HostGator is among the most popular web hosting providers and I was eager to test its mettle.
I set up a basic WordPress installation on the HostGator Baby Cloud and measured the response times and behavior under load of the HostGator servers. I also went through many HostGator reviews to get a clearer picture about the company support and policies.
My ongoing tests of 11 most popular hosting companies rank HostGator as follow
#1 in reliability
#10 in frontend speed
#10 in backend speed
#5 in support
#9 in price
- Pricing – 8.5/10
- Support – 8/10
- Features & Ease of Use – 8.2/10
- Reliability & Speed – 8/10
HostGator is an extremely reliable host, with a good knowledge base, great user interface, and a broad selection of hosting solutions. The support team is knowledgeable, albeit somewhat slow on occasion. In terms of speed, HostGator Cloud could be faster but still qualifies in top 10 as long as the traffic is not excessive.
If you want versatility, read our HostGator review and see why it is the right choice: shared, cloud and specialized hosting packages are waiting for you.
- Features & Ease of Use
- Reliability & Speed
- Impeccable uptime (100%)
- Excellent customer portal
- Free backups
- Support could be faster
- Servers struggle with large traffic
- If you opt for a shorter billing cycle, the fees grow
Who Is HostGator?
Without a doubt, HostGator is among the most popular names in the industry, especially for US-based users.
Currently, it hosts about 10 million domain names, making it one of the biggest hosting providers in the world. Not bad for a company founded some 16 years ago.
In the first ten years of its existence, the company built a very solid reputation which attracted the attention of EIG. The consecutive acquisition, as with so many things EIG touches, wasn’t entirely beneficial and brought about several massive outages early on in the Provo data center that affected BlueHost as well.
Still, HostGator recovered and improved upon its services. And while the standard shared hosting offering of the company is not all that impressive, the relatively new Cloud packages put HostGator once again in the mix of the best website hosting companies.
Its Cloud platform promises great speed, superb scalability, and seamless resource allocation among other perks to make account and site management a breeze.
But is it enough to consider HostGator as a serious contender for the best web host in 2018?
Let’s see what the numbers say in this detailed HostGator Cloud hosting review.
The Essentials – HostGator Uptime, Speed, Support
Uptime, speed and quality support make or break a hosting provider.
1. Excellent Uptime – 100%
Uptime is easily the most important factor to consider when checking any web hosting review. Speed also matters a lot but a slow website still does some good; an offline page is an unmitigated disaster.
The company might not be ideal – you can see some of the HostGator problems further down – but its uptime is excellent.
HostGator has a 99.9% uptime guarantee and promises free hosting should this service-level agreement be breached.
Now, the terms of service stipulate that external monitoring systems cannot be used to measure uptime. Only the server logs are deemed reliable enough to be used in such cases.
That’s fair enough, as even the best monitoring tools are not foolproof, and HostGator has a built-in server uptime monitoring that can be accessed through the customer portal.
The Cloud HostGator is an upgraded version of the standard shared platform, and the upgrade is telling. It brings to the table two major perks: higher reliability and very accessible upgrades that can be purchased with a couple of clicks and equally easily disabled when no longer needed.
Thanks to the advanced Cloud architecture that allows the real-time copying of any site
Average Uptime 2018:
- August – 100%
- September – 100%
- October – 100%
- November – 100%
- December – 100%
Average Uptime 2019:
- January – 100%
Verdict: HostGator is an extremely reliable host.
2. Average Speed
- Reasonable Response Time – 0.70s (11th)
- Reasonable Fully Loaded Time – 1.28s (10th)
- Questionable Under Certain Load – 9.43s (10th)
Note: If you run speed tests on my domain, results might fluctuate a bit. Even from the same testing platform, two consecutive tests normally display slightly different results. My HostGator site is hosted in Houston, so I tested it from US locations. All plugins and server-side caching were disabled.
Loading speed is absolutely crucial for any successful venture online. A site that takes more than 4 seconds to load is abandoned by 74% of the users, while sluggish ecommerce websites are rarely visited again.
