Hostgator was started in 2002 by Brent Oxley, a student at Florida Atlantic University. He was inspired to get into hosting after being a long time affiliate but due to the dot com bubble burst of 2000 (where his sources of income dried up) he turned to hosting under the name freakwebhosting.com. As it took off, he changed the name, and hence the brand was born. It then took off, and in 2008 was ranked #21 on Inc 5000, and #239 in 2009, with a revenue of $34.2 million in 2008. In 2012, with a revenue of then somewhere around $225 million the brand was sold to
In 2012, with a revenue of then somewhere around $225 million the brand was sold to Endurance International Group (EIG), who also own other high profile brands such as Bluehost, Justhost, Fatcow and Hostnine to name just a few.
Our Hostgator Shared Hosting Review
You can see the three different plans offered below:
As you can see, all the plans are unlimited, with just a few minor variations between the 3 plans. The Hatchling only permits one domain to be hosted on the server, and the Business plan includes a dedicated IP, and private SSL certificate as well as a free Toll Number (for US customers).
Of course, nothing can truly be limited, and instead, you would be subject to “fair usage” as defined in the terms and conditions. Concerning CPU and disk usage on their shared hosting plans you should note the following:
Shared hosting space may only be used for web files, active email, and content of User Websites. Shared hosting space may not be used for storage (whether of media, e-mails, or other data), including, as offsite storage of electronic files, email or FTP hosts.
HostGator expressly reserves the right to review every shared account for excessive usage of CPU, disk space and other resources that may be caused by a violation of this Agreement or the Acceptable Use Policy.
HostGator may, in our sole discretion, terminate access to the Services, apply additional fees, or remove or delete User Content for those accounts that are found to be in violation of HostGator’s terms and conditions.
Unfortunately, the terms and conditions are not the clearest, but their Support Page on the subject clarifies the issue by stating that you are not allowed to use more than 25% of the CPU for longer than 90 seconds. There are even reports of this affecting relatively minor sites, but of course, it is difficult to verify what exactly is going on. This is shared hosting after all, and such limitations are not out of the ordinary.
Data centers are located in Houston Texas at CyrusOne’s Houston West Facility, and Provo Utah at Ace Data Center (where Bluehost, Justhost, and Hostmonster are located). Unfortunately, you are not able to choose a particular datacenter location when you sign up.
[display_map address1=”Houston, Texas | Houston, Texas Datacenter” address2=”Provo, Utah | Provo, Utah Datacenter” zoom=”2″]
A Look at Hostgator Support
It is difficult to know where to start when we consider how best to describe their level of support. There are plenty of mixed messages around the web, with some pretty vocal negative viewpoints around. Couple that with a high BBB rating of A+, and the occasional glowing review it makes it quite difficult to ascertain really how good or bad they are. Of course, when you have such a large company you will find more grumbles than say a smaller company, but let’s try to decipher what exactly is going on.
When looking at their level of support, you have to remember that before EIG took it over in 2012 that they were one of the best hosting brands out there. Their support was second to none, and if anyone asked for a hosting recommendation they were among the top of the list. Their whole ethos was based on excellent support, and indeed, the man behind their customer service department (Douglas Hannah) went on to run A Small Orange \ Hostnine on behalf of EIG (although he has now left there as well). So… fast forward a few years, and they are well and truly integrated into the whole EIG management system and a different company to what it was in 2012. Whenever people who are more knowledgeable about hosting talk about them, they now naturally compare it to their historical version and as such (bearing in mind many are anti-EIG) speak of the modern incarnation unfavorably.
Live Chat Support
We tested their support a few times via live chat, and the wait time was only 1 or 2 minutes. The tech guy was very helpful, providing useful advice and the answers as far as we were aware were concise and accurate. An example of one of our first chats is below:
[Initial Question]: Do you use standard cPanel and allow cPanel backups to be taken
(1:07 pm) [System] Customer has entered chat and is waiting for an agent.
(1:08 pm) [John Q.] Welcome to HostGator Live Chat. My name is John Q. Yes to answer both of that. We also have automatic backups weekly (it replaces itself every week) and we offer Codeguard for that if you need have several reference points to go back to if you need it.
(1:09 pm) [Jonathan]: ah good thanks
(1:09 pm) [Jonathan]: Is codeguard extra?
(1:11 pm) [John Q.] Right, Codeguard is extra at about $20 starting a year. However if you have a WordPress site or something of that nature it would be advisable to go for the Higher level Code Guards or else you would just be throwing money at something that won’t back up your content.
(1:12 pm) [Jonathan]: ok thanks for your help
Ok, so what about ticket support?
