SiteGround vs. HostGator

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Author Scott Whatley
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Today, we'll be looking at SiteGround vs. HostGator, two of the biggest names in hosting. If you're considering picking one of these hosts and you don't know the one that'll do it for you, this is exactly the article you need to read. Both hosts will be going head to head on some of the most important aspects of hosting to us: security, performance, customer support, pricing, and even money-back guarantees. We'll see what each host has to offer in each section and we'll declare a winner. At the end of everything, we'll give our expert verdict. And how is our verdict of the expert variety, you might want to ask? Well, we've bought plans from both hosts, used them and tested performance. So we are probably some of the most qualified people to give a verdict on the better host.

Siteground vs. HostGator: A Complete Overview

HostGator is one of the earliest Web-hosts on the internet, founded in 2002. SiteGround isn't a newbie either, founded by university friends way back in 2004. Both hosts offer roughly the same kind of services, from VPS hosting to dedicated server hosting and, last but certainly not the least, Shared hosting. While SiteGround is an independent as independent can be, HostGator cannot boast of such laurels. A while ago, HostGator was acquired by Endurance International Group, a company that owns almost half of the Web-hosts on the internet.

Boasting of over 1.8 million websites on their servers, SiteGround is one of the biggest Web-hosts we've ever had to review. SiteGround also has one thing that only two hosts have; an official recommendation from WordPress. And that counts for something. HostGator is quite popular too, hosting around 10 million websites on its servers according to reports. These hosts don't only have a huge gap in the number of websites hosted, they also have a significant gap in geography too, with HostGator situated mainly in Provo, Utah. SiteGround, on the other hand, is located mainly across the pond in faraway Bulgaria.

Known for competitive pricing and extraordinary value, HostGator perhaps embodies what critics refer to as quantity over quality. While SiteGround, not one to be the poster host for cheap prices, has great performance and even greater customer support. But in between the great strengths of both hosts, there are a lot of grey areas still very much up for grabs.

So let's get on with it then.

Popularity Comparison

There aren't a lot of hosts more popular than HostGator. In fact, there's a list and there are only like three names in it. We checked and double-checked and we simply couldn't find SiteGround on that list. But why does it matter? Why should it matter which host is more popular than the other?

Well, the answer is stupefyingly simple. The fact is that it doesn't matter. Not in the least. At all. So why are we even talking about it, then? Simple. A lot of people fall into the trap of thinking that popularity equals quality, and that could be no farther from the truth. Popularity is oftentimes as a result of great marketing, not great hosting.

Many of the most popular hosts we've reviewed have lost in the face of less popular but more efficient hosts. The experience has been enlightening, to say the least.

If, as we say, popularity doesn't matter, what matters then?

The answer to that is also really simple.

Performance

When you buy a hosting plan, we assume that you do not do it because you don't have better things to do with your money. You do it, instead, because you want some service rendered. For instance, you want your website to be accessible on the world wide web, and you want it to be quickly accessible too. While all hosts perform these basic tasks to an extent, the level of efficiency differs. Let's see how efficient these hosts turn out to be.

Speed

Time is money and in a world driven by rapid internet speed, nobody wants to waste time on a website with slow servers, especially as there are probably similar websites that load faster and quicker. In fact, 40% of internet users claim that they would stop visiting a site that loads slowly. That goes to show how important it is to have your website hosted on a fast server.

To test the speed of both hosts, we did the only reasonable thing; we bought Webhosting plans from both of them and proceeded to set up dummy websites to test for speed. And how well did that go? Testing.

TTFB (Time to First Byte)

We first looked at response time, that is the Time to First Byte, and we were actually impressed with SiteGround's speed. 421ms on an average is quite above average, and SiteGround has proven to be faster than many of the hosts that we've reviewed. HostGator, on the other hand, didn't have such sterling results. While an average response time of 765ms isn't the worst thing in the world, it isn't also among the best. In fact, it is properly average, and for such a popular host, it's rather disappointing. But what can we say? It is what it is.