I test the TTFB (time to first byte), and the time it takes for a site to be loaded fully. The first metric reveals how quickly the server responds to a query. It is a good indicator of how speedy the hosting machine is.
The second measurement shows how long it takes before the site is visible and useful to the end user. Doubtless, this is crucial as well.
In both categories, across three testing sites, HostGator Cloud hosting was impressive, clocking in the fastest response and the second fastest time to load the home page of my basic WordPress site fully. In the following months, though, the response and load times crept up, degrading the average performance of HostGator.
I was truly impressed by this performance, but when I put my HostGator site under load, the server crumbled.
To clarify, I purchased the second out of three Cloud hosting plans HostGator has. It was doing reasonably well up until 30 virtual users, but then the struggle began.
In the end, the average response time with 50 virtual users became the massive 7.9 seconds. While the virtual users were fewer than 30, the Cloud server kept responding within 0.3-0.45 seconds, which is pretty good.
I have a WordPress site on HostGator WordPress Cloud (slightly more expensive optimized specifically for WordPress) and the Load Impact tests I run regularly show similar behavior: very decent backend response up until 30 users or so and then some serious lag. It is the slowest on average among all hosts reviewed by the Hosting Tribunal.
In all fairness, 30 concurrent users are not such a small number for a growing website, but I expected more from the medium HostGator web hosting offering.
Average response time 2018:
- August – 0.17s
- September – 0.70s
- October – 1.71s
- November – 0.48s
- December – 0.57s
Average response time 2019:
- January – 0.57s
Fully loaded page 2018:
- August – 0.87s
- September – 1.26s
- October – 2.26s
- November – 0.92s
- December – 1.17s
Fully loaded page 2019:
- January – 1.19s
Response under load 2018:
- August – 7.9s
- September – 10.01s
- October – 7.99s
- November – 9.70s
- December – 10.89s
Response under load 2019:
- January – 10.10s
Verdict: Fast servers that need optimization to handle high volumes of traffic.
3. HostGator Has Slow Support and Excellent Knowledge Base
I got in touch with the support team four times while preparing this in-depth review. Once over email, the other three times over chat. I was considering to test the 24/7 HostGator phone support too, but these four interactions were enough.
For starters, the wait time on chat is not that short.
The first time I engaged a sales representative to ask clarifications about certain plan features. The agents needed some 4 minutes to pick up my chat request. That’s not horrible but is far from the best website hosts out there.
Then, my question was rather simple but had to ask it twice, as the first answer I received was a copy-paste from the website of the info I was asking clarifications about. The second time I asked I didn’t change the wording much. It seems that the agent simply read it more carefully and provided the answer I was looking for.
The second chat I started with the HostGator support was related to a technical issue. It was answered quickly, and the agent took his time to look into the problem I had (the built-in uptime monitor wasn’t working). He investigated for a while and escalated the issue to the system administrators for me.
This was nice, but the agent told me that I would be emailed the case details, to monitor the situation. I never received an email, and the case didn’t appear under my HostGator customer portal.
After another chat, I was told that the ticket is not logged under my account because it has been escalated, which didn’t make much sense. It still doesn’t.
Eventually, some four days later, I got an email saying that the system administrators are aware of the issue but cannot give me ETA about its resolution.
The last encounter I had with HostGator chat support was about changing the cPanel theme. See, HostGator Cloud has a customized cPanel theme, which is very pretty and functional, but it doesn’t allow you to switch to cPanel classics like Paper Lantern or x3. My chat request was hanging for over 15 minutes. At least the agent who finally addressed my issue was polite and swift.
My goal is to deliver sincere, unbiased analysis of each host I examine and must say that the HostGator customer service is erratic, at best.
This being said, I was happy to see that the knowledge base has improved a lot. The quality and quantity of resources have grown considerably since the last time (summer of 2017) I checked.
Now it is a very respectable self-help center.
Verdict: The HostGator support team is under a lot of stress and the wait times can be high, but the self-help center is excellent.
The Pros of HostGator
HostGator is a friendly hosting company with many perks and quality services. Its Cloud platform is the perfect example.
