1&1 hosting and HostGator are two of the oldest and biggest hosting brands in the world. I wanted to compare 1&1 Hosting vs. HostGator specifically after receiving several reader questions about the 1&1 brand (mainly b/c 1&1, like GoDaddy does a ton of advertising).
*Editor’s Note – this comparison was originally published in early 2014. It’s been revised throughout as of May 2016.
Many of my sites (this one uses InMotion VPS) run on HostGator hosting (see HostGator’s plans here), and I’ve had the opportunity to use 1&1 hosting (see 1&1’s plans here) with several client sites, in addition to a recent side project that uses 1&1 hosting. After using each for quite a while, here’s my experience with how 1&1 and Hostgator compare on pricing, features, performance, usability, and customer service.
Disclosure – I receive referral fees from many companies mentioned in this post. All data and opinions in this post are based on my experience as a paying customer or consultant to a paying customer.
Comparing web hosts on pricing is always a bit difficult since they try to make sure the comparison is never apples to apples, when really they are all selling the same thing.
For price comparisons, I try to keep the 3 D’s straight – domains, databases, and disk space. When it comes to shared Linux hosting (which, unless you know otherwise is probably going to be the best fit for you). Those are the 3 features that you are really paying for – everything is else is nice, but can’t really be compared directly.
Domains is the number of domains you can point to your hosting account. Depending on the exact account – you could have unlimited “websites” that live all on 1 domain. You could have blog.domain.com along with shop.domain.com and support.domain.com – each would be distinct site but all on the single domain.com. HostGator’s cheapest account (Hatchling) allows 1 domain. All of 1&1’s plans and HostGator’s other tiers are unlimited.
Databases are what “powers” your site – especially if you use something like WordPress to manage your website. Basically 1 database = 1 distinct website. In the example above, your blog, support, shop, and main site would be 4 different websites and would need 4 different databases. Disk space is simply how much storage you can have (think photos, videos, text,etc). Databases and diskspace are where you need to be careful when comparing.
All of HostGator’s plans allow unlimited databases & disk space whereas 1&1’s cheaper plans cap them. All that to say is that to compare apples to apples, we need to look at 1&1’s Unlimited Plan vs. HostGator’s Baby Plan.
The default 1 year price for 1&1 is $9.99/mo vs. HostGator’s $9.95/mo. 1&1 however will run frequent promotions (see here for their current one), while HostGator offers 45% off for 1st time customer with a special discount.
It’s close enough to consider other factors for 1&1 hosting vs. HostGator. Let’s look at specific feature offering.
For price comparison purposes, you should looks at domains, databases, and diskspace. However, features do matter to you overall purchasing decision – especially if you have certain goals or needs (such as hosted email, etc).
Both 1&1 and HostGator provide huge lists of super-technical terms trying to convince you that they provide more than the other. What really happens is that it’s too much to process and actually compare, so you focus on the small differences (like how HostGator gives you $100 in Google AdWords credit whereas 1&1 gives you $50 in Facebook and $50 in Bing ads) instead of features that actually matter.
That said, there are a few features that I want to call out. First, HostGator does weekly backups of your site. 1&1 does daily backups. If you publish a lot – that can be a big deal. Now, you should never rely on your hosting company to do backups for you (it’s important enough that you shouldn’t entrust that to someone else). But the additional frequency of 1&1 backups are nice, and a feature that HostGator ought to add.
As far as return policies, HostGator does a 45-day return policy, whereas 1&1 provides a 30-day. Not a ton, but worth calling out.
They both offer unlimited bandwidth (ie, they will support unlimited amount of traffic to your site). Every host should asterisk this since if your site hits every news network at the same time…it’s probably going to crash. That said, I do need to call out that when my a post of mine went viral in July 2013, I had 4,000 on my site at one point and HostGator handled it gracefully (unfortunately the sites I own that run on 1&1 have not had a viral hit yet).
For first-time website owners, 1&1 offers an “App Center” that has guided setup of WordPress and other common software. HostGator, however, stands out with their Quick Install feature (detailed here), which provides a much better experience that I’ll detail in the usability section.
Overall, in features I’ll call 1&1 hosting vs. HostGator a bit of a tie, depending on exactly what features you really value. But features don’t matter if they don’t work, so let’s dive into performance.
A web host’s primary purpose is to serve up your website files as quickly and as reliably as possible whenever a visitor navigates to your URL. All reputable hosts guarantee 99.9% uptime (in other words, you may have about 1 hour of downtime per year). Both HostGator and 1&1 claim that their internal metrics match those numbers.
