Quite often, it happens to be the case that a prospective buyer has to make the difficult decision of deciding between two well reputed companies, and web hosting is no exception. Particularly, when both the competing companies are influential and highly respected within the web hosting community like HostGator and BlueHost, arriving at a logical conclusion becomes even more tricky. A sound judgment in this case depends not only on your own mental capability but also to a large extent on the homework you have done aimed at exploring the relative positive and negative attributes of these two web hosting providers. However, without the technical expertise and the critical reviewing eye which is often lacked by a layperson, it is not easy to make sense of the offers made by HostGator and BlueHost. Therefore, as a usual shopper who has the potential of being misled into making an unworthy choice, it is your job to investigate thoroughly the strengths and weaknesses of both these web hosts. In order to do this however, you will inevitably need the help of an expert reviewer and analyst who has studied the packages offered by these two providers in detail, and this is exactly the role that I intend to play in this article. 

When I was making the comparison between these two web hosts, I wanted to be sure that the information presented on their plan description pages by these two companies was as specific as possible so as to leave no room for doubt. I did my best to accurately collect the data from their websites in order to make a fair comparison and when I felt that the data was insufficient, I also contacted the companies as and when needed. Furthermore, I had the realization in my mind that in order to compare these two companies on an equal footing, I have to make a choice between the plans offered by these two companies in order to ensure that the price for both the plans is more or less the same. Apart from its Pro Package, BlueHost offers a single all-inclusive web hosting plan that can be purchased for $6.95 per month on a one-year term. By contrast, HostGator also sells higher level hosting types including reseller, VPS, and dedicated server hosting. On the shared hosting platform however, it offers three plans namely Hatchling, Baby, and Business. Of these three plans, the one that is very similar to the all-inclusive plan of its competitor in terms of price is the Baby Plan which can be purchased for $7.96 per month with a one-year contract. Therefore the comparison will be made between the all-inclusive plan of BlueHost and the Baby Plan offered by HostGator. Both web hosts were analyzed in terms of 10 criteria, and the results of my research are as follows.

 

(1) Hosting Platform

Apart from the customer service aspect, the quality of a web hosting company is directly dependent on the network infrastructure and the technology being deployed at the backend. HostGator does not own the data centers used for housing the servers that store the websites of their clients, instead it has rented 4 state-of-the-art data centers in the network facility of The Planet. Recently, there has been a merger between The Planet and SoftLayer resulting in a new company named after the latter. SoftLayer is unique in that not only the data centers are tightly integrated via their industry-leading network architecture but they also boast a Pod Design which is a proprietary concept developed by them. This gives their customers complete administration over all aspects of the data centers and also the backend technologies being deployed by SoftLayer. HostGator therefore enjoys a virtual data center experience remotely that has the highest possible level of administration available.

By contrast, BlueHost owns its data centers instead of renting it from another company. The number of data centers is however 2 which is less than the data centers possessed by its competitor. Nevertheless, they pride themselves in the fact that their data centers do have the expansion capability so that they can accommodate a growing number of websites over the coming years. They also present another thing that tends to set them apart from their competitors, which is that they build custom servers. So instead of simply purchasing servers with preconfigured components, BlueHost's expert technical staff purchases the individual best components from the market and assemble these in their in-house facility to build the servers for use in their data centers. Consequently they claim to have more knowledge about the servers and their configuration as compared with their competitors because they build them with their own hands. This allows them to pinpoint any weaknesses in the systems and subsequently fix them before any faults occur and bring the system down. Furthermore, they also state that they have an in-house developed technology so that their customers are more or less isolated and independent of each other's system abuse if any.

To conclude, there appears to be a tie between these two web hosts as far as the hosting platform is concerned. This is because although HostGator has more data centers as compared with BlueHost (4 versus 2), they do not have a direct control over them since it lies in a rented property. Instead they have to control and administer through a virtual data center control facility. However the technology used by SoftLayer is without doubt second to none. BlueHost on the contrary owns the 2 data centers and also boasts other attributes such as custom-built servers and user isolation on the hosting platform which may give you an incentive to go with them.

