if your traffic is flooding their server and other sites are getting affected due to it.

However, with a cloud hosting plan, there aren’t going to be any such issues. Even if you have had a large traffic spike out of nowhere, the cloud computing technology will help the host offer the same quality of performance without anything changing at all.

This is because in this case, it may allow your site to access more resources from another server in the network. This will not only help your site work exactly the way it did before the traffic spike, but also prevent other sites on the same server as your site from experiencing any issues due to it.

Likewise, your site too wouldn’t experience any increase in its loading time or other performance issues if another site on your server starts getting a lot of traffic all of a sudden. This is simply because of the power supplied to the network by the multiple servers it consists of.

To make it a little easier to understand, when another site on your server starts utilizing a lot more resources of the server – which would typically cause other sites on the server to slow down and have performance issues – a cloud hosting network prevents it from happening by simply pumping in more resources to the network from another one of the servers in the network.

This way, no matter how large the amount of traffic your or others’ site gets, the server will never go down or start performing poorly as the other servers in the network will quickly come to its aid and make up for the increased demand of server resources.

Cloud hosting is also the best hosting option to protect your website against hacking and DDoS attacks, which are notoriously popular for their ability to not only bring down sites and the server they are hosted on, but also harm the them in other ways that can make it difficult to recover.

It can be extremely difficult for a site to get back up and stabilize itself after being hit by a DDoS attack, especially if the owner isn’t very technically advanced and the hosting provider is not very helpful. However, you may not have to worry about such attacks at all if you go with a cloud hosting service, as they are the least prone to such attacks and can easily withstand the unusually high amount of server requests a DDoS attack sends to the server, thanks to the availability of multiple servers in the network.

A hacker may have to employ a huge amount of resources to bring down a cloud hosting network, which most of the hackers don’t have access to. Apart from this, there are also many other security features that a cloud hosting plan usually comes with, making it the most secure hosting option available today.

A cloud hosting plan is also easily scalable. If your site has been experiencing an increased need for server resources, you can simply upgrade the plan and your site would instantly be allowed to access a lot more resources.

Perhaps the only downside of a cloud hosting service is that it’s not configurable at all, for obvious reasons. Although it boasts a large network of servers, all the sites across the servers share the same hosting environment just like a shared hosting server.

This means that if anyone is allowed to make changes to the server configuration and other such technical aspects of the server, it would end up interfering with the server experience of all the sites hosted across all the servers in the network.

In other words, a cloud hosting plan does not offer the kind of flexibility or control you get with a dedicated hosting plan or even a VPS hosting plan. However, this shouldn’t be a concern for anyone that simply wants the best hosting experience for their site and isn’t working on any complex projects involving software and tools that call for the need to do a lot of customization to the server environment.

Finally, cloud hosting service may turn out to be right up your alley if:

  • You have a site getting a lot of hits but you don’t want to spend a staggering amount of money on hosting as you would have to when going for a dedicated or even VPS hosting
  • You’re working on a site that you would like to have as little downtime as possible
  • You want top-notch security for your site
  • You don’t want to deal with the hassles that may come with a shared hosting service

HostGator – One of the Most Popular and Reputed Shared Hosting Providers

Now that we have walked you through the most common types of hosting out there, you now must have a very clear view of what your website’s hosting needs exactly are. And regardless of which type of hosting you have decided to go with, HostGator would inarguably turn out to be one of the best options.

It has been around since well over a decade now, and enjoys a kind of reputation in the industry that’s second to none. This reputation is well-earned though, as HostGator has consistently managed to be one of the most affordable, yet one of the most reliable hosting services in the industry.

However, while there are many decent options when it comes to the other types of hosting, something where things usually get tricky is shared hosting. But given that shared hosting is what serves most of the sites on the web, it’s the most important and popular type of hosting.

And this is why we will be only reviewing the shared hosting service offered by Host Gator. While it’s other hosting services are definitely a great choice, you may want to know a lot more about its shared hosting service to make an informed hosting decision.

So without further ado, let’s get down to discussing some of the most important aspects of HostGator’s shared hosing service.

Uptime

Simply put, uptime is the most important factor that can make or break it when it comes to the “online” experience of your business. While there’s a plethora of shared hosting services on the market, there are hardly a few that manage to offer a decent uptime. Most of them offer a very low uptime, which means that you should be avoiding them like the plague.

