HostGator is one of the world’s most popular web hosting providers. Based in Texas, it’s owned by tech giant Endurance International Group—a company that also owns Bluehost, SiteBuilder.com, Domain.com, iPage, and more.
One of the standout things about HostGator is its impressive range of products, which includes shared, VPS, cloud, and dedicated server hosting. There is also a drag-and-drop website builder, a number of different Windows hosting options, and a comprehensive reseller plan.
Unfortunately, though, there isn’t a lot of choice available. For example, there are only three dedicated servers and three VPS options. On top of this, these have few configuration options, which means they aren’t the best choice for those looking for a powerful, customizable solution.
For example, you can only use CentOS or Windows operating systems with HostGator’s dedicated servers. In comparison, Hostwinds offers dedicated servers with a range of customization options, allowing you to add extra drives, RAM, bandwidth, and IP addresses, along with RAID support and a selection of five different operating systems.
In saying that, HostGator’s products are surprisingly powerful for what they are. This is especially true for its cheaper plans, which provide great value for money.
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Although they are among the cheapest around, HostGator’s shared hosting plans remain powerful and feature-rich. For example, even the cheapest Hatchling plan, which costs from $2.75 per month for an initial three-year subscription, includes unmetered storage, a free SSL certificate, and one-click WordPress, osCommerce, and ZenCart installation. It also comes with unlimited bandwidth, FTP accounts, email accounts, and MySQL databases. As you can imagine, this is more than enough for an average business or personal website.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Business plan costs a reasonable $5.95 per month for an initial three-year plan. Note, though, that it does renew at a much higher $14.95 per month after your initial term. However, the huge range of features on offer, which includes unlimited domains, a premium SSL certificate, and a free dedicated IP address, more than justify this pricing.
The one thing we didn’t like was HostGator’s relatively limited one-click installation program. Rather than offering Softaculous, like many of its competitors, it tends to focus on WordPress, This means that installing anything else will take a little more hands-on action and experience.
Although HostGator’s WordPress hosting is cheap and functional, it doesn’t include the advanced features that many of its competitors do.
In saying that, the supposed ‘2.5X faster load times & increased website performance’ does sound impressive. Based on an integrated CDN, specialized cloud architecture, advanced caching, and low-density servers, this ensures decent performance for WordPress sites.
Additionally, HostGator users will benefit from the free website migration service that allows you to transfer an existing WordPress site. Automatic WordPress updates are also available to ensure your site remains secure and functional.
And all this starts at a low price of $5.95 per month with an initial three-year plan.
If you’re looking for something a little more powerful, InMotion Hosting offers a selection of WordPress-specific plans that include a fully-functional staging environment and other powerful features. The low-end plan starts at $6.99 per month and supports up to 20,000 monthly visitors. In saying this, HostGator’s cheapest WordPress plan does support up to 100,000 monthly visitors, so it’s a better option for those who can get by with the basics.
HostGator has a very simple sign-up process. Many web hosts have numerous checkout pages, which can get frustrating if you just want to get online fast. However, HostGator places everything on one page. Select your plan, add extras if needed, input billing details (PayPal and card payments are supported), and fill out your personal information before hitting the purchase button.
Although this approach does cram a lot of information into one page, it works well. When you’re working through add-ons and other extras, you can immediately see how much they cost and what they do to your overall price. For example, if you select daily backups, which cost $2.00 per month, this will be added to the total price immediately.
At the same time, HostGator reminds you that it offers a comprehensive 45-day money-back guarantee. This is longer than the 30-day standard, but there are a few restrictions to be aware of. For example, dedicated server subscriptions and domain registrations aren’t included, and the guarantee is only available for first-time customers.
We filled in the required information and purchased a HostGator plan, and we were quickly directed to our new management dashboard. Instead of having to wait for a confirmation email, we were redirected to a window telling us that our account was being set up. After less than a minute, we were taken to the HostGator dashboard and had access to every part of our hosting account.
When you sign up for a HostGator account and navigate to your dashboard, there are two options to start building your website. You can choose to either use the fully integrated Weebly drag-and-drop builder or to install WordPress.
If you choose the WordPress option, you will be prompted to select a domain and, if you want, a directory.
Hitting next takes you to a screen asking for details about your name, email address, admin username, and website title. Fill these out, hit the Install button, and WordPress will be automatically installed on your server.
This works, and it works well, but it could be more than a little confusing for first-time users. For example, you might be wondering what an admin user is, why you need to enter your name, and any one of a range of other things. Unfortunately, there aren’t any links or informational popups to provide more detail.