 

(2) Core Features

When it comes to core features, naturally something that you should be looking for in a web hosting company is the amount of space and bandwidth offered by the web host, the number of e-mail accounts, forwarders, and auto responders, as well as the number of parked domains, subdomains, and most importantly the number of domains hosted on a single hosting account. Now let's take a look at each of these hosting companies namely HostGator and BlueHost in turn to see how they compare with each other in terms of the above-mentioned factors. Space is definitely the most important thing, the analogy to which in the real estate world turns out to be the covered area of a house you are about to purchase. Within your allocated budgets, you will definitely prefer a house with a higher covered area if it satisfies certain other desirable aspects such as locality, proximity to shopping centers, proximity to the city center as well as the major transportation links etc. However, there is a whole lot of debate as to whether companies that offer unlimited space should be preferred over others that impose restrictions on the amount of disk space available or vice versa should be done if there are certain advantages in going with a company belonging to the latter category. The point in favor of going with a company that has an unlimited space offering is that it literally sets you free of having to worry about your expanding space requirements in case your website traffic explodes. Another advantage is that in case you decide to host additional websites on the same account in the future and there is an option of unlimited domain hosting available with the hosting company, you need not worry about the space aspect because no matter how much space is occupied by each website, you will have the assurance that your requirements will not outgrow your allocation. Both web hosts turn out to be tough competitors in that they both offer an unlimited amount of disk space on their web hosting accounts. So if your concern is the hard drive space quota, it really doesn't matter whether you decide to sign up with HostGator or BlueHost.

The next thing that is very important for a thriving online business is the amount of bandwidth included in your web hosting account purchase. Actually the term is a misnomer and a more appropriate term for this is commonly known as the data transfer. This can be understood by considering another analogy, the water tank that is used to supply water to a block of residential area (sector). The wider and the taller the water tank is, the higher will be the pressure of water received in the water taps of each and every single house within that residential area. This can be compared with the bandwidth, which is the width of the network communication channel that supplies data to and from your website. The wider this channel, the higher will be the speed of data transmission to the visitors that arrive at your website. Perhaps even more important is the quantity of water that is available in the water tank. If there is less water in the tank, then no matter how wide or tall it is the pressure of water will be low. But if the tank is always full, then the pressure will also be maximum consistently. This is exactly the analogy of unlimited data transfer. If there is no upper maximum on the amount of data transfer available, then no matter how much your website traffic increases over the course of time, there will be data available abundantly for your visitors. So if you anticipate that your site will become a phenomenal success over time, then the amount of data transfer available is also a very important aspect to consider. With unlimited data transfer available, you won't have to worry about having your hosting account suspended by the company in case it exceeds the quota allocated to it. With both HostGator and BlueHost, you have the peace of mind that there is unlimited data transfer available for your website thereby allowing it maximum possible room to grow.

In terms of e-mail functionality, HostGator and BlueHost once again strongly rival each other by including not only POP3 functionality but also the IMAP e-mail technology with their web hosting purchase. IMAP has certain advantages over POP3 such as the ability to download summarized messages instead of full messages, the ability to retain the messages on the server even after they have been downloaded, and a couple other advantages as well. So it's worth going with a web host that offers both POP3 and IMAP. The number of included e-mail accounts is also unlimited with both these web hosting companies. So no matter if you are an individual running your small business website or you own a full-fledged company with hired staff, you don't need to worry that the number of included e-mail accounts will ever exhaust requiring you to pay extra fees for additional accounts. Same is the scenario with forwarders and auto responders, you get unlimited of them with either of these two hosts. Forwarders are useful in that they allow you to forward all e-mail coming into an e-mail account to one or more of the other e-mail accounts in your company. For example, you may want to forward the e-mail received in the inbox of the head of the customer support services department to both the in charge of the billing department as well as the technical support department. As the name indicates, auto responders allow you to automatically send a reply to a received message in your absence. The idea is to let the other person know that their e-mail is important to you and that you will reply to them as soon as you return to your office. This helps you build your recognition within the market and assures people contacting you that you're very serious with your business and that you care about them. In terms of web-based e-mail support (e-mail that can be sent and received simply via browser), there is once again a tie between HostGator and BlueHost as both offer three different web-based e-mail solutions namely squirrel, horde, and round cube.

