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HostGator Shared Hosting Review – What I Recommend

What is HostGator?

HostGator is a web hosting company that has earned its fame as a reliable shared hosting provider. Over the years, the company has come up with offerings in VPS and Dedicated hosting space. Just like any other hosting provider in the shared hosting industry, HostGator’s best and lowest prices show up only and only when you purchase a long-term hosting plan.

Is HostGator an Excellent Hosting Choice?

It is a reliable hosting company for sure, but I wouldn’t vouch for it that much if your website is growing, and you are looking to switch from your current hosting provider.

However, if your website is brand new, HostGator’s shared hosting is an excellent choice. With 99.99% uptime, the servers are reliable. They do implement some server-side hardening when it comes to security, you need to understand that you will be the one who will be responsible for protecting your website’s integrity.

The company does offer some decent features, including a nice control panel, unlimited disk space, unmetered bandwidth, free SSL, free domain, free website builder, etc. Do watch out for the aggressive upsells that you will probably never need.

When I used HostGator, I was fool enough to buy a few add-ons that I later realized were just useless.

HostGator Quick Overview

Perfect for?Shared Hosting.
SpeedHostGator servers take an average of 1000 milliseconds to respond. That’s a very high server response time.
Uptime99.99% average.
Great for which platforms?WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Magento, PrestaShop.
Classic featuresPlan-dependent:

 

  • Unmetered bandwidth,
  • Unlimited storage,
  • Free SSL,
  • One free domain registration for 1 year.
Site transferYes! FREE.
Hosting types
  • Shared Hosting
  • VPS Hosting
  • Dedicated Hosting
  • WordPress Hosting
  • Reseller Hosting
PricingVariable for different plans, but basic Shared Hosting starts at $2.75 per month for a long-term plan.
Refund policy45-day money-back guarantee with riders which include:

 

  • Full refund only on the shared, WordPress, and VPS hosting plan.
  • No refund for dedicated servers.
  • No refund for the custom software package installation fee.
  • No refunds for orders worth $0.01.
  • If there was a free domain with the hosting plan, you need to pay for the domain name to retain it.
  • No refund allowed after 45 days.

Note that if you did get a free domain and you cancel the hosting plan within 45 days, HostGator will deduct the full price of the domain applicable for a single year.

Support24/7 chat support available. There is phone support, as well.
Ease of useVery easy to use.
cPanel availabilityYes, you will get cPanel for all Shared Hosting plans and WordPress Hosting. In the case of VPS and Dedicated hosting plans, it is up to you whether you want to install cPanel or not.
Security featuresBoth plan dependent and optional:

 

  • Domain Privacy + Protection
  • SiteLock
  • Codeguard Basic
Company establishment year2002
The company is owned byEndurance International Group (since 2012)

HostGator Server Uptime

You need to understand a simple thing. When you are on a shared hosting server, there will be thousands of websites on a single server. All these websites will be using the same server resources like RAM, CPU, etc. This characteristic of shared servers is what makes them vulnerable in many ways.

One of the biggest threats is that of server downtime. It simply means that the server is non-functional for some reason. There can be several reasons for downtimes. A couple of them are:

  • A DDoS attack on a server.
  • A particular website is running a script that is consuming almost all of the resources available on that server.

Server downtime is not good. It can negatively impact your website’s reputation, especially in the eyes of your readers and Google. You should not upset Google or your readers.

If Google sees that your website sits on a server that is plagued by frequent downtimes, it will push your website down and down in the search results. This will reduce the visibility of your website.

In the case of your readers, your website will lose trust. Do you like visiting a website that frequently becomes inaccessible?

So, you need a server that offers high server uptime. The industry norm is > 99.98% uptime. HostGator says that they offer a 99.9% uptime guarantee. How true is that?

Here is some interesting data that I pulled out from Pingdom:

Month and YearUptime Percentage
February 2020100
January 2020100
December 2019100
November 2019100
October 201999.99
September 201999.95
Average of 6 months99.99

In those six months, HostGator experienced a total of 2 outages amounting to total of 9 minutes of server downtime. The average uptime was 99.99%.