Well,… this is where some negatives start cropping in. In a recent example, a user with email issues approached their live support because their ticket had not been answered in 4 days, with part of their response explaining that “our ticket times are a bit higher than expected.”
But, this seems to be just the tip of the iceberg. Another customer, as you can see from the attached screenshot opened a ticket complaining they are not able to access any of their sites. Some eight days later the response came. Eight days!
If it were us, unless the issue was complicated and had already been referred to a senior (due to being a complex issue), not getting a response in 24 hours would signal alarm bells. Not getting the first response within 48 hours would see us moving to a new host, especially when these problems don’t seem to be a temporary thing with some references to the slow support times going back to the end of last year.
We have already looked briefly at the different plans offered. Now we will look at particular features that might be of interest and what might separate them from the competition.
- cPanel Control Panel – This is one of the most popular web hosting control panels that allows you to manage easily all aspects of your web hosting account. One great thing we particular like is the import feature that it offers, so it makes it easy to transfer your sites from one host to another. You can read more about cPanel here.
- Free Weebly Sitebuilder – While they advertise a free Weebly Sitebuilder, in reality, this only allows you up to 6 pages, with other restrictions. For a fully functioning Weebly Sitebuilder install, you will have to pay $8.99 per month, with an additional $2.99 for E-commerce. You can activate and upgrade Weebly from within the cPanel. There is a detailed overview, and other resources to get you started here.
- 4,500 free website templates – We are not sure we should have included this as a positive, after just looking at the quality and type of templates they offer. Many are of a relatively old style, and we would not suggest you use one of the Flash Templates (bad for SEO). We would advise you don’t waste time on these and instead, buy a decent WordPress theme from somewhere like Themeforest.
- Ruby on Rails, Perl, Python – Very useful for those who need it. Surprisingly not every host offers these now.
- Toll-Free Number on Business Plan – This is for US Callers only. Canadian customers are charged a fee for the call. You must also call the number once every 30 days. Otherwise the number is canceled.
- Sitelock – Ok, they have been a little sneaky here advertising this as $99 value. In reality, what you get is a cut-down version of Sitelock, and only the scanning component is included. The real plan offers Scanning, Removal, Web Application Firewall, DDos Protection and CDN.
- Codeguard – This is something we would recommend, and as a previous user of Codeguard (we now use Vaultpress for hourly backups at $15 pm) we found it quite good, and for just $19.95 per year this represents excellent value. If you were to sign up direct, it would cost you $5 per month. Essentially, this takes your backups away from the host and allows you to restore your website on demand from the daily backups it takes.
- Target Rank SEO with SEO Gears – This appears to be a company owned by Hostgator’s parent company EIG, which seems to service all the EIG brands. Furthermore, there seems no way to purchase directly the products from the site. The cost of Target Rank is $14.99 per year and includes an SEO E-book and SEO Tools. It is unclear exactly what the SEO Tools are, but we suspect they give you just enough information to upsell then you on more expensive services. SEO Gears offers Search Engine Visibility, Target Leads, Paid Website Traffic and Website + Facebook Page design. As there is no way to purchase these services direct (from what we can see) we suspect this will be marketed to existing customers of Target Rank.
- Google Apps Wizard – You can integrate Google Apps (professional email, Google Apps, Calendar) with just 3 simple steps with their Wizard accessed via their cPanel. We are a big fan of Google Apps, and this makes setting everything up super easy.
Before we carry out the speed tests on our standard test theme that we use with all hosting providers, it will be interesting to see if they employ any technology or features that might help with your website performance.
Unfortunately, by the very nature of their business model (unlimited hosting) it precludes things like offering the much more expensive SSD storage. Also, we see no other optimizations that might improve speed, with the exception of the one-click Cloudflare addon which when setup with our guide in mind should help significantly.
So let us take a look at the speed test results:
Coming soon. We would have loved to have carried out the tests by now, but our account has issues, and we are waiting on a ticket response! It might be a few days before the test site is back online!
If your shared or reseller server has a physical downtime that falls short of the 99.9% uptime guarantee, you may receive one (1) month of credit on your account. This uptime guarantee does not apply to planned maintenance. Approval of any credit is at the sole discretion of HostGator and may be dependent upon the justification provided. Third party monitoring service reports may not be used for justification due to a variety of factors including the monitor’s network capacity/transit availability. The uptime of the server is defined as the reported uptime from the operating system and the Apache Web Server, which may differ from the uptime reported by other individual services. To request a credit, please visit http://support.hostgator.com to create a support ticket to our Billing department with justification. Uptime guarantees only apply to shared and reseller solutions. Dedicated servers are covered by a network guarantee in which the credit is prorated for the amount of time the server is down which is not related to our uptime guarantee.