As far as multiple domain hosting is concerned, both these web hosts allow an unlimited number of add-on domains. So you can rest assured that your future requirements can easily be accommodated with either HostGator or BlueHost. In the web hosting market, it is not uncommon to find web hosting companies that do not offer even multiple domain hosting. What this means is that for every single website project that you need to launch, you need to purchase a separate hosting account which may also have its associated space and bandwidth restrictions. The advantage of unlimited domain hosting that comes with unlimited space and bandwidth offering is that you can host as many websites as you want on that same web hosting account without paying additional fees. Of course if there are restrictions on the available space and data transfer, you will still have to worry about these aspects. For example, if you host 5 websites on a single hosting account and over time the traffic explodes on almost all of these sites, then inevitably you will have to consider buying additional hosting accounts so that your space and bandwidth utilization is distributed over them. On the contrary if you have unlimited space and unlimited data transfer coupled with unlimited domain hosting, then you can rest assured that all your future requirements can be satisfied by that single hosting account. The number of parked domains and subdomains offered by HostGator and BlueHost is also unlimited. Parked domains can translate into a competitive advantage in that you can register additional domains but they all point to your primary domain name. With unlimited subdomains, you can have sections of your website represented as section1.yourwebsite.com instead of your website.com/section1 which is very useful from SEO point of view. The rest of the functionality such as analytics tools, cgi-bin, FrontPage etc. is not worth mentioning as this is available with almost all web hosting companies.

To sum up, there is no difference whatsoever between the two hosts in terms of the core features. Both web hosting companies offer unlimited space and data transfer, both offer unlimited e-mail accounts backed by IMAP as well as POP3, and both offer an unlimited number of forwarders and auto responders. The included web-based e-mail solutions are also the same for both HostGator and BlueHost. Furthermore, both these hosting companies include the option of hosting Unlimited websites on a single account thereby literally freeing you of having to worry about your expansion requirements in the time to come. In terms of available parked domains and subdomains, there is once again no difference between these two web hosts so it is immaterial as to whether you choose one of them or the other. So far, there appears to be a strong competition between the two, let's see how it fares in terms of the criteria to come.

 

(3)  Advanced Features

When you are planning to choose a hosting service that will be sufficient for your needs for many more years to come, you naturally look for one that offers you unlimited mySQL databases. This is because databases have become a part and parcel of today's online businesses and so it becomes absolutely crucial to have as many of them as possible and unlimited is of course the ultimate you can have. Both web hosts do not place any limits on the number of mySQL databases, however BlueHost outperforms its competitor by also giving away unlimited PostgreSQL which is certainly an asset considering that there are lots of other companies out there which charge you a fortune for this feature. As far as easy installation and use of content management systems is concerned, there is literally no difference between the two companies. Fantastico is also offered by both of them, so this means that you can make the most out of your hosting account by using popular content management systems to your benefit.

SSH access is also a feature that is supported by both these hosts. Ruby on rails is also common to both, however DHTML is available with BlueHost only. FTP accounts are unlimited no matter if you sign up with one or the other of these companies. To conclude with, BlueHost  appears to be a better choice in terms of advanced features in that in addition to mySQL databases, you also get unlimited PostgreSQL ones free of cost, as well as DHTML without paying an extra dime.

 

(3) Ecommerce Features

 let's see how it goes. 

 

To be continued... please come back later to read more.

   

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