1. Flexible Hosting
The Cloud setup is slightly more expensive than the shared HostGator web hosting offering, but you get what you pay for.
The modern servers are interconnected, which allows for quick resource allocation and great redundancy.
It is possible to get additional resources whenever needed. With the click of a button and a basic slider, you can ramp up your site’s CPU and RAM without actually switching to a larger plan. Similarly, when the extra power is no longer needed, you can remove it.
Such flexibility is excellent for sites that have occasional or seasonal spikes in traffic. Travel agencies, event organizers, conference centers, an ecommerce sites that run aggressive marketing campaigns will find the possibility to manage site resources quite handy, adding the necessary Umpf! when needed and returning to the default values when the visitor levels drop again.
Budget-friendly, hassle-free and empowering, this is an awesome feature to have.
2. Good Statistics Right Out of the Box
The power to manage the resources of your site is only meaningful if you actually know what it consumes. The HostGator website hosting portal has this covered.
There you can see the amount of processing power and memory used by your pages at any given moment. Derived directly from the server, this statistical data is very accessible and easy to read.
At any given moment, you can check RAM usage, running processes and CPU load. All these give a complete picture of what is happening at the backend of your website and help identify potential issues after installing updates and new plugins.
3. Intuitive Interface
The HostGator login area is as intuitive as ever. Billing, plan details, domain name management, and support are just a click away at all times.
Hands down, this is one of the most uncluttered and easy to use customer portals I have seen. It is in stark contrast with the likes of A2 Hosting, for instance, whose control panel is highly functional and well-designed, but the sheer amount of information that greets you upon login can be overwhelming.
Site management happens through the omnipresent cPanel. It is customized to match the HostGator color scheme and looks rather nice. Because of the styling, you cannot change the cPanel theme, but the layout allows for sufficient customization.
Just like the customer area, the HostGator cPanel prominently displays usage stats.
4. Superb Network Infrastructure
HostGator is ideal for US-based websites.
Its two data centers are located in Provo, Utah and Houston, Texas, where the HQ of the company is. It used to be in Florida, which might be some indication of where the brand name drew inspiration from.
All modern data centers are equipped with several layers of security, redundancy power generators, advanced cooling systems, strong physical security and HostGator‘s are no exception.
What makes them particularly impressive is the fact that the likes of Arista Networks, Juniper, Arbor, Brocade, and Cisco played a central role in designing and provisioning them. These are the biggest names in networking – security, physical infrastructure – and are a guarantee for a stable, quick and future-proof network.
5. Potent Servers
Surprisingly, not many HostGator reviews mention this, but the company’s Cloud relies on serious computing power.
All servers come with SSDs and run on 32-core AMD Opteron™ Processor 6376 or Intel(R) Xeon(R) CPU E5-2630 v3. They also have 4 RAID 1s across.
The technical mumbo-jumbo probably doesn’t mean much but suffice to say that these are some powerful machines.
A quick look at the different hosting plans (below) reveals just how much power you can expect from each product. While the information is not displayed in the greatest detail possible, it is there.
6. Tempting Introductory Prices
In a typical web hosting fashion, the company attracts new customers with very low fees. The HostGator pricing goes up after the initial period is over.
You can get a site running for as low as $2.75/mo on the shared HostGator web hosting platform, should you commit for three years. The Hatchling Cloud goes for $4.95 for the same period, no extras included.
In practically every hosting review I must clarify that it is standard practice for hosting companies to advertise very low prices to make people click on their plans. HostGator at least puts an asterisk next to each mouth-watering offer to indicate that there is more to the deal.
Mind, the initial discount, in reality, is an automatically applied HostGator coupon, so even if you find a good deal elsewhere online the discount would likely be the same.
7. WordPress Optimization and Caching
All Cloud plans come with Mojo Marketplace, Google Analytics, and several other perks. The most noteworthy one is the Varnish server caching, which is preinstalled (had to disable it manually to get fair test results) and delivers very good speed.
