Long-established hosting provider offering value for money plans packed with a wealth of tools and features.
Web hosting company Hostgator has enjoyed something of a surge in popularity, thanks no doubt to its attention-grabbing marketing, an attractive homepage, and a recognisable brand complete with its own mascot.
But does that mean the company are all style over substance? Is this a hosting provider focused more on gimmicks than quality service, on fancy bells and whistles over solid, reliable web hosting?
Not exactly. Boasting over eight million registered websites, amassed over its decade-long presence in the hosting industry, the company certainly has something going for it.
In our experience, we’ve found that once you get behind the fancy customer-facing website and that blue and yellow alligator, you’ve actually got one of the best value-for-money shared plans we’ve encountered so far.
We wouldn’t say that they’re the perfect host. Far from it. As you’ll read about in the Performance and Reliability section, we have had our own experience of downtime and server issues when running one of our sites on their servers.
Rather than attempt to persuade you one way or another about whether this is the right host for you, we’ve simply asked our experts to present this guide on everything you could possibly want to know about HostGator in order to make your own decision.
Plans and Pricing
We can’t really fault HostGator for their pricing, as though their plans are on par with many of their nearest rivals, they do seem to offer more for your money than other leading hosting companies.
Naturally, the cheapest option is the Hatchling, or basic package. At time of writing, starting at $4.86 (£3.26) per month if you go with a three-year deal, up to $8.76 (£5.88) for a by-the-month rate up to six months.
Likewise, the Baby and Business packages are at their cheapest if you make the full three year commitment, with the former starting at $6.96 (£4.67) for the full term, and the latter setting you back $10.46 (£7.02).
On the whole, we think this pricing is among the best on the market right now. As you’ll see in our pricing comparison table below, even the long-term rates of some other basic hosting plans come in at over the £7 mark. With HostGator you can get a full business package for that price and still only pay £10.04 per month once it comes time to renew.
It’s for this reason that we often go straight for the business package when using HostGator. That being said, if your needs aren’t quite so advanced, and if you can manage with either the Hatchling or Baby plan, you’re still getting a good deal.
Money Back Guarantee
If you’re not happy with HostGator’s services, the company will refund 100% of your money providing you cancel within 45 days from the date that your contract term started.
As with many hosting companies, this excludes the cost of domain registration fees, allowing you to take your website address with you should you move to a new hosting provider.
In HostGator’s specific case, the money back offer only applies to shared, VPS and reseller hosting plans.
Dedicated server costs and other fees are also excluded from the discount.
What’s included in the HostGator Shared Plan?
- Free SSL
- Instant Backups
- Free domain name
- Unlimited storage and bandwidth
- Unlimited POP3 Email
The Hatchling plan -the company’s basic package- is $4.96 per month, which is about average for your typical entry-level hosting account. What’s untypical however, is that even this package comes complete with a Shared SSL certificate, something not seen on other hosts’ starter plans.
If extra security and data protection is a key concern before you develop your new site, this may well swing the vote when it comes to picking a hosting company.
Taking things to the next level, you could opt for the ‘Baby’ or mid-range package, though really the benefits of this seem to be slight. You do get to have unlimited domain names, private SSL and the option to pay $2 per month for a dedicated IP (all features not included in the basic package), but unless you really need those things, there’s nothing particularly attractive about this option.
If you do need something more than the basic package, then the ‘business’ package, HostGator’s premium offer, does benefit from enough additions to warrant the extra expense, including anonymous FTP, a free, dedicated IP address and -for US customers- your own toll-free telephone number to access the customer support team.
Still not a great deal of difference, but the greater level of access to tech support is certainly a nice feature to have.
We’ve covered most of the essentials above, but it’s also worth mentioning here that, even with the Hatchling plan, you’ll get at least $100 of free online advertising credits for sites like Google, Bing and Facebook, access to premium level drag-and-drop website builders like SiteStudio and Soholaunch, and easy to use site monitoring tools such as AwStats and Webelizer.
There’s a vast one-click installation library too, which along with integration for Content Management Systems such as WordPress, Magento and Joomla, also supports a rich variety of photo galleries, forums, and other user-interactive features.
Building a Website
Hostgator Guide – Website Builder
As you can see in the image above, HostGator bundles the Weebly website builder into its package. This can be activated via the Quickinstall function in your cPanel, and comes with all of the standard features that you’d get if you used Weebly as a stand-alone service.
We’ve used Weebly many times in the past, and always found them to be one of the best site creation tools on the ‘net, with a very easy-to-use, drag-and-drop interface, tonnes of customisable options and a vast selection of high quality templates suitable for just about every type of website.
Where as some other site builders tend to use uninspired, cookie-cutter website templates, Weebly do an impressive job of making theirs not only to the same standards employed by professional web designers, but also fully responsive so that they work well on mobile and tablet devices.
If you’re building your website on a hard drive and uploading it to your hosting account later, you’ve got unlimited FTP accounts, plus an online file uploader to do that with, whilst the usual array of Content Management Systems such as WordPress, Joomla, Drupal et al are all available through the one-click Quickinstall function.
HostGator for eCommerce
All of HostGator’s shared plans support eCommerce, including payment gateway and shopping cart integration. If you’re looking for a recommendation from us, we’d say it makes most sense to opt for the $10.46 per month business plan for your online store, as this is the only shared host package on offer which comes with a dedicated IP address. This is something that you’ll more than likely find essential to process payments securely, and provide your customers with the peace of mind that comes from knowing their data is being well protected when they make a purchase through your website.
Much as with the level of reliability on offer, HostGator’s customer service is good enough without ever going above and beyond into anything outstanding. Round the clock support via phone, live chat and email is available across all packages. Response times tend to vary, with the occasional lightning-quick response interspersed between long-wait times, particularly around lunch-times and early evenings.
The help we have received from HostGator’s team has always been sufficient and to the point, though if you ask us, we do think the company could invest in a few rounds of training for some of its phone staff!
Reliability and Performance
Many HostGator customers have found little reason to doubt the company’s claim of 99.9% uptime, and you can count us among them, despite experiencing a few problems with them only recently.
Due to a strain on the severs, we found HostGator struggled to return pages on one of our websites and constantly gave us redirect errors. A little research revealed that we weren’t alone, it was a problem across the service.HostGator uptime graph 2016
Having said that, we estimated that the disruption to our service was no more than a few hours at most, and was the first (and so far only) time we’ve experienced any issues with HostGator. On the whole, they’ve delivered consistently good -if not spectacular- service, and we’re willing to give them the benefit of the doubt on this one isolated incident.
HostGator more than holds its own when it comes to making their services easy to use. You’ll find it no more easier, nor difficult, to work with them than any other of the top web hosting companies.
Where it does stand out is in the simplicity of its sign-up process, which eliminates any confusion or complications in purchasing a hosting package and clearly presents the price you’ll pay without any hidden fees or charges.
Speaking of the pricing, we do think HostGator presents one of the better value-for-money shared hosting deals out there right now, and we always put them as one of our own top-contenders when it comes to choosing a provider for our own web projects.
We mentioned that HostGator offer good value for money, though there is one drawback. If you want to get the absolute best deal on web hosting, you’re effectively tied to the one company for three solid years. If you’re certain HostGator are right for you, and are prepared to make that long-term commitment, then of course you’re getting a fantastic deal here, but if you’re one of the many website owners who like to give their service providers a trial run before committing to a longer-period, this is going to work out to be a more expensive option for you.
Over to you
What do you think about HostGator’s shared hosting plans? If you’re a former or existing customer, and you’d like to share your experience in order to help our readers make the best choice about their next hosting company, why not leave us a review in the comments.