HostGator is one of the most well-known brands in the hosting world. They are one of the two flagship brands of Endurance International, the world’s largest web services corporation.
HostGator was the first shared hosting company that I ever used – I signed up back when they were still privately owned. They’ve changed a lot over the years in product focus and lineup. I’ve moved this site and my personal site to a different hosting company (InMotion Hosting, just FYI)
And yet – I’m still a customer after all these years (I have several micro-sites on a single shared hosting account). They are an incredible fit for a certain type of customer. But it pays to know their positives and complaints so that you can find the best host for your specific situation.
So let’s dive into my HostGator review. They aren’t the best fit for everyone, but here’s what I’ve liked/disliked as a customer.
Disclosure – I receive customer referral fees from companies mentioned on this website. All data & opinions are based on my experience as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.
HostGator WordPress Hosting vs. Web Hosting
But. Before we look at the pros / cons of HostGator – I’ve got to clarify a product question.
Here’s the thing. The entire industry move to “WordPress Hosting” services is kind of a weird, confusing, maddening mess. I’ve written an entire post on Web Hosting vs. WordPress Hosting, Explained – but here’s the short version.
- WordPress is simply software that can run on any Linux server with PHP (aka “regular shared hosting”).
- Again – WordPress can (and does) run just fine on web hosting.
- WordPress does use some server resources at an above average rate and others at a lower rate.
- WordPress also has very predictable problems & needs. It needs to be regularly updated. Some plugins create temporary security vulnerabilities.
- So – hosting companies saw an opportunity to create whole clusters of servers with only WordPress websites.
- Since they were all together, they could also provide dedicated support and some add-on services at a cost-effective rate.
- Hence, “WordPress Hosting” plans were created – which added a further opportunity for marketers & pricing specialists.
For some companies, WordPress Hosting plans became a way to increase revenue and decrease costs with little value-added. For other companies, WordPress Hosting plans became a way to create a huge value-add to differentiate from competitors and pass the cost savings to customers. For other companies – it was a mix. And it’s been thoroughly confusing for everyone in the end.
But – the key takeaway is to identify your own needs & goals rather than going right for a company’s “WordPress Hosting” plan.
The following pros & cons will look at the tradeoffs mainly with HostGator’s web hosting product – because that is where they are strongest.
HostGator’s WordPress Hosting product is fine. It actually has a huge advantage with storage capacity. However, it doesn’t include, what I think, are key WordPress hosting features. It’s more glorified web hosting – which I think is their core strength anyway.
If you are looking for specialized WordPress Hosting rather than running WordPress on regular web hosting – then I’d recommend looking at InMotion’s WordPress Hosting product or checking out my WordPress Hosting Quiz.
Phew. With that said – let’s move on.
Pros of HostGator Web Hosting
Here are the positives of HostGator – with a focus on installing WordPress on HostGator.
Sticker Pricing & Total Value Pricing
If HostGator has one “killer” feature – it’s their pricing. Sure, GoDaddy or iPage or FatCow might run a short promo every once in a while. And NameCheap might offer very limited accounts for cheaper. But I have yet to find a hosting company that has –
- Consistently low renewal pricing
- Regular promotional pricing
- Ability to “lock-in” discounts for 3 years
- Doesn’t totally skimp out on support or reliability
- Fairly “unmetered” features on critical plan features
That last bullet point is especially notable. If you are a dabbler like myself and have several projects in mind – it’s usually better to look at price per month per website or per storage or per database – ie, total value pricing.
On that point – HostGator beats a lot of companies. It’s why I still have my microsites & small traffic clients at HostGator instead of InMotion Hosting (where this site lives).
If you are looking for a good host on a tight budget, you can get 60% off HostGator here.
Good Service + Uptime
HostGator guarantees 99.9% uptime (which is 8 downtime hours per year). So far – I haven’t had any. HostGator has had its issues in the past though (notably in August 2013). That’s compared to GoDaddy – which guarantees the same thing, and I had documented 8 hours in 1 month (not to mention the recent DNS hack). When a post of mine went viral – HostGator handled more than 10,000+ new sessions on my server within an hour just fine.
Speaking of DNS – that was the topic of one of my couple interactions with the HostGator support staff.
