Bluehost or HostGator?
The time to buy Bluehost or HostGator website hosting is now. Both web hosting companies are competitively priced and there are plenty of incentives to join either network.
As of May 2016, pricing has either hosting provider at less than $4 per month, coming to less than $50 per year. Bluehost Basic is $3.49 per month, with the HostGator Hatchling plan at $3.95/mo.
So which web host is right for you? While there are subtle differences between each service, the pricing, support, uptime and performance statistics are comparable. That said, here are the details you should know to ensure you’ll be able to make an educated decision when purchasing web hosting.
Bluehost is a private web hosting company, founded in 1996 and headquartered in Provo, Utah, USA. Along with it’s sister companies, Bluehost is hosts nearly 2 million websites, accounting for an estimated 2.3% of US web hosting market share.
HostGator is a publically traded web hosting company founded in 2002 and headquartered in Houston, Texas, USA. As of 2013 HostGator hosts over 9 million websites. HostGator has an estimated 4.0% market share of web hosts in the USA.
Both companies are owned by Endurance International Group (EIG), a web hosting conglomerate that owns dozens upon dozens of hosting companies, most of which continue to operate under their original name.
Bluehost: Unfortunately Bluehost does not have an uptime guarantee or SLA. However, their Network / Server Uptime Agreement offers two concessions: most issues are resolved within 15 minutes (but it does not indicate how often these issues may occur), and the second, that you will not be charged for leaving your hosting agreement early due to server downtime.
HostGator: If your shared or reseller server has a physical downtime that falls short of the 99.9% uptime guarantee, you may receive one (1) month of credit on your account.
The Uptime Guarantee only applies to Shared and Reseller web hosting accounts. VPS and Dedicated Servers are covered by a separate and unique Network Guarantee.
International Distributed Performance Testing with Chrome Browser – Full Page Download
|Web Host||Successes||Failures||Avg Load Time||Load Time STD Dev||Fastest Hr/Day||Slowest Hr/Day||Fastest Day/Wk||Slowest Day/Wk|
USA Only Distributed Performance Testing – Server Response Times
|Web Host||Successes||Failures||Avg Load Time||Load Time STD Dev||Uptime|
Over the course of 2-weeks of testing at a 15-minute monitoring interval, the USA zone average showed HostGator to load nearly 47% faster than Bluehost. When testing browser response time, fully downloading element on our WordPress test site, I saw only a 6% difference between speeds of both hosts.
It was interesting to note, however, that Bluehost achieved a perfect 100% uptime, even though they do not offer their clients a formal uptime guarantee or SLA. HostGator achieved a 99.9X% of uptime, successfully meeting their 99.9% SLA guarantee.
With such a significant discrepancy between the server responses of Bluehost and HostGator, I have to award HostGator the clear choice if website speed tops your list of criteria when choosing a web host.
While both Bluehost and HostGator utilize cPanel for their admin dashboard, Bluehost has a customized design that makes the system even more intuitive and easy to setup. HostGator’s system looks much like the out-of-the-box standard cPanel dashboard, but is laden with HostGator ads and upsells. I found the HostGator bombardment of ads to be too flashy, distracting, and quite frankly… annoying!
Bluehost does have upsells and self-serving ads throughout their system, but it is done in a less obtrusive and actually rather helpful manor. It is not off-putting, and actually gives the user a sense of confidence in the system and it’s support.
I’ve literally seen hundreds of web host admin panels and dashboards over the years, and Bluehost’s is one of the best. Their integrated walkthroughs, prompts and custom labeling are extremely helpful, and it’s a system I’d be comfortable recommending to anyone – from the novice to the power user.
Beyond uptime, availability and performance, comes the need for quality support from your web host.
The research suggests that Live chat has the highest satisfaction levels for any customer service channel, with 73%, compared with 61% for email and 44% for phone.
In my personal web hosting experience I tend to agree with this data. I only use phone support for urgent website downtime type issues, and email support or ticketing system for requested server tweaks (such as turning on a feature that isn’t standard, or requesting a memory upgrade, for example).
For all other inquiries, I prefer chatting with the support representative via their instant messaging service or live chat. That way I can continue to work on other projects while I wait, and I can easily implement their suggestions while they’re on the line (works great if they copy a file or code path as well).
Naturally, I took the liberty of analyzing the support times of Bluehost and Hostgator to see who will provide you with the best service. 10 calls were placed at staggered intervals to each host on each day of the week (50 calls each), with 10 calls placed to each on each weekend day (20 calls each). All in all, 140 phone calls were made, and the time was recorded for each. Below is the average of all the calls for both weekday and weekend.
- Estimated wait: 12 min
- Actual wait: 9:67 min
- Estimated wait: 8 min
- Actual wait: 6:42 min
- Estimated wait: n/a
- Actual wait: 14:07 min
- Estimated wait: n/a min
- Actual wait: 17:28 min
I found the estimated wait time feature with Bluehost to be helpful, as I could plan accordingly. I found it interesting that 92% of the time their estimated wait time was overestimated, which set the expectation and then beat it, leaving a positive perception of Bluehost support in my mind. This must be an internal customer service metric that they choose to instate – much like a hostess at a restaurant claiming the wait time to be 45min, then you are pleasantly surprised to be seated in “only” 30min.
Bluehost phone support was 48% faster than HostGator. No one likes to wait, especially on the phone… and Bluehost knows this.
- Estimated wait: 3 min
- Actual wait: 4:13 min
- Estimated wait: 5 min
- Actual wait: 4:27 min
- Estimated wait: 4 min
- Actual wait: 2:56 min
- Estimated wait: 5 min
- Actual wait: 3:34 min
HostGator live chat support was nearly 30% faster than Bluehost. What HostGator lacks in phone support they make up for in live chat response times.
Through the course of testing, the actual wait time varied significantly between chat sessions. While Bluehost had some of the quickest response times, the averages left a 35% quicker response overall from HostGator.
It all comes down to whether you prefer speaking with an expert on the phone, or chatting on the computer while you work on other projects.
Comparing Bluehost vs HostGator
Bluehost vs HostGator; which one is best? I summarize my rating for the 6 factors analyzed, including: Uptime & Availability, Website Speed Test, Setup & Ease of Use, Phone Support, Live Chat Support, and Pricing.
- Uptime & Avalibility
- Website Speed Test
- Setup & Ease of Use
- Phone Support
- Live Chat Support
HostGator Wins, Right?
With a HostGator score of 4 and a Bluehost score of 3, it would be assumed that HostGator wins this comparison, correct? Not necessarily.
When selecting a web hosting company it is important to understand your level of proficiency when it comes to web hosting.
If you are looking for the best WordPress hosting Professor Rackmount highly recommends WP Engine. Find out why they are his #1 recommended web host here.