Full Load Speed

The full load speed for HostGator was even slower, with our dummy website taking more than a second to load, even in locations within America and Europe. SiteGround as expected, posted much faster full page load speed than HostGator. Not satisfied with this, we decided to use Load Impact to send multiple visitors to our sites to see how both sites respond to traffic spikes. As expected (at this point, we were expecting absolutely nothing from HostGator, and in some ways, we were still disappointed), HostGator slowed down even more under an influx of users. SiteGround didn't replicate this though, with speed remaining fairly stable throughout our testing period.

VERDICT; If this first round is any indication of how the remaining rounds will go, you really should purchase a SiteGround plan and leave the rest of this article alone. Jokes apart, this wasn't even close to a contest. When it comes to speed, SiteGround is in a totally different league from HostGator. However, we've done enough of these comparisons to know that the first act doesn't always determine the last scene. SiteGround wins this round, but this is far from over.

Uptime

The importance of this metric is easy to see. You want your website to be reachable all the time – unfortunately, especially with Shared hosting servers, that is impossible. So you want the closest thing – you want your site to be reachable an overwhelming majority of the time. Let's see how close these hosts get to 100%

We set up our accounts and ran tests continuously on our sites for over three months to get an idea of the uptime situation of both hosts. SiteGround continued to impress with a 99.99% uptime, and HostGator also redeemed some of its image with an equal 99.99% uptime. Not bad at all.

That's not where it ends, though. Uptime is not always a stable thing, and even the host with the best uptime can suffer from hours of downtime at almost a moment's notice. That's why we always try to check whether a host has an uptime guarantee in place to protect users and offer some compensation in case uptime gets really bad.

Uptime Guarantees for Siteground and Hostgator

Both hosts have uptime guarantees.  HostGator has a 99.9% uptime guarantee which means that for every 1% of uptime lost after 99.9%, users are entitled to a month of credit. However, there are some limitations to this policy. For one, when calculating uptime, scheduled maintenance, and emergency maintenance does not count. In any case, HostGator has great uptime and an uptime guarantee – that's more than many hosts can boast of, so they score high marks in our books. SiteGround also has an uptime guarantee that states that for every 1% of uptime below 99.9%, users will be entitled to a month of free hosting. SiteGround, like HostGator, also has some limitations as to what can be calculated as downtime. For example, scheduled maintenance and emergency maintenance cannot be considered when calculating uptime.

VERDICT; Both hosts have uptime and uptime guarantees that are eerily similar. We searched and searched, and it was almost practically impossible to find something to separate them. So we've had to settle, reluctantly, for a draw. This round has no winner because both hosts have exemplary uptime.

Ease of Use for Siteground compared to HostGator

Some hosts are easier to use than others. Some provide better interfaces and more options for free than others, and some simply give fewer headaches than others. Of courses, since no one wants to use a host that makes the task of administration more difficult than it should be, it's reasonable to go for the host that is easier to use.

User Interface

For the question of an interface, only two answers will suffice for us; cPanel or Plesk. Of course, a host can have a custom interface, but that would be tantamount to reinventing the wheel, something that we give no marks for. Both of our hosts make use of the cPanel interface, something that is admirable but not really surprising. After all, cPanel wouldn't be the most popular hosting interface if most hosts didn't make use of it. However, HostGator makes use of cPanel on only their Shared hosting plans. All other plans make use of Plesk, which is a cleaner and less cluttered interface according to some webmasters.

True to cPanel fashion, the interface for control was easy to understand and if you've had any experience at all with cPanel, you'd find it easy to make use of both hosting interfaces.

Sign-up process

The sign-up process for SiteGround was relatively easy. However, we had some problems with signing up with HostGator. And when we mean some problems, we mean one. And when we mean one, we mean it took over half an hour for our payment to be confirmed. While this is unlikely to be a sticking point, it's something that you should probably keep in mind.

