There are thousands of different shared web hosting companies out there. And trying to choose the best one for your small business can be overwhelming.
If you do some research on the web though, you can clearly see that a handful of shared web hosting companies get recommended the most.
SmartBusinessTrends.com is currently hosted with Bluehost, but I do have a Hostgator shared hosting account with several sites on it as well.
In this post, I’m going to put these two popular shared hosting companies through their paces in a Hostgator vs Bluehost shootout.
Hostgator vs Bluehost Reliability
The first thing I look for in any web hosting company is how reliable it is. Especially with shared web hosting because you are sharing your server with a number of other websites.
One bad apple on a server can have your website slowing down to a crawl or even cause it to go down.
Typically, it is hard to trust the uptime numbers that any shared web hosts advertise.
Almost all offer at least 99.9% uptime guarantees, including both BlueHost and Hostgator.
This equates to about 44 minutes of downtime a month.
In my experience there is no web host I’ve been with that never has their servers go down.
In fact, the best web hosting companies will do regular maintenance on their servers to make sure things are always running smoothly.
So how do Hostgator and Bluehost perform in real life?
Using Pingdom’s uptime reporting we can find out.
Here are my Pingdom uptime stats from the last month.
As you can see, Bluehost comes out ahead here with half as much downtime as Hostgator.
The graphs above also let you compare the response times between the two web hosts.
This is defined as the average time it takes for Pingdom servers to connect to your server.
For Hostgator the average response time was 1477ms for the past month.
With Bluehost the average response time was 1439ms over the same time period.
Overall, there is not much difference in response times between the two.
Hostgator vs Bluehost Speed
Site loading speed is another important consideration to look at. A faster loading website makes for a better user experience for your visitors and it can help your website rankings.
To compare how fast Bluehost is to Hostgator, I setup two identical WordPress blogs. I installed the Genesis Framework on both, added then added some dummy content and images.
To test site speed on each server, I used the Pingdom Website Speed Test.
Here are the results:
Here, Hostgator wins out as it’s load time is more than twice as fast as Bluehost.
Hostgator vs Bluehost Load Testing
The next test I wanted to do is to see how both servers do under more strenuous conditions.
For that, I used LoadImpact to simulate a certain number of users accessing my server concurrently.
With the free account, LoadImpact let’s me send 50 virtual users (VUs) over a period of 5 minutes to each web host so I can see how it responds.
Here are the results:
It’s a bit confusing to see because the colors are switched between the two graphs.
With Bluehost, you can clearly see some spikes in the response times up to 2 seconds.
With Hostgator you can see the response time stays consistently around 600ms even as load increase.
Hostgator clearly wins in terms of handling server load.
Hostgator vs Bluehost Customer Support
While the hope is that you don’t need it much, customer support for a web hosting company is extremely important.
When problems occur (and they will), you want to be with a web host that is easy to get in contact with and is completely transparent when things go bad.
Hostgator and Bluehost both offer 24/7 support every day of the year. You can also contact them through a wide variety of ways including phone, email support and live chat.
Guaging support is kind of subjective. But in my experience, I’ve never had a problem with Hostgator or Bluehost staffs. They are both easy to get in contact with.
I will say that Hostgator response times is not as fast as they used to be several years ago.
In the old days that it was easy to get a hold of a live chat representative in under 5 minutes. Now, as they have grown, wait times can be up to 15 minutes long.
Having access to a good control panel is an important part of your web hosting experience.
This is where you will create addon domains, add and manage your databases, setup blogs and other common tasks.
Most shared hosting companies provide you with a version of cPanel and Hostgator and Bluehost do the same.
Bluehost uses a customized version of CPanel that has a different look then you might be used to while Hostgator uses a stock CPanel install.
I am disappointed that both Bluehost and Hostgator have both moved to Mojo Marketplace to install 3rd party scripts like WordPress.
Hostgator used to use Fantastico, which was very easy and straightforward to use. Just select the script you want and install and it’s done.
The Mojo Marketplace has a more cluttered, more confusing interface and it seems to try very hard to sell you extra add ons and services which is a big turn off to me.
Bluehost vs Hostgator Pricing
Both Bluehost and Hostgator offer a couple of flavors of shared hosting plans.
Each has a starter plan which allows you to host a single site. These are the cheapest plans, but I don’t normally recommend going with them.
Instead, I would go with the Hostgator Baby and Bluehost Plus plans because they let you host unlimited websites for just a couple a dollars a month more.
Hostgator’s Baby plan normally runs for $7.95 while the Bluehost Plus plan is $6.95 a month.
You can also save additional money buy purchasing over longer time periods like one, two or three years.
You will also find that both Hostgator and Bluehost run various promotions throughout the year where you can get large discounts over your first billing period.
And if you search around, you will find many working Hostgator and Bluehost coupon codes.
While Hostgator is normally a bit more expensive than Bluehost, it also offers a 45 day money back guarantee compared to 30 days with Bluehost.
Bluehost vs Hostgator Final Thoughts
As you can see from this comparison, Bluehost and Hostgator are quite similar in most respects.
From my testing though, I would give the slight edge to Hostgator.
While Bluehost is better for uptime, Hostgator servers seem to perform better in terms of overall speed and handling server load.
Overall, I feel both shared web hosting companies perform quite well for the price I’m paying for them.
I’ve been with both for several years now, and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend either.
If you are looking to setup up a new website for your business, give one of them a try.