Today, businesses need reliable hosting for their websites. It’s maybe okay, or at least forgivable, to have a personal website that is unavailable once in a while. But having an unresponsive business page can hurt the image of the whole organization.
If web hosting is not your core business, then understanding the intricacies of website design and web hosting might not be necessary. But as a business owner, you still need to understand what a hosting service can offer, so you can make the right decision for your business.
In this review, we are concentrating on HostGator’s Managed WordPress Hosting service. It is also known as HostGator’s WordPress Cloud Hosting or Optimized WordPress Hosting.
HostGator: A Brief History
In October 2002, Brent Oxley founded HostGator from a dorm room at Florida Atlantic University. By the beginning of February of 2003, HostGator already had more than 100 customers. The company continued its rapid growth. Within a year, HostGator had more than 1,000 users.
HostGator opened its first international office in Toronto and moved its headquarters from Boca Raton, Florida to Houston, Texas in 2006. The headquarters is still in Houston today.
HostGator continued its explosive growth and it had over 200,000 customers by 2009. In 2012, Endurance International Group (EIG) acquired HostGator.
HostGator has been a WordPress partner for years. But the company launched its first managed WordPress hosting service in 2015.
Various HostGator Services
HostGator provides various types of services. Below are brief descriptions to give you an understanding of the differences:
- Web Hosting/Shared Hosting: It provides the most affordable options in HostGator. Your content is hosted on shared resources. It is more appropriate for low-traffic websites as the performance of your site can be affected by the traffic of others you are sharing the hosting with.
- Cloud Hosting: This service gives you better speed and more scalability. You have more dedicated computing and memory. So, your sites will generally perform better than shared hosting.
- WordPress Hosting: This service is geared towards WordPress users. The servers are hosted in the cloud which gives you better speed and performance. The emphasis of the service is on traffic, so you can choose plans based on the traffic you expect.
- Reseller: This service is geared for developers and designers who run their own website businesses. The emphasis is on providing more storage, bandwidth and business tools, so you can serve your customers easily.
- VPS: VPS stands for virtual private server. This service is designed for customers who have higher performance needs. Virtual servers are more customizable, reliable and scalable. This service is probably useful for mid- to large-sized companies.
- Dedicated: Dedicated service is meant for enterprise-level customers. It’s the most expensive service and provides the highest performance. You might want to keep an eye on this service if you are expecting high-growth in the near term. This service will provide high-performance dedicated servers and world-class support for your hosting needs.
HostGator’s Managed WordPress Hosting
Now that you have an idea about the various services, let’s review HostGator’s Managed WordPress Hosting service.
WordPress started as a blogging platform but it has transformed into a full-fledged content management system (CMS). It’s very easy to create WordPress websites. According to a Forbes article, WordPress has been used for 75 million websites which means it is responsible for 25 percent of all sites worldwide. WordPress is popular because it’s a user-friendly and reliable CMS. Also, the web development community trusts it. HostGator started to provide managed WordPress offerings in 2015.
HostGator’s Managed WordPress Hosting is focused on WordPress optimization. It runs in the cloud and it is designed to provide great performance at affordable prices. Here are the various aspects of this service:
This website is hosted using Hostgator’s Managed Cloud WordPress hosting. Just look at my favicon on the browser tab. Due to my laziness I never bothered to change it, so I still have the HostGator favicon as mine. I used to be on the shared hosting plan, but once i started getting around 7k monthly page views, I decided it was time to upgrade to real hosting that could handle some traffic. I needed a cloud hosting solution that provided caching support and a CDN to speed up my site and handle a larger load of traffic.
Caching is really important for your website speed. If files, images, web pages, etc are cached, then you don’t have to wait for them to be loaded. This is a huge speed boost for your website and this HostGator platform does that for you automatically.
CDNs (Content Delivery Network) are also very important because they allow your website to be served faster to different parts of the world. Essentially, your website is duplicated onto different servers worldwide, so if someone in Australia visits your website, they won’t need to access your website from a server based in the US because there will already be a server in Australia that has a copy of your website to show. This will speed up the delivery of your site and ultimately increase the user experience and rankings in Google.
As of this writing, I am currently around 20k page views per month and should be fine on the starter plan up until around 100,000 monthly traffic. At that point, I can upgrade for only $2/month to the standard plan, which doubles the traffic capacity. The business plan, is $2 more dollars on top of that and can handle up to 500k. Can’t really beat that. If you go over to WP Engine, which is an awesome service, but you will pay $29/month for their basic plan, just for comparison.
According to Hosting Facts, HostGator Managed WordPress Hosting has an uptime of 99.99% (in the last 12 months) and an average speed of 504ms. Having a high uptime means that you don’t have to worry about your website being unreachable. The average industry speed is 1059ms. So, this service is more than 2x faster than the current industry average.
Shared Hosting vs. Managed WordPress Hosting
Shared hosting is perfect if you are just starting up and know that you wont be getting much traffic. Maybe you are just starting a blog or a local brick and mortar business and simply need to have a presence online for launching purposes. But if you expect your traffic to start picking up and running some huge ad campaign as a grand opening and driving the traffic to your new website, or anything else like that, you need something better than shared hosting.
With shared hosting you are sharing server space with hundreds, or even thousands of other websites. If one website in that pod of sites gets a huge traffic spike, everyone on that specific server is affected. And, you have no clue who you share with and how much space is left until your site gets bogged down or goes offline.