Mojo Marketplace can add a lot of value to your WordPress site, while server-side caching is always a nice thing to have, especially when using content management systems.
My favorite WordPress perk is the fact that Google Analytics is ready to use as its setup can be a hurdle for inexperienced users.
The managed WordPress solution is lined up for testing as a part of the future series of HostGator reviews, here on the Hosting Tribunal.
HostGator rewards new customers with a decent marketing budget. $100 worth of Google AdWords can be yours after you spend actual $25 in AdWords.
It might not sound like a lot, but once you get your site up and running, these ad credits can help with visibility big time. If used strategically and in conjunction with good SEO practices, they can help you gain decent exposure.
Also, all Cloud plans receive a free Let’s Encrypt SSL, while the Business Cloud is supplied with a dedicated IP address too.
Additionally, the company has a 45-day money back guarantee, which is longer than the industry standard of 30 days.
The Cons of HostGator
HostGator is far from perfect.
I touched upon some of the areas that separate HostGator from the very best website hosting providers. Chief among them is the sluggish support team, but there are several other complaints about HostGator that must be mentioned.
1. Misleading Marketing Language
Correct me if I am wrong, but I’ve come to believe that tricky marketing language is endemic to all hosts under the umbrella of EIG.
In the case of HostGator Cloud hosting, the most glaring misdirection is in the plan presentation.
The plan details advertise resources promptly like 2 CPU cores and 2 GB RAM. Without any further investigation, you might conclude that these two processor cores and gigs of accessible memory would be for you to use as you please. It would be a very logical conclusion, indeed; as if the information is out there to make you think exactly this.
I can guarantee you that not everyone checks everything meticulously and with the care need to, say, make a detailed, unbiased review of the host. On top of that, the way this information is laid out seems inconspicuous enough to take it at face value.
However, if you expand the plan details, you will see a clarification stating that these are not dedicated but shared resources. In other words, these are server specs and not plan specs.
I checked with the HostGator sales team to confirm this as the wording in as vague as it gets, but the sales agent, after being asked twice, confirmed that the advertised values are server resources your Cloud site would have access to. Together with an unknown number of other sites.
On a server with a few hundred websites these numbers don’t look that impressive, do they?
I guess that’s the whole point of such fishy wording. It is a blatant marketing trick that is in stark contrast with the likes of A2 Hosting and SiteGround, who provide detailed lists of the dedicated resources each plan has.
While knowing the basic server resources is nice, it doesn’t really give valuable info on a personal level.
The way HostGator presents the numbers is fishy. I was baffled that none of the 2019 HostGator reviews I saw mentioned this.
2. Slow Customer Portal
Earlier in this HostGator Cloud review, I mentioned how awesome the customer portal is. It is uncluttered and very easy to use, but it has one major flaw: it is slow.
Switching between tabs takes seconds and often browsing the options under the same tab is much slower than it should be.
The sluggishness hardly is a dealbreaker, but it is annoying all the same.
3. Slow Account Setup
I purchased the plan necessary for this impartial hosting review with the fastest payment method available, namely, credit card. The payment was cleared instantly, but then I had to wait more than 40 minutes for my service to become available.
Again, that’s not a dealbreaker, but it makes you wonder why an automatic process would take so long. After all, the plan I bought is the most popular one, according to HostGator’s website.
HostGator Cloud Plans at a Glance
No HostGator hosting review can be thorough without covering the hosting plans offered. The HostGator Cloud comes in three flavors:
- Hatchling Cloud – Suitable for a single site that can enjoy the protection of a free SSL, the Hatchling plan is a good option for small, basic web presence for $4.95/mo.
- Baby Cloud – Able to host unlimited domain names, the Baby Cloud has access to 4 CPU cores and 4GB of RAM. It starts at $6.57/mo.
- Business Cloud – Also suitable for numerous sites, the Business Cloud comes with all features of the smaller plans and a dedicated IP address, which could come in handy for online merchants. The starting fee is $9.95/mo.
Bandwidth: Unmetered across the board.
Storage: Unmetered across the boards but must fall within the terms of service.