There’s always going to be a lot of anecdotal evidence either way. Customers for 1&1 often claim that they have had significant downtime. A lot of HostGator customers experienced a day’s worth of downtime when they switched data centers in August 2013 (my sites weren’t affected, but numerous others were).
It’s tough to make judgments on future uptime based on the past for all web hosts – since even Google and Amazon do go occasionally. So, I’d say that both are going to give you solid uptime (but always make sure you keep your own backups), and look at things that you can measure – like delivering your files quickly.
To try to look directly at 1&1 hosting vs. HostGator directly, I set up 2 websites with the same settings on both accounts and ran speed tests. Here are the results.
In 2016, 1&1 has improved, but still not as good as HostGator.
There are a lot of variables that go into how quickly your website can load – but the factor that you can specifically look at to gauge host performance is time to first byte (TTFB) – again, there are a lot of other factors, but this is the only one you can distinguish from website setup. This is a measurement of how long the server takes to acknowledge the request and start returning files.
In other words, if you walked up to a counter and asked someone to go into the back of the store to grab a package, TTFB would be how long they just stood there before running into the back of the store.
If we were to compare 1&1 hosting vs. HostGator on performance alone – it would be no contest. But performance and features don’t matter unless you can actually use them, which is why for all of my hosting reviews I like to look at usability as well.
All hosting accounts have a “backend” setup where you go to manage your server account – sort of like how you use Windows 7 or OSX to manage your personal computer.
HostGator uses cPanel, which is the standard across the industry. It’s cluttered and not pretty, but it is straightforward and fairly easy to find what you are looking for, especially since they put all the information on the main page. Additionally, since it’s mostly standard across a lot of hosting companies, it’s easy to find help and support around the internet for it. Here’s what it looks like.
1&1 hosting, however, uses a custom backend to manage their hosting accounts. In theory, this would be great because they can customize it exactly to meet the needs of their customers…but it turns into a bit of a usability disaster. It is admittedly prettier than HostGator. However, several key settings (like DNS information) are buried while others (such as Global PHP settings are emphasized. Here’s what it looks like…
Even though there are a lot of overall usability issues with 1&1, my 3 specific issues are:
1. They hide the DNS information behind Domain Transfers. It’s a pretty overt attempt to upsell their domain services and encourage customers to transfer the registration of their domain to 1&1. Instead, they should easily provide the DNS information to allow customers with domains elsewhere to still use 1&1 hosting.
In contrast to HostGator – DNS information (and FTP) information is something you receive in your signup email and is on the main dashboard of the hosting account.
2. 1&1 hosting’s main market is first-time website owners and small business owners, but their backend setup makes app setup (such as WordPress) very hard, and more technical than it should be. HostGator uses the QuickInstall which is an actual 2 step process, whereas 1&1 puts their WordPress install within an App Center, and uses a more technical 5 step process.
3. Error messages are a frequent appearance on 1&1 hosting. And they are often for very mundane actions…like hitting the back button.
Additionally, many other basic functions such as installing databases fail much more often than HostGator.
Overall, even though HostGator’s backend is not pretty – but it’s usable and very functional. 1&1 has lots of usability issues that make it a frustrating choice for me – but especially for any first time hosting account customer. Major points to HostGator.
HostGator both cover the spectrum of phone, email, chat, forum, and knowledge-base support. I’ve had good experiences with HostGator for several years – even though I have not had to contact support all that often. I’ve averaged about 2 to 4 minute phone waits, and chat is usually instantly available.
1&1 hosting support has typically been fine, but not quite good. Their support is fast (usually under a minute wait) and cordial, but not super knowledgeable. They seem to view support as a cost center rather than a marketing & retention channel. My most recent experience was trying to get a database installation error fixed.
The support was fast and cordial, but she simply tried to solve the issue by re-creating it herself. She had to put me on hold to bring in the technical supervisor (apparently they have line customer service which is supported by a handful tech people).
The hold was taking a while, so I asked to be contacted by email once the issue was resolved. It was fixed and I was emailed just 5 minutes later. Again, it was fine – and much better than other many other hosts, but not quite to the level of HostGator’s good, but consistent support.
Typically, I different companies offer a better or worse fit depending on your goals. For 1&1 Hosting vs. HostGator – I’d say the following:
Otherwise, I’d say that 1&1 hosting is a big brand with great prices and lots of features, but really can’t match HostGator in any other category for overall value. Get 45% off HostGator’s plans here (coupon included).
If you are more confused than ever, be sure to check out my Buzzfeed-style hosting quiz to sort the options.