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What is it?
Provider of shared web hosting for small businesses.
How popular is it?
Hosts over 9 million domains.
Who is it right for?
Small businesses that want a proven, large web host that provides good customer service and a lot of bandwidth and storage.
Who is it not right for?
Businesses that want a domain have to pay for it on HostGator even though other hosts include it for free. In general, if budget is your only concern, HostGator is not the cheapest web hosting service.
Types of Hosting Solutions Available?
Shared Hosting, Virtual Private Server, Dedicated Server.
24/7/365 phone support and live chat + email + self help
Average Uptime/Response Time?
Good. 99.94 % uptime and response times around 1038 ms (these stats are tracked by Cloud Spectator).
Shared hosting ranges from $5.56/month to $11.96/month depending on which plan you select (see pricing section for more details).
1-Click WordPress Installation:
1-Click Shopping Cart Installation:
Unlimited (see below for more details).
No. Domains start at $12.95/year.
Does it include a Website Builder?
Included Security Features:
Firewall, DDoS protection, SFTP secure file transfer, SSL certificate, spam blocker, SSH.
Integrated Control Panel?
CPanel/WHM for Linux and Plesk for Windows.
HostGator is a well-rounded web host offering lots of features and good customer service, but there isn’t much that sets it apart from other web hosts. It comes with nice features, such as the free site builder, unlimited bandwidth and storage, unlimited emails, and 24/7/365 customer support. Hostgator is also one of the leading web host providers, so you will have the comfort of dealing with a company that has a lot of knowledge about websites and web hosting.
On the flip side, there are a few drawbacks. There’s no domain name included for free, even though this is a standard offering by other web hosts, both large (GoDaddy and Bluehost) and small (Arvixe and A Small Orange). In addition, if your only concern is cost and you’re on a tight budget, we recommend Arvixe or A Small Orange, which are both cheaper than HostGator.
If you’re unfamiliar with web hosting, we suggest you look at our guide first.
HostGator has three shared hosting plans, priced as shown below for an annual subscription (they are currently offering a big 60 % discount, but expect the standard pricing upon renewal).
unlimited storage and bandwidth,
1 click installations
Everything in Hatchling plan
plus unlimited domains
Everything in Baby plan
plus SSL certificate
and Free Business phone line
If you have a single website, then Hatchling is a good option for your business. The only difference between Hatchling and Baby is that the latter allows you to host an unlimited number of websites on a single hosting account. Finally, if you’re business is in e-commerce, we recommend the Business plan for you because it includes the SSL certificate and a free business toll-free number with up to 100 minutes per month.
Just like other service providers, HostGator saves you a bit of money if you sign up for a longer term. You can save $1-2 per month by committing to a 2 or 3 year term. It’s about $2 more per month if you choose a 6-month or month-to-month term. See more pricing details here.
As a bonus, you can get $100 in free Google Adwords credits when you spend $25 on Google Adwords. Other providers don’t require you to spend money to earn credits, but this is still a good way for small businesses to get some marketing exposure.
HostGator has a generous 45-day money back guarantee. If it doesn’t work out for you you can get a full refund on the hosting plan. After the 45-day period, you’re still eligible for a prorated refund.
The quality of customer service can differentiate a great web host from an okay web host. A good customer service rep can, for instance, help you figure out how to use your control panel and what to do if your website goes down.
HostGator Support Hours:
24/7/365 phone, live chat, and email support. HostGator is known for providing good customer service. Their self-help knowledge base is very comprehensive.
Self Help, Phone, Email, Live Chat?
All of these support types are available.
Uptime & Server Response Times:
HostGator performs decently, but not the best, in terms of its server performance. Uptime is the time during which the shared server (and your website) is up and running. Response time is how long the server takes to deliver content when visitors come to your website.
Cloud Spectator tracks uptime and response time stats for several hosting providers. HostGator ranks somewhere in the middle.
Like many other providers, HostGator offers a 99.9 % uptime guarantee, which means they will credit you for a month’s worth of hosting for any excess downtime.
Uptime/Response Times: 99.94 % uptime and response times around 1038 ms. This leads the pack among popular web hosting providers.
