Every business needs a website, and for that you need a web hosting service. It doesn’t matter if it’s a fully functioning e-commerce setup or a simple page with little more than your contact information. The feature-packed HostGator boasts wallet-friendly prices, and it offers plenty of tools to webmasters. HostGator has quality dedicated and virtual private server (VPS) server packages, but its shared plans are one of the reasons why the company stands out from the very crowded web hosting pack. In fact, HostGator’s shared packages are so robust that PCMag named the web host our top pick in that subcategory. The service is also very easy to use, so we’ve crowned it our Editors’ Choice for novice webmasters.
Shared Web Hosting
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) offers unlimited disk space, bandwidth, 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) builds on the Hatchling offering by adding unlimited domains. The top-tier Business plan (starting at $16.95 per month) includes highly specialized options, such as a toll-free number for your business and a private SSL (secure socket layer) certificate.
Arvixe matches HostGator closely in the shared hosting game, but HostGator offers slightly more bang for the buck with the inclusion of a private SSL certificate and toll-free VoIP number. As a result, HostGator is the Editors’ Choice for shared web hosting services.
VPS Web Hosting
HostGator offers Linux-based VPS hosting starting at $19.95 per month. 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, offers 2GB of RAM, 120GB of disk space, and 1.5TB of monthly data transfers starting at $79.95 per month (or as low as $19.95 per month with a three-year commitment). The mid-tier Snappy 4000 package, starting at $119.95 per month (or as cheap as $29.95 per month with a three-year plan), boasts 4GB of RAM, 165GB of storage, and 2TB of monthly data transfers. The most advanced plan, Snappy 8000, offers 8GB of RAM, 240GB of disk space, and 3TB of monthly data starting at $149.95 per month or $39.95 per month if you sign up for 36 months. The plans are much more flexible than what’s offered by Network Solutions, but not quite as well rounded as Hostwinds, our Editors’ Choice for VPS hosting.
Hostwinds has wallet-friendly, well-rounded VPS offerings that start at $7.50 per month for 1GB of RAM, 25GB of disk space, unlimited monthly data transfers, and unlimited email. Plans scale up to $129 per month for 18.5GB of RAM, 130GB of disk space, unlimited 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
HostGator’s dedicated server packages start at $119 per month, and they offer a fine set of features. HostGator users can customize their servers with up to 1TB of SSD storage, 32GB of RAM, and unlimited monthly data transfers, which bests the bandwidth offerings from many other dedicated server packages.
HostGator’s dedicated servers come in both Linux and Windows flavors, which isn’t as 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 for dedicated hosting. That title goes to Hostwinds.
Hostwinds has an impressive feature set. Its dedicated hosting packages (starting at $99) can be outfitted with up to 3TB of storage, 128GB of RAM, and boast unlimited monthly data transfers. The servers come in either Linux or Windows flavors, too.
Still, HostGator’s dedicated hosting offerings are nothing to sneeze at. Check them out if you’re in need of dedicated hosting with high-capacity SSD storage.
Setting Up a HostGator Hosted Site
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 own 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.
WordPress Web Hosting
HostGator lets you install the WordPress content management system (CMS) onto any of its aforementioned servers, but the web host also offers three tiers of managed WordPress web hosting: Starter, Standard, and Business.
Starter (starting at $14.95 per month) offers 25,000 visits per month, the ability to host just one WordPress site, 50GB of storage, and unlimited email. Standard (starting at $20.95) ups things to two WordPress sites, 200,000 monthly visits, and 150GB of disk space. Business (starting at $27.95 per month) grants three WordPress sites, 300,000 monthly visits, and unlimited storage. All plans come with page caching and an optimized WordPress hosting environment.
That said, 1&1, our Editors’ Choice for WordPress hosting, tops HostGator and the competition by offering unlimited storage, domains, visitors, and email with its high-end Unlimited plan ($14.99 per month). You also get automatic malware detection and removal.
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 WordPress plug-in to help improve blog performance.
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 lacks a blog import button, but WordPress makes the import process easy enough.
Reseller Web Hosting
If you’re looking to get into the web hosting business, but you don’t want to deal with infrastructure matters, check out HostGator’s reseller hosting packages. The plans, starting at $19.95 per month, boast unlimited email across the board. The shared, dedicated, and VPS packages are of both the Linux and Windows variety, but HostGator doesn’t supply them with unlimited storge and monthly data transfers at each tier, as the Editors’ Chocie Hostwind 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.
E-Commerce Tools on Hand
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. There are tons of design options, which can get a little overwhelming.
Excellent Uptime Results
Website uptime is one of the most important aspects of a hosting service. If your site is down, clients or customers will be unable to find you or access your products or services.
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, so you don’t have to worry about your site going down for extended periods of time.
Quality Customer Service
Like HostMonster, HostGator offers both 24/7 telephone support and online web chat—I tested both help methods.
I dialed up phone tech support on a weekday afternoon to ask how I could import my WordPress.com blog into my HostGator site. I received detailed instructions via email and was quite satisfied.
With HostGator’s online web chat, after typing my question into a form and starting the chat, I was shown my estimated wait time: two minutes. Less than a minute later, a customer service rep appeared and provided easy-to-understand instructions on how to import the blog.
HostGator also has a very deep knowledgebase that contains answers to practically every possible question you could have, ranging from basic to very advanced. Overall, HostGator provides excellent customer support.
HostGator does better than most of its competitors here, offering a 45-day guarantee, but Dreamhost, our top pick for advanced users, is even more generous, with an impressive 97-day guarantee.
Dedicated to Hosting
HostGator is an excellent web host that makes setting up a site or WordPress blog a breeze. You don’t get one-click installs or imports, but its Quick Link interface is mostly straightforward and much more robust than most of the options out there. HostGator’s generous hosting offerings are enough to win the PCMag Editors’ Choice designation in the shared web hosting subcategory, and it’s the overall top pick for web hosting, too, along with DreamHost and Hostwinds.
If you need tips on creating your website, please read our primer. You might also want to check out our story on how to register a domain name for your website.