An IT Guy’s Take: HostGator vs. Bluehost

I was really, really hesitant to create this post. How come? Because it’s very rare where something I can claim to be an expert in, and something on this blog align very well together. But while I’m new to some things such as affiliate marketing, advertising, etc – I am NOT new to technology. I’ve been working in a variety of roles in the Information Technology space for over 10 years. I also happen to hold a couple of certifications which only a few thousand people in the entire world hold, and is often referred to as the “PhD of Networking.” More importantly, I have actually worked for, and provided services to hosting companies, just like Hostgator, Bluehost, and others like them. To take it a step farther, I’ve helped companies around the world design, deploy, and troubleshoot large networks in requirements where they need to be highly available (or available 99.999%+ of the time).

Basically, I know how this stuff works – and not just from what their pretty marketing slicks say.

I’ve been a Bluehost customer. I’ve been a GoDaddy customer. I’ve been a Hostgator customer. I even ran my websites on Amazon AWS and Microsoft Azure, because I wanted to tweak the “nerd knobs,” as we like to call them. The point is – I not only know how these companies operate and what differentiates them on the inside, I’ve experienced it firsthand through paying good money for their services.

The result? Hostgator wins by a landslide. I’ll explain why.


 

Performance

Having a website that loads quickly and performs well across the board is absolutely critical. Studies have shown that a poor user experience can ruin a customer for a lifetime. You only get one shot when a customer is first visiting your site. It’s incredibly easy for them to simply “X” out of your page and move onto the next site, because yours is taking too long to load. With the amount of competition out there, you can’t afford that kind of poor performance.

With Bluehost, I regularly got much higher latency than I did with Hostgator, and longer load times. I did get slightly better load times than both options with Amazon AWS, but I’ll explain that in a bit.

There’s a few factors that go into the performance of your website. They are:

Server Resources (RAM, CPU)

Network throughput/availability

Storage Performance

Server Resources, or the individual configuration of your slice of hardware, is critical. When an HTTP request hits a server, it’s processed – and this is a likely bottleneck especially for a high volume site with low server resources. In most cheap hosting plans, you’re on a shared system, meaning, you’re sharing a physical server with other customers, who might have high volume sites which are stealing server resources away from you and can impact your sites performance. The solution to this problem is a dedicated server. You can configure and use a dedicated server with all the major hosting players. You can also do this in AWS. It’s this reason specifically, that I got better performance with AWS – I was using a dedicated VM for my services (which is still technically on shared hardware, for the record) – while my Hostgator and Bluehost accounts were all shared a step further.

Network throughput and availability is the next factor. I’ve seen firsthand, how a simple line of code, can bring a network to its knees. Even worse – the network can function, but suffer from intermittent outages and poor performance. Last year, I troubleshot this very issue for a major corporation, and discovered that they were using an out-of-date piece of hardware, which was essentially killing their application performance across half of the United States. It’s a big deal that the network works well. While hosting providers always focus on  the server resources, this is a factor, and unfortunately, there’s no real easy way to judge this, unless you’ve seen them. While I can’t speak to Hostgator and Bluehost’s internal networks, I can say this: the availability and superior performance of Hostgator tells me their network is far better designed, and maintained.

Storage Performance. When you store your website files, they should reside on enterprise grade hardware, such as that from companies like NetApp, EMC/Dell, and Pure Storage. These companies specialize in very high density, and high performance storage. Unfortunately, this can often be neglected as hosting companies want to maintain their profits and some refuse to invest in upgrading hardware on a regular refresh schedule. The good ones typically do – but it’s not a guarantee by any means. The point with storage is simple: you can have tons of server resources, a blazing fast network, and slow storage. The result? An awful user experience due to the poor performing storage.

Uptime/Availability

Performance doesn’t matter if your website is down all the time. Infact, the only thing worse than a slow site is a down one! In hosting environments, I’ll admit this much: it’s hard. These guys work long hours to ensure you don’t see any service interruptions. They ALL work hard at this. But the reality is, outages happen. I’m going to say this in a cold-hearted way, but it’s the truth:

Good IT teams have less downtime.

Unfortunately, when I was with Bluehost for several years, I had downtime all the time. Since I switched to Hostgator, I’ve had zero downtime, even though I’m monitoring it closely. This made it pretty clear – they weren’t as seasoned as the Hostgator guys. For the sake of being fair, if you want truly the best uptime, you’d be looking at using AWS or Azure. With either of these, you can have one website URL hit multiple servers, and if one drops – it doesn’t skip a beat. With this setup, you can pull a server out of production for maintenance, and do “rolling upgrades” in this manner. The downside with this approach is that you pretty much need an IT guy to handle all of it. AWS is also much more expensive versus the shared offerings out there.

I’m an IT guy, and I prefer Hostgator over AWS. 

Why? Because when I’m working on my hustles, I want my site to work. I don’t want to spend too much time playing with Nerd Knobs – I just want it to work, perform well, and always be up. That’s exactly what I get with Hostgator, and not what I got with Bluehost, unfortunately.

What all this means for you

Listen, I’m not saying you should move off Bluehost tomorrow (although if it were me, I would) – but I am saying that there is data, though some of it is Empirical, to support the superiority of Hostgator vs. the alternatives.

If you’re in the market, I’d highly recommend checking out Hostgator. I currently pay a few bucks a month, and couldn’t be more pleased, and this is coming from a picky IT guy.

UPDATED: Hostgator has a new promotion which is not available on their website, which allows you to get your domain, hosting, and unlimited email (which should be included anyway, honestly) for only $3/mo. This is a great deal – I wish I had jumped in on it. Here’s the new link. 

Get Your Domain, Hosting, and Unlimited Email for Just $3/mo at Hostgator

 

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