It can be easy to fall under the impression that it makes little difference which hosting company you choose for your website. After all, for a task so seemingly straightforward, what could each company really do that differently from the others? Therefore, most people will simply look for the least expensive or perhaps the most popular hosting service and stick with it. However, hosting is a bit more complicated than that. While some hosting services are certainly better than others, it is important to look at each individually and figure out which will suit your website the best. What works for one site might not work as well for another.
In this article, we will look at two major hosting services, InMotion Hosting and HostGator. We will go over not only pricing but also the features and specifics of each, in order to help you ascertain which will be the best fit for your site.
HostGator is definitely the more established of the two. Since 2002, this web host has been one of the fastest growing in the industry. They are known for their competitive pricing, efficient servers, and solid service. In 2012, HostGator was bought out by a holding company, Endurance International, that also owns hosting brands such as BlueHost and JustHost, among others.
InMotion, on the other hand, as a bit less of a long running reputation. This web host is rapidly growing but independent, based out of Los Angeles. The fact that they deserve to be compared to a well-established service like HostGator comes primarily from the fact that they’ve got quite a bit of good press recently, as well as having won a number of awards for the hosting services they provide.
Without further ado, let’s jump right in to an in-depth comparison of InMotion Hosting and HostGator Web Hosting to see which one will be the best choice for you.
Price and Value
This is of course the first thing most people will look at when shopping for their web hosting service. As such, it is important to look at this first. It must be noted that this particular comparison examines both service’s shared hosting plans. For HostGator, this means their “web hosting” plan, while InMotion refers to it as “business class hosting.” Anything more than these, such as VPS or dedicated server plans, really requires a professional developer to ensure you’re running it properly, or at least a managed solution.
Now, at first glance, HostGator is technically the cheaper plan, on paper, so long as you have a discount. However, this difference is a difference of dimes, not dollars. InMotion more than makes up for this difference by offering a free domain right off the bat. As such, there is more you’ll need to consider if economic benefits are of the utmost importance to you.
The first of these considerations is billing. Here, HostGator wins out with its flexibility. The service allows you to sign up for a much shorter amount of time, as little as one month all the way up to three years. InMotion demands a bit more of a commitment, with a minimum length of one year, while also providing a discount for customers that sign up for a second as well.
We’ll get into a more in-depth discussion of features a little later on. However, there are a few major features that have a direct effect on price value, and so deserve to be discussed in this section. Each service will of course show you a nice long feature checklist to market their plan as best they can. The major things to look for, however, if you’re considering value are databases, disk space, and websites allowed, meaning domains. These are the most basic features and as such are specifically what you’ll be paying for. Everything beyond these is more luxury than anything else.
In brief, a web host owns the server where you’ll be storing your website and its files. The main function of the host is to send those files as quickly as possible to anyone who requests them. This is how your basic browsing happens. There are a few key words you’ll need to know to fully understand how this process happens. First up on the vocabulary list is database. A database is where your web host will store all the files for your website. So, that number next to databases on the checklist refers more or less to the amount of “websites” you’ll be able to use on your server.
This is where it gets a little confusing. There are two key words here that refer to the same thing, one used by InMotion and one used by HostGator. InMotion uses the word Websites, while HostGator prefers Domains. Essentially, this refers to your actual site as whole. Your one site, or domain, could potentially have an infinite amount of different websites on it. If this is confusing, which it is, think of your average website out there. Often, there will be the main site, which is typically a home page. Then, perhaps you could navigate from there to a news section or a blog. Those three pages, the home page, the news, and the blog, are three distinct websites on your one domain. Each of these websites will then run off their own database.
Hopefully you’re following and we can get into each plan individually. HostGator, through the Hatchling plan, offers you only one domain, but infinite databases. This means you could have multiple websites for your domain. In comparison, InMotion, with their cheapest option, will grant you two “websites” and two databases. This means you can only have two websites.
Moving on up the line, both HostGator’s Baby plan and their Business plan allow you unlimited domains and databases. InMotion, on the other hand, will put a cap on both domains and databases in all of their plans. This will be discussed a bit further in the next section.
Now, this is all important information. However, there is a bit more that goes into choosing the best web host for your site. While you’ll want to look at prices and values in your search, you’ll also want to make sure your choice can provide specifically what you need in all your online endeavors.
We already went over the major features you’ll want to look at when comparing services: databases, storage, and domains allowed. However, there are other features that matter, especially when getting into your specific needs.
It is first essential to remember that the information sheets for web hosting sites are primarily a marketing technique. This means that they’ll try and phrase their features to seem like they have the most unique and fresh line-up of features out there. Usually, though, they are merely rephrasing basic features that most web hosts will offer. You’ll need to sift through that to get to the black and white of the plan.
Now, as much as we’d love to walk you through the ins and outs of every feature out there, you’re undoubtably a busy person and don’t have time to read through that extraordinarily long and boring list of descriptions. Instead, let’s just go over a good method to use when comparing features.
