After being a HostGator customer for just over 2 years, I wanted to share my positive and negative experiences and why I decided I was not ready for cloud web hosting period.
If you are looking for affordable web hosting, HostGator is still one of the most attractive companies online to sign up with. You can obtain a webhosting package with unlimited space, bandwidth, and unlimited domain hosts for under a couple hundred dollars for 3 years. Not bad.
Currently, HostGator has an attractive shared hosting plan which is now known as a baby plan package. At the time of this article, the plan will give you unlimited web domains to host on, unmetered space (no specifics on magnetic or ssd storage type), and unmetered bandwidth (see further below for clarification on the definition of unmetered). At the time of this article, that plan only costs $217 for 3 years - with the current promo they are running. When I originally signed up with HostGator, I missed the promo rate being offered. I contacted HostGator sales and they honored the promo rate even though I didn’t originally apply it.
HostGator only offers a refund if you signed up within 45 days will you be eligible to receive a refund for a plan.
HostGator uses cPanel to manage your webhosting account. If you aren’t familiar with cPanel, it is extremely straightforward to use, especially if you have prior web hosting experience. With cPanel, you will manage your MySQL databases, Apache settings, PHP configuration, create domain virtual hosts, FTP connections, and more.
The major benefit to cloud hosting is limited overhead concerns. Instead of managing equipment and costs, your primary focus is ensuring your site is online. We used a free automated online polling service called Uptime Robot that checked to ensure our site was accessible via HTTP or HTTPS every 5 minutes. The service emails you if a down condition is met.
According to a HostGator representative in a chat session, there are over 1000 users (accounts) on a shared host. This potentially means 10,000 of thousands of other websites hosted with your site. Out of curiosity, we checked our shared server horsepower by issuing the command while connected to our shell in Putty.
Our server has 32 cores and 32 gig of memory – a beast of a machine!
What Happens When my Website is Down with HostGator?
So, what happens when your site is actually down with HostGator? In most cases, when your site will go down usually for one of the following reasons (these were always my most common issues).
- MySQL service on your shared HostGator server is down. MySQL will restart itself when it goes down. This usually takes about 2-5 minutes. You will receive could not connect to database general message, depending on your CMS software.
- You are using more than 25 of your limited processes count. When this happens, it is likely related to “hung” processes not closing in your shell. You will experience slow site load times before receiving HTTP 500 errors. You will have to manually kill the hung processes in your shell (we use putty) or wait in the HostGator technical support chat line for them to do it for you.
HostGator used to have a ticket system for issues, however they removed it about a year ago. Now, your only avenue of technical support is through live chat - and this is HostGator’s biggest downfall. The typical wait time for live chat varies, but usually you are connected with someone within 10 minutes. The HostGator “level one” technical support was almost never helpful in any of my cases. They lack basic technical knowledge and because of this, you may find yourself more frustrated without a solution to your issue before you began the chat. Below is an example of a chat log you may experience. Yes, this is absolutely 100% a real chat communication with myself and another Hot Gator technical support representative.
Chat ID: 28553428 Initial Question: >>>> Existing Customer <<<< Package Type: Shared | Issue: Technical Support - Databases | Domain: xxxxxx.com
11:20:49 AMJoshua B Hello, hope you are having a wonderful day! My name is Joshua and I'd be glad to assist you with any questions you may have today.
11:21:10 AMRobert hi My site xxxxxx.com can't connect to mysql as I get an error on my page.
11:23:48 AMRobert also, why can't i create a ticket on the host gator portal? this is ridiculous
11:25:03 AMRobert hello?
11:26:41 AMRobert ??????????????
11:28:31 AMRobert Please respond......anything......hello????
11:28:49 AMJoshua B Please allow me a moment to look into this for you, I appreciate your patience.
11:31:43 AMRobert Thanks, when you can please also let me know why I can't open a ticket
11:37:13 AMJoshua B We no longer provide that option.
11:38:31 AMRobert Honestly?
11:38:43 AMRobert I can't believe that
11:39:32 AMRobert i am able to render xxxxxxx.com at the moment
11:41:00 AMJoshua B Yes, the issue appears to have been resolved.
11:42:25 AMRobert Ok thanks. Can you elaborate on what happened please
11:44:18 AMJoshua B I can not I was unable to replicate the issue.
11:44:46 AMRobert then what was resolved?
11:48:51 AMJoshua B Well are you experiencing the issue any more?
11:50:23 AMRobert I don't seem to be. At the time of start of this chat to the time you responded the 2nd time to me the issue was still occurring - Database Connection time out which leads me to believe it was SQL that crashed. I'd like to know if that was the case and what was done to fix it
11:56:42 AMJoshua B Please allow me a moment to look into this for you, I appreciate your patience.
12:00:18 PMJoshua B I'm not seeing any server downtime.
12:01:03 PMRobert What about any issues with SQL going around the time I reported and as I mentioned earlier?
12:07:26 PMJoshua B It appears to have just be something temporary.
12:08:21 PMRobert what appears it was temporary?
12:09:14 PMRobert Right now I don't feel expectations are being met with this chat based on the numerous questions i'm having to ask and delayed non-detailed responses.
12:11:40 PMRobert I don't feel I'll be getting anywhere here. Hello??
Up until recently, these types of chat communications happened on a frequent basis. There was no real way of reporting incompetence of these chats unless you started a new chat session, and honestly, would have been a waste of time in any case. Buyer beware – you get what you pay for. Interestingly enough, it would appear HostGator’s more expensive premiere packages also relay on this type of support. An engineer may open a ticket for your issue, but only if they decide to. You cannot request a ticket to be opened on your behalf.
The Tip of the Ice Berg with HostGator
It wasn’t until all ~25 of my websites suddenly began experiencing extremely slow first load times. Google Chrome developer tools showed that the first load Waiting (TTFB) was taking up to 35 seconds.
I was experiencing the initial page load slowness from any country. After the initial page load, subsequent page loads seemed fine. I did not change anything on my sites and I did not perform any kind of updates to them. The cause of slowness was definitely something happening on my HostGator shared server, but was extremely challenging for me to prove that. After opening several chat requests with HostGator and getting them to test, they stated since page loads were normal after the first initial page load, it was a non-issue. Oh, and HostGator did not provide any kind of detail or analysis on how long it actually took them to load my website pages initially. The bottom line: the first page load is critical to any webmaster and is makes or breaks a visitor from returing to your site. This was absolutely a problem. I had it with HostGator at this point.
Within a few days, I completely migrated all of my websites out of HostGator to a new webserver. I immediately noticed the first time page loading slowness issue disappear. In fact, I was noticing tremendous improvements in my site load times and page speeds overall. GTMetrix is a fantastic tool for gauging your website load times while providing recommendation for improvements to your website load times.
In summary, the lack of technical competency HostGator provides to the customer in troubleshooting is well below expectations. Further, there is no baseline for tracking ongoing issues with HostGator. If your “issue” is not happening at the time you are online in a chat with a HostGator live support technical specialist, you are completely out of luck.
I believe the technical issues I suddenly began experiencing with HostGator had to do with the resources of the shared server being overloaded. Watching an active htop session at peak web browsing hours (mid mornings and afternoons) was evidence the server was under heavy load.