Houston-based HostGator is a popular budget web hosting company that is now part of the Endurance International Group alongside Domain.com, Bluehost, iPage, SiteBuilder.com and others.
Brent Okley first started the company from inside his Florida dorm room back in 2002 and since then it has opened new data centers in Houston and Utah as well as offices in Austin, Florianopolis, São Paulo, Mumbai and Bangalore.
So let’s take a closer look at this budge web host’s plans, features and support to see how it stacks up against the competition and whether it might be a good fit for your website.
HostGator offers a number of web hosting products and services including WordPress hosting, VPS hosting, dedicated hosting and a website builder. However, in this review we’ll be focusing on its shared web hosting plans as they’ll likely appeal to both novice and experienced users.
The company has three different shared hosting plans to choose from starting with the bottom-of-the-range ‘Hatchling plan.’ This plan gives you access to a single domain, one click installs, unmetered bandwidth and a free SSL certificate for just $2.75 per month.
Next up, we have the ‘Baby plan’ that includes everything the Hatchling plan does but instead of one domain, you now have unlimited domains to work with for just a little over a dollar more at $3.95 per month.
Finally we have the ‘Business plan’ which HostGator itself even recommends. This plan includes all of the features the Baby plan does but you also get a free upgrade to Positive SSL, free dedicated IP and Free SEO tools for $5.95 per month.
If these prices seem too good to be true, well that’s because they are. Unfortunately, instead of listing its prices clearly, the prices you’ll find on HostGator’s website indicate what you would pay each month if you chose a three-year plan and paid upfront. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a web host list their prices like this which is why it always pays to check the fine print when choosing any hosting service.
HostGator’s signup process isn’t overly complicated but do pay close attention during checkout or you might end up paying for extra features or even choosing a plan for a longer time period than you initially intended.
We mentioned before that the prices on the company’s site are a bit misleading but if you’re not careful, you could end up paying extra for SiteLock malware detection or automated daily backups as both of these extras are automatically added to your card during checkout. Unchecking the boxes is easy enough but if you happen to rush through HostGator’s signup process, you could end up spending an extra $43.94 on these features even if you don’t necessarily want or need them.
Overall though, HostGator makes its signup process easier than some other web hosts by placing all the information you need on one single page including domain details, hosting plan options, billing, payment information and more. You’ll have to scroll for quite a bit to finally checkout but at least you can see exactly what information (name, email, address, payment info) the company needs without accidentally erasing it by hitting the back button.
Creating a site
No matter which plan you choose, HostGator gives you access to a free website builder. The website builder is a bit on the basic side with only 100 or so templates to choose from with a maximum of six pages, but it is at least enough to get you started.
HostGator does include its company branding in the footer of your site but this shouldn’t be a problem if you’re creating a personal website. Many other hosting providers fail to include a site builder with their basic plans, so it’s a nice touch that the company provides one at all with its cheapest Hatchling plan.
The website builder is also beginner friendly with a drag and drop interface which makes it easier to create a site from scratch. Adding additional apps to your site is also quite easy thanks to the fact that HostGator has a QuickInstall-powered one-click setup available for WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and several other useful apps.
We were also impressed when we first logged on to HostGator’s customer portal as there were more functions than we were expecting. In addition to our account information, there were icons for high-level site tools such as FTP, a file manager and more.
Experienced users will likely choose to jump straight into cPanel where they’ll have access to these same high-level features and can make even more low-level adjustments. If you’ve used cPanel in the past, you’ll be right at home but even if you haven’t, it won’t take you long to get a handle on it. In the Popular section at the top of the page, you find most of the key tools you need such as File Manager, Email Accounts, FTP Accounts and so on.
When testing a web host’s performance, the first thing we like to do is to take a look at the support options on hand as even the most experienced users will run into difficulties from time to time. Luckily HostGator’s support options are plentiful with a web database, customer forums, live chat, US-based phone support and the company even provides direct mailing addresses for its offices around the world just in case.
The company’s web forum is a bit different than what we have seen from other web hosting providers as the questions are answered by other customers as opposed to employees but it is still a nice plus. HostGator’s support articles are much better though and are available on a separate site as well as directly from within cPanel. There are a number of articles on topics related to web hosting and there are even video tutorials to help guide new users through the process of setting up their first site.
For our final test, we pointed our site at Bitcatcha.com and a few different server speed tests. There were no performance issues on our end and the tests showed faster than average global access times.
Verdict and Conclusion
HostGator provides all of the tools and features you need to build a professional website. cPanel support is a welcome addition as well as the company’s robust support options. HostGator’s free website builder could use an update with more features but it’s hard to argue with its limitations at that price.
- Want to see the competition? Check out our guide to the best web hosting