HostGator promises 24 x 7 x 365 service – and they actually delivered. I was transferring a development site from my HostGator to my client’s host – and was having a technical problem (turned out to be a misstep I had taken) at 2 am
I logged in on chat – and yep, got my questions answered right away. Fabulous.
Now – as I emphasize in all my web hosting reviews – customer support is impossible to judge based on any reviews…because all reviews are anecdotal. You never know if you got their one rockstar or their one rookie having a bad day.
That said – given the number of support channels and the extent of HostGator’s knowledgebase, both of which I use as a “proxy” for investment in customer support, I give them a good score for overall customer support.
Transfer Service, Onboarding & QuickInstall
One of the most daunting parts of setting up a website is the actual start.
HostGator has plenty of channels to get you started on the right foot. I’ve used their website transfer service and their QuickInstall scripts multiple times. It’s all been good.
Additionally, they have a generous money-back guarantee (45 days).
HostGator’s plans offer unmetered everything, except the Hatchling Plan, which offers unlimited everything, but caps your domain names at 1.
This is a big deal. Unmetered databases means that you can have pretty much as many WordPress installs as you want.
Unmetered domains (on Baby and Business plans) means you can have literally unlimited websites on 1 plan (my websites cost cents, not dollars to host because I have so many on 1 plan).
Unmetered bandwidth means that you can scale, and not worry about # of visitors (although every shared host is going to crash if you get on the front page of CNN, and millions all come at once).
Unmetered email accounts – if that’s something you need.
And then there are unlimited subdomains and FTP accounts – so you can give secure access to any number of people.
Now – here’s the thing. HostGator says “unmetered” because they are still working with finite resources on finite servers. You are sharing space on a server with other websites. But – the point is that they do not artificially limit your resources before your shared server is used up.
The knock-on effect here is that their servers probably have more websites on them than other hosting companies. And that may impact their overall performance. But – for a use case like myself where I have several small projects that need to minimize costs – this setup is fine.
In fact – it’s great because I don’t even need to plan or think about how to allocate my databases / domains across my account. I just do it.
cPanel & Software Options
cPanel is the software that runs your server’s backend. It’s what you login to when you want to install a website, etc.
Using cPanel is a huge pro – because it’s open-source (no company owns it), and is sort of the industry standard, so it has tons of documentation, and your can get help anywhere on the Internet in addition to HostGator.
They are a bit easier to use, but you are totally dependent on them for support – and they can be very limiting and frustrating in what you can and cannot do. For example, until very recently – you couldn’t edit file permissions via FTP with GoDaddy. Really annoying and time consuming if you are designing a website.
cPanel is a big plus – not to mention that the WordPress user manual often just assumes that you are running cPanel.
If you are curious – here’s what the HostGator cPanel looks like. It has tons of options, but it also put the most used ones front and center (e.g. note the giant WordPress icon at the top).
But the extra bonus is that HostGator loads up cPanel with lots of extra scripts and software options. It’s straightforward to install everything from WordPress to Wikis to RSS Readers.
Because of cPanel – HostGator also has a by-default open stance towards you running your website.
Obviously they aren’t going to let you set up a large scale spam operation – but for example, GoDaddy is notorious for filtering all email from your website (ie, contact forms). In fact, for clients that use GoDaddy or 1&1 – I usually have to install a separate WordPress plugin that redirects the contact form through Gmail so that they are cool with sending it out.
No problems like that so far with HostGator.
*This has been slowly changing over the years ever since being acquired by Endurance. It’s part of the reason that I’ve moved my larger sites to InMotion for the performance / service while keeping my small sites at HostGator for the price & overall value.
Clean Energy Powered
This point isn’t necessarily an “oh my word I gotta have it” feature – but it is nice to know.
And allows for a bit of looking down of the nose whenever a big story comes out about how much energy it takes to run a data center (and not to harp on GoDaddy more, but their data center is in… Scottsdale, Arizona).
It’s nice to know that the bit of energy it takes to run my little websites is coming from massive Texas / Utah wind farms, and not a big coal plant.
Cons of HostGator Shared Web Hosting
Now – as with any hosting company – HostGator is not perfect. Here’s my complaints against HostGator along with general negatives that would make them not a good fit for some website owners.
Most all of these cons of HostGator extend to pretty much any shared hosting company – but they are cons nevertheless. And apparent complexity is one of them.
HostGator provides great support, documentation, and tutorials as mentioned above – but it doesn’t really do much to make the process look easy, even when it is.