Yes, you can trust HostGator when it comes to server uptime. In fact, the company is so confident about uptime guarantee that it promises to offer one month of hosting credit if they fail to keep their promise.

If you want to monitor server uptime, there are many ways of doing so. One of the best ways is to install the Jetpack plugin on your site. It will keep track of the server uptime and downtime. Whenever the server goes down, you will get a notification email.

HostGator Server Speed

Google is no longer cryptic about it! Speed matters, and they have switched to mobile-first indexing, putting more focus on page speed on mobiles that use slower 3G connections. According to Google, your website should load completely within 3 seconds on a mobile device.

That’s too much, but not impossible!

Yes, you can achieve that kind of speed with proper optimization. Using the right cache settings mixed with CDN and proper image optimization rules, you can achieve what Google wants.

However, you should not forget that one of the factors that can eventually lead to slower page load times is the server response time. If the server is responding slowly, your website will load slowly.

Coming to HostGator, their servers respond very well when there is low traffic. As the traffic keeps increasing, server response time increases significantly. So, if you have a medium to a high-traffic website, I will suggest you go for some other shared hosting provider. Bluehost will be a good choice.

What do I mean when I say that the HostGator is not equipped to deal with medium to high-traffic websites?

Take a look at the image below. It shows how a shared hosting server of HostGator deals with a gradual increase in virtual visitors.

The server holds well up to 25 visitors at once. The moment the number of visitors starts growing beyond that, the server response time increases. This is not a good thing. The major problem starts when your website visitor count hits 80 and moves beyond that.

The results you are seeing are from the LoadImpact test.

Technically, your server should respond in less than one second. Unfortunately, that is not the case when it comes to HostGator. For a medium website with more than 50 visitors at any given point in time, the HostGator servers take more than 1000 milliseconds (1000 millisecond = 1 second).

Here is what Pingdom has to say for 6 months of observation:

Month and YearServer Response Time in Milliseconds
September 20191014
October 2019964
November 20191105
December 20191114
January 20201119
February 20201128

I don’t know how far you remember or how far you observed, January and February saw a noticeable spike in Google search for the various terms like Wuhan Virus, COVID-19, Coronavirus, etc.

I know a few sites hosted on HostGator that wrote extensively on the pandemic, and they still do. One of those sites belongs to my friend. Of course, many websites saw a surge in their traffic during those months, and they started receiving global traffic.

So, high traffic will definitely not go well with HostGator shared hosting.

Ease of Use – How Easy Is It to Use HostGator

HostGator is very easy to work with. First, you need to create an account and purchase a hosting account. You can then use a one-click install to get your WordPress site up and running in less than 5 minutes.

Let’s check out the process step-by-step.

Creating an account and purchasing hosting

I will never suggest you go for a three-year plan even though it is the cheapest option. Three years is a long time, and if you are serious about your blog, you can make it stand out in Google Search in less than 6 months.

If you can do that, continuing with HostGator for more than a year is not at all recommended. HostGator’s shared hosting cannot handle high traffic.

I will suggest you go for a 1-year plan. Yes, it will be costly, but you will have peace of mind when it comes to switching to a different host, preferably cloud hosting.

To buy shared hosting, go to HostGator.com and select any plan from Hatchling, Baby, or Business. I will recommend you stick with Hatchling or Baby.

When you select a plan, you will see this screen:

HostGator

You can register a domain name here, or if you already have a domain, you can select that tab.

Select a billing cycle. I will again recommend stick with a 12-month (or less) plan. Then add your payment details, and select the add-ons you want. I will recommend that you don’t select any add-on.

Here is what you see in the additional services segment:

HostGator Review

SSL is always free with whichever plan you take, but HostGator will ask you to buy a different one. They will also ask you to buy SiteLock, CodeGuard, etc. You don’t need them now!

You can protect your site using Cloudflare for free. SiteLock is not needed. You can take a backup of your website and database in many ways. One way is to use the FileZilla FTP client to download your website files to your local computer. Backing up the database is not difficult either. You will never need CodeGuard to back up your site.