App integration, installations, and Marketplaces

HostGator provides access to the MOJO marketplace where users can purchase any number of things from apps to plug-ins, and even professional services. Asides this, users have one-click installation support so that they can easily get their favorite apps online and functioning. Roughly the same kind of support is obtainable with SiteGround; there is also access to the MOJO marketplace, and a lot of different types of content management systems (CMS) are available for installation. SiteGround also has the Softaculous app installer, a tool that allows users to easily install up to fifty apps for free with only a few clicks. If you'd rather not go that route, you can always use SiteGround's proprietary wizard installer to easily install WordPress with one click.

Free Site Migrations

In our opinion, all hosts should offer at least a single site migration. I mean, what says “We are happy to have you” than helping a new customer move over their things from their former host? Unfortunately, only a surprising number of hosts ask for our opinion regarding site migration policy (the number is 0, so yes, surprising).

For Shared hosting plans, HostGator offers one free site migration. On other plans, like the Reseller and VPS plans, free migrations are as many as a hundred and fifty (and even more). However, the request for a site transfer must be made within the first thirty days of signing up and is only available for new customers. One more thing is that the sites are transferred on an as-is basis. This means that all configurations and settings must be completed before a free site migration can be requested, as URL changes and additional configurations are not free services. SiteGround isn't as liberal as HostGator when it comes to free site migrations though. Although SiteGround offers free site migrations, the offer is only available om select plans. For example, SiteGround's StartUp plan doesn't have free site migration enabled.

Free domains

Still, in the spirit of free stuff, let's see if either host offers free domain registration. SiteGround doesn't believe in free domains and subsequently doesn't offer it. HostGator, on the other hand, offers free domain registration with all Cloud, Shared and Optimized WordPress hosting plans. Free domain registration will save new users some money in the short term.

Staging environments

Staging environments are great for applying changes to a copy version of your website and testing the changes you've made without affecting the live version of your website. SiteGround has staging environments enabled on select plans, while HostGator doesn't support hosting environments out the gate. However, you can create one through WordPress by using a plug-in called WP staging, or if you have the technical know-how and you're interested in deeper coding experiments, you can create one on a subdomain.

VERDICT: Like the section on uptime, this was a pretty tight section as well. In our opinion, since we made use of both hosts, we would say that we found navigation to be easy and we actually encountered little or no problems. There is one thing that does separate both hosts though, and that's the fact that one offers freed domains and the other doesn't. A free domain, no doubt, makes the task of hosting even easier for new users. That's why HostGator wins this round for us— but it really could have gone either way, it's that close.

Money-Back Guarantee Policy

A longer money-back guarantee reduces the risks associated with getting involved with a web host. If a host provides a long enough guarantee, you'd have more confidence to purchase the product, knowing that if it turns out to be a dud, you can easily return it and get your money back. Cool, right? SiteGround provides the absolute minimum money-back guarantee, which is thirty days. HostGator does better by adding two weeks and a day to SiteGround's money-back guarantee, offering a longer guarantee of forty-five days.

VERDICT: While both hosts do not provide guarantees that we would consider great because we've seen hosts offer up to 60 days money-back guarantees, HostGator does significantly better than SiteGround. HostGator has a strong lead right now, who would have thought this would be the result after the first round?

HostGator vs. Siteground: Customer Support and Reliability

No matter how great or adept you are at hosting, you will, more likely than not, come across a problem that you will not be able to solve on your own. When that day comes, you'll need the services of competent customer support and not one that is of little or no help.

Most hosts offer three basic customer support channels and they are the phone, live chat support and ticketing support. SiteGround and HostGator aren't exceptions as they both offer the same channels of contacting live support.

First contact

We tried contacting SiteGround's live chat support first, and to be honest we didn't know to expect. On one hand, we knew that large corporations do not usually have the best support because of the number of customers they have to attend to. On the other hand, we had heard some really spectacular things about SiteGround's customer support.

