|Services||Web Hosting, WordPress Hosting, Reseller Hosting, VPS & Dedicated Servers|
|Best For||Freelancers & website owners|
|Strengths||Great value for the price & many features|
|Weaknesses||Confusing control panel and upselling|
|Promotion||Get Up To 70% Off (Sale Ends 10/22)|
HostGator is one of the most well-known brands in the hosting world. They are one of the two flagship brands of Newfold Digital, the world’s largest web services corporation.
HostGator offers a large array of services:
- Shared hosting
- Website builder
- WordPress hosting
- VPS hosting
- Dedicated hosting
- Reseller hosting
This review focuses primarily on their bread and butter – web hosting (aka shared hosting).
In the vast sea of web hosting services, how does HostGator stand out? Find out in this detailed review.
What is HostGator?
HostGator was founded (hatched as they like to call it) in 2002 by Brent Oxley. They have grown to host over 2.5+ million websites and are based in Houston, Texas.
In 2012, HostGator was acquired by Endurance International (known now as Newfold Digital). Which makes them a sister company to:
- Bluehost (Bluehost review)
- iPage (iPage review)
- HostMonster (HostMonster review)
- JustHost (JustHost review)
- Among many more…
HostGator is one of the largest and most popular providers of web hosting services on the Internet. They were the first hosting company that I ever used back in 2010.
In addition to hosting service, they have a product line of complementary website products such as domain names, website builders (check out their Gator Website Builder) web design, and email services.
Is HostGator Legit?
HostGator is one of the most popular hosting choices on the Internet. They have built and maintained a brand based on affordable features & value – and maintained it in face of tough competition.
HostGator started in 2002 and has consistently grown into one of the largest and most popular hosting brands.
HostGator has positioned itself as not only the go-to value hosting provider, but also as an “all-in-one” host with a range of hosting services, website builder, and email services. I’ve used HostGator for several projects of my own (including my first website).
HostGator is legit. They aren’t a fly-by-night hosting company.
What Is HostGator Used for?
HostGator is used to host websites and web applications. They have a specific marketing focus on affordable websites – and providing free website software bundled with hosting. They offer a full suite of website products ranging from domain names to hosting to email to even web design.
There are a lot of HostGator reviews online – usually with user-generated reviews based on anecdotes and personal experience. That’s totally fine but I take a different approach, looking at both the advantages and disadvantages of a host.
However, like I’ve stated in all my hosting reviews, finding a good hosting company is about finding the right fit based on your goals & resources. Here are my pros & cons and an overview of HostGator’s products as a HostGator customer.
HostGator has a wide spectrum of hosting plans. Here’s a brief overview of each.
Web (i.e., Shared) hosting is the bread and butter of the website hosting world. They consist of individual accounts on a Linux server. They can run WordPress or any application on a LAMP Stack. A shared plan is a cost-effective and reliable way to run most websites. Learn more about Shared Hosting in this guide. HostGator has three main shared hosting plans.
|Free Domain Name||1 year||1 year||1 year|
Even though WordPress can run on shared hosting, many hosting companies have WordPress plans due to customer demand and the hardware demands of WordPress. Many hosting companies offer “WordPress hosting” that is *exactly* the same as their shared hosting plans.
HostGator does have Managed WordPress Hosting plans which have custom features, plans, and resources for running a large or fast-growing WordPress-powered website. You are basically paying for performance rather than features. Their plans compete well with other “apples to apples” WordPress Hosting plans.
|Free Domain Name||1 year||1 year||1 year|
VPS hosting is a great way to get a specific allocation of server resources, without having to lease an entire server. Even though your website lives on the same server as other sites, you have total control over a set amount of resources. Learn more about VPS hosting in this guide. HostGator has several very competitively priced VPS plan options that offer managed and unmanaged hosting account options.
