Every business needs a website, whether it’s a fully functioning e-commerce setup or a simple blog to post daily updates. Either way, you need a web hosting service. The stacked HostGator is a top choice, as it includes feature-rich cloud, WordPress, virtual private server (VPS), and dedicated server packages. However, it’s the company’s shared plans that stand out from the very crowded web hosting pack. In fact, HostGator’s shared packages are so robust that the service is our Editors’ Choice pick in that hosting subcategory.
Shared Web Hosting
Shared hosting, if you’re not familiar with the category, is a type of web hosting that sees multiple sites living on a single server. In this setup, sites share the server resources (hence the name), so a large traffic surge on Site A can, unfortunately, impact Site B’s performance in a negative fashion. Shared hosting is a good option if you’re looking for cheap hosting; if you want more server resources devoted to your site, you need to go the VPS or dedicated hosting routes.
HostGator offers month-to-month shared web hosting plans, but pushes hard for you to sign up for longer terms, starting at six months. I don’t like that during the signup process HostGator defaults to a three-year term. It’s one thing to encourage users to skip month-to-month service, but pushing them into three years from the start is a bit much.
That said, HostGator offers Linux- or Windows-based shared hosting packages that give small- and medium-size businesses room to grow. The Hatchling plan (starting at $10.95 per month, or $3.95 per month with an annual plan) offers unlimited disk space, monthly data transfers, databases, and email addresses, plus support for one domain and third-party applications such as content management systems and e-commerce platforms. The Baby plan (starting at $11.95 per month, or $5.00 per month with an annual plan) builds on the Hatchling offering by adding unlimited domains. The top-tier Business plan (starting at $16.95 per month, or $7.95 per month with an annual plan) includes highly specialized options, such as a toll-free number for your business and a private SSL (secure socket layer) certificate.
VPS Web Hosting
Virtual private server (VPS) hosting is for people who want more server horsepower than what shared hosting offers. VPS hosting also sees multiple sites living on a server, though far fewer in number than what you’ll find on a shared hosting server. You’ll pay more for a VPS server, but you get more server power in return.
HostGator offers three, Linux-based VPS hosting tiers. If you need more power, expect high traffic volumes, or have specific compliance requirements that prevent you from using shared servers (but you don’t want to pay dedicated server prices), these are good options to consider.
The most basic VPS plan, Snappy 2000 (starting at $29.95 per month, or $23.95 per month with an annual commitment), offers 2GB of RAM, 120GB of SSD disk space, and unlimited email and monthly data transfers. The mid-tier Snappy 4000 package (starting at $59.95 per month, or $34.95 per month with an one-year plan), builds upon Snappy with 4GB of RAM and 165GB of SSD storage. The most advanced plan, Snappy 8000 (starting at $119.95 per month, or $59.95 per month with an annual deal), offers 8GB of RAM and 240GB of SSD storage. The plans are flexible, but not quite as well rounded as Hostwinds, our Editors’ Choice pick for VPS hosting.
Hostwinds has wallet-friendly, well-rounded VPS offerings that start at $16.99 per month for 1GB of RAM, 30GB of disk space, 1TB of monthly data transfers, and unlimited email. Plans scale up to $574 per month for 96GB of RAM, 750GB of disk space, 9TB of monthly data transfers, and unlimited email. Hostwinds’ VPS plans also have a Windows operating system option, which is something that HostGator doesn’t offer.
Dedicated Web Hosting
Dedicated hosting is a powerful form of web hosting that sees your site existing on a server all by itself. As a result, this expensive hosting is also the most powerful. If you expect lots of traffic, it’s what should power your website.
Hostgator’s dedicated server packages begin with the value tier (starting at $189 per month, or $109 per month with an annual plan). With value, you get 8gb of ram, 1tb of hdd storage, and unlimited email and monthly data transfers. Building upon value is power server (starting at $249 per month, or $139 per month with an annual plan), which includes 16gb of ram and 2tb of hdd storage (or 512gb of ssd storage). The high-end enterprise server (starting at $289 per month, or $159 per month with an annual plan) contains 30gb of ram and 1tb of ssd storage.
commonplace as you might think; Linux tends to dominate the field. In fact, HostGator is one of the few web hosts we’ve tested that scored well and offers both operating systems. Even DreamHost, one of our favorite hosting services, lacks Windows-based dedicated servers. That said, Hostgator isn’t the Editors’ Choice pick for dedicated hosting. That title goes to AccuWeb.
AccuWeb has an impressive feature set. Its dedicated hosting packages (starting at $105 per month) can be outfitted with up to 2TB of storage, a whopping 512GB of RAM, and 50TB of monthly data transfers. The servers come in either Linux or Windows flavors, too.
HostGator, like the many other web hosts that PCMag has reviewed over the years, also offers cloud hosting. With cloud hosting, the resources that your site needs to operate are shared across multiple servers. The benefits? You can scale resources in real time, as your site isn’t limited to physical server constraints.
HostGator’s cloud hosting service—unlike that of DreamHost, the category’s co-Editors’ Choice—is only available via the Linux platform; if you want the Windows operating system, you must look elsewhere. Still, HostGator has attractive cloud hosting plans that are worth your consideration.
The Cloud Hatchling plan (starting at $12.95 per month, or $7.95 per year with an annual plan) comes with 2GB RAM, and unlimited email, monthly data transfers, and storage. From there, Cloud Baby (starting at $13.95 per month, or $9.95 per month with an annual plan) adds unlimited domains, and ups the RAM to 4GB. At the top of the offerings is Cloud Business (starting at $19.95 per month, or $11.95 per month with an annual plan), which includes 6GB of RAM and a dedicated IP address.