Email: Free across the board.
Database: MySQL, included in all plans.
Domain names: HostGator doesn’t include free domain names in any of the Cloud hosting plans.
Control panel: cPanel, styled to match the HostGator brand. Looks very slick.
Software installation: Softaculous 1-click installer.
Migration: Free inbound migration from cPanel.
Payment options: Credit cards, Visa, Mastercard, and Discover.
Account setup: Rather slow, fully automated process.
Upsells: There are a few when purchasing a plan – CodeGuard, SiteLock – but they might be useful as well. The picture gets worse once you log into cPanel.
HostGator Review In a Nutshell
- Excellent uptime (100%)
- Excellent speed, fast response times
- Secure hosting
- Excellent customer portal
- Free backups
- Good ecommerce solutions
- Scalable plans
- Easily accessible thanks to CDN and intuitive interface
- Inbound site and email migration
- Support is slow
- Servers struggle with large traffic
- If you opt for a shorter billing cycle, the fees grow
Do We Recommend HostGator?
HostGator Cloud hosting is a solid choice.
It is a very decent option for US-based sites with medium traffic.
The support could be better, but the Cloud infrastructure is very robust and delivers excellent speed and uptime. I will be interested to see how the regular shared hosting performs but also the managed WordPress solution of the company. We might be having a series of HostGator reviews soon enough.
Under load, the HostGator servers perform well up to a point. Once more than 30 concurrent users start browsing the site, the overall response time jumps. Then again, 30 users is a respectable number. If your site gets as many on a regular basis, you should consider moving away from shared solutions.
HostGator still is one of the better website hosting companies out there, despite the EIG acquisition. Modern, reliable server and network infrastructure ensure smooth operations, while the comprehensive self-help center can be an excellent place to learn a lot about web hosting in general.
I am looking forward to your impressions and also toward a thorough, proper HostGator shared hosting review, just to see how it fares against the company’s main product.
Q: Is HostGator Good?
A: Yes, HostGator is very good, especially its Cloud platform. I am yet to test fully the regular shared plans of the company, but the Cloud solution is quite robust, quick, and feature-rich. It is particularly well-suited for US-based websites because of the data center locations. One great advantage is the fact that the company is moving forward all the time, trying to improve its services even more.
Q: Is HostGator better than GoDaddy?
A: Yes, yes, it is. In all honesty, GoDaddy would rank unfavorably in direct comparison with most of the top web hosting service providers; it trumps them only where size is concerned. Sadly for GoDaddy, size often is detrimental to quality service. In conclusion, the difference between the HostGator Cloud and the shared platform GoDaddy has to offer is so big that the only meaningful HostGator vs. GoDaddy debate can be about which one is more affordable. Check below.
Q: How much does HostGator cost?
A: The HostGator fees scale down with a longer commitment. If you pay for 36 months, you can get your site hosted for $4.95 per month. In fact, if you opt for the shared platform instead of the Cloud, you could get a deal for the meager $2.75 per month. If the months total 36, that is. Otherwise, the monthly fees scale up and what costs $2.75 prepaid becomes $10.95 if you decide to pay on a month-to-month basis. Yes, that’s right. About four times more.
Q: What can I do on HostGator?
A: Anything. Sky is the limit, as the HostGator Cloud platform is quite versatile and powerful. It puts many apps in your hands, handy statistics, and a decent knowledge base. WordPress, Joomla, ecommerce, you name it, conceptualize it, and realize it. HostGator Cloud can handle it. The moment your site grows sufficiently you can go for a VPS or a dedicated server. Hopefully, but the time you wish to move our HostGator VPS review will be ready as well. If not, write us how is the service. Please. Pretty please.
Q: Is HostGator the best hosting provider for WordPress?
A: HostGator has its WordPress Cloud Hosting plans, and they are not that bad. However, they are not the best either. Their pricing is very good, and their service is decent, but if you want a truly stellar performance, you’d have to look elsewhere. If other HostGator reviews try to convince you otherwise, best check out our detailed WordPress case study and judge for yourself.