That’s the advantage of Cloud Hosting/Managed Hosting. If you plan to grow your business or expect viral spikes in traffic then an upgrade is necessary. It offers numerous benefits that shared hosting cannot provide, such as:
- Speed – The server you will be on is tweaked to run specifically for WordPress so it is highly optimized and will shave a second or two off your page loading time. That may not sound like a lot but it is. According to Kissmetrics, nearly half of web users expect a site to load in 2 seconds or less, and they tend to abandon a site that isn’t loaded within 3 seconds. 79% of web shoppers who have trouble with web site performance say they won’t return to the site to buy again and around 44% of them would tell a friend if they had a poor experience shopping online.
- Security – While nothing is impossible, it is much more difficult to get hacked with Managed WordPress hosting. And if you happen to, they have a dedicated team waiting to get you back online. That unfortunately doesn’t exist with shared hosting.
- Always Updated – Your site will automatically update itself, WordPress versions, plugins, as well as the HostGator server stays constantly up to date.
- Excellent Support – They have a large dedicated team who are quite literally WordPress experts. I have been on their live chat at 3am before because I screwed up something on this site and was completely down. (My fault, not theirs). They got it fixed in no-time and I was back up.
The Pricing Model
HostGator Managed Hosting prices are intended to serve WordPress users with high-traffic needs. The pricing model takes a three-tier approach:
- Starter Plan: The starter plan allows a single site with 100k visits per month. It also provides 1GB of backup for databases. It will cost you $5.95/month for a 36-month contract.
- Standard Plan: The standard plan allows 2 sites with a total of 200k visits per month. The database backup capability is 2GB. It will cost you $7.95/month for a 36-month contract.
- Business Plan: The business plan allows 3 sites. The total number of allowed visits per month is 500k. The database backup capability is 3GB. The cost is $9.95/month for a 36-month contract.
Please always check the HostGator website for latest prices. The prices may change after the contract is over, but they always seem to have some type of coupon code available. Also, the prices are higher for shorter contract periods. All tiers come with a $100 Google Adwords credit, unlimited email accounts and unlimited storage space as shown in the image above. They will also migrate your existing WordPress site to their platform for free without you having to lift a finger. I used the migration service and it worked well. I had to provide them my login and then they went and took care of it.
Usability of the Platform
Managed WordPress Hosting service makes it easy to handle WordPress installations and maintenance. The interface is simplified. There is no cPanel access. Instead, you will have a WordPress Manager on the Hosting tab of the portal. You can click on the WordPress Manager and use the create button to add new sites.
After creating your sites, you can click on the settings icon that will take you to the dashboard with the following buttons:
- Manager WordPress
- Cache Settings
- Email Accounts
- Delete WordPress Install
- Manage FTP
You can invoke the desired task from this dashboard.
The simplified dashboard makes it easier for beginners to create and manage their sites. However, experienced users might find it limiting to not have access to the cPanel.
HostGator’s Managed WordPress Hosting service comes with a few extra perks that might be useful to some customers:
- Free Migration Service: This feature will allow you to easily transfer your site from a different hosting service without incurring any costs. Some of the tiers above also have consultation service included for providing extra help.
- Daily Backups: You always want to back up your systems and maintain redundancy. However, backup often gets put in the back-burner due to higher priorities and the mistake is only discovered when it is too late. The service uses CodeGuard for daily backups. You can set up the backup schedule and let it run in the background. It’s a time-saver for day-to-day maintenance and a life-saver for disaster recovery. With CodeGuard, disaster recovery is a breeze.
- Global CDN: Content Delivery Network (CDN) stores large images and files across the globe to facilitate faster downloads. CDN can provide better worldwide performance. With CDN, customers don’t have to worry about slow long-distance downloads causing bad user experience.
- Protection Against Viruses and Hacking: As part of the service, HostGator provides SiteLock for daily scans of your website. It alerts you to potential hacking events, viruses and malware. It can prevent distributed denial-of-service (DDOS) attacks. SiteLock takes proactive steps to keep your sites safer.
HostGator’s support-portal provides phone support and live chat support 24/7/365. It doesn’t have a strong social media presence. So, if you are unsure about an outage or news, rather than depend on social media channels, it’s better to directly contact the live team. I have used the online live chat numerous times and I always get my questions answered promptly.
Sign-up Process and 45-Day Refund Policy
Signing up for the service is easy. You can use a credit card or a PayPal account. Also, the service comes with a 45-day money-back guarantee. If you are not satisfied, you can ask for a refund and you will get it no questions asked.
Summary of Pros and Cons
Here are the pros and cons at a glance:
- Reliable and Fast: High uptime of 99.99% and an average speed of 504ms which is 2x than the industry average.
- Free Migration: Makes it easy to move from another hosting site.
- Multiple Payment Options: You can pay by credit card or PayPal. Also, you can select various lengths of billing cycles (from a month to 36 months).
- Responsive Live Support: You can easily get help with live chat support.
- Simplified Dashboard: Simplified dashboard makes it easy for less technical users.
- No Free Domain: You have to purchase all the domain names. Other hosting services generally provide at least one domain.
- No cPanel: The absence of cPanel can be jarring to experienced users.
- Pricing and Upselling: Pricing can be subject to change after the first term. Also, always make sure you uncheck anything you don’t want during the payment process as there are often extra options selected as default.
HostGator is a popular web hosting company. They have been doing this for a long time, so they have the necessary experience and expertise to provide optimized performance for your websites. HostGator’s Managed WordPress Hosting service provides the necessary reliability and speed to make it worth the minimal extra cost. It is a worthwhile service for business users who want easy-to-manage servers with better performance.