This is because uptime means the percent of time your site stays online. Of course, it doesn’t make sense to want the uptime to be anything less than 100%.

However, due to some factors and limitations of a shared hosting service, it’s often slightly lower than 100%. But if it’s just a bit lower than 100%, it may not lead to any issues that would turn out to be a cause of worry.

Unfortunately, however, most of the shared hosting services don’t manage to offer an uptime of anything higher than 97%, with some of them keeping your site online for less than 95% of the time it’s hosted with them. These can be disastrous numbers for any online business or growing website in general.

When your site isn’t online, the visitors to your site are shown an error saying the website isn’t available right now. But as most of us aren’t patient enough anymore due to the web serving all our needs almost instantly, your potential customers would hardly bother waiting for your site to get back on.

They may hit the back button and explore their options in your competitors, and the last thing you would want to have as a new business is losing customers to your competitors.

While this is an obvious effect of a lower uptime, there are some others that go deeper. Google has made it clear that it wouldn’t want to favor and send traffic to sites that don’t manage to be always online for their visitors. And as most businesses and a large number of other sites rely on organic traffic from Google, this is definitely something you would need to take seriously.

When Google would see your site having uptime issues, it may decide to push it lower in the rankings, meaning less and less visitors and customers for your site as the uptime keeps being unstable and inconsistent.

Furthermore, it may also lead to a poor brand image if the site represents your business, as a business staying offline for its customers at random times isn’t exactly seen as a great branding effort by the business.

And now that you know how crucial the uptime can be to your site and business, let us reveal this little secret we have kept till now that, HostGator offers a staggering uptime of almost 100%. Yes, you heard that right.

It’s extremely rare, if not almost impossible, for a shared hosting service to be able to offer an uptime of just about 100%, but Gator Host has done it; time and again. And it has done it over a fairly long period of time, so these aren’t one-off numbers that we are talking about, but rather something very consistent and safe to take into consideration when deciding on your hosting provider.

To be a bit more specific, the average uptime offered by GatorHost has turned out to be an amazingly high 99.99%. And to be honest, you would never see it go much lower than this, and that’s simply because Gator Hosting offers an uptime guarantee of at least 99.9% uptime.

Now, this is believed to be quite a bold commitment to make for a shared hosting provider, who only gets a few dollars per month for every plan it sells. Yet, it has managed to keep its promise and consistently offered an uptime of over 99.9% (average) over long periods of time.

HostGator also says that if the uptime ever turns out to be less than 99.9% for you during any month (when hosting your site with it), you would be eligible to receive one month of credit to allow you to use its service for free for a month. However, this doesn’t apply to planned maintenance, which you’re informed about in advance by the company.

But planned downtime, too, is extremely rare, and you would usually find your site being online almost all of the time.

Finally, let us make it clear that this uptime figure isn’t based on only a few months of use, but rather years of use. Among the various tests made to find out HostGater’s uptime, one of them did it over a period of ten years. Now, that’s a seriously high level of consistent uptime, and definitely something you can rely on.

Just to add to what we said, there are hundreds of HostGator reviews too where the customers mention about getting an uptime of 99.9% to 100%, which means that it’s certainly something HostGator offers to all its customers.

Server Response Time (Speed)

The server response time, or the site’s speed as you would refer to in simple terms, is the second most important factor when it comes to any hosting service. Sure, the uptime is something you just can’t compromise with, but most times, it alone isn’t enough.

If the uptime is very good but the speed isn’t up to par, the overall performance will be far from impressive. This is because just like how your site being down for your potential customers or visitors may be frustration for them, your site taking too long to load up wouldn’t please them too.

With the advancement in hosting technology that now allows sites to load up in as less as a couple seconds or less, you surely wouldn’t want to have a crazy high server response time of over 5 seconds.

Surprisingly, however, there are a large number of business sites that seem to take forever to load, which is entirely due to being hosted with cheap, low-quality hosting services.

Now, just like how a low uptime’s effects were not limited to the obvious one where the site would be inaccessible for potential visitors and customers, a poor server response time’s effects, too, may cause more harm to your business than you may think.

Just like with uptime, if you want Google to send you relevant, targeted traffic, you would have to make sure your site loads as quickly as possible. This is because Google wants to ensure the best possible user experience for its users, and a poor server response time sure doesn’t contribute to it.