What about SEO tools? You have the famous Yoast plugin for that. And SEO is not about tools. It is about market research and study of your target audience. You have to put in some hard work here. HostGator SEO tools are just – umm, useless!

You can, however, go for a professional email account.

Please protect yourself from these aggressive upselling stints that you find with every shared hosting company in this world.

Once you have selected everything, pay and create your account. You will receive an email that looks like this:

I hid the details because showing here puts my site at risk.

Once you have all the details necessary, you can log into your HostGator control panel. You can see the link to your control panel in the email.

Click on it to get into the control panel.

Installing WordPress from HostGator Control Panel

Once you click on the control panel link, you will see this:

Log in using your username and password that you received in the email. Once you log in, you will see the cPanel. It is neatly arranged.

You need to scroll down to find the one-click installation option. This is what you will see:

Clicking on QuickInstall will show you this screen:

The option in the middle is the one you need to click. If you don’t see that, you can click on the One-Click Installs option to find the WordPress option.

Once you click on the WordPress option, you will find this:

Select your domain and leave the directory option blank. The default directory is shown by the forward-slash (/), which is the root directory. You want your WordPress to be installed there.

Note that the WordPress version HostGator provides is outdated. You need to update the WordPress version after your website is ready for you.

Click on the Next button to enter some details about your website. This is what you will see:

Once you provide the necessary information, click on the Install button and wait. Once the installation is complete, you can see this screen:

You don’t have to do anything else. You can just log in to your WordPress dashboard by clicking on the login button. If you want to get more comfortable with WordPress, I will suggest that you use the following link to login instead of using the login button: yourdomain.com/wp-admin/. Simply replace yourdomain.com with the actual domain name.

The username and password are on the screen. Use them to log into your WordPress site. Once you log in, you will reach the dashboard from where you can install themes, plugins, etc.

This is how the WordPress dashboard will look like:

I already said that HostGator will install an old version of WordPress for you. This is again evident from the fact that the dashboard will ask you to install the Gutenberg editor. The more recent and updated WordPress versions have Gutenberg as the default editor, and you don’t need to install it separately.

Another thing you will notice is that the website doesn’t have an SSL certificate yet. Google Chrome will show it as Not Secure.

To install an SSL certificate, you have to go back to your HostGator control panel and click on the SSL certificate option.

Installing SSL is not difficult at all. However, the only problem here is that to activate SSL (that is, convert HTTP to HTTPS), you will need a third-party plugin. You can use either Really Simple SSL or WordPress HTTPS.

This is something that did not go down well with me. If you are providing free SSL, there should be a way to activate it from the cPanel instead of using a plugin. That’s the activation that should take place from the server level.

HostGator Pricing Plans

The lowest price that you can get with HostGator shared hosting is $2.75 per month. However, don’t be too excited about it. Just like every other shared hosting provider, you can get that price only and only if you purchase the plan for the long term. Here the long term means 3 years!

Yes, you have to commit to HostGator for 3 years to get this price! Try to switch to a monthly payment plan, and the price will jump all the way up to $10.95 per month!

That’s more than double the price you pay for a cloud hosting with Digital Ocean or Vultr.

This is what I do for my high-value websites:

I deployed four different servers with Digital Ocean, with each server having 1GB RAM and 25GB SSD storage. Each server costs me $5 per month. That’s more than enough to deal with traffic up to 50,000 visitors a month. Better yet, I can quickly increase the server specs whenever I want to depend on the traffic. If I don’t need more, I can scale down!

That’s the beauty of cloud hosting.

Oh, did I mention that I can deploy Digital Ocean servers with OpenLiteSpeed WordPress powered by OpenLiteSpeed Cache? In case you don’t know, OpenLiteSpeed is a server similar to Apache or Nginx, but much faster and optimized for speed!

Anyway, if cloud hosting intimidates you (which is usually temporary), I will suggest you keep shared hosting, but for a lower time commitment. Yes, the price will be high, but in the long run, it will be a win-win situation for you.

This is the sad story of any shared hosting you select. They cost a lot, and yet they give you very little flexibility.

