According to HostGator, its history started in a Florida dorm room in 2002. Founder Brent Oxley, with only $1,000 in his bank account, no AC in the room and constant power outages, turned his little business into an empire. Now HostGator reviews are shining, the service is immensely popular and can call itself one of the biggest hosting providers on the planet. It has grown into one of the leading providers of Shared, Reseller, VPS, and Dedicated web hosting and is now headquartered in Austin, Texas.
It also has offices in Houston as well as Sao Paulo and Florianopolis, Brazil. In addition to those countries, there are localized sites offered for Russia, China, India, Turkey, Singapore and Mexico. But company’s global background doesn’t end there - it is currently in the same corporation with many international hosting companies.
In 2012, HostGator was acquired by the Endurance International Group (EIG) for $225 million. The worldwide group owns such hosting giants as iPage, BlueHost and FatCow. Many of EIG’s acquisitions have been greeted with dismissive moods, as it has a distinct reputation for not helping to improve the quality of services they buy. Regardless, HostGator is a huge company in a huge corporation. In its fight for dominance, HostGator competes against GoDaddy, InMotion, Siteground and other popular web hosting providers.
They strive to offer a huge variety of high quality services and make them easy and affordable. There are plenty of positive HostGator reviews telling everyone that this company is amazing. Let’s see if that’s true.
- Shared web hosting
- Cloud hosting
- VPS hosting
- Dedicated hosting
- Reseller hosting
- Domain names (reseller of Enom)
HostGator hosting service is trying to suit all kinds of users who look to start a business, develop a website and search for the best possible deal. There are plenty of services to choose from and plenty of plans as well. All Shared, Cloud, WordPress, VPS and Dedicated plans have 3 choices each, prices ranging from $3.95 to $149.95 a month. These packages are available in many various lengths, ranging from 1 month, all the way to 3 years.
In addition that, there were more interesting things I found whilst browsing their website. These are the extra features HostGator offers:
Customer knowledge base
HostGator knowledge base is a great way for users of varying skill levels to get the information they need. From lost passwords to dedicated server container systems, HostGator uses a smart search system and an extensive menu. That helps to make sure everyone finds the answers they need before contacting the Customer Success team. In fact, as you try to contact the HostGator live chat, you first have to check for the solution there.
HostGator offers a huge library (500+) of video tutorials. However, it hasn’t been updated for a while. Only a small part of the videos are on YouTube, The majority of them are available to download as Shockwave Flash (.SWF) files. But if you have a way to view .SWF files, there are plenty of videos available to watch.
This is bad news for mobile and tablet users because mobile operating systems do not support .SWF files.
In today’s Internet industry, affiliate programs are very common - it is no surprise to see HostGator offering them too. Instead of giving some percentage of the commision from buyer’s first purchase, HostGator offers a static sum of money. It increases the more people you attract. So those who know how to get people to join will get up to $125 a signup!
It has over 500 free templates (100+ of them mobile friendly) to choose from. HostGator reviews are full of praise for this free website builder. In addition to the free plan, there are also ‘Professional’ and ‘Business’ plans, including features like Google Analytics integration and e-commerce capabilities.
All things considered, it can be said that HostGator attempts to be a jack of all trades, providing almost every main hosting service there is. The available features are good for both businesses, experts and beginners. And their flexible funding is suitable for projects of various lengths.
Precisely this service, HostGator Shared Hosting was the one promoted on the website. It was also the most affordable - starting at only $2.95/month and going upwards to $5.95. This is why I’ve chosen to test it.
What's included in HostGator packages?
There are three main shared web hosting packages to choose from.
- Hatchling - regular-sized one website package
- Baby - multiple website plan for intermediate level users
- Business - multiple website plan, suited for business and e-commerce websites
In a table below there is a comparison of the three plans and their features:
|Disk space limit||Unspecified||Unspecified||Unspecified|
|How many domains allowed||1||Unlimited||Unlimited|
|SSD or HDD used in servers||HDD||HDD||HDD|
|SSL||SSL not supported||Supported, not included in the package||Supported, included in the package|
|Anti-DDoS protection||Comes as a separate paid feature||Comes as a separate paid feature||Comes as a separate paid feature|
|Anti-malware protection||Comes as a separate paid feature||Comes as a separate paid feature||Comes as a separate paid feature|
|Assisted Website Transfer||Free for initial 30 days. Paid afterwards.||Free for initial 30 days. Paid afterwards.||Free for initial 30 days. Paid afterwards.|
|Money back guarantee||45 days||45 days||45 days|
|Customer Support||24/7 live chat, email, phone||24/7 live chat, email, phone||24/7 live chat, email, phone|
|Choice for server location||No||No||No|
|Free Automated Backups||No||No||No|
We all know that businesses usually intend on showing us the lowest possible prices in order to make us buy more. For example, this is how the $2.75 plan looks when put in the basket.