In fact, Google places so much emphasis on it that the page load time has been termed as one of the most important SEO factors in 2018. This means that you may even be able to improve your site’s rankings to a certain extent and start getting more traffic by just making your site load faster.

Just to give some perspective to what we are saying, a very in-depth study was made to find out the impact just a second of delay in the page loading time would have on the business. And the results were astonishing to say the least, with just a second’s delay in the server response time led to 7% lower conversions, with the total page views tumbling by well over 10%.

The overall customer experience, too, was found to be lower by 16% than with sites that loaded a second faster than the sites researched during this test. This simple test speaks volumes about the kind of impact the server response time may have on your business.

And with that said, let us tell you that HotGator offers a fairly good server response time, especially for the incredibly low prices of its shared hosting plans. However, the various tests made to get a very clear of the loading speed offered by HosGator revealed that the speed can be a bit inconsistent, especially when hosting large sites.

The tests found that many of the sites hosted on Host Gator.com loaded up as quickly as under 700 ms. However, some of the sites that didn’t have many media-rich posts (that consume more of the server’s resources to load), were fully loaded in well under 400 ms. Needless to mention, if you get these kind of numbers as the server response speed for your site, you will definitely have no problem pleasing both your visitors and the big Google.

That said, however, it’s worth noting that these numbers were for US traffic. As HostGator’s servers are located in the US, people visiting the site from the US get a much better loading time than visitors from other countries.

Naturally, the average loading time for visitors from countries like Australia, Japan and India were higher, but if the majority of your traffic is going be from the US, this shouldn’t worry you at all. However, even if you do get or plan to get a significant amount of traffic from other countries, you can just perform some speed optimization techniques as explained in this detailed article here, and your speed may improve significantly for all your visitors, including the ones accessing it from outside of the US.

Unfortunately, HostGator doesn’t offer different hosting locations as all its servers are located in the United States. Some of its competitors like SiteGround, however, do allow you to choose a server location from many different parts of the world, meaning that you can choose the location closest to your target audience.

But that shouldn’t be a major concern because, as we said, the page loading time with HostaGator is pretty good. However, we also told you about it not being very consistent, and to add to it, we have found that it can run as high as over a second, too.

This may of course go up further if you’re hosting a large site with lots of media such as images and videos. That said, none of the tests reported the site loading time being over a couple seconds for any of the sites studied, which is still pretty good.

However, if you think you still like a better server response time, you may have to consider going with GatorCloud or rather, HostGator’s cloud hosting service. But don’t let that fool you into thinking that you will be paying a lot more than with Hosting Gator’s shared hosting plan, as its basic cloud hosting plans only costs $1 more than its basic shared hosting plan.

By paying just $1 more than you would with the basic shared hosting plan, you would enjoy a far better speed. A test that studied the server response time of a site hosted with HostGator cloud hosting over a period of 9 months revealed that the average speed turned out to be between 500 ms to 600 ms. As is clearly evident, your site may load twice as fast with Host Gator’s cloud hosting service than its shared host service.

And you would be getting this speed advantage without the slightest of compromise on the uptime, which would still be over 99.9%. This makes us conclude that for site owners and businesses not super strapped for cash, the cloud hosting plans may turn out to be a much better choice than the shared hosting plans at HostGaor.

By paying just a dollar more per month (if you’re choosing the most basic plan), you would also get a much better level of security and less frequent downtime issues. You also wouldn’t be prone to shared hosting issues like a bad neighborhood, which alone is probably worth more than $1 per month.

And that brings us to the next important factor that we will be discussing in detail: the price.

Pricing

Getting right to the chase, let us tell you that HostGator offers the best prices in the industry, unless of course you consider those cheap, super unreliable hosts as a part of the industry. HostGator’s Hatching plan comes in at just $3.95 per month, and it allows you to host a single domain but offers unlimited bandwidth.

There are also one-click installs for pretty much everything you may need as a new site owner, with the control panel being fairly easy to use and get familiar with.

The other two plans, the Baby and the Business plan, are both priced at $5.95 per month and allows you to host as many domains as you like. However, the Business plan renews at a considerably higher price of $14.95 per month, while the Baby plan would renew only at $9.95 per month.