If your server falls short of their 99.9% uptime guarantee, then you are entitled to receive one month of credit on account for that hosting package.
Now, bearing in mind the size of the company it is hardly unsurprising that there will be issues. All hosting providers have issues, but what sets good companies apart from the bad is how these issues are dealt with. So, while we cannot say that they are any worse than other companies, what does concern us is that these are issues that may be resolved at other hosts within the hour but are sometimes left for days because their ticket support fails to respond. Ultimately, their support is currently (March 2015) among the worst in the industry.
For a host with fairly reasonable to high pricing the level of support being offered is far below what you might expect. As such we do not think this offers particularly good value. For similar pricing, you can get a host that responds within the hour, and without even a respectable level of support (hell, even a first response within 24 hours would be a good starting point!) there is no way we can speak positively about the value they represent.
- Eco-friendly hosting – They currently produce more energy from wind power (30% more) than they use. This makes them an extremely green company.
- CPanel – They use the standard cPanel, which is extremely user-friendly, and has all the tools and features that make managing your site very easy. One of the most important reasons we always recommend cPanel is that the majority of web hosting companies will transfer your site for free from your old host if you have this. Indeed, they will transfer your site for free when you sign up provided your host uses cPanel.
- Longer money back trial period – You can try them out with their 45 days money back guarantee, which is longer than most hosts. What’s more, after the trial period expires, you can still get prorated refunds. Therefore, you can feel secure signing up for longer periods for even better savings.
- Lots of hosting options – They have been around for a long time, and they can provide the flexibility you need with hosting should you need to upgrade or expand.
- Toll-Free Number – The business plan gives you a toll-free number for your customers to call. You should check the conditions careful, as it will be disconnected if you downgrade or do not receive any calls in any one month (i.e. make sure to call it every month to keep it active).
- Fairly decent addons – Their CodeGuard addon for your own independent backups is excellent value and one that we would highly recommend.
- Purchased by EIG – Historically, companies purchased by EIG have suffered for it. However, rather than just repeat this warning, we must say that we are seeing a trend now that says some of their later acquisitions, such as A Small Orange and Hostnine have not. Hostgator recently moved all their sites to their own servers, and despite a few grumblings at the time, things seem to have settled now although their support has recently gone down hill.
- They do not use Softaculous – Whilst most hosts are now using Softaculous, they are stuck with QuickInstall, which in our opinion is not quite as good. For example Softaculous WordPress installs offer daily backups etc and other smart features. However, QuickInstall has all the major software so it’s not something to be overly concerned about.
- Annoying Upsells & Popups in Control Panel – Whilst some of the popups are help articles, others are promoting their email marketing or other add-ons. It actually gets a little annoying after a while, and something they should probably scale back a bit.
- Our test install showed Adverts – Upon directing our domain’s A record to the server (instant via Cloudflare DNS) we found ourselves looking at adverts! Read more about this here (coming soon).
- Extremely Slow Support – Seriously, when you have to wait several days for a first response it indicates that there is something extremely wrong. This alone would make us recommend that you avoid this host!
We now also offer a search feature (see sidebar), and you will find the information stored about Hostgator in the table below. Note it is meant to highlight main features we feel are important, rather than designed to be all encompassing:
Ruby on Rails
Hostgator Review Final Thoughts
The first thought is “What went wrong?”. This company used to be amazing, but since it was purchased by EIG, it has just been run into the ground. Perhaps their decision to move all their ticket support to India has had something to do with it. It is like they just do not care anymore.
We have just (March 2015) updated this review, but in the 3-4 days so far since we purchased their hosting we have not had a working site… AND the real annoying thing is that we have not even had a first response from the ticket we raised! Of course, we will update this review with some speed tests as soon as we can get our site working, but we don’t think anything will change the tone of our Hostgator review bearing in mind the horrible experience since joining up.
But… why are all the other reviews raving about them?
Well, this is due to the amount of money they pay reviewers to write positive reviews. We have checked around the web, and some legitimate review sites (with user reviews) have quite a few negative comments lately, and also forums like Webhostingtalk are not particularly positive either. Plus, some reviews are just old… and we are surprised how much worse they have got since we last tested them out a year ago.
Bearing everything contained in this review, we would certainly recommend you AVOID them for the time being. Should they get their act together we will, of course, update this review, but that doesn’t look likely at least in the short term.
We recommend you check out the User Reviews left by our readers below.