First off – I’m so happy I switched. I was definitely worth the transition.
But now that I’ve been using HostGator for several years (and setup several websites using WordPress) – I’ve got a full pros and cons list of using HostGator that would’ve been useful to know before signing up.
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. If you want other options, be sure to check out Conclusion.
Pros of HostGator Shared Web Hosting
With shared hosting plans – you are really talking about a buck here and a penny there – but nevertheless, HostGator really stood out – especially when I factored in their features (like unlimited everything for their Baby Plan).
Their default discount is 20% off the first year – but you can use this link to get a 45% discount. So the Baby Plan was $4.86/mo. Next year, it’s only going to pop up to $7.63/mo.
They have a Hatchling Plan that’s even cheaper(!) if you only need 1 domain.
After shopping around – I found several places like FatCow, iPage and Bluehost (all are Endurance brands focused on different market segments) that had an occasional better promo – but always had either higher long-term prices, not as good features, or higher price per site costs than HostGator.
So yeah – price was a huge pro for me with HostGator – especially the fact that they offer monthly pricing without a 12 month lock-in – and allow so many small sites to live on the same account.
#2 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 12,000 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 2am.
I logged in on chat – and yep, got my questions answered right away. Fabulous.
When I setup my account – I was also really impressed with HostGator’s How-To guide on moving your WordPress website from one host to another. The guide actually served as my reference in my video tutorial on the same topic.
#3 Transfer Service + QuickInstall
Don’t want to transfer your website manually?
HostGator has a pretty incredible service where they will transfer your entire website for you.
Yup. You just give them the info after you sign up, give their techs a couple hours and bam! your site is on HostGator. Really cool.
Don’t have a website yet – and just want to 1-click install WordPress without fooling with a manual install?
HostGator has that. In fact, here’s their video tutorial on how to 1-click WordPress Install…
I always do manual installs – but for non-developers, these services are really quite useful.
#4 Unlimited Everything
HostGator’s plans offer unlimited everything, except the Hatchling Plan, which offers unlimited everything, but caps your domain names at 1.
This is a big deal. Unlimited databases means that you can have pretty much as many WordPress installs as you want.
Unlimited 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).
Unlimited 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).
And then there are unlimited subdomains and FTP accounts – so you can give secure access to any number of people.
It’s a pretty awesome feature set.
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.
It’s a huge difference from GoDaddy (and 1&1, and other big-time hosts) that have proprietary backends.
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 could’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).
#6 Open Stance*
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.
#7 Clean Energy Powered
This point wasn’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
#1 Apparent Complexity
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.
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 –
#3 Feels Like You’re On Your Own
This point is related to #1 and #3 – HostGator has great support for their hosting, but they don’t do a ton of preventative stuff for you.
HostGator does weekly backups, which is nice, but it’s not above and beyond. The same way with malware scanning. If you run a WordPress site – you are on your own to run it and maintain it. Again, which is totally normal, but something I wish I had been reminded of.
#4 Various 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 that 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.
#5 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 $1.99/mo for 1 year)
There are others – but money for value for a starter site, I’d still say HostGator.
#6 Pricey In-House Domains
Speaking of domain companies, HostGator sells domain name, 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.
#7 Not As Many Goodies
HostGator gives you $100 in AdWords credit and a 45-day guarantee in addition to a pretty awesome site builder.
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. This site is 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.
If you’re trying to sort through all the various hosting options – I put together a BuzzFeed style WordPress hosting quiz here.
- Rated 4 stars
- HostGator Shared Web Hosting for WordPress
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By far the best all-around value for the cheap end of hosting. Great support, features, and price. They could improve on on a few things - though much of the cons are the same no matter who the hosting company is.