For anyone who has been interested in hosting a website, it’s hard to forget the pervasive advertising that HostGator pushes whenever it comes up with a promotion. There’s nary a name in the web hosting business that is older than this Texas-based juggernaut.
Over the course of a few weeks we took the time to push this web host to its very limits and see just what it has to offer that makes it stand out above the rest. We hope that this HostGator review provides you with the information you need to make an educated decision.
In a snapshot
Verdict: Prices are a bit hefty, but the speed and level of service that the hosting provider offers don't provide any significant disappointment.
- Speed has significantly improved.
- Support seems easy enough to navigate and representatives are patient and courteous.
- If you're not happy with your service within 45 days, you get your money back.
- An EV SSL certificate for the business plan is a major plus, especially when you're in e-commerce.
- It's surprisingly easy to set up a website.
- The extra price tag for some simple email service is utterly disappointing, to say the least.
- It actually costs money to have the platform press the "Backup" button for you periodically ($2/month). A service they provide free, manually, costs money to do automatically, which means you're paying $2/month for something you could do with a "cron" script in UNIX. That's just silly.
- FTP is not encrypted, making you vulnerable to MiTM attacks.
- Even with just basic service, you could find more competitive prices out there with similar (if not better) quality.
- Peering to Europe or Asia is pretty lame, but not the worst.
What HostGator Offers
As one of the world’s oldest surviving hosting platforms, we expected no less than a plethora of various offers. Among them are shared hosting, cloud hosting, WordPress-centric hosting, reseller packages, virtual private servers, dedicated servers, and domain names.
What We’re Reviewing
For this particular Hostgator review, we ordered the top-tier shared hosting service for businesses. People who want the best possible level of service for their websites will presumably be using this service, and we wanted to test all the bells and whistles that HostGator offers. We’ll try to make this review short and sweet and just get to the gist of everything without bombarding you with walls of text.
Pricing and Offering
HostGator’s prices look impressive from the outset, but be prepared to enter a bit of a labyrinth. The prices advertised there have asterisks for a reason. Having small print is no surprise, as most hosting services include this, but you’ll feel your wallet get thinner as we proceed. When you click the “Buy Now!” button, you’ll immediately notice that the prices are only for three-year commitments. Once again, not a big deal. Everyone does this.
But HostGator takes this just a tad further by compartmentalizing “extras” that are thrown in for a certain fee. Want email? You’re going to have to add $5 per month. How about automated backups? That’ll be $23.95 per year (~$2/month). SEO tools? $35.40 per year. SSL, thankfully, is free. These extras will cost you money regardless of what plan you choose, so business users can expect none of these fees to be waived.
There are three plans:
- The “Hatchling,” which is the entry-level plan that advertises a rate of $2.75 per month. If you’re paying on a month-by-month basis, expect to pay $10.95/month for basic service without extras. A twelve-month commitment will cost you $5.95/month.
- The “Baby,” which includes unlimited domain allowances (Hatchling allows for only one), parking for domains, and the option to include a dedicated IP for an extra $4 a month. The service on a three-year contract costs $5.95/month. On a month-by-month contract, expect to pay $11.95/month for basic service. A 12-month commitment will cost you $8.95/month.
- The “Business plan,” which is the top-dog high-tier service that offers you a Houston-sized helping of a free dedicated IP, a free Positive SSL (extended validation) upgrade, and anonymous FTP. Three years with the plan will cost you nothing above the “Baby” contract. However, a month-by-month payment will cost $16.95/month for basic service.
These may not be the highest prices we’ve ever seen for shared hosting, but they’re far from the cheapest. The question here is, “Does HostGator provide a level of service that justifies its price?”
Speed and Reliability
Uptime and speed are both some of the most crucial deciding factors that could make or break your visitors’ confidence in your site. If it takes longer than five seconds to load a page, barring issues that the visitor’s own ISP or system has, this could definitely stir them away to other sites. The Internet world is far more competitive than it was in the 90s when loading an image took about as long as your coffee break.
To provide a comprehensive analysis of how our website performs in real-world situations under HostGator, we decided to run a small battery of tests. The following are our results.
Bitcatcha (load time)
Despite complaints that we’ve seen on various forums about slow response times, we noticed that our website was loading at slightly above average. The below image shows our results.
We’ll choose to ignore the “C+” since ratings like these are kind of arbitrary. The results aren’t abysmal, but getting a 434 ms response time in one of the countries with the best Internet services records in the Asia-Pacific region isn’t something to boast about. Response times from Europe or Asia were a bit on laggy end. Let’s try this again.
An “A” this time, and the only thing that changed significantly was the response time from Bangalore. See why we chose to ignore the previous “C+?” Third time’s a charm!
Yet another improvement in Bangalore, a significant improvement in Singapore, and nothing much else. Response times are pretty average for a decent web host. There’s nothing that stands out here, good or bad.
