What is HostGator Cloud Hosting?
HostGator Cloud Hosting is a new offering from HostGator – the company that excelled in shared hosting services. Unlike shared hosting, HostGator’s cloud hosting offer faster website speed, more reliability, and increased availability of resources on demand.
Just like other shared hosting companies that have started offering cloud hosting (and unlike the dedicated cloud hosting providers like DigitalOcean, Vultr, etc.), HostGator’s cloud hosting is quite expensive, and it is not a true cloud hosting service. In fact, it is a cloud-based shared hosting!
The Verdict – Meekly Recommended with Big Conditions!
I generally recommend cloud hosting. There nothing hidden about my preferences. Cloud hosting is far more powerful, and more reliable compare to any shared hosting. It is also way cheaper compared to dedicated hosting or VPS hosting.
HostGator’s cloud hosting is no different in these aspects. A thorough testing of HostGator’s cloud hosting reveals:
- You get exceptional page load speed.
- 100% uptime over three weeks of testing.
- Instant scalability when needed.
Does that make HostGator Cloud Hosting a recommended cloud hosting solution? Not really, no!
HostGator Cloud Hosting is not a true cloud hosting service. I had my suspicions, but found concrete proofs when I talked to one of their sales representatives. I will talk about it later.
Based on my observations and experience with HostGator, I recommend HostGator Cloud Hosting only in the following scenarios:
- You are already a HostGator customer and you want to switch to cloud.
- You are okay with HostGator’s restrictions (fine prints) on their unmetered storage and unmetered bandwidth.
- You don’t want to deal with the technical aspects involved in dedicated cloud providers like DigitalOcean, Vultr, Google Cloud, Amazon AWS, UpCloud, etc.
- You are okay even if it is not a true cloud hosting solution.
The Pros and Cons of HostGator Cloud Hosting
Before I dive deep into the review, here is quick list of advantages and disadvantages of using HostGator Cloud Hosting:
- Very fast website load time.
- Very reliable in terms of uptime.
- Quick scaling of resources when needed.
- Auto updates of software from the background.
- Scans for malware injections (you need to buy an add-on).
- Free migration.
- Free SSL.
- Server-side caching.
- Automated failover.
- Data mirroring.
- Intuitive dashboard for statistics.
- cPanel for management of email accounts, subdomains, etc.
- Unmetered is not really unmetered.
- Too many upsells.
- Uses varnish cache (totally not recommended by me).
- Keeps the odd practice of long-term plan for locking low prices, because it is not a true cloud hosting service.
Okay, now that I have told you about the pros and cons, it is time to take a good look into the actual review. Let’s start with the features.
Features of HostGator Cloud Hosting [And Things I Didn’t Like]
It is important to check the features offered by a cloud hosting provider. It should give you an idea of what you are getting into. So, here is quick look into all the important features of HostGator Cloud Hosting:
In case some hardware issue compromises the integrity of the cloud server where your website sits, the company will immediately switch your website to a different server to ensure the continued availability of your website.
This feature is essentially a part of the Automated Failover feature in which your data will be mirrored on other devices. HostGator’s cloud hosting will mirror and make three copies of your data. These mirrored images will work as redundancy and ensure data safety. The mirror copies are what kick in the case of hardware failure.
HostGator’s Cloud Hosting uses server-side caching for speeding up websites. It uses the famous (or infamous) Varnish caching system that you would normally see in cPanel on shared hosting plans. Varnish is an aggressive caching system and hence, you should be careful about using it. HostGator says that the caching system is preconfigured, so you don’t have to deal with it.
Unfortunately, there is an option that allows you to fiddle around with caching controls. What does that mean? It means that you can fine tune the caching settings if you want. That’s what I have been warning you about. Make sure that you don’t fiddle around with those settings unless you know what you are doing. Incorrectly done, Varnish cache can break your site, leading to bad user-experience.
You will get access to cPanel as well, which will allow you to complete a number of tasks that include email account management, subdomain management and more. While this might me a fantastic proposition for those who are technically challenged, the problem with cPanel is that it has to be installed on the server, thereby eating up the much valuable storage space.
Yet another problem is that cPanel is a proprietary software. Since it is not open-source, HostGator needs to acquire license for using it. That comes for a price. The HostGator Cloud Hosting plans include the price for that license in the plan, thereby driving the prices up.