First off, we experienced little to no wait time. That is, we were immediately connected to a customer live rep without waiting for even a minute. That's more than can be said for an overwhelming majority of the hosts we've reviewed. The live chat platform was also very attractive, and SiteGround added an extra human touch. For example, once you connect with a live rep, a complete bio page where you can see their picture, name, and even their hobbies comes up. This makes relating with the rep easier, and the hosts that we spoke to were actually quite knowledgeable in their own right. Technical questions that we thought would give even some of the best minds a hard time were answered quickly and effectively. The same was obtainable with the phone and even ticketing channels. SiteGround's customer support is helpful and effective— in fact, we have rarely reviewed hosts that come near, and we've never reviewed a host with customer support quite as good.

Connecting with HostGator's customer support wasn't as smooth, though. First off, the wait time was probably the most erratic we've ever had to experience. While we connected to a live rep under five minutes most times, on a few occasions we had to wait for more than thirty minutes. Whether this is a network or software problem remains to be seen. Asides the discomfort of having to wait for a long while, how did the rest of our experience pan out? Well, it wasn't all bad, and it definitely wasn't all good either. The reps we spoke to were friendly enough, but they rarely had definite answers to our questions. Questions concerning PHP versions and database configurations were too often left unanswered, and we were often directed to literature. Phone support wasn't any better as wait time remained erratic and answers to complex questions were hardly forthcoming. Thankfully, the ticketing support was far better than both and our problems and questions were usually attended to in detail. However, If you have basic problems like WordPress setup or plug-in updates, HostGator's customer support should be able to walk you through them. When it comes to more complex problems, though, things get a bit trickier.

Knowledge bases

Both hosts maintain really great knowledge bases choke-full with articles and tutorials on many of the basic things you need to know about hosting. In fact, in our opinion, users should try to solve problems by consulting a knowledge base before attempting to talk to customer support. It, in the end, adds more knowledge to the user.

VERDICT; This was quite simple for us, as the difference in quality was too big to ignore. SiteGround is probably the number one host in customer support out there, and HostGator would hardly crack a top ten list. The winner was clear from the beginning, and SiteGround takes the ground for this one.

Security

The internet is, if you are not careful, a very dangerous place. Malware abounds aplenty, and there are hackers lurking in every corner trying to take control of your information and site. The best hosts provide great security support for your server and your site while providing daily backups in case your information does get endangered. Of course,  an extra plus is if these features are provided for free or at little or no cost at all.

Backup policy

If your site gets hacked and/or your files get corrupted, it's always useful to have a backup handy— even if that doesn't happen, it's good practice to always back up your files. HostGator, for one, runs backups on all shared hosting servers once a week on a random day. The backups are also overwritten, so only the most recent backups are available for users to use. While this service is free, it is not guaranteed. That is, HostGator offers it on a courtesy basis. If peradventure, a week goes by and a backup isn't made, HostGator hasn't broken any contract because backups weren't promised in the first place. If you'd like to have a restore done on your site, you'll have to contact live support. You should note, however, that a single restore costs $25.

If you'd prefer to have a more comprehensive backup option, HostGator does provide Codeguard, an automatic backup tool. Codeguard isn't free and could cost as little (or as much as, in any case) $32.95 per year and costs as much as $239.95 per year.

SiteGround provides daily backups and restores on all plans and they are provided at no extra cost. Backups of Shared and Cloud hosting plans are kept for a period of up to thirty and seven days accordingly. If you have the SiteGround backup service enabled on your account, you can easily restore backups yourself from cPanel at no extra charge.

While it's great for hosts to provide backups, we've discovered that the best thing is to create your backups yourself and keep them in secured locations.

SSL certificates

Thanks to the great work of Let's Encrypt, hosts are now able to offer free Let's Encrypt SSL certificates on all hosting plans. Unfortunately, not all hosts make use of this opportunity. Thankfully, though, both HostGator and SiteGround offer SSL certificates on all plans.