For instance, the Hatchling plan of HostGator is good for up to 10,000 visits a month. Even though HostGator says that they will give you unmetered bandwidth, don’t be fooled! When your traffic increases over 10,000 a month, your server slows down, there will be frequent errors, and Host Gator will then ask you to upgrade.

Yes, they do promise unmetered bandwidth forever, but they fail to say that your traffic should also be within 10,000 visits a month!

If you are expecting to grow to 50,000 visits a month very quickly, you should go for their business plan, which will cost you a whopping $16.95 per month. You will get a discounted price of $5.95 a month only if you go for the longer 3-year plan.

Even sadder is that these low and discounted prices are all introductory prices. You have to pay more when you renew the hosting plan. That’s because HostGator will allow you to renew only at their regular price!

Can you imagine that?

Money-Back Guarantee of HostGator

HostGator has one of the most generous money-back policies in the shared hosting space. They will offer you a 45-day money-back guarantee. That’s one of the highest.

However, this policy has certain conditions.

  • The policy is available only for shared hosting, WordPress hosting, and VPS hosting. You will not get it for Dedicated hosting.
  • If you took the free domain and you are canceling your account, HostGator will deduct the price of the domain.
  • If you ordered some custom installation, they would not refund anything for that.
  • If your purchase value is $0.01, you will not get a refund. But wait, what do they offer for $0.01? Funny!

Also, you have to ask for a refund within 45 days. If you cross the 45-day limit, even with a minute, you can forget the refund.

Site Migration

HostGator will offer you free site migration for all its plans. That’s great! They do say that they will ensure zero-downtime, which too is great. However, my question is simple! Why does anyone go for a site migration from one shared hosting to another? If you are to migrate, you better move on to a cloud hosting – managed or unmanaged. Both are easy, trust me on this!

I am just a noob like you. Only difference? I learned a few things here and there over the years. I have accounts with both Cloudways (managed cloud hosting) and Digital Ocean (unmanaged cloud hosting), and they both are super easy to use!

If you want, I can give you a step-by-step guide on deploying a server and installing WordPress on an unmanaged cloud hosting like Digital Ocean. It is really fun to learn.

Features of HostGator

HostGator, just like every other shared hosting, gives a lot of features that will sound amazing. In reality, you won’t need most of them. Let me tell you what HostGator has to offer.

Free SSL:

I won’t lie! You will need this. HostGator will give you a free SSL certificate irrespective of which plan you purchase. The free SSL comes from Let’s Encrypt. The problem with free SSL is that it expires every 90 days. You have to keep renewing it.

Is it worth the hassles?

Yes, it is! A free SSL or a paid SSL makes no difference for small blogs and websites. If you have a multi-million-dollar online business, you will never need a premium SSL certificate. Google will treat your blog or website with a free SSL with just as much respect as it treats those with premium SSL certificates.

SEO Tools:

HostGator has SEO tools that you will need to buy. SEO is an important thing you need to consider. However, do understand that no amount of SEO tools can help you. They are just tools.

SEO is something that you need to understand and implement on your own. Tools can only make your life a bit easy by putting things together in place. That’s all! You don’t really need HostGator’s SEO tools to do that.

There are free SEO tools available in the WordPress plugins repository. You can get biggies like RankMath, Yoast, All-in-One SEO, etc. HostGator’s SEO tools don’t stand a chance in front of them.

CodeGuard:

In my opinion, this is absurd! CodeGuard is all about backing up your site (website files and databases). You don’t really need that. There are free WordPress plugins that you can use to download your entire website, including database, and keep a backup in a place you want.

Paying for something as absurd as CodeGuard makes absolutely no sense. Please don’t buy it!

SiteLock:

Protection from DDoS attacks, protection from malware injection, bla, bla, bla… You have heard a lot about this. Do you really need all these? Yes, you do! But you don’t need SiteLock for that.

You can use Cloudflare’s free version to protect yourself against DDoS attacks. It is extremely efficient. You can also prevent malware inject using free plugins that WordPress has to offer.

If you truly want a world-class Web Application Firewall, I will suggest either go for Sucuri, or Cloudflare, or MalCare. Trust me, SiteLock is far from being great protection for your website.