Supported 1-Click installations:
You can add applications to customize your website for your business. With a couple simple steps, you can install your WordPress site, add a shopping cart, or create a discussion forum on your website.
For example, see this short video that explains how to add your WordPress site using Hostgator:
Hostgator supports both Linux and Windows. Linux is by far the more popular choice of operating system, and it also supports many more applications.
Most web applications like WordPress and Joomla need a database for storing content. You need a MySQL database for every WordPress site or application that you install.
Popular 1-Click Applications Supported (in Linux): WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Magento, Zen Cart, Zenphoto, Sugar CRM. See the full list of applications available here.
Number of MySQL databases: Unlimited.
Hostgator offers a pretty wide range of of security features. This enhances the reliability of your website and increases customer confidence in websites that store sensitive information.
Secure File Transfer – HostGator has secure FTP technology, which encrypts confidential data while you are transferring files into and out of your website. Businesses that store sensitive data on their websites should use secure file transfer when creating their websites.
Regular Backups – HostGator backs up its shared servers once per week for websites that take up less than 20 GB of storage. You can also run “instant backups” pretty easily from your cPanel control panel, but you must remember to do so regularly. Backups are important because they ensure that your website can be restored if the server crashes or your website is compromised.
Secure Shell (SSH) Access – Allows you to remotely manage your server (e.g. remotely reset a password).
Spam Blocker and DDOS Protection – combats spam in email accounts and prevents unauthorized use of your hosting account.
SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) – HostGator offers a free private SSL certificate in the Business plan. One advantage of HostGator for e-commerce businesses and for businesses that store sensitive information on their websites is that the SSL certificate is free for life — GoDaddy only provides it free for 1 year.
SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) encrypts private data that is transferred over the Internet. Small businesses that accept credit card payments on their website (as opposed to sending payments to a third party processor) or store sensitive data on their websites should get SSL protection.
When comparing different web hosts, you may come across the distinction between shared and private SSL certificates. Most businesses that accept credit cards or store sensitive information will want a fully secure private SSL certificate that protects transactions on their own domain.
Firewall – Helps prevent viruses from entering the server.
Domain privacy – Protects your online identify and prevents people from spamming your business. HostGator charges $9.95/month for domain privacy. Arvixe and Dreamhost offer free domain privacy.
For a nominal fee starting at $1.67 per month, you can purchase additional security features, such as malware scans, firewall for all your applications, and a Content Delivery Network (CDNs route server requests to the server closest to your customers, so the website operates quickly).
Since WordPress powers over 17 % of the entire web, many hosts offer managed WordPress hosting plans that are optimized for WP websites. Unfortunately, HostGator does not offer managed WP hosting.
We recommend managed WP hosting for small businesses with WordPress sites that get a lot of traffic and that are central to the business. Managed WP hosts handle the technical backend of WordPress for you. For instance, the host will run WP software updates for you, do daily backups, provide a staging site to test changes to your WP site, and run your site on WP-optimized servers. Here at FitSmallBusiness.com, we use WP Engine for our WordPress site.
Bandwidth & Storage
Bandwidth and storage limits basically tell you how many resources your website can consume. Bandwidth measures the amount of traffic that can come to your website. Storage is the amount of space available for the files, images, and videos on your website.
Like many other hosts, HostGator promises your “unlimited bandwidth and storage.” You should treat such claims with caution. A shared server has a finite amount of CPU (processing power) and RAM (memory) that is divided among the websites of several businesses. If one website uses too many resources, the other websites on the shared server will slow down and eventually crash. In other words, unlimited doesn’t necessarily mean unlimited. If you’re consuming too many resources, your shared hosting provider will ask you to upgrade to a VPS or dedicated server. In the case of HostGator, they’ve actually specified that you can use no more than 25 % of the server’s CPU at a maximum.
HostGator uses CloudFlare technology to makes websites on its shared servers run faster. By caching static content on your website, CloudFlare reduces the load on the server and leaves more resources available for complex server requests. However, HostGator doesn’t use Solid State Drives (SSDs). SSDs are the fastest available and most secure hard drives and deliver content faster to visitors to your website.
Bandwidth Available: Unlimited.
Storage Available: Unlimited.