Pingdom (load time)
A website’s ping response says little, if anything, about how long it takes to load a page from top to bottom. We’re going to load up our website with a bunch of high-resolution photos and scripts (we included a lot more of these than a normal website would expect to have) to see how this works out on a pingdom test. We chose Sweden as the requesting server’s location to provide the most masochistic test possible.
2.17 seconds is not bad. Let’s try that again.
This time it was just a little bit slower at 2.27 seconds, but still not bad at all. Now, it’s time for the final test.
Sweden’s Internet traffic gets rowdy at around 4 PM, which is around the hour that we did these tests. The US is just starting to wake up in the morning; therefore peering should be an issue. We’re assuming that HostGator’s data centers are all located in the United States, judging by our ping results, so these load times are actually quite impressive.
Our Own Handcrafted Test (Upload/Download)
Load times are nothing short of decent from what we’ve seen, but no one wants to upload a website backup or any other large file to the server only to find themselves in the middle of an arduous process that takes eons. How fast does HostGator download from its users? For this we have set up our own test server to upload from, complete with a tried-and-true 1 gigabit connection. We will be uploading a 543-megabyte audio file to the server through WinSCP to see what our average speed is.
Our first upload of the file averaged 200 Mbits per second, though it started to drop off after a few seconds. The minimum bandwidth we experienced was 140 Mbits per second.
Our second upload of the file averaged a painstaking 15 Mbits per second, making us suspect that we may have been throttled. The upload sometimes dropped down to below 10 Mbits per second. It’s still a respectable speed but a far cry from the ability to upload large files in seconds. While it took 30-or-so seconds to upload the file the first time, we had to wait an entire three minutes this time around. Let’s try it again with a fie-minute delay and logging into our FTP server again.
Once again, our third upload averaged at the comfortable breakneck speed of 200 Mbits per second. It seems that waiting a few minutes and logging in again did the trick!
Regarding the level of support, we decided to test it out in the spirit of thoroughness. We “played stupid” and contacted support via live chat with a few common questions about FTP access and WordPress setup and were pleasantly surprised to be connected with someone within fifteen seconds of submitting our ticket on a Saturday. Vivian (the name given to our support specialist) was lovely and courteous, albeit slow with her responses, perhaps because she was also dealing with other customers at the same time.
Our very quick rundown of what we experienced when using HostGator’s services is, “That was fast.” It took us a total of fifteen minutes to get a website up and running on WordPress, including the amount of time it took to set up a few plugins that took lots of liberties with jQuery and other more modern Java-based scripts. While we have nothing out of the ordinary to report, we do have to laud HostGator on its cPanel system which reduced the installation process down to a five-second ordeal after typing in some admin credentials and a site name.
This is by far one of the easiest times we had setting up a website.
When we looked at customer reviews from 2016 onwards, we saw that slowdowns and unreliable support were among the most common complaints. HostGator seems to have overcome all of these hurdles in 2018. Although its speed doesn’t impress us, it certainly didn’t disappoint. For a three-year commitment at $5.95 for the VIP treatment of a business subscription, it’s hard to point out any strongly negative experiences with HostGator.
All in all, it seems that HostGator has taken extra steps to prove that it’s a worthwhile service for people who take their websites seriously. Though prices are a bit hefty, the speed and level of service that the hosting provider offers don’t provide any significant disappointment. We are sure, however, that there are less pricey hosts that offer a similar product.
- Speed has significantly improved, though it remains to be seen whether this improvement is only a temporary response to complaints.
- Support seems easy enough to navigate, and representatives are patient and courteous.
- If you’re not happy with your service within forty-five days, you can get your money back (as long as you paid with a debit card or PayPal).
- An EV SSL certificate for the business plan is a major plus, especially when you’re in e-commerce.
- It’s surprisingly easy to set up a website, even if you’re still not used to this “Internet” thing all the kids talk about.
- The extra price tag for a simple email service is utterly disappointing, to say the least.
- It actually costs money to have the platform press the “Backup” button for you periodically ($2/month). A service they provide free, manually, costs money to do automatically, which means you’re paying $2/month for something you could do with a “cron” script in UNIX. That’s just silly.
- FTP is not encrypted, making you vulnerable to MiTM attacks.
- Even with just basic service, you could find more competitive prices with similar (if not better) quality.
- Peering to Europe or Asia is pretty lame but not the worst.
In the big scheme of things, it’s HostGator’s prices that overshadow the high-quality service it puts on the table. Given what we’ve experienced from the company, our total score is:
Help Is Always Welcome!
We’ll be making these web-hosting reviews a regular thing. Therefore, if you feel that something was missing, and you’d have liked to see it in a future review, please let us know in a comment! We’re always striving to meet the demands of our readers beyond the cookie-cutter model we came up with.
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