Unmetered Storage and Unmetered Bandwidth
You may think that talking of storage space (in cPanel segment) is plain ridiculous because HostGator offers unmetered storage and unmetered bandwidth for all its cloud hosting plans.
You are right, but there is a teeny tiny problem. The “UNMETERED” clause has a serious restriction. At any given point in time, you are not allowed to use more than 25% of system resources for straight 90 seconds or more!
What’s that? That’s ridiculous and gives me a notion that HostGator’s cloud hosting is just shared hosting with the ability to scale resources. It is not cloud hosting in the truest sense. I will repeat – IT IS SHARED HOSTING ON STEROIDS.
True cloud hosting companies do not put such restrictions because there is always a cap on how much storage you are using. You can select the storage space while purchasing a hosting plan, and you can later increase it if you want.
This condition that HostGator implements also tells me that they don’t really use virtualization for creating isolated environments with dedicated resources. Such a setup will never put limitations as put by HostGator. In such virtualised isolated environments, you can use 100% of your allocated resources for as long as you want and no one is going to tell you a damn thing about it.
Why would they? After all, you paid for it and you should have the freedom of using the entire resource allocation for as long as you want.
That’s weird, isn’t it? Cloud hosting is famous for its scalability and ability to absorb huge traffic continuously. By definition, cloud hosting will allow you to use more and more resources on demand to cope with huge traffic spikes that can last from a few seconds to several hours.
Forget traffic! What will happen if your site comes under a DDoS attack that will use up all the allocated resources? Such attacks can last for hours!
No, HostGator’s cloud hosting is not a true cloud hosting. It is just shared hosting with better hardware, better resources allocation, and a few redundancy measures in place. That’s it!
Among free stuff, you will get a free site migration if you are using some other hosting company and you want to migrate to HostGator. That’s nothing big. Many hosting companies provide that feature.
You will also get a free SSL certificate! No need for feeling elated about it. The free SSL certificate is provided by Let’s Encrypt, which offers free SSL to anyone who needs it. This comes at no extra cost to HostGator!
Things You Can Buy [Horrible Cross-Sells]
HostGator will give you option for buying various add-ons that you will never need in the first place. There are better and cheaper method of achieving the same.
This thing will allow you to backup your site and database. It performs daily automatic backups with 1 GB of storage space. However, you are allowed to restore backups only 3 times a month. That’s ridiculous. You can perform backups by yourself. You don’t need to pay for that.
It scans your website for malware injection and other vulnerabilities and even prevents bot attacks. Cloudflare does a better job with is world-class WAF. There is no need for using SiteLock at an additional price when you can get both CDN and WAF from Cloudflare for a small price.
This will allow you to hide your personal information and prevent email spam and identity theft. Again, put your website behind Cloudflare and achieve the same thing! Even the free plan of Cloudflare is more than enough to hide your information. You don’t need to buy Domain Privacy separately.
If you want to use the host of Google services like Gmail, docs, sheets, drive, etc. you can buy this. However, you will most likely never need anything more than Gmail (if you want to use Gmail as your email provider against your domain) and forms.
Trust me, you really don’t need all these things that HostGator tries to sell. They sell the same set of things with their shared hosting plans as well.
HostGator heavily markets its cloud hosting solutions on the basis of speed. According to them, their cloud hosting will dramatically improve your website load time. They achieve this by a mix and match of premium hardware, low density servers, and multi-layered caching.
Now, since they have some tall claims in place, it is about time to actually put them to test and find out whether they actually deliver what they promise or not. As always, my usual method was to add my test URL to the hosting plan and then migrate an existing test site with content and images to get a full picture.
Of course, I used WordPress and there are six plugins in use. Here is the list of all plugins I used on the site:
- GP Premium
- Optimize Database after Deleting Revisions
- Recent Post Widget With Thumbnails
- Social Icons Widget & Block by WPZoom
- WP Fastest Cache
Note that I did not use ads on my site, and I didn’t even add Google Analytics code. There’s no CDN, but I did add an extra caching plugin.
With that setup, I tested the website with Google PageSpeed Insights and GTmetrix. Here are the test results:
Google PageSpeed Insights [Mobile]
That’s a good start! There is a slight performance improvement compared to what I found on GreenGeeks shared hosting. You may argue that if GreenGeeks shared hosting is providing the same speed as HostGator Cloud Hosting, why on earth will you need cloud hosting.
