Houston-based HostGator is a popular budget web hosting company that is now part of the Endurance International Group alongside a number of big names in the hosting business including Domain.com, Bluehost, iPage, SiteBuilder.com and more.
The company was started by Brent Oxley from inside his Florida dorm room back in 2002. Since then though, HostGator has expanded and opened new data centers in Houston and Utah as well as offices in Austin, Florianopolis, São Paulo, Mumbai and Bangalore.
Cost and what's covered
HostGator offers a wide variety of products and services including WordPress hosting, VPS hosting, dedicated hosting and a website builder. However, in this review we’ll be focusing on the company’s shared web hosting plans as they will likely appeal to both first-time 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 a little too good to be true, well that’s because they are. Instead of listing its prices clearly on its website, HostGator has decided to show potential customers what they would be paying monthly if they sign up for a three-year plan and pay upfront. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a web hosting company list their prices like this and it’s just another reason to always pay close attention to the fine print when choosing any hosting services.
HostGator’s signup process is relatively easy but you will have to pay close attention during the checkout process or you might accidentally end up paying for extra features you don’t necessarily need or choosing a plan with a longer contract period.
We mentioned before how the prices on the company’s site can be a bit misleading but if you’re not careful, you could also end up paying extra for SiteLock malware detection or automated daily backups as both of these extras are automatically added to your order during checkout. Unchecking the boxes is easy enough but if you rush through HostGator’s signup process, you could end up spending an additional $43.94 per year on these extras even if you don’t necessarily need or want them.
However, HostGator does make its signup process easier than some other web hosting providers by placing all of the information you need on one single pages including domain details, hosting plan, billing and payment information. You will need to scroll for quite a bit horizontally to finally complete you order but at least you can see exactly what information (name, email, physical address, payment info) the company needs without accidentally erasing your details by hitting the back button.
Creating a site
No matter which of HostGator’s shared hosting plans you choose, the company gives you access to a free website builder. The website builder isn’t the most advanced or full featured but it does include close to 100 templates with a maximum of six pages per site, but this is at least enough to get you started.
However, 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 site. Other hosting providers require that you pay extra for a website builder, so it’s a nice touch that the company includes one even for users who opt for its cheapest Hatchling plan.
The website builder is beginner friendly and includes a drag and drop feature to help you create a site from scratch. Adding additional apps is also a breeze thanks to the fact that HostGator has a QuickInstall-powered one-click setup available for WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and other popular web 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 your account information, there are also icons for high-level site tools such as FTP, a file manager and more.
Experienced users will probably want to jump right into cPanel where they’ll have access to these same high-level features and can even make more low-level adjustments. If you’ve ever used cPanel before, you’ll be right at home with the interface and if you haven’t, it won’t take you too long to get a handle on it. At the top of the page in the Popular section, you’ll find most of the key tools you will need including a File Manager, Email Accounts, FTP Accounts and so on.
When reviewing a web host’s performance, the first thing we like to look at are the support options on hand as even the most experienced users can run into difficulties when configuring their sites. Thankfully, HostGator has plenty of support options available with a web database, customer forums, live chat, US-based phone support and it even provides direct mailing addresses to its global offices.
The company’s web forum is somewhat different from the others we’ve seen as the questions are not answered by HostGator employees but by other customers. HostGator’s support articles are even more useful and are available on a separate site as well as directly from within cPanel. There are loads of excellent articles on topics related to web hosting and the company even offers video tutorials to help first-time users set up their websites.
For our final test, we pointed our site at Bitcatcha.com as well as 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 gives you all the tools and features you’ll need to build a professional website. However, its website builder could use an update with fewer page restrictions and more templates. We also wish that HostGator would be more transparent about its pricing on its website but we’ve seen similar tactics used by other web hosts.