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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair
Wed, 07 Mar 2012

Hostgator is a solid shared-hosting performer -- and why you need a shared-hosting account of your very own

I've been with Hostgator for a few years now. I have a shared-hosting account that I use to run a few small web sites and experiment with anything for which I need access to an Apache web server.

The experience has been a good one. The service is extremely solid, the Cpanel interface helpful, and overall it's been easier to deploy services on Hostgator than on the other servers and shared-hosting services I've used.

I initially was unhappy that I didn't have ssh access, but it turns out I do. Same with ssl, which I didn't think was available, but it is.

Those are both huge wins for my personal aspirations, if you will.

I recently needed to use PHP 5.3 instead of the default version 5.2 for a service, and Hostgator made that easy, too.

The ability to create and use e-mail accounts has been very helpful. If you want to get away from the you're-being-spied-on/marketed-to nature of Gmail, using a mail account from your hosting account is a great way to do it. You can access it via POP, IMAP or in one of three web interfaces (Horde, Squirrel Mail or Roundcube, of which I prefer the latter).

Creating MySQL databases is easier -- for me anyway -- in Cpanel than in PHPMyAdmin.

I'm not crazy about the Fantastico De Luxe service, which does automatic installations of things like WordPress blogs. When I used Fantastico to create a second WP blog, instead of creating a new MySQL database, Fantastico decided to piggyback on the database of the other WP blog in the account. I wanted a wholly separate database. And Fantastico doesn't remove services as cleanly as I'd like.

So I recommend setting up services manually, though I haven't tried Hostgator's newer QuickInstall service in the Cpanel. Most web services aren't that hard to install. And if you're going to have any degree of success, it's a very good idea to know how things went together on the web server.

Prices on Hostgator are about the same as most shared-hosting services. You do save money if you only want/need a single domain. I've seen cheaper domain-name registration from other providers, but Hostgator But overall, shared hosting is a great deal.

One thing I have on another shared-hosting service that I don't have in Hostgator (unless, like with ssl and ssh, Hostgator in fact does offer it) is the ability to use a shared URL for a web site so you don't have to buy/maintain/use your own domain -- something like http://myaccount.hostgator.com. I do this on that other account -- I really don't need my own domain for some things. It's a small thing, and since most people want at least one domain, I understand Hostgator not offering it.

While it's possible for the average geek to run a mail/file/web server from his or her home, by the time you get everything set up you'll be paying more for the connection to the Internet than you will in monthly fees to a provider like Hostgator. And you'll have a lot more to do in terms of maintenance. The people at Hostgator know what they're doing. In my case I want to run the services without the headaches, and that's what a good shared-hosting provider can do for you.

The next step for me would be using a virtual private server (VPS) from a place like Linode, RootBSD or ARP Networks. Hostgator also offers VPS hosting. If you really need it, Hostgator will run a dedicated server for you.

If I haven't said so numerous times already, I think everybody who tinkers with things -- or wants to -- should get a shared-hosting account. It's fun. You'll learn something. And the Web is magic. Really.