In the case of InMotion Hosting and HostGator, their feature breakdown is essentially the same. The difference comes from the deal each host offers on each feature. HostGator, for example, will allow you an infinite number of email addresses, as well as focusing on available technical features such as programming languages and autoresponders.
As we saw in the price and value section, InMotion will typically put a cap on a number of their features. This at first seems like a major pitfall. However, anyone promoting InMotion will tell you that, despite HostGator’s promises of infinity, their features will still be finite due to the limited amount of shared server resources. This is a fair point to consider, since a shared server will crash should it run out of such resources. InMotion, then, focuses on giving you features that will work.
Now, it must be said that it is difficult to really discern who has the better side of this argument without more data on the amount of resources available to each host. Some people might tell you that they’ve never had a problem with HostGator crashing, even on incredibly popular posts. However, one could also track down a number of stories of HostGator servers being overbooked and going down.
The lesson here is to not get too lost in the language. In the case of HostGator, this means to avoid signing up just because they’ll give you unlimited something. For InMotion, you’ll want to be wary of seeing a marketing name or guarantee and being swayed just on those grounds.
While HostGator and InMotion are vastly similar on a number of features, there are a couple where they diverge. Among these are data backups. While both will be constantly backing up your data to ensure you don’t lose anything, InMotion is a bit more generous should anything happen. If you need your data restored, InMotion will do just that free of charge, whereas restoring with HostGator will cost you a fee of $20. Remember, though, you’ll definitely want to do your own backing up of data with InMotion as well. It’s important to have a backup independent of your hosting service, just in case, particularly if the hosting services backup is free to restore. For those of you liable to forget to backup your data, that $20 fee is a pretty good incentive not to depend on HostGator for restoration. However, if you can trust yourself to consistently backup your data on your own, InMotion wins out here with a really uncommon and helpful safety net feature.
A very commonly forgotten feature, yet important nonetheless, is memory devoted to each account. It is all too common for a web hosting company to assure you they’ll provide all the resources you could ever need, only to give you a bare minimum once you’ve signed on the proverbial dotted line.
Memory is important to consider, since this allows your server to actually generate all those webpages you’ve been storing in your database for anyone who visits your site. As such, it is understandable that more will be better here. For those of you utilizing WordPress, and that number is probably quite large, you’ll want a minimum of 64M for your account. This number only increases, though, if you’d like to run a large amount of plugins.
As far as base memory, InMotion and HostGator are level at 256M per account. However, InMotion wins out if you’ll be looking to uploading a number of photos or videos, as they devote more memory (128M vs 64M) to uploading files. As far as loading your page, though, this uploading number makes little different. It is also important to note that HostGator allows this setting to be edited.
Finally for your feature comparison is SSD hard drives. These drives are what will store your data, as opposed to magnetic tape. This, for example, is one of the main thing that separates a MacBook Pro from a MacBook Air. InMotion will use SSDs, while HostGator won’t. This subsequently often leads to a better performance, which we’ll get to later on.
As far as head to head features go, InMotion Hosting wins out. Take that with a grain of salt, though, especially if you can’t afford to have hard caps on your features. While it isn’t a truly infinite number, the lack of a cap on certain features is the main reason a number of big sites will choose HostGator over InMotion. Again, it all depends on what you need for your site.
Here we’ll discuss one of the biggest factors that will set hosting services apart: how well they actually deliver your site to every visitor and how quickly.
Now, this seems simple, and it is fairly straightforward on paper. However, there are a number of different factors that go into your website load time. These factors mainly have to do with the configuration of your site. However, apart from that, this is largely down to how well your host will perform.
A very helpful metric to use when judging the performance of a shared hosting is Time to First Byte, or TTFB. TTFB will tell you how much time it takes your website to acknowledge a request and return data from the moment that request is first given. To picture this, think of a restaurant. Your TTFB is the amount of time between you giving your order and receiving your food. Depending on the size and scope of the restaurant, this might be a tall order. But that time between your order and your food getting to your table is what you’re concerned with.
This Time to First Byte can be fairly easily discovered by a web page performance test conducted on a site utilizing each service. To save you the time, though, InMotion and HostGator are very close, with both offering above average TTFB rates. Frankly, there is a different of decimals between the two, with InMotion slightly edging out HostGator. That, however, is liable to change as each service works to improve and upgrade their resources.
Since TTFB is so similar between these two web hosts, you’ll want to look also at what is known as uptime. This refers to the web host’s reliability to deliver your site whenever it is requested. Both hosts advertise a 99.9% uptime, and this is typically backed up by customers of both. Particularly, a look at the InMotion forums will tell you that they are incredibly committed to providing the best uptime possible.
Something to keep in mind is the fact that HostGator was purchased by Endurance Group International in 2012. Endurance Group is also the holding company for a number of other brands aside from HostGator. Now, each of these brands runs independently. However, over the past few years their infrastructures have slowly been merging to as to reduce overall cost. In the past this has caused some problems, particularly one instance in which some websites were down for a day or longer due to a move to a different data center.
