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HostGator Review

HostGator was founded in Florida in 2002. By 2012 their success had exploded. EIG (Endurance International Group) picked on that and acquired them for $225 million.

EIG is a massive corporation that owns brands like Bluehost, Constant Contact, iPage and HostGator. Being 100% honest, I am usually not too excited to test their products, they all seem to follow a discouraging pattern:

  • Overpriced
  • Disappointing support
  • Missing features
  • Aggressive marketing
  • Hidden fees and expensive add-ons

However, I am excited to review HostGator as their online reputation seems better than sister company iPage and their prices don’t seem too bad. I could not wait to get my hands on HostGator.

Let’s check out what HostGator has to offer and when (and when not) to use it.

What Products Does HostGator Offer?

Almost everything hosting related, that’s why their catalog can be confusing at times.

  • Domain names can be purchased at HostGator, although they aren’t a leading domain name registrar. For the first year a .com domain costs $12.95, but upon renewal you’ll be charged $17.99 – there are indeed cheaper options like Namecheap.
  • Their shared hosting plans are meant for small and medium projects that don’t get hundreds of thousands of visitors per month. This type of service hosts different clients (websites) under the same server, similar to living in a shared house. Most likely the one you should get, at least to start with. Their prices go from $8.95 to $16.95.
  • WordPress hosting: For those looking for a shared hosting that’s optimized for WordPress. These go from $12.95 for one site, all the way up to $81.95 per month. Personally, I think there are better alternatives for WordPress users (e.g. SiteGround).
  • VPS stands for Virtual Private Server. You can think of this as a shared hosting server that has been divided into smaller sub-servers using a specific software configuration. These are great for smaller and medium sites that need a particular server configuration (e.g. need to use a different programming language). VPS plans at HostGator start at $80 per month.
  • If your project gets tens of thousands of visitors per month or needs a powerful server, you’d probably be better off with a dedicated server. You’ll have your own server and won’t share its resources with anyone else. At HostGator you can get your own dedicated server starting at around $200 per month.
  • You can think of cloud hosting as a network of connected servers, meaning your website won’t only be hosted on one server but several. Resources (e.g. more memory or CPU) can be added or removed according to your needs. At HostGator cloud hosting starts (too cheap?) at $10.95 a month.
  • On top of these, they also offer a website builder called Gator for users looking to create their own website easily – no technical knowledge required. Although it’s not a bad product, it’s still under development and other site builders offer more at similar prices ($8.95 per month).

This HostGator review focuses on their shared hosting plans, so from now on I’ll be referring to those.

HostGator Pricing: What Do Their Shared Plans Include?

The first thing to notice about HostGator pricing is that they come with big discounts for the first term. Be aware that the costs at renewal are much higher. I always mention both prices so you don’t get any nasty surprises.

Hatchling Baby Business
Allowed domains 1 Unlimited Unlimited
Support 24 hours 24 hours 24 hours
Max. number of Inodes

(similar to number of files)

250,000 inodes 250,000 inodes 250,000 inodes
Storage Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited
Database Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited
Backup *

Weekly

(only 1 available)

Weekly

(only 1 available)

Weekly

(only 1 available)

Backup restore cost $25 per restoration $25 per restoration $25 per restoration
Dedicated IP No No Yes
First-term prices for 1-year deals $5.95 a month  $8.95 a month $8.95 a month
Renewal price for 1-year deals $8.95 a month $11.95 a month $16.95 a month

* If your inodes count goes over 100,000, your account won’t be backed up. They only keep 1 weekly backup.

If you go for longer deals (e.g. 36 months), the first term prices drop even further. But expect a high increase when the renewal time comes around.

The Hatchling Plan is interesting for those who have only 1 website, as even if its storage is unlimited you can only have 1 domain name (website) per hosting plan.

With the Baby package, you can host unlimited websites. And the Business tier is recommended for those looking to have a dedicated IP address.

Be aware that HostGator’s purchase process always tries to sign you up for the longer deals (e.g. 36 months), and pushes you to get extra add-ons (e.g. SiteLock) that you may not need.

Sadly, their default backup features are almost non-existent, they only keep a 1 weekly copy of your site. However, they offer an extra backup add-on at around $25 extra per year – sneaky. If that wasn’t bad enough, they’ll also charge you $25 extra each time you ask them to restore from one of their backups – I see these as an unacceptable hidden fee.