What you see above is a 3-year, $2.95-a-month package. You will have to pay $98.83 to take advantage of HostGator monthly price. This is actually really great for a 3-year plan!
One thing that took me by surprise is the automatic inclusion of a coupon code: 'SHARED3660' which seemingly gave me a $151.37 discount!
If you want to commit yourself to a shorter plan, prices are going to change. In a table below you’ll see total prices due for you to pay in the cart.
|Payment Period / Plan||Hatchling||Baby||Business|
|48 months||Not available.||Not available.||Not available.|
The prices exclude VAT of your country - if you don’t come from one of HostGator localized countries, you are likely to be charged with additional VAT value.
You can see that every single plan offers unmetered bandwidth and disk space. Bandwidth is unlimited until you use 25%+ of CPU for 90+ seconds. Disk space is limited to 999GB - and that is virtually unlimited because you are very unlikely to use it all up. That is a good change from many other hosting providers, who have strict boundaries in terms of disk space and/or bandwidth in their cheaper plans. However, if you want to use your hosting services very actively, be wary - it may get your account suspended.
One of the most notable things was the ‘Hatchling’ plan. It didn’t only include free SSL - it doesn’t support it at all. This is a complete ‘no-go’ for anyone who wants to work with e-commerce or do any kind of SEO optimisation. Both of these practices require valid SSL certificates to be installed,
There are plenty of features available for HostGator clients, however, nearly all of them have to be purchased separately. Things like anti-malware or anti-DDoS protection are not included with any of the plans - but they can be purchased as addons.
There are plenty of things worth noticing. First one is the fact that all promotional prices are only valid when buying a 36-month package and paying in advance. Take the ‘Hatchling’ plan for example. Picking it for 36 months will cost you $98.83. Reducing the package to 12 months will set you back $71.40. Picking only 1 month? That’s $10.95. It’s a common practice done by almost everyone in the web hosting business but make sure you spot the price increase.
Another thing worth looking into is the difference of the plan prices as the package grows larger. The ‘Business’ package is considerably more expensive than ‘Baby’ when buying it for 6 months or less. However, buy it for 12, 24 or 36 months and the way more advanced ‘Business’ plan costs exactly the same as ‘Baby’. ‘Business’ plan includes a private IP, an SSL certificate and a VoIP phone service for the same price.
And the last important thing is the renewal prices. After your package runs out, you will be charged monthly in order to continue the services. For ‘Hatchling’, ‘Baby’ and ‘Business’, the monthly reveal prices are $6.95, $11.95 and $16.95 respectively. But there is still a catch! For ‘Hatchling’, a $6.95 monthly renewal price is only valid if the package you had was for 36 months. If it was any smaller, the renewal price shoots up to $10.95.
It is common to expect for the prices to increase when your subscription ends. But make sure you know what awaits you after that happens.
It’s rather clear that HostGator attempts to tie you up to long contracts and have reasonably high renewal prices. Now it’s time to see how their customer service stacks up to the competition.
HostGator Customer Service
HostGator have a well-established customer service base, trying to use the vast resources of their website. The Knowledge Base I mentioned earlier is the place where you can find a lot of answers. By typing in your question you will get plenty of articles made to help you.
If you are more of a visual learner, HostGator also provides plenty of video tutorials. They show exactly how to fix most of the problems and do many different things.
But if browsing through the video tutorials didn’t get you the information you were looking for, there is always a ‘Contact Us’ button provided at the bottom. It’s just disappointing that clicking it doesn’t seem to take you anywhere.
After a bit of trial and error, these were the main communications channels I’ve found.
- Live chat support and support tickets
- Phone and fax
There also appears to be a way to contact them via email, but it’s very difficult to find and even more difficult to use. It seems like the company itself wants you to either call or use the chat system.
However, I personally find email support to be quite important - waiting in line for live chat or phone often isn’t acceptable for me. If your Internet/phone connections are unreliable, you would rather rely on email instead. But I bet HostGator has some of their own reasons for doing that. So without further ado, let’s see how their support works!
Phone Service Evaluation
Since I am not from the US, I’ve used the ‘International’ line to call. It took around 10 minutes to be connected with a HostGator representative. Even with me making a big fuss and pretending to have lost my files, the employee stayed calm and composed. She tried to answer every question that I’ve had. The quality of the call itself was acceptable, maybe a bit too silent but had no noticeable problems. Overall, a decent option. If you enjoy using phone support, it won’t be much of a problem.
