I occasionally go searching to see what’s new in the world of web hosting. And it never fails, I come across websites that claim to “review” web hosting services. Here’s a tip for the uninformed, those sites rank web hosting providers by how much they get PAID as an affiliate! So one week, you might see one hosting company at the top (betcha a buck they pay their affiliates the best) and the next week they’re off the chart (dropped their commission rate? hmm…)
This isn’t intended to be a full-fledged review of every hosting company out there. I’ve only actually had experiences with a few of them. This is just my 95% unbiased review of Hostgator web hosting. Why 95%? Because I am an affiliate of Hostgator, therefore I can’t say I’m TOTALLY unbiased. I use affiliate marketing to promote companies I use and would recommend to others, not just to make a buck. But I’m not going to praise them to the high heavens and try to get you to click on my Hostgator links and adverts, you can do as you choose. This is just MY experience with them, and the reader can make up their own mind if they are worth hosting with.
I’ve been hosting with Hostgator.com for several years now with a reseller account. This type of account is great because you can host as many sites as you want, as long as you don’t exceed your bandwith or server space allocation. When I first set up the account, I used private name servers for my hosting, so I didn’t have to use the Hostgator default name server. This just gives the hosting services I provide to my clients a little more personal touch if they ever see their DNS entries (most of my clients don’t know what a DNS is, so it really doesn’t matter).
When setting up new websites, all I need to do is go into the domain registrar, in my case I use GoDaddy.com exclusively because I like their Super Bowl commercials (not really), and just set the DNS entries to direct to my private name servers as I set them up in my Hostgator account. If the account is set up already in my WHM (web host manager – that’s where you control your hosting accounts), the new site will be live as soon as the DNS propogates across the internet.
WHM and cPanel
Setting up new sites with Hostgator is very simple because they use the WHM and cPanel server administration. When you log in, you are presented with your WHM control panel (current version is 11.15). This is where you control your accounts, subdomains, suspend accounts, view accounts over their quota, limit bandwidth, install FrontPage extensions, change themes, edit DNS zones, generate SSL certificates and any other account function. You can access the cPanel for any account simply by clicking on the “List Accounts” menu and clicking on the cPanel icon associated with the account you wish to edit.
Hostgator includes the Fantastico script installation feature, which allows you to install software to your hosting account simply by clicking a link. Examples of the included scripts include WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, PHP-Nuke, Help Center Live, Cube Cart, OS Commerce, Photo Galleries, PHPlist, TikiWiki, Open-Realty, PHPauction and a slew of other plugins. When you click to install these features, all database functionality is installed automatically and all you need to do is incorporate them into your website.
From your cPanel navigation, you can control all email settings, addon domains, password protected directories, custom error pages, databases, stats and logs, shopping carts, cron jobs and many other options. You can also protect your site images from being “hotlinked” from other sites and wasting your account bandwidth.
Performance, Service and Support
Ok, enough with the features, what about performance? Support? Service? I have about a dozen sites currently hosted with Hostgator, and none of them are high-bandwith sites required dedicated or semi-dedicated servers. The shared hosting provided by Hostgator works very well for your average site, and I have been pleased with the speed of the server my sites are hosted on. I have had a couple of occasions when my sites were not accessible, but they were down for a matter of minutes as the server was being updated. I was able to contact support via their live help feature and they told me exactly what was going on and approximately how long it would be until the sites were live again. If you are expecting a website host to be up 100% of the time, you’re going to be disappointed. There isn’t a server out there that doesn’t need to be brought down at some point. Hostgator does guarantee 99.9% uptime, and they will credit your account if they don’t meet this benchmark.
Tech Support Contact
On the several occasions I’ve had to contact tech support, they were generally able to help me out. With shared hosting plans, there’s an issue when one site on the server tries to send email to another site on the server. This is an issue that Hostgator requires their tech support to fix, and I’ve had to do it on two of my accounts. It’s not a big deal, it’s just kind of irritating to explain to a client why their emails are bouncing (because I forgot to fix it in the first place).
Shared IP or Private IP
With shared hosting, all your accounts share the same IP address. There are some who believe that for SEO purposes each account should have a different C class IP address. For most sites, I personally thinks it’s overkill, as none of my sites have had any problems being indexed or ranking high in the search engines. You can set your sites up on private IP addresses with Hostgator for an addition $2 per month per IP. You’ll need to do this if you need a private SSL certificate. If you use the shared SSL certificate, you’ll always get a popup warning about the certificate not being valid, although it actually is. A private SSL allows you to avoid this popup message, and your site visitors will feel better about it too I’m sure.
I’ve read other reviews about how the tech support staff just direct you to the knowledgebase articles, but I haven’t experienced this personally. I would say 50% of the time when I contact them, the issue is NOT with their hosting plan, it’s with my coding. Whenever I’ve had to submit a trouble ticket, it has always been resolved promptly, usually within one day of submital.
Hostgator does offer Site Builder with their hosting plans, although I’ve never used it. I prefer to develop my own sites in Dreamweaver rather than use a server-based design program. Something new that I noticed recently was the addition of 4,500 website templates that are FREE! All you need to do to download them is enter your account username and password and you can download any of the templates at no charge. There’s no limit to the number you can download, so if you change your mind, just download another one.
I am hosted on a Linux server and I use PHP/MySQL for all my website development. I haven’t had any problems with database connections from within Dreamweaver, and file upload/download is fast. This will obviously depend on your ISP speed. Their servers are located in Dallas Texas and you can read all the specs about it on their website. It sounds pretty impressive as much as I know about redundant this or that.
That’s about it for my unbiased review of Host Gator. I have had good luck with them over the past several years. I haven’t had any real performance issues, support has been good, hosting accounts addons are very good, and the price is definitely right. If you are looking to host one site or multiple sites, I haven’t found anyone who can compete with Hostgator on price and reliability. There seem to be quite a few “shady” website hosts out there, and Hostgator has been around since 2002. They host over 700,000 sites, so they must be doing something right!