If you’re thinking you would get a very low amount of storage with these plans (given the dirt-cheap prices), oh boy are you in for a surprise! The storage with all the plans, including even the Hatching plan offered at just $3.95 per month, is going to be unmetered as well.

After all, there’s a reason HostGator is believed to be one of the best value-for-money hosts out there, as it does seem to offer a great balance of performance and affordability.

However, it’s not that HostGator is the only affordable shared hosting provider out there that also offers a reliable service. So let us also compare its prices and the service in general with some of its biggest competitors below.

HostGator vs Bluehost

We have two shared hosting titans here, and both of them have a LOT of similarities. This is especially at least with respect to the prices, as both of them offer their three different shared hosting plans at exactly the same prices.

Bluehost, too, offers unmetered bandwidth with all its plans, just like Gator Host. However, the former offers a limited storage space of 50 GB with its basic plan, against GatorHost’s unlimited storage even for the Hatchling (most basic) plan.

With the other two plans, however, Bluehost too offers unlimited storage space. But the similarities seem to end here.

Yes, when things shift from the pricing to the performance, we also see the similarities between these two hosting giants turning into big differences.

For instance, while you get an uptime of over 99.9% with Gator Hosting, Bluehost seems to lag behind at about 99.8%. However, something that makes HostGator a clear winner here is that it has far lower instances of downtime than Bluehost, although there isn’t a huge difference in the uptime itself.

As far as the speed is concerned, Bluehost seems to have a bit of an edge over HostGator. We are saying this only with respect to the shared hosting plans offered by them both.

While the average loading speed of a site hosted on GatorHost turned out to be about 1.2 seconds during a test, it was found to be just about 600 ms with one of Bluehost’s shared hosting plans. However, you can get the same speed as Bluehost, if not even lower, by simply going with Gator cloud, the basic cloud hosting plan of Gator Host, which only costs $1 more than the shared hosting plan.

Coming to the overall performance, you may actually be considerably better off hosting with HostGator than Bluehost, especially if you don’t mind paying just $1 more every month and get a much better level of security along with the superior performance.

iPage vs HostGator

We won’t discuss this in detail, as we don’t think it’s worth it. While iPage offers a temptingly cheap shared hosting server at a measly $1.99 per month, it’s far from a very reliable host, especially when compared to something like HostGator.

The page loading speed and uptime aren’t anywhere near as good as HostGator, and the overall performance leaves quite a bit to be desired as well. To sum it up, if price isn’t the ONLY factor you want to consider, then you certainly wouldn’t want to consider iPage over HostGator.

HostGator vs GoDaddy

Another easy comparison to make. While GoDaddy is an incredibly popular domain registrar, it’s nowhere near as popular, let alone reliable, when it comes to web hosting.

While two of the four shared hosting plans at GoDaddy are cheaper than HostGator’s most basic shared hosting plan, they are very limited in terms of features and you will probably have a hard time efficiently hosting a “real” site on those plans.

This means that the only option you may have with GoDaddy would be their Deluxe plan, which is considerably more expensive than WebGator’s Hatching plan.

Both the speed and uptime are very disappointing with GoDaddy. Add to that it’s complicated user interface, lack of efficient customer support and a not-so-impressive security features, and it’s easy to see how HostGator totally blows GoDaddy away as a shared web hosting solution.

Long Term Commitment

Most shared hosting companies offer a great deal if you go with their 36-month plan instead of buying it for a period of 12 months or less.

That said, we have something to add to what we said about Gator Hosting’s prices above. The prices we mentioned above are all only applicable if you buy for a period of 36 months. For 12 months, the prices are going to be much higher.

The Hatching plan would cost you $5.95 per month, while the Baby and Business plans would set you back $8.95 per month if you decide to only pay for 12 months initially. Similarly, after the term of 12 months ends, you would have to pay a much higher price as the renewal price.

Hence, if you’re sure that you’re in it for the long haul, you may want to consider buying one of their plans for the longest duration they offer, which is 36 months. Doing so will not only help you get the best price, but also prevent having to pay the significantly higher renewal costs as your new customer promotion expires.

Security Features

After uptime and the speed (and also the price for many of you!), if there’s an aspect of shared hosting that deserves more attention than any other factor, it has to be the level of security offered. After all, when your business depends on your website, its security tends to be of paramount importance.