As you can see in the screenshot in the cPanel section, HostGator keeps things pretty minimal and geeky feeling.
Mediocre Website Speed
This term stands for Time To First Byte. It refers to how fast a server is able to start responding to a request.
Imagine your browser is a dude who needs a stack of books (a website) from a neighbor (the web host).
TTFB is the time it takes for your neighbor to get to the door after you first knock.
With HostGator – I’ve found in my tests that they can be slow at times, and very slow occasionally at TTFB. But they are always super-fast at delivering, and never not at home.
So in the analogy, HostGator sometimes takes a while to get to the door, but once he gets to the door to find out what you want – he’s super, super fast gathering the books and giving them to you.
That’s a problem with a lot of shared hosts – but it’s something HostGator should improve upon.
*in fairness to HostGator, I do concede that TTFB is best looked at as a trend. It’s useful for research, but it’s not the whole picture. Here’s their public data on how their internal teams measure their speeds –
Upsells & Customized Software
This complaint is fairly new. In fact, the lack of upsells and plain jane software used to be a “pro” for me with HostGator.
But that has changed recently. This point is not all bad. Some upsells are genuinely useful. And some people may like them, but it’s something to be aware of and consider.
For starters, HostGator has several partnerships with companies like SiteLock (site security), CodeGuard (site backup), and MOJO Themes (premium WordPress themes and plugins) that all provide semi-useful but also semi-redundant services (ie, HostGator provides backup & restore services). HostGator pitches them throughout their signup process.
But the big thing that has changed is that HostGator’s WordPress QuickInstall does not do a “clean” WordPress install – it comes with several plugins auto-installed like MOJO Themes, W3 Total Cache and others.
Not a huge deal – it’s simple enough to deactivate them and go add your own plugins. But it’s annoying nonetheless. Even if they are helpful, I’m generally not a fan of companies “customizing” my software.
Big Company Rumors
I’ve never seen or found evidence of various rumors – but a some people say that HostGator throttles your bandwidth without your knowledge. They also say that HostGator crams more sites onto a server than is healthy.
I have no idea. I’ve read the exact rumors about other hosting companies. And the nature of the rumors is that you can never really disprove them.
HostGator says they aren’t true (obviously), and I’ve never experienced either. But you should know that they are floating around out there.
A lot of the rumors stem from a few large instances they’ve had since they were acquired by Endurance – a large holding corporation.
*Aside – on the Endurance Corporation note, I did find their public Investor reports useful. Here’s how they see HostGator in their portfolio of brands.
Now – this whole point is not necessarily a negative – it’s more of a consideration. HostGator is a big brand that’s part of a big corporation. They have the scale and resources to offer good hosting at incredible prices.
But – you will always be a very, very small part of their overall revenue. You will always be a “market segment.” Some people like the scale and service of a big company. For example, plenty of people choose GEICO over their local insurance agent. But some people like the personal service and connection of a smaller, independent company.
Not The Dirt, Dirt Cheapest
As I said in the Pros – HostGator was the cheapest in value and long-term price.
That said – if you want to save 1 or 2 dollars per year, you can get a promo at Web Hosting Hub (Web Hosting Hub review) or their sister company iPage, which is pretty good (and super-cheap too), even though it’s not a hosting company first and foremost. The same goes with GoDaddy (this promo will get you their discount).
There are others – but money for value for a starter site, I’d still say HostGator. You’ll also be able to lock-in savings at HostGator.
Pricey In-House Domains
Speaking of domain companies, HostGator sells domain names and even offers them directly through cPanel.
But they are pretty pricey – $15/yr for .com
It’s kind of annoying. But that’s normal… HostGator is a hosting company, not a domain company.
Not As Many Goodies
HostGator gives you $100 in AdWords credit and a 45-day guarantee and plenty of free software.
Other hosting companies give away cool stuff like Yahoo, Flickr, and Fotolia ad credits. HostGator needs to get on the business development scene.
Not a huge deal, but still worth noting.
HostGator Review Conclusion
If you are looking for a reliable, affordable, open hosting company for your WordPress website – you’ll do well with HostGator. I have many sites hosted there, and they’ve served me well.
If you’d rather go with an independent company (ie, not owned by Endurance International) with great support (though a bit more pricey), then I also recommend InMotion Hosting.