Similarly, the HostGator WordPress installer is relatively limited. In comparison, Bluehost’s WordPress installation process will ask you about your web development experience, whether you need eCommerce features, what theme you want to use, and more. And even though it asks for a lot more information, Bluehost’s installation process is a lot simpler and easier to work through.
In saying that, HostGator does provide a phone number on the WordPress setup page that lets you talk to an expert. There is also a ‘Let a Pro do it for you’ button at the bottom of the page. In short, HostGator will create your new website for you (at a cost to you, of course).
If you do select this option, expect to pay at least $99 for a basic WordPress and theme installation. This is a viable option that could be useful if you’re strapped for time and just want to get your site up and running, but it would be nice if HostGator also included a more detailed setup process like Bluehost’s.
Those looking for a beginner-friendly alternative to WordPress and other content management systems will love HostGator’s native drag-and-drop Gator website builder. It’s simple, allows you to use your own custom domain, and comes with a free SSL certificate. It also doesn’t come with any storage limits, but you will be asked to upgrade your plan if you start using too many resources.
The best thing about this website builder is that it will help you get online fast and efficiently without any special tech skills. It doesn’t require any coding or other training, which means that it’s a great option for people who don’t know how to write CSS, HTML, and/or PHP code. And, all designs are fully mobile responsive, which means that your site will work correctly on all devices.
There are three different Gator website builder plans on offer, with prices starting from $3.84 per month for a Starter subscription, which includes everything required to build a new site. Upgrading to a Premium plan for $5.99 per month adds priority support.
Finally, an eCommerce plan costs $9.22 per month and includes a selection of powerful online selling tools, including a shipping calculator, coupon support, inventory management, and much, much more.
Website management is made easy with HostGator’s native customer portal. It includes a range of management options, allowing you to control every aspect of your site.
Although the text-heavy user interface isn’t the most attractive we’ve used, it links to a selection of optional extras and addons. For example, the link to the Code Guard Backup sounds good at first, but it will simply take you to an upselling page encouraging you to purchase it. Unless you bought it when you signed up, of course.
The Search Our Knowledge Base box in the top right corner of the dashboard wasn’t very useful either. Rather than providing articles and information relevant to our search, it simply opened the HostGator knowledge base in a new tab.
Despite this, there’s still plenty to like here. For example, the Control Panel section provides a range of useful links to webmail, a file manager, email accounts, and databases. It also allows you to launch a cPanel control panel, which includes powerful tools like FTP, Awstats, phpMyAdmin, Webalizer, and more.
Although HostGator’s management dashboard could be better, it does what it needs to. It’s intuitive and provides the necessary tools and links for basic site control.
HostGator comes with an impressive knowledge base that includes a selection of cleverly categorized articles and guides covering a range of topics. There’s also a useful search box that allows you to find relevant information.
When using the search box, relevant articles are highlighted while you’re typing your query. When you hit search, numerous articles, how-to guides, and other resources are shown.
In general, these articles are rich in detail and outline every step of the process or question you’re looking at. For example, the ‘How to Transfer Your WordPress Blog From One Host to Another Host’ guide explains everything you need to know about importing your existing site to HostGator.
Meanwhile, support is available from the HostGator team via 24/7/365 phone and live chat.
We tested the live chat option and, as always, the HostGator agent we spoke to was knowledgeable and helpful. They responded in under a minute and resolved our query in no time.
In order to test the performance of our HostGator server, we first created a basic static website. Then, we used the Uptime monitoring tool to look at its response times and uptime over a seven-day period.
During the test period, our site was online for 100% of the time. Although this is expected with such a short testing time, it’s still great to see.
Meanwhile, our site had an average response time of 251ms, with a 216ms minimum and an 807ms maximum. This is slightly slower than the best hosts we’ve tested, which usually average around 100ms, but it’s still a great result.
And what’s even better is the consistently low response times. There was little variation, which suggests that our shared server had plenty of resources that were adequately shared between the other sites hosted alongside ours.
Lastly, we tested our site’s performance with the Bitcatcha Server Speed Checker. Put simply, this tests a site’s response times and other metrics from North America, Singapore, Japan, Sydney, London, and numerous other locations across the world. Here, we saw an A+ speed rating, which is as good as it gets.
Overall, HostGator’s web hosting plans are up there with the best available. Its VPS and dedicated server solutions do lack some configuration options, but they still offer great value for money. On top of this, its feature-rich shared hosting is very competitively priced and is backed by premium support and a decent 45-day money-back guarantee. This makes it a great choice for those looking for high-quality, reliable shared hosting that will continue to perform well into the future.
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