Firewall protection

Every server needs a firewall, and SiteGround has that covered with ModSecurity, an open-source web application firewall. In addition to this, SiteGround makes sure that security rules are updated every week in order to protect users from common malware and attacks. HostGator's answer is an extensive customer firewall rule and large mod security rule that protect servers from attacks. In case of heavy flooding, HostGator has network level flood protection.

Site security

HostGator offers access to SiteLock security scan, a third party service that a lot of other hosts, like Bluehost for example, make use of. Sitelock isn't free, and like Codeguard, comes in different plans. For most shared hosting plans, the basic plan that goes for $1.24 per month should be enough coverage. SiteLock is quite effective at scanning for malware, preventing blacklisting and increasing sales. SiteGround, on the other hand, offers a proprietary security application called the SG scanner. The SG scanner is powered by a security firm, Sucuri, and is an early warning system or malware detection application that helps to prevent attacks on your website. It also helps to cross-check your website to check if you've been blacklisted by authoritative security-based sites. If your site has been blacklisted, you'll receive a notification via email, so that you can take appropriate action. While we wouldn't advise users to purchase the SG scanner on basic plans, it is an interesting additional security measure that does have its own uses. The SG scanner costs $19.80 per year ($1.65 monthly).

For the most part, SiteLock and SiteGround's SG scanner provides much of the same service.

Other security features.

If you'd like to restrict access to certain IP addresses or a range of IP addresses, SiteGround and HostGator have an IP deny tool. SiteGround has servers always set to the latest PHP version with the most recent security fixes. The host also has IDS/IPS systems which block malicious bots and attacks.

VERDICT; While both hosts offer comprehensive security cover, a lot of it isn't free. It's even worse for HostGator, with the host not even providing restores for free. SiteGround has more attractive security policies, and they offer more for free than HostGator. SiteGround wins this one for us.

Plans & Pricing

Before purchasing something, you'd either be a billionaire or a proper oddball not to check the price tag and consider whether the price tallies with what you can afford. It is the same with purchasing an hosting package. However, today,we won't only be looking at affordability. We'll also be looking at the quality offered and the price quoted. This is because we believe that the cheaper deal isn't necessarily the best deal— and we are looking for the best deal.

For a proper and concise comparison, we'll only be looking at the Shared and WordPress hosting plans of both hosts.

Shared Hosting Plans.

SiteGround offers three levels of Shared hosting plans and they are the StartUp, GrowBig and GoGeek plans. HostGator also offers three levels of Shared hosting plans which are the Hatchling Plan, the Baby Plan, and the Business plan.

Basic plans

SiteGround's StartUp plan comes with one website, 10GB of space, unlimited bandwidth, free Cloudflare CDN, free SSL certificate, free daily backups, and unlimited emails. The plan costs $3.95 per month on initial purchase and renews at $11.95 per month. The  Hatchling plan comes with a single domain, one-click installations, unlimited disk space, unlimited email accounts, unmetered bandwidth and subdomains,  and a free SSL certificate all at a  price of $2.75 per month. However, this price is only available if you're paying 36 months in advance. If you're paying for lower, you have to pay the regular price which is $10.95.

With unlimited email accounts, disk space, unmetered bandwidth and subdomains on the basic plan, it appears that HostGator is interested in offering a lot for a lot less. SiteGround takes a more measured approach, though, offering only minimal features on its basic plan.

Medium range plan

The medium-range plans of both hosts are the GrowBig and the Baby plans. The GrowBig plan comes with all the features of the StartUp plan plus unlimited websites, free SSL wildcard for one year, 20GB space, all 3 levels of the super cacher, staging environments for WordPress and Joomla, 30 backup copies and free restore. The plan costs $5.95 per month for new customers while renewal costs $19.95 per month. For some reason, the price of this plan jumps from $5.95 per month to $19.95 per month. Pricey. The Baby plan comes with unlimited domains, and a free domain plus all the features of the Hatchling plan. It costs a promotional price of $3.95 per month but the same conditions as the Hatchling plan applies and the normal price per month is $11.95. Renewals cost $9.95, as well.