HostGator Pros & Cons

Let me quickly tell you what I think are the most important advantages and disadvantages of HostGator shared hosting:

Pros Cons
  • Plenty of storage: All plans come with unlimited storage, although all your files combined should not be more than 250,000.
  • Flexible terms: Hosting plans can be purchased on 1, 3, 6, 12, 24 or 36 months base.
  • Many programming languages: One of the hosting providers that supports more languages. PHP, Ruby On Rails, Perl and Python are all allowed.
  • Fast hosting: They performed well in our speed tests.
  • Unmetered bandwidth: They don’t limit the traffic your site can get.
  • Tricky prices and fees: Very cheap prices the first term and expensive upon renewal. $25 is charged if you need to restore from one of their backups.
  • Constant upsells: Like many other EIG products, their backend is packed with unnecessary upsell options.
  • Uptime could be better: They should improve their uptime.
  • Poor backups: Unless you pay for an add-on, you have access to only 1 backup.
  • Missing advanced features: For example, you don’t get staging areas and it doesn’t have a built-in server-side caching system.
  • Unreliable support: At times, I found myself waiting over 30 minutes to be connected with the support team.

When to Use HostGator Hosting?

HostGator’s shared hosting is for those looking for a provider that doesn’t measure the bandwidth and is generous with the storage.

It’s also a great fit if you are looking to use other programming languages to PHP. Using Perl, Python and Ruby On Rails is allowed.

Personally, I think HostGator offers the best EIG hosting service I’ve tried. However, I do think there are better alternatives you could be using at similar prices (e.g. SiteGround or DreamHost).

When Not to Use HostGator?

Despite being a fast provider with an easy-to-use interface, I’m afraid it’s not suitable for larger projects. Neither for hosting-dependant projects like online stores nor avid bloggers.

Their low uptime levels can punish your SEO efforts and support can be, at times, frustrating. But for me, the most worrying fact is that they don’t include a backup system – sorry, but one weekly backup does not cut it for most.

HostGator Shared Hosting Details

Let’s now explore HostGator’s specifications in detail:

Characteristics Evaluations Comments
Ease of use Good As customary with EIG products, their registration process is confusing and packed with expensive add-ons you most likely don’t need.

Their backend is modern-looking and intuitive. If you’ve used a cPanel hosting service before, you’ll find HostGator’s system familiar.

Be aware that if you cancel your account, it will have an immediate effect and your hosting package (and website) will be gone even if you have some months left on your contract.

Domain names Not included HostGator doesn’t include the domain name for free – a .com domain name costs $12.95 the first year and a whopping $17.99 after the renewal date.

You are allowed 1 domain name (1 website) with the Hatchling plan, and unlimited domain names with the Baby and Business plan. Subdomains are unlimited with any of the 3 plans.

Email Very good All of HostGator’s plans come with unlimited email accounts and email storage. * However, it’s not suitable for sending bulk emails as you’ll be restricted to 500 emails per hour.
Databases Very good You can have as many databases as you need. The size of your databases isn’t limited either. *
Applications Very good You’ll be able to install the most popular content management systems like WordPress, Magento, Drupal or Joomla with their easy-to-use installer.
Webspace limit Very good The storage is another aspect that HostGator doesn’t limit. However, be aware that you can’t just store anything, you are only allowed web files, emails and user-generated content. For example, forget about using HostGator as your cloud storage for your thousands of HD holiday pics. *
Monthly data transfer limit Very good Bandwidth isn’t limited either.
FTP accounts and secure FTP Very good Unlimited FTP accounts are allowed, FTPS (secure) is also possible. Having SSH access is possible too.
Servers location
Bad HostGator has all its data centers in the US: Texas and Utah. This isn’t ideal for projects with a non-US audience.
Security features Solid HostGator has a custom firewall to protect you from hacker attacks (e.g. DDoS). But they don’t disclose too much about what they do, I guess they don’t want to give it away. They provide SSL certificates for free and SSH access.

If you want extra security, an external paid app (SiteLock), can be added. This tool will scan and monitor your files to find security issues.

Server speed Good At HostGator, they use PHP 7 (not selected by default), it’s a faster solution than the old and clunky PHP 5. They also have SSD drives for their shared hosting. However, HostGator’s shared hosting doesn’t seem to use HTTP/2 or a custom caching system – all very important to improve speed.

In our tests I was (positively) surprised to see that they were among the Top 5 fastest providers.