You may end up looking at big losses or lost customers if it goes down or ends up getting hacked or attacked or faces some other security issues. This is especially true nowadays, when reports of DDoS and hacking attacks are becoming more common than ever.

Hence, it’s now a must to make sure the hosting service you choose for your site is capable enough to handle potential security issues and offer a high level of security in general through great security features.

One of the best security features that all HostGator packages come with for free is its DDoS protection. It says it has an advanced custom firewall system and takes other security measures to protect your site against a variety of attacks, especially including the DDoS ones.

When they come across a situation where their server is being flooded by an unusually large number of (fake) requests, they quickly enable their network level flood protection – a system that they have setup to protect their servers and the sites hosted on them during such attacks.

The datacenters, too, are highly secured and have a very restricted access system in place. GatorHost also has some other advanced security mechanisms, but it refrains from giving any information about them publicly for obvious reasons.

Apart from that, you can also choose to buy their premium security features like the SiteLock, which not only helps against different types of hacking attacks like SQL injection, cross-site scripting and more, but also regularly scans for malware (and eliminates them if found), and does a lot more that takes the security of your site to the next level.

It’s available for $1.94 per month, and may turn out to be a useful purchase for small businesses with advanced security needs.

Customer Support

While all the other features we discussed so far are commonly accepted as important aspects of a shared hosting service, something that’s surprisingly overlooked is the customer support. This is perhaps because not many think they may ever need to contact the customer support or come across any issues.

However, many users that think this way end up surprised, as they need the customer support sooner rather than later.

HostGator has a 24/7 customer support that you can access through live chat with one of their knowledgeable customer service representatives. You can also get in touch with them through phone and email.

But don’t let that make you feel that there will always be people waiting in line to assist you the second you need help with something. Remember that you would likely only be paying a few dollars a month, and they have thousands of customers that need their time.

In other words, the customer support isn’t spectacular with HostGator, but it isn’t bad either. It may take them a while to reply when you’re trying to contact them through the live chat support or even by opening a ticket, but once you’re connected, they may answer all your answers with a great level of patience, albeit their responses may be a bit slower.

Other Features

HostGator really seems to offer more than what you can expect at under $4 per month. In addition to everything that we discussed above, it also comes with some more great features, which makes it hard to beat at this price point.

Let us take a look at three of its most useful extra features below.

HostGator Website Builder

If you’re a beginner to making or setting up a site, the website builder feature from HostGator is going to come in really handy. It offers a surprisingly easy way of making your website, thanks to its drag and drop function.

There are hundreds of themes readily available, as well as even pre-built sections for your website that you can simply select, integrate into your website and publish.

One Click Installations

We touched upon this when describing the plans available to you, but it’s worth elaborating on a bit. GatorHost offers a feature known as the QuickInstall tool, which basically allows you to create any type of website you may want. This includes blog, forum, e-commerce store, wiki and many more.

However, you would have no problem doing this otherwise perplexing task, all thanks to this feature that allows you to do everything with just the click of a button. What’s more, as HostGator hosting allows using its plans with Linux, MySQL, PHP and Apache, you would be able to use thousands of different software and applications to integrate with your newly-built website.

Free SSL

Well, let us be fair here. You only get a free positive SSL with the Business plan, but given it too costs less than $6 per month, it’s not a bad deal.

You also get a lot of other free stuff, including $100 worth of Google Adwords and Bing Ads credit. However, you need to be a new customer to these services to be able to use them.

Integrations/Apps

As we just mentioned above, you would have the option to use thousands of software and tools, depending on how you plan to use your hosting account. However, HostGator also proudly claims that it supports some of the best applications on the web, including WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and more.

If you’re hosting an ecommerce site, you will be glad to know that you won’t have much trouble getting it up and running in no time, as one of the applications it supports is Magento – perhaps one of the easiest applications to build an ecommerce site.

Then there’s the wiki hosting option as well if you plan to build a resourceful crowd-sourcing content site, as well as a PHP hosting for people looking to build a forum in the easiest way possible.

As many as 52 scripts can be installed instantly right from your account, without needing to know or learn about any technical things as you have to with many other shared hosting providers.

Finally, just like most of the other popular shared hosting services, Host Gator, too, allows you to integrate Google Apps with your hosting account. You would be able to use them right from your hosting account, with the installation and removal of these apps being fairly easy as well.