Unmetered Bandwidth:

Really? That’s not happening! They are fooling around with you. The unmetered bandwidth comes with a clause that your site should not be using 25% or more of the system resources for more than 90 seconds at a stretch.

What is the amount of system resources that each server has to offer? How much RAM is there? How many CPU cores? HostGator says nothing!

Now, don’t even have to run a script to utilize more than 25% of system resources. There can be instances where you just get a lot of traffic (including Bot traffic from Google Crawlers). Trust me! Google bot can stay on your site for longer than 120 seconds, and it can take up a lot of system resources.

That will become an outright violation. Google bot is not the only bot. There are many others. Bing, Yahoo, Yandex, Baidu… the list goes on!

The stringent conditions of unmetered bandwidth make this aspect of HostGator a ridiculously laughable thing, and one of the biggest reasons why I decided to get rid of HostGator in less than 15 days!

Business Email:

This is something you need. Yes, a business email is far more professional. If you have a mail like [email protected], it is way more respectable than using a Gmail account for sending emails to your website readers.

I will suggest that you opt for one of these. It is not necessary that you need to stick with HostGator. You can buy an email subscription from some other hosting company as well. It works just fine! For instance, I use NameCheap’s email hosting, and it works great! It is even cheaper than HostGator.

cPanel:

HostGator did not make any enhancements to the classic cPanel. You get it as is! The only difference you will see is that cPanel supported by HostGator has better looking flat icons. That’s all.

Anyway, it doesn’t really matter whether you have flat icons or traditional ugly ones. The function remains the same. cPanel is extremely powerful and easy at the same time.

Dedicated IP:

Dedicated IP is good! Shared hosting servers have shared IP addresses. The same IP addresses are used by many websites that can eventually lead to the bad-neighbor effect. If someone on the server, where your website sits, is running a scamming website or a porn site, many services will simply blacklist the whole IP range for that server.

This means that your website may become inaccessible even though you didn’t do anything wrong. This is where a dedicated IP helps. A dedicated IP will bypass such restrictions. However, you can get a dedicated IP from HostGator only if you are going for their Business plan, which is the costliest one.

Webmail Access:

HostGator will give you access to webmail powered by both RoundCube and Horde. You can use any! However, you need to have a business email to be able to use webmail.

Domain Privacy:

Domain privacy will keep your identity (your name, your email, your address, etc.) hidden from spammers. You need to purchase this separately. If you really want domain privacy, buy domains from NameCheap. They offer free domain privacy forever. Don’t pay for it.

Marketing Credits:

If you want your blog or website to quickly get some attention, you can use the marketing credits that HostGator offers. You will get $100 credit for Google Ads and Bing Ads, respectively.

Wait! Don’t celebrate yet! In order to use those credits, you have to spend a certain amount on Google Ads and Bing Ads. Only then will you be eligible for those credits.

Celebrations vanished? There’s more to know!

If you plan on using Google AdSense on your website, you cannot promote your website using Google Ads. That’s Google’s policy! Double whammy, right?

Buddy, there is always a catch! Everything that glitters is not gold. Don’t be fooled.

HostGator Support System

I have to agree with this. Their support system is good. They have a live chat, phone support, email support, ticket support, and a wide collection of tutorials in their knowledgebase segment.

All of these are incredibly helpful.

The live chat support, however, is nearly good for nothing. You won’t get much help in the technical aspect. They can answer your basic questions. If you need answers to complicated things, you better go for their email or ticket system.

I will be honest! I don’t know how good is their phone support. I never needed support from them, and hence, I never called their phone support! Why don’t you try and give me an overview of what happens in phone support?

The Pros and Cons of HostGator

How on earth can a hosting provider not have a set of pros and cons? HostGator is not divine. There are good sides, and then there are horrible sides. Here is a complete list of things that I found good and bad about HostGator.

Things I Liked About HostGator

Easy and Quick Setup:

Using HostGator is really easy. You don’t have to be an expert to use HostGator. You don’t need to write codes or fiddle around with existing codes. Only a few clicks and a few keystrokes, and your website will be ready in minutes.