HostGator of course still promises 99.99% uptime as well as they can, and usually they achieve that. This is just something to keep in mind when judging performance. It is also worth noting that even behemoths like Google and Amazon run into trouble every now and again. If this is a big concern for you, an independently run hosting company such as InMotion Hosting provides a bit more security in this regard. As such, on performance InMotion would seem to win out yet again, if only by a small margin.
Computers, as most people will understand, can be quite complicated. As such, a good hosting site will allow you to get by without a computer science degree. At the same time, it would be a shame to hinder anyone who knows a thing or two about computers and can take advantage of that. There’s a fine line in the middle, and how well a web host toes that line is usually referred to as usability. This line keeps the service simple for beginners, as well as giving those more experienced customers all the tools they need.
Both InMotion Hosting and HostGator use the same platform, cPanel, to run their backends. cPanel is pretty standard for the industry. Though a bit intimidating at first, it’s pretty simple to use once you get used to it. Not only that, but it is all too easy to find a tutorial for it online.
InMotion Hosting and HostGator share the same platform. What sets them apart from each other is their account management and software bundling. HostGator, upon signing up, will give you a login for your billing management as well as direct login info for cPanel. These are two distinct sides with separate purposes, and you’ll be given a link for each.
InMotion does this all in one by giving you access to an Account Management Panel, which functions as your hosting account frontend, billing area, and entrance to cPanel. The idea here is that it is an easier and simpler setup. However, due to the overabundance of information in this one panel, it can be a bit confusing at first, especially as a veteran looking for specific information.
As far as functionality with software, HostGator and InMotion have pretty simple interfaces for WordPress, Joomla, and the like. The big change for HostGator, though, is software bundling. After a WordPress QuickInstall, HostGator’s theme marketplace is automatically installed along with WordPress. This is a bit of a mixed bag. For some this could be quite convenient, while others could potentially see this as a hindrance. Nevertheless, the “MOJO Marketplace,” HostGator’s software, can be easily uninstalled from the Plugins menu should you prefer to get on without it.
Usability is a bit harder to choose a clear winner. HostGator provides a very minimalist approach that some might prefer. However, the convenience of a single panel for account management might tip the scales in favor of InMotion for beginners. An added bonus for InMotion is also that lack of QuickInstall add-ons.
People often forget that a hosting company will have its own problems, just like any company. As such, they will each have their own customer service departments to handle these problems for users. Some people might be confident enough in their own technical ability to not consider customer service in their decision making process. However, in dire circumstances, a good customer service department can prove indispensable.
Customer service, however, is tricky to rate. Many users might report good experience and define each respective customer service department as excellent. Remember that customer service ratings are usually based on stories from users. Not only that, but most stories that get reported are horror stories and bad experiences rather than praise. This is a general rule of thumb for any customer service department, not just InMotion or HostGator. It is important to keep this in mind when reading reviews of customer service. Always keep the big picture in mind.
Sifting through forums and official reviews can be shaky for this reason. For every word of phrase, you’ll find just as many negative words to match. For this reason, the only really reliable way to judge how each of these web hosts takes care of their customers and their respective attitudes toward customer service is a look at their Knowledgebase. This is where you go if you want to dig into the problem on your own and see if you can fix it yourself. Looking at this aspect, InMotion comes out as the clear frontrunner. InMotion continually invests more resources into keeping their Knowledgebase up to date than HostGator, ensuring that it is a lively support channel full of conversation concerning hosting accounts as well as a number of other topics. This is not to say HostGator lacks a useful Knowledgebase. It is merely clear that InMotion benefits here from being an independent company and thus being more committed to individual customer service and helping customers through any problem that may arise. Users of HostGator will be able to solve their problems. However, it is likely that most customers will find a bit more care and investment with InMotion Hosting.
A Few More Considerations
We’ve covered already the big things to look at. It can also be helpful, if you’re really landlocked on a decision and can’t pick one or the other, to look at a few minor features to help inform your decision. A simple face value observation, InMotion is independently owned and commits a lot to WordPress events and things of that nature. HostGator is owned by a larger company, and has a long history filled with awards and good press.
A convenient, if somewhat unnecessary, feature for InMotion users is the ability to handle some web design. This is certainly uncommon, and some customers might appreciate this little factor. InMotion also tends to be a bit better with integrations, offering some extra flexibility to allow you to get your integration right. This comes in handy if you want to use some apps on your site, which will most likely be blocked by HostGator.
To wrap up, there is rarely one perfect choice for every case, especially with web hosting. Depending on your site, you’ll want to consider different features and factors. As mentioned, a web host that works well for one person might not be the best fit for another. It might even be the case that you’ll want to use InMotion Hosting for one site, while opting to use HostGator for another. It all depends on what you want to get out of your web host.
For those smaller sites, InMotion might be the better pick. This will require a more flexible budget, and you’ll have to be comfortable signing up for at least a year. However, InMotion Hosting seems to be a superior option for those with simpler websites in mind.
If you’re looking to operate at a higher level, perhaps with a number of different websites, HostGator will be the way to go. This works well with a more rigid budget, and gives you the option for monthly billing as well.