Backups

Free backups aren’t available with shared hosting plans at HostGator, even if you have a reseller account. However, you can get it at just $1.67 per month, which would help you sleep in peace at night if you’re hosting an important business site or a site with a huge amount of content that you just can’t afford losing overnight due to a hacking or other type of attack, or even due to you messing something up big time.

Known as the CodeGuard feature, it would automatically create daily backups for you, so you won’t have to manually do anything which would be a convenient way of protecting your data.

It also supports up to 5 websites, so if you have multiple websites, it’s going to be totally worth it. The CodeGuard feature would also allow saving unlimited databases as well as files, although the total storage is capped a 1GB.

Finally, it allows you up to 3 restores a month, which is going to be more than enough for most websites.

Ease of Use

If you have read through so far, you probably already know that HostGator has took great care to ensure that it offers a kind of interface and features that makes it as easy to use, set up and manage the hosting as it can get. And while there are other hosting providers like Bluehost that do make things easier for beginners, the ease of use HostGator offers is second to none.

If you’re a beginner, you wouldn’t feel like one at all when using HostGator’s control panel. It would all be so easy to use and understand, with pretty much everything you need being just be a click away.

HostGator also does a great job at explaining things to its users through its 500+ video tutorials and about 700 helpful articles, and coupled with its highly responsive customer support, you wouldn’t have any problem learning more about anything you may need to know.

Then there’s also its forum that you get access to on buying a hosting plan. Users of HostGator can communicate there and help one another, which too adds to the overall ease of use and support.

Site Migrations

If you have been hosting your site with Bluehost before, you will be pleased to know that unlike it, HostGator doesn’t charge a hefty $149.99 for migrating your site. In fact, it doesn’t charge anything at all, as it offers free site migrations.

This can be a great incentive for people that are using some other host and considering to migrate their site to either HostGator or Bluehost. While both offer pretty much the same prices, you would be out $150 in extra costs with Bluehost, making it a much more expensive deal.

On the other hand, that $150 could be used with HostGator to get 36 months of its Hatching plan, and you wouldn’t be paying anything more.

The folks at HostGator also seem to be an expert at this, as they are swift with the site migrations and there are usually no technical issues at all once the migration is done, which is not something very common when it comes to shared hosting providers.

Refund Policy

The refund policy deserves a place in this super detailed and in-depth HostGator review, as it tends to be a crucial component of a great hosting experience. You see, the hosting companies that hesitate offering a refund within a certain period of time to its users may have a reason to be so.

They probably know a worrying number of their new customers get disappointed with their service, which makes them likely to claim a refund if the refund policy allows them to do so.

In other words, the refund policy may give you quite a hint about the quality and overall performance of the web host you’re considering, and if it isn’t transparent enough or downright clear about there being no refund whatsoever, you wouldn’t want to touch it with a ten foot pole.

This is clear based on the fact that most of the top hosting providers out there offer a clear and encouraging refund policy, something that helps customers trust their service. However, some of them offer a longer refund period than the others, but HostGator seems to be right in the middle of the range.

While most of the shared hosting providers allow their customers to claim a full refund if they are not satisfied with their service within anywhere between 30 to 60 days of they buying a hosting plan, HostGator has a refund policy period of 45 days.

This means that you need not think twice before buying the shared (or cloud, for that matter) hosting plan you need for your site. If you have any trouble or don’t find it to be good enough for your site, you can first try to get it resolved with the help of customer support, but if you don’t have any luck with it, you can simply go ahead and cancel your account.

If you do it within the 45 days of your purchase, you will be eligible for a full refund of what you paid, although it may take a few days for you to get your money back. It is to be noted, however, that the refund can only be claimed for the initial cost of the hosting plan you bought, and not any other services you may have bought along with it.

For example, if you also decide to buy domain name when purchasing your hosting plan, you cannot get a refund for the domain. Similarly, any other services you may have bought such as the SiteLock, CodeGuard, an SSL certificate and more are not covered under the refund policy.

Also, to avoid misuse of this policy, you cannot claim a refund if you have opened an account with GatorHost before and claimed a refund on it as well. If you have opened a second account with them, you will not be able to get a refund on it even if you cancel it within 45 days of making the payment.