WordPress Web Hosting
HostGator lets you install the WordPress content management system (CMS) onto any of its servers, but the web host also offers three tiers of pre-installed, managed WordPress web hosting: Starter, Standard, and Business.
Starter (starting at $14.95 per month, or $7.95 per month with an annual plan) offers 100,000 visits per month, the ability to host just one WordPress site, 50GB of storage, and unlimited email. Standard (starting at $20.95, or $9.95 per month with an annual plan) ups things to two WordPress sites, 200,000 monthly visits, and 150GB of disk space. Business (starting at $27.95 per month, or $11.95 with an annual plan) grants three WordPress sites, 500,000 monthly visits, and unlimited storage. All plans come with page caching and an optimized WordPress hosting environment. That said, A2, Bluehost, and WP Engine—our co-Editors’ Choice picks for WordPress hosting—top HostGator with slightly more robust packages. Please check out those reviews for a deeper dive into their WordPress offerings.
WordPress is easy to set up on HostGator even if you don’t go the managed-WordPress route. The customer portal has an option called Quick Links that opens a dedicated interface for installing third-party applications. There’s also a handy shortcut called Get Started With WordPress Today that leads to the Quick Links interface. I set the path to my blog’s installation, entered the username for the WordPress administrator account, and clicked on the install button. As easy as that, my site was up and running. HostGator also automatically installed the WP-Super-Cache plug-in to help improve blog performance. If you’re looking for even more plug-ins to give your site a boost, check out The Best WordPress Plug-Ins for Supercharging Your Website
In testing, the process of setting up my WordPress site was easy, because the database was already there. There was also a link to the Mojo Marketplace under WordPress services, with premium add-ons and services for my blog. HostGator itself lacks a blog-import button, but WordPress makes the import process easy enough.
Building a HostGator-Powered Website
It’s a good thing HostGator sends a getting-started email with links to all the resources you’ll need to create a website, because the interface takes a little getting used to. HostGator has a Billing Login link at the top of its site that leads to the customer portal, where all the payment information, details about your plan, and options to purchase add-ons are listed. This page has tabs across the top for account and domain management. The Hosting tab is where you see the actual control panel with site-building tools, applications, website statistics, and more. The introductory email also has a direct link for the control panel, but it looks different from what you’d get through the Hosting tab, making the experience a bit confusing at first.
HostGator has several options for building a website, including HostGator’s excellent, simple-to-use Gator website builder. The drag-and-drop functionality let me quickly build an attractive page complete with slideshows, contact forms, social media links, and more in no time. You can also install WordPress or other CMS platforms such as Drupal, b2evolutions, Joomla, Mambo, and Tiki, to name a few. A File Manager tool lets you manually upload files to the server to create the website that way. The tool is better than a basic FTP client, because you can edit the files directly or use a built-in HTML editor.
HostGator blesses you with a free domain name if you sign up for at least 12 months of cloud, shared, or WordPress hosting—dedicated and VPS hosting do not qualify. That’s not an unusual feature in the web hosting space, but it is a nice touch. There are two caveats, however. The no-cost period lasts for one year, and your desired domain must end in either the .com, .org, or .net extensions. If you already own a domain name ending in one of the aforementioned extensions, HostGator will transfer it to a server free of charge. If you want to know more about site building, check out The Best Courses for Learning How to Build Websites and How to Create a Blog
The plans, starting at $19.95 per month, include unlimited email across the board. The Aluminum, Copper, and Silver plans are of both the Linux and Windows variety, but HostGator doesn’t supply them with unlimited storage and monthly data transfers at each tier, as the reseller Editors’ Choice pick Hostwinds does with its offerings. On the upside, HostGator lets you apply your own branding to the servers you rent, and it also supplies 24/7 tech support.
As mentioned, HostGator offers Mojo Marketplace, which has email marketing tools such as DaDa Mail (starting at $34.95 per year), software that lets you send email newsletters to a subscriber list. Quick Links also has e-commerce
packages, including Magento, phpCOIN, SugarCRM, and ZenCart. I installed Magento, which provides a drag-and-drop interface to create an attractive online store.
Setting up shop with the new tool is straightforward and easy. You select a theme, add products, pricing, and images, and pick your preferred payment and shipping methods. If you plan on using your website to sell products, HostGator offers many excellent options.
Excellent Uptime and Customer Service
I used a website-monitoring tool to track our HostGator-hosted test site’s uptime over a 14-day period. Every 15 minutes, the tool pings my website and sends me an email if it is unable to contact the site for at least 1 minute. The testing data reveals that HostGator is remarkably stable; in fact, it didn’t go down once in the two-week testing period. You shouldn’t have to worry about your HostGator site going down for extended periods of time.
HostGator has 24/7 telephone support and live web chat support. I placed a call on a weekday morning and spoke to a customer service rep less than a minute later. I asked about the different hosting tiers, and experienced excellent customer support. The rep was friendly and knowledgeable.
Like many other web hosts, HostGator has a money-back guarantee. However, it does better than most of its competitors by offering a 45-day refund window (most web hosts top out at 30 days). That said, DreamHost, another Editors’ Choice pick, is even more generous with its impressive 97-day guarantee.
Dedicated to Hosting
Featuring numerous hosting types, excellent customer service, terrific uptime, and a lengthy money-back guarantee, HostGator comes packed with the tools you need to launch a personal- or business-related website—provided that a Windows-powered server isn’t a top priority. If you need to build atop the Windows Server operating system, AccuWeb (also an Editors’ Choice pick) will suit you well.