Domains & Emails
One of the biggest downsides to HostGator is that they don’t offer a free domain name (i.e. URL for your website). Once you form a website, you can help bring traffic to it by creating a unique and memorable domain name. Most hosts include a free domain name in their shared hosting plans, but you have to pay $12.95 to buy a domain name from HostGator.
Businesses with a single small website can sign up for the Hatchling plan. To add unlimited websites to one hosting account, purchase the Baby or Business plan. Remember though, if you have multiple websites on the same hosting account, they will have to share the total available resources. This can slow down each website if they all get a lot of traffic.
HostGator allows you to set up alias (parked) domains and subdomains. Alias domains, available only in Baby and Business plans, reroute customers to your primary website (e.g. mybusiness.com) when they type in a secondary URL (e.g. sale.mybusiness.com). Subdomains are memorable URLs associated with your domain for specific content (e.g. help.mybusiness.com for your support center).
In addition to domain services, HostGator also provides free unlimited emails (e.g. email@example.com) so that you and your employees can have email accounts @your domain.
Number of free domains: None. Domains start from $12.95/year.
Number of free emails: Unlimited.
Number of websites per hosting account: 1 website on Hatchling plan, and unlimited on Baby and Business plans.
HostGator comes built-in with Weebly, our recommended small business website builder. This is a nice bonus for small business owners who want to smoothly transition from website creation to website hosting.
You can use the built-in tool to create one website for free, but you are limited to a 6-page website for the free version of Weebly. After that, you have to pay $8.99/month. Bluehost, a sister company of HostGator under the same parent company, places identical restrictions on the use of Weebly. A Small Orange also comes built in with Weebly but doesn’t limit the number of webpages you can create.
Weebly has about a hundred templates and a drag and drop tool that let you create a professional looking website in minutes without technical expertise.
Normally, if you used Weebly on its own, they charge you $4/month if you want to use your own domain instead of a Weebly subdomain (i.e. yourbusiness.weebly.com). HostGator saves you that cost if you have a simple website. However, if your website has more than 6 pages, you’re better off subscribing to Weebly than using the built-in tool on HostGator. HostGator charges $8.99/month for access to Weebly for websites with more than 6 pages, whereas you can pay just the $4/month on Weebly to create a website with unlimited pages.
The control panel lets you manage several things related to your website from one location. For example, you can add new files to your website, monitor how much bandwidth and storage you are using, and install applications like WordPress or Joomla.
HostGator has both cPanel for Linux and Plesk for Windows. cPanel is the most popular control panel, and it will meet the needs of the vast majority of small businesses.
Here is a snapshot of what your HostGator cPanel screen would look like:
Most small businesses do not have to worry about the programming languages that the web host supports unless they are trying to run scripts on their website. If you have questions about this, we suggest you talk to your web designer or IT person.
Control Panels Available: cPanel/WHM for Linux and Plesk for Windows.
Operating System Supported: Linux and Windows.
Programming Languages Supported: PHP, Python, Perl, Ruby on Rails. See full list here.
Switching Hosts or Upgrading
As your business grows, you may choose to switch hosting providers or upgrade from shared hosting to a VPS or dedicated server. The goal is to minimize the disruption to your website during the transition.
HostGator offers free transfer service from other providers within 30 days of signing up for a HostGator plan. You just have to fill out a transfer form. The free transfer is also available when upgrading from shared hosting to a VPS or dedicated server.
We recommend you always make backup copies of your website before switching providers or upgrading just in case something gets lost in the shuffle.
Click Here to get our FREE Google advertising guide and discover the 6 steps you can use to show up #1 in Google search
HostGator is a good web host that offers lots of features and good customer service, but there isn’t a whole lot that’s distinctive about it. It includes the free Weebly site builder, unlimited bandwidth and storage, unlimited emails, and 24/7/365 customer support. After GoDaddy, HostGator is the largest web host provider we reviewed, so you can feel comfortable that you are hosting with a trusted, reputable company.
Unfortunately, HostGator falls short in a few areas. There’s no free domain name, even though this is a standard offering by other web hosts. In addition, if you’re on a tight budget, we recommend Arvixe or A Small Orange, which are both cheaper than HostGator.