If it’s your first account with Gator Hosting, and you figured you no longer want to use them as your hosting provider within 45 days of getting your account with them, you can easily cancel it and claim a refund by filling out this form here.

Pros and Cons

We are pretty sure this is going to be one of the most in-depth HostGator review on the web, covering pretty much everything there is to know about the shared hosting service. However, not everyone may prefer to read through the whole thing; some may just prefer a quick look at the pros and cons and may want to make a decision based on that.

That’s fair enough, and so we will now be quickly listing some of the most important pros and cons of HostGator below.

Pros:

  • Amazing uptime – the kind of which you probably don’t get even with a VPS hosting plan that costs a lot more than HostGator’s shared hosting plan
  • A great server response time if you go with the cloud hosting service, which has its basic plan priced at just $4.95 per month – it’s only a dollar more than the basic shared hosting plan, which is priced at $3.95 per month
  • The pricing is as affordable as it can get for a reliable hosting service, especially with the kind of performance HostGator offers
  • The DDoS protection is a very useful security feature to have for FREE, while the other premium security features, too, are available for a fairly low price
  • The customer support should work well for most customers, unless they expect a lot more for what they pay
  • HostGator also offers a lot of extra features with each of its shared hosting plan, meaning that you get much more than just a hosting account
  • You can integrate Google Apps with your HostGator hosting account, as well as other thousands of software and tools based on the platform you choose for your site
  • For as low as $1.67 per month, you can have HostGator create daily backups for you automatically, as well as are allowed up to 3 restores a month
  • The ease of use is just beyond what you would expect at this price point; if you have been with one of those hosting services before which have a user interface that’s not much less complicated than a foreign language, you will be blown away with what you get with HostGator
  • Gator Host offers free site migrations, which mean you would be saving about $150 per month had you decided to go with Bluehost or some other shared hosting provider that charges a hefty fee for migrating your site from your current host to itself
  • Gator Hosting also has a great and extremely transparent refund policy in place that allows new customers not satisfied with their service to get a full refund (on their hosting costs) if they cancel their account within a period of 45 days of opening it
  • HostGator also comes out a clear winner against some of its competitors like iPage and GoDaddy, while offering a fair few advantages over some of the better shared hosting providers like Bluehost

 

Cons:

  • The server response time isn’t the best with HostGator’s shared hosting plans, although it’s far from bad; that being said, if you’re after a very fast loading time, you can simply pay a bit more and go with one of their cloud hosting plans
  • The price is significantly higher than what it shows on the pricing page if you choose to buy the plan for anything less than 36 months; however, if you pay for 36 months as a new customer, you do get a great deal
  • While a great security feature is available for free in the DDoS prevention system, you have to pay $1.94 for their premium security features; however, again, this is the case with pretty much all the shared hosting services in this price range, and it’s only reasonable given how cheap they are
  • The customer support isn’t as fast as some other hosting services like SiteGround, but it may not turn out to be a problem unless you’re into a lot of technical stuff and need assistance every now and then
  • There are no free backups, which is the case with any other shared hosting provider you can find at these prices

So Here’s Our Final Verdict

While there’s a lot to consider when choosing a shared hosting provider, one of the most important factors is simply the price to performance ratio. There are hosting services offering shared hosting plans for as low as $1 per month, but they often turn out to be disastrous for businesses and even other site owners.

Hence, the price cannot be the factor dominating your decision-making process. And with that said, we certainly think HostGator offers more than what you can expect at $3.95 per month, the price for its cheapest shared hosting plan if you buy it for a period of 36 months,

If you’re a small business owner or even someone with a well-established site, HostGator’s shared hosting plans may serve you well. You would also have the option to go for one of the company’s cloud hosting plans, if you would like a much better loading speed for your site, as it only costs $1 to a few dollars more than the shared hosting plans, depending on the plan you choose.

Similarly, it’s amazingly high uptime of over 99.9% (with a guaranteed uptime of at least 99.9%) cannot be overlooked as well. You certainly don’t get an uptime this high even at a much higher price, so it sure makes HostGator a very strong contender for the title of the best shared hosting service provider on the planet.

If you’re still on the fence about whether or not to go with HostGator, we say why not? With the great 45-day refund policy, what do you have to lose anyway? With that said, it’s totally worth trying out; you will likely be glad you did!