That’s a good point! But you need to understand that GreekGeeks uses LiteSpeed Server and LiteSpeed Cache, while HostGator’s cloud hosting uses Apache. LiteSpeed Server is the fastest web server as of now when compared to Apache or Nginx.
I believe, there could have been slight improvement over the existing results if HostGator used LiteSpeed web server. Still, the speed achieved with HostGator on mobile is quite commendable.
Google PageSpeed Insights [Desktop]
Desktop speed is definitely the best you can get. You cannot go over hundred! It doesn’t matter whether you are using LiteSpeed server or Apache. As long as you are hitting 100, you shouldn’t be worrying about anything.
But don’t forget that there will be speed drop when you add ads to your site or start adding more functionalities using more plugins.
GTmetrix Test [Mobile]
That’s incredibly good, especially when you look at the server response time on a mobile device. The server response time is 465 milliseconds.
GTmetrix Test [Desktop]
For desktop tests, the server response time was 253 milliseconds. That’s really fast.
But again, I can’t stress more. The moment you add third-party codes (ads, Google Analytics, etc.) website speed will take a hit. So, you need to counter such speed drops. One easy way of doing that is to use a CDN service. That will improve the page load time by delivering static elements of your site (like HTML, CSS, JS files, images, etc.) from CDN servers that are closest to the visitors.
When I talked to the customer support team (a sales executive), I was pleasantly surprised to see that my notion of HostGator Cloud Hosting was indeed true. They aren’t true cloud hosting company. They simply offer shared hosting with scalable resources, which explains why they have those conditions on unmetered bandwidth.
I asked the support lady about the price of site migration to which she asked whether I need root access or not. Once I said that I do need root access, she revealed that HostGator Cloud is actually Cloud SSD shared hosting!
She didn’t pay any notice to my actual question – cost of site migration. That was pretty disappointing. Here is a screenshot of the chat where I posed as a potential new customer looking for answers:
I was not impressed with the support provided because they failed to answer the questions that I originally asked.
You may have noticed in the chat that the sales rep boasted that the service is ‘cheap.’ Is it? Let’s take a look at the pricing structure of HostGator Cloud Hosting plans:
It may look pretty reasonable and cheap, but did you know that you will get the price of $4.95 or $6.57 or $9.95 a month only if purchase those plans for 3 years! If you want to buy them for a month (that is, you want to pay on a monthly payment cycle), the prices shoot up.
For the Hatchling plan you will have to pay $ 12.95 per month. For the Baby plan you have to pay $ 13.95 per month, and for the Business plan, you have to pay $ 19.95 per month.
Compare this with a true cloud hosting plan from, say, DigitalOcean (my “most preferred” cloud hosting provider):
Notice the one that is highlighted. You get 2 GB RAM, 2 CPU cores, 60 GB SSD, 3 TB transfer for $15 a month. There will no limitations on how much resources you use from your allocated share. You have a clear idea of how much storage space you get and the bandwidth allowed for the plan. The price is $ 2.05 more than what the HostGator is charging for a cloud SSD shared hosting that bind you with conditions.
On top of that, true cloud will allow you to select the server stack which include Apache or Nginx or LiteSpeed. With HostGator, you are stuck with Apache only. On a true cloud hosting you can configure your WAF (web application firewall) for no extra cost. Yes, configuration is a bit technical, but you can always do some online research to find out how to set up WAF.
Best of all, true cloud will charge you monthly. They are clear about their pricing policy.
Somehow, I find that HostGator Cloud Hosting is not really worth your time and money. You can always settle for GreenGeeks shared hosting, which gives you same speed and far better security. GreenGeeks will also allow scaling of resources when needed just like HostGator’s so-called cloud hosting.
HostGator Cloud Hosting does ensure that you get a fast-loading website. That’s it! There aren’t any major benefits of using HostGator’s cloud. You don’t get root access. You don’t get a virtualized VPS and you are stuck with the same old shared hosting with some beefed up system resources.
If you have the money and you don’t have the tenacity to deal with the technical aspects of a true cloud hosting solution, you can always settle for HostGator Cloud Hosting. Otherwise, please find a true cloud hosting company.