High Uptime:

HostGator offers 99.9% server uptime. That’s great! It ensures that your business is online continuously.

Free SSL:

Though the free SSL comes from Let’s Encrypt, it is readily available with your HostGator hosting.

Generous Money-Back Guarantee:

HostGator offers one of the longest money-back guarantees in the world when it comes to shared hosting. Of course, there are conditions that you need to follow. The conditions are ridiculous.

Free Domain:

You will get a free Domain name with any plan you purchase from HostGator. However, it is free only for the first year. You have to pay after the first year is completed. Domain renewal will take place at the usual rate that HostGator offers.

Free Site Migration:

They offer site migration and even cPanel migration for free, which is great.

Windows Hosting:

I only talked about Linux hosting here, but don’t forget that they also have Windows hosting available, which is great for Windows-specific applications.

Things I Dislike About HostGator

No SSD Storage:

HostGator has the old HDD storage available. There is no SSD storage available. That’s sad because SSD storage can make your website faster.

Unmetered Bandwidth is a Hoax!

HostGator never gives you truly unmetered bandwidth. The moment your website uses 25% or more of the system resources for 90 seconds straight, you are screwed. You don’t even have to run a script. Bad bots can do that!

They Don’t Allow Selecting Server Location

This is awful! Trust me! You should have the ability to select the location of your server. This will help in ensuring that your website remains closest to the area from where you get, or you expect to get your maximum traffic.

Aggressive Upselling

HostGator engages in aggressive upselling of products that you truly don’t need. That’s disgusting. They will use words to their advantage and make you feel that you need those products and services when you truly don’t need any.

Their Servers are Slow

Their servers are quite slow. Be careful about that. If you are using HostGator, you should consider using proper caching and image optimization features to make up for the loss. Google doesn’t love slow websites.

Incorrect Promotion

HostGator promotes various free and open-source scripts as freebies available under one-click installation. They should not be doing that. Those are all open-source scripts, and they are available with every shared hosting. It is not a strength to boast.

Do I Recommend HostGator?

I will recommend HostGator under the following conditions:

  • You are building your website as a hobby and not as an alternate income source to replace your day job.
  • Your website is completely new, and you don’t expect traffic to grow within a few months.
  • You are frustrated with your current cheap hosting provider and want to move on to a new host with a similar pricing structure.
  • You don’t care about slow server response time.
  • You are building your personal portfolio website that you want to show to your potential clients.
  • You are building a very static site where you can apply aggressive caching.
  • You are building a sample site where you can keep experimenting.
  • You are building an affiliate blog that will not run any display ads. Display ads will slow down your website.

If any or most of the above conditions are met, you can always opt for HostGator. Yes, they are popular, and they host over 8 million websites. Does that make it a great choice? No, not really!

I will rather say that you find the courage and learn how to work with cloud hosting. It will be worth your time and effort.

HostGator FAQ

Here are some important questions that I felt should be answered. So, read through…

Question: Are there good alternatives to HostGator?

Yes, there are! Bluehost, DreamHost, A2 Hosting, etc. are all better options. I will recommend Bluehost.

Question: Does HostGator offer WordPress hosting?

Buddy, understand one thing clearly! WordPress hosting is also shared hosting. The only difference is that they will have servers optimized for running only WordPress sites. That’s it! They will offer slightly better specs, but they will heavily depend on the Jetpack plugin.
Honestly, WordPress hosting is just a gimmick. It is not worth the money they or any other host charge for.
With a little bit of effort, you can optimize your WordPress site with ease. You can score a 90+ score in Google PageSpeed Index for both mobile and desktop.
Remember, hosting alone never makes your website fast. There are too many factors, and thinking that WordPress-specific hosting will help you is just foolish!

Question: Is cloud hosting better than HostGator’s shared hosting?

If you go by monthly pricing, cloud hosting will be undeniably cheaper. If you go by long-term pricing, HostGator will be cheaper. That’s the only benefit a shared hosting will have over cloud hosting.
Cloud hosting will allow you to scale your resources whenever necessary with a single click. With HostGator’s shared hosting, that is not the case. So no, HostGator’s shared hosting is never better than cloud hosting.