Chat Service Evaluation
In order to evaluate the chat service properly, I’ve decided to see whether the agents are courteous and knowledgeable. I’ve put together a few questions and went to the queue to test one of the representatives.
The wait time was about 4 minutes - which is very good. However, after testing the customer support multiple times, I was unable to settle on how much it usually takes to get to the chat. Wait times go from 2 minutes to 4 hours. In one instance, I was waiting in a line for 30 minutes, changed my browser, tried again and was connected in 3. This shows that there’s a clear problem in the system that HostGator need to address.
Nonetheless, eventually I was connected with John. This is what we talked about:
It is worth noticing that the gaps between my questions and John’s responses were fairly big. Sometimes the gaps exceeded five minutes. I can only assume that at the same time one agent is having so many chats. It’s impossible to pay enough attention to everyone at once.
John was also unable to answer my questions about the most recent downtime and how often they do maintenance. Also, after asking about the drives used in the servers, I was promptly directed to a web link. However, the agent has done very well in offering me Cloud services with an SSL and CodeGuard. That is probably the best HostGator option for an online shop owner which is scared of hacking attacks.
To sum it up, the chat service wasn’t bad. However, it needs improvements: such as agents holding information about HostGator internal dealings and reducing the response times.
First Impressions During and After the Purchase
You can pay with either a credit card or PayPal - a regular set of options. The rest of the process is a bit more interesting.
In cart, you are given an option to pick one of the multiple addons - some are added automatically, like the SiteLock protection or CodeGuard backup. Make sure you don’t accidentally pay for those - unless you need it.
There are plenty of additional services you can buy, adding up to $120 a year.
After purchasing, there is a chance that you won’t be able to use the service immediately as there is a strict verification process you may need to go through. In order to activate my account, I had to send the picture of my credit and ID cards to their specified email address.
At first, I assumed it was because I wasn’t resident in the US or any of the other localized areas.My IP was from Europe and that would make sense. However, after contacting the chat support, I was surprised to hear the news:
Apparently, there is a random selection process taking place - no matter where you are from, you may be prompted to send pictures of your ID and credit card. The process of verification may take some extra hours.
If you get lucky and don’t have to do the verification procedure, the hosting services will be activated around 15 minutes later. It’s a really good time because the entire DNS propagation cycle can take way more than that - up to a full day. Once everything gets cleared up, you are greeted with HostGator dashboard.
I’ve given myself a mission to find out how intuitive this panel is. So I’ve dedicated to find one of the most commonly searched aspect of the host, - its nameservers. For that I needed to find where the cPanel is. Oddly enough, to get to it, I’ve had to click on one of the “Special Offers” - the one that worked was “WordPress - 1 Click Installation”. And then I was finally in cPanel. A bit of a weird path but whatever works.
This is now the cPanel looks like. It’s pretty much the classical version of it.
Here I was finally able to see the nameservers. It is worth noticing that the search areas weren’t working well and didn’t show a lot of the things. Searching for nameservers didn’t give anything and looking up ‘set up ftp server’ did give a lot of irrelevant results.
I’ve decided to see whether there’s enough help in the Knowledge Base for those who need it.
There are two themes to choose from - the current ‘Paper Lantern’ and the older ‘X3’. Many articles in the knowledge base provided help with the old x3 HostGator cPanel - the one very similar to the classic one. The articles did not include help for the people using the new ‘Paper Lantern’ theme. Luckily, there was also an article that showed how to switch between the panels. That would make plenty of those articles very useful!
But then I’ve tried that...
It is clear that the current dashboard and cPanel HostGator uses need a lot of improvements. There are good intentions to make it as appealing as intuitive as possible. But you have to admit that currently, it’s simply not good enough.
If you decide to use WordPress - one of the most popular content management systems in the world, HostGator will offer their services as well. This may be a viable option for those who need more help dealing with it.
So far, I have very mixed feelings about HostGator services. Plenty of options to choose from and addons to buy have been overshadowed with confusing pricing options and a difficult verification process.
But as important as that was, the real test begins here: the HostGator performance evaluation. There will be a few things tested here:
- Host speed during low upkeep
- Host speed with a website created with HostGator website builder
- Server overall uptime
- Anti-theft security evaluation
Some of those tests couldn’t be completed immediately, that’s why we will be updating this section constantly in order to provide you the most recent results.
IMPORTANT NOTICE - the tools used can’t be 100% correct all of the time. They depend on their own servers as well. Here I use Bitcacha to check packet travel speeds, as it appears to be the most consistent. Also - in order to get the clearest result and to avoid anomalies, 10 tests in quick succession have been done and the average result is shown here in the review.
Host Speed During Low Upkeep
Here, a simple HTML website will be put to a test. HTML websites tend to require not many of the host resources. In theory, this is supposed to be the quickest of them all.