HostGator reseller hosting is basically a shared, VPS, or dedicated server plan with 3rd party billing and management enabled. Reseller hosting allows anyone to basically start their own hosting company without actually starting a hosting company. Read more about Reseller hosting in this guide. It’s a great way for agencies to get recurring revenue and provide extra value for clients. HostGator has a range of reseller hosting products.
Cloud hosting is different than shared / VPS / dedicated hosting in that there are no specific server resources responsible for running your website or application. You just pay for the performance and resources. It’s confusing, but I explained it in this cloud hosting guide.
HostGator offers a cloud hosting plan that charges a base amount per month for a certain equivalent amount of resources. HostGator Cloud is competitive and even though it’s more expensive and limited than shared hosting, it does offer several performance benefits (i.e., both response time and scalability). See HostGator’s Cloud hosting plans.
Traditional hosting usually runs on a LAMP stack. The “L” stands for Linux, which is an open-source operating system. An alternative to Linux is the Windows operating system. It’s not as popular, but it is a necessary operating system for a lot of websites, especially ones using ASP.
HostGator is one of the few large, discount hosting companies that actively offer and support Windows Hosting with competitive plans. Check them out here.
Hosted website builders have a lock-in, but self-hosted website builders do not. HostGator provides a self-hosted website builder called the GATOR website builder. I’ve reviewed GATOR.
It comes with the purchase of a hosting plan and has much of the ease of use and functionality of a hosted website builder. Check out GATOR website builder.
HostGator Web Hosting vs. HostGator WordPress Hosting
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 web hosting“).
- Again – WordPress can (and does) run just fine on a shared hosting plan.
- 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. It is database driven – not static. It uses plugins to add functionality. That’s great, but it can 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 specific WordPress 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 in the end, it’s been thoroughly confusing for everyone.
But – the key takeaway is to identify your own needs & goals rather than going right for a company’s “WordPress Hosting” plan.
Convenience is great – but it’s important to understand what you are truly paying for so that you have the right expectations.
Pros / Benefits of HostGator
No hosting company is perfect. And like I said in the intro, I’ve always maintained that there is no such thing as a “best hosting company” – it all depends on your goals and preferences.
That said, here are the pros / advantages that I found with HostGator.
Sticker Pricing & Total Value Pricing
And Namecheap might offer very limited accounts that are cheaper. But I have yet to find a web 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 HostGator’s current promo 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 years 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 knowledge base, 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). They also include useful freebies like a free SSL certificate, free domain, and a dedicated IP on their top tier.
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 domain options (on HostGator Baby plan 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 so there’s physically no such thing as truly unlimited storage / disk space or unlimited bandwidth. But – the point is that they do not artificially limit your server 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.
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.
That said – if you are really into sustainability and clean power, be sure to check out GreenGeeks’ setup.
HostGator Cons / Complaints
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.
Solidly Fine Website Speed
HostGator has always been solidly fine for my small sites on my HostGator server. They have always had plenty of bandwidth and resources to handle traffic surges.
However, I’ve never been able to get the absolute best TTFB times for them compared to other shared hosts.
TTFB 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, but are always solidly fine, but then excellent at delivering the rest of the files.
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.
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.
Not The Dirt, Dirt Cheapest
As I said in the Pros – HostGator was the cheapest in value and long-term price for a shared web hosting service.
That said – if you want to save 1 or 2 dollars per year, you can get a hosting package at Web Hosting Hub (Web Hosting Hub review) or HostGator’s sister company iPage, which is pretty good (and super-cheap too).
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 – $17.99/yr for .com renewals.
It’s kind of annoying. But that’s normal… HostGator is a hosting company, not a domain company.
Is HostGator Worth It?
If you are looking for a reliable, affordable, open hosting company for your WordPress site – you’ll do well with HostGator. I have many sites hosted there, and they’ve served me well. Get a HostGator plan.
If you’d rather go with an independent company (ie, not owned by Newfold Digital) with great support (though a bit more pricey), then I also recommend InMotion Hosting.
If you’re trying to sort through all the various hosting options – I put together the Best Web Hosting Services Guide.