Uptime Bad After months of monitoring their uptime, I think HostGator should offer a bit more. They have averaged an uptime of 99.94% during the last few months.
Backups Very bad HostGator will backup your site once a week, but only if your account is less than 20 GB (and 100,000 inodes). Sadly, they only keep one backup – crazy. Most other providers offer a smarter approach to backups. With HostGator, you’ll need to purchase a 3rd-party solution (CodeGuard based). Via cPanel you can create and download your own backup.
CDN (content delivery network) No HostGator doesn’t provide a CDN. However, you can connect an external solution like CouldFlare.
Server features OK With their server, you’ll be allowed to use PHP 5 & 7, and have MySQL databases. Perl, Ruby On Rails and Python are allowed too. However, some other features like staging areas or server-side caching systems are missing.
Refunds and guarantees 45 days and 99.9% HostGator comes with a 45-day money back policy. Be aware that this will only apply for hosting services, you won’t get your money back for domain names. They also ensure that your uptime won’t be lower than 99.9% and if it goes below, you’ll be compensated.
Assistance and support Bad Support is available 24h by live chat, email and phone. In my experience, the waiting times were long and they didn’t always solve my issue/questions – not even sales questions were solved at times.
Overall evaluation

OK

3.8 out of 5

HostGator comes with almost no limitations and their speed is good. On top of that, they have an intuitive system. However, their low uptime results, iffy support, lack of backups and constant upsell pitches make it not a top choice.

* Even if HostGator doesn’t have specific limitations (e.g. for storage), all your combined files from your apps, emails and databases should be under 250,000 files (inodes).

HostGator Performance Tests

In order to know if HostGator’s performance is good, I’ve done a couple of interesting tests: speed and uptime.

Let’s check the results out.

HostGator Speed Test

Everyone wants (or should want) their website to load as fast as possible, and a reliable hosting provider is crucial for this. A faster website will provide better user experiences and give you extra SEO points.

HostGator turned out to be pretty fast in my tests. I replicated the same test webpage for several providers and then measured their speed using 3 different tools and different worldwide locations.

Check out an overview of their results:

Test Average Ranking Average Speed
5 GTmetrix test 3 out of 8 providers were faster 1.96 s
5 Pingdom test 2 out of 8 providers were faster 1.08 s
5 Webpagetest test 4 out of 8 providers were faster 5.27 s

These tests were carried out under the same circumstances (e.g. same page and content) and spread out over almost 2 months.

As you can see, HostGator did pretty well and was one of the Top 5 fastest providers I’ve tested. Certainly a nice surprise.

Is HostGator’s Uptime Good?

Hosting providers have some service interruptions, for example, when they need to restart the servers to complete an update.

If those service interruptions are not often and short, no problem. But, if your hosting provider is constantly down and they take forever to be back up, you will be negatively affected – bad user experiences mean lower conversion rates and downtime also disappoints search engines.

HostGator Uptime

Your uptime should be 99.95% or higher. In other words, your hosting provider should be down less than 0.05% of the time – around 4 hours per year.

Provider Uptime
DreamHost 100 %
Bluehost 99.99%
SiteGround 99.98 %
GoDaddy 99.97 %
InMotion 99.97 %
HostGator 99.94 %
A2 Hosting 99.93 %
iPage 99.66 %

To monitor uptime I use StatusCake, a tool that checks each website every 5 minutes.

Although HostGator’s uptime isn’t the worst ever (trust me I’ve seen worse), I think they should be a bit better. For this reason, I’d be reluctant to recommend HostGator for those projects that depend exclusively on their website (e.g. bloggers and online stores).

HostGator Review: Do I Recommend It?

Your website will be safe being hosted at HostGator, their speed is good and the uptime not too bad, at least if you don’t have a super serious project. If you do have a more professional project, I’d encourage you to check out SiteGround and DreamHost.

Even if HostGator restricts the number of files that you can have, they are pretty generous with their storage, email, bandwidth and database limitations. Probably a good option for those valuing quantity over quality.

But, and this one is big, be aware that their backup features are extremely poor, in my opinion, as bad as it gets. Personally, having a proper backup system has saved me hours of work and loads of money. Their $25 extra fee for each backup restore that you request makes me very angry.

Another downside is their support. At times, I had to wait over 30 minutes to be connected with a support agent and I always have the feeling they only half-read my questions.

However, you can try HostGator 45 days for free and see for yourself. Who knows, perhaps is a great option for you.

HostGator Alternatives

By now you’ve probably realized that HostGator isn’t my favorite provider. However, I think their performance isn’t too bad – especially their speed. But let me name several alternatives you could use for several scenarios:

  • A2 Hosting or DreamHost are reliable, cheap providers.
  • The best support is offered by DreamHostSiteGround and InMotion.
  • DreamHost and SiteGround performed the best in my tests.
  • One of my favorite shared hosting providers for WordPress is SiteGround. They just have more features than the rest: staging, built-in caching system and advanced speed optimization options.

But, if you still want to use HostGator, remember that you can try HostGator for free for 45 days.

 

Note: If you are looking to compare Bluehost and HostGator, please read this detailed article.

Review Updates

2 Jul 2019: First review

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