So I got myself to HostGator File Manager (very convenient, would recommend) to upload a little sample code that I glued together. Here’s the website in question:
Let’s give it a shot.
A Bitcacha tool was used to check the packet travel speeds all across the globe. Here’s what we found out:
Not a single location had a response time over 1 second - which is a good sign. Performance in the United States is great as well. It is worth mentioning that the response time of the HTML time was very different in every single test. Sometimes the rating had even reached A - with remarkably better performance in Singapore, Sao Paolo and Japan. But the US response times have always remained stellar.
That makes sense because HostGator has servers only in Texas.
Host Speed With HostGator Website Builder
Now let’s check how well optimized HostGator website builder is.
I’ve taken the liberty of using one of their many templates and customizing it to my own liking. Here’s what happened:
And that’s how quick the kittens were:
Such as last time, there was a serious lack of stability from non-US response times. There was no clear pattern to be made, however this image right here shows the situation well: stellar US response times, with international servers lagging behind.
However, you can clearly tell that the website builder hasn’t affected the response times too negatively. You may expect the performance to go down a bit - that wasn’t the case. HostGator website builder optimization gets a check.
Server Overall Uptime
Note - This section of the review will constantly be updated with new and latest information.
The ‘Uptime Robot’ tool set up on the website not only shows the response time but also looks up server’s uptime (checking in the intervals of 1 minute). This shows overall availability of the server and lets you know whether the server performance is stable.
You can also check our top reviewed hosts uptime in real-time via following page.
In the picture below you can see results after the first month of tracking:
99.99% uptime in the last 7 days was so insignificant, it rounded to 100% in the last 30. As far as uptimes go, HostGator is doing very well.
The response time itself pretty much proves what we’ve seen with Bitcacha. The times are good - rounding to around 400ms for the majority of the time, but there are spikes in performance when it goes to 1.7 seconds or over. As mentioned earlier, the tools are not giving 100% accurate results because they also depend on the servers they themselves are using. Regardless of that, the trend points to HostGator being speedy - just very inconsistent.
Anti-Theft Protection Evaluation
At this point, I wanted to do an evaluation on just how difficult would it be for someone to steal my HostGator account. In a classical procedure used to detect security systems, I have attempted to log to my HostGator account 20 times using an incorrect password. By simulating a break-in, I expected the provider to temporarily block me so I couldn’t login, even with a correct password. However, after 20 tries using different passwords, I was allowed in with a correct one on my 21st attempt.
I’ve decided to give it two more tries and attempted to login 25 and 30 times (as quickly as possible) - still nothing. It appears that HostGator is not using a classical ‘Brute Force’ security system which detects those attempts and temporarily blocks the IP address. Perhaps there’s a system to avoid computer-generated brute-force attacks I haven’t triggered. But if you told someone that your password consists of your favourite NBA team and a preferred temperature, there’s a big chance that eventually they’ll guess it and HostGator will do nothing about it.
Now let’s see how HostGator customer service handles my attempt of getting sensitive information without providing any serious proof. Let’s go to the live chat and try to simulate an attempt to steal an account. I’ve picked myself a French IP, a fake French name and tried to steal a password from the company’s customer support. Here’s what happened:
I’ve agreed to the Last Resort Verification and after agreeing to make my personal email my “new main one”, I’ve received this message on it:
It appears that HostGator security measures are really good - you won’t get your password unless you provide a bank statement/PayPal ID and a photo ID. The verification process I talked about earlier has a bright side to it.
NOTE - keep your payment information safe and genuine as you make online transactions! If you lose logins to your accounts, they may help you.
In terms of performance, HostGator is doing well but not perfect. Servers are more than capable to handle good performance, especially for US users - with response times not even reaching 100ms. Uptime is near perfect and worth applauding. It is difficult to break into an account. HostGator has proved itself as a good mid-tier service that can offer a lot for the regular Internet users.
HostGator Reviews - Conclusion
HostGator is truly a jack of all trades. There are plenty of features it offers and many plans to choose from. Also, from their website you can buy nearly every single addon you can dream of. It is very good for plenty of users and that’s what many HostGator reviews mention as well. However, what they don’t seem to tell is that there are downsides.
To sum it up, HostGator offers plenty of choices for you to pick from. However, for the time being, they lag behind the competition with their difficult to understand pricing, lackluster performance and a customer service which is still waiting for improvements.
- Plenty of plans to choose from.
- All web hosting plans are unmetered.
- Good uptime.
- 45-day money back guarantee.
- Performance is inconsistent and quite low.
- Customer service and tutorials should be improved.
- Packages don’t include much and there’s plenty of upselling.
- A lot of bugs in the dashboard, cPanel and website.