Once again, HostGator's plan is totally tearing into SiteGround's plan, offering way more at a cheaper price.

Top plan

SiteGround's most expensive plan is the GoGeek plan and it comes with all the features of the GrowBig plan plus unlimited websites, 30GB space with a traffic capacity of 100,000 per month, priority support, one-click Git repo creation, and PCI compliance.  It costs about $11.95 for the initial purchase and $34.95 for renewal. Here again, we see the steep price hike that SiteGround has gotten quite a reputation for. HostGator's most expensive plan is the Business plan and it comes with all the features of the Baby plus a free dedicated IP and free SEO tools. The plan costs $5.95 per month, but renewal costs $14.95 per month.

WordPress Plans

HostGator has three WordPress hosting plans which are the Starter, Standard, and Business plans. SiteGround has a WordPress hosting plan structure as well, but asides the fact that it is optimised for WordPress, has WordPress essential features like free WordPress migrator, WordPress auto-updates, and WordPress CLI and SSH, and comes with WordPress pre-installed, it has pretty much the same structure with the regular Shared hosting plans. When we mean the structures are similar, we mean they basically go by the same name and have the same price and the same specifications.

In that case, we'll only be looking at HostGator's shared hosting plans. The basic plan is the Starter plan and it comes with 1GB backup, free SSL certificate, a free domain, one site and a capacity for 100k visits per month. The plan costs $5.95 per month and renews at $9.95 per month. The next plan is the Standard plan which has the capacity for 2 sites, 200 thousand visits per month, 2GB of backup, a free domain and free SSL certificate. The plan costs $7.95 per month and renews at $15.95 per month. The most expensive plan is the Business plan and it comes with three sites, 500k visits per month, 3GB of backup, a free domain and a free SSL certificate. The plan costs $9.95 per month and costs $22.95 for renewal.

VERDICT; We think that SiteGround's regular shared hosting plans are too expensive, and if you are running a basic site that won't use up too many resources you should probably go with HostGator. However, it isn't the same as the WordPress hosting plans. With inferior performance stats and mediocre value for money with very limited specs, HostGator fails to be the prudent option. So, if you want a regular Shared hosting plan, you should go with HostGator. If you'd want a WordPress hosting plan, you should probably go with SiteGround.

And yes, that means we've got ourselves a draw.

Extra Features

Let's see what extra features these hosts have Perhaps we'll find something that'll tip the scales?

SiteGround has the following extra features:

  • Free Cloudflare CDN
  • SiteGround is optimized for WordPress and Joomla
  • One-click staging servers
  • SiteGround has reseller hosting options
  • Unfortunately, SiteGround doesn't offer a free domain name.
  • SiteGround supports Weebly website builder
  • A free WordPress Migration Plugin.
  • SiteGround offers SSH access with all their plans

HostGator also has some juicy features, and some of them are:

  • Better performance with Opteron 6000 series CPU combined with DDR3 ECC RAM
  • Support of multiple languages including Ruby on Rails, PHP, Python, and Perl.
  • HostGator has only one database— MySQL
  • Unlimited FTP and email accounts.
  • $100 in free advertising credits
  • Access to Google analytics and Mojo marketplace.

VERDICT; Both hosts have something extra, but nothing really stands out for us. This is a draw as well.

Major Differences between HostGator and Siteground

To round off, let's look at the major differences between both hosts.

  • HostGator offers a free domain, while SiteGround doesn't
  • HostGator has a much slower server speed than SiteGround
  • HostGator has a forty-five-day money-back guarantee, while SiteGround has a thirty-day money-back guarantee
  • SiteGround's security is better than HostGator's.
  • SiteGround has a better customer support structure than HostGator

Siteground vs. HostGator: Our Pick

SiteGround took wins in the Performance and Customer support section while salvaging a draw from the jaws of defeat in the Pricing section. A win in the security section sealed this duel for us. SiteGround takes this one, and it is hardly a contest.

SiteGround vs. HostGator? SiteGround for sure.

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