You will often see hosting companies claiming to offer unlimited space and unlimited bandwidth in their cheap shared hosting accounts, HostGator and DreamHost both claim this, as you probably guessed it there is a catch, you are allocated certain amount of CPU power and memory that you can use, if you go over those resources you will be asked to upgrade to a VPS or get your own dedicated server.
I have now two shared hosting accounts, one with HostGator and one with DreamHost, I decided to pay for two hosting accounts because my allocated CPU resources were reaching their limit at HostGator and it works out cheaper two have two shared hosting accounts than one reliable Virtual Private Server, backups were also getting difficult as there is a 4GB backup hosting panel limit, by dividing my websites in between two different hosting companties I am also making it harder to be hit everywhere by a single point of failure, I could have had a second shared hosting account with HostGator but I decided to try out DreamHost instead and see how it performs in comparison to HostGator.
DreamHost and HostGator common points
These two hosting companies and their servers are both located in the US, DreamHost and Hostgator have similar prices and seasonal promotions (discount vouchers) and they both advertise very similar shared hosting services, unlimited bandwidth, unlimited hosting space and unlimited number of hosted domains.
Both DreamHost and HostGator have reasonable terms and conditions that allow for free speech in their hosting accounts and pornography is allowed, copyrighted material and warez obviously are not.
DreamHost Strong points
With DreamHost you get a much better community than HostGator, they both have user forums but HostGator forums seem directed towards presales and not for existing customers to help each other out, with DreamHost you also get a Wiki that can be edited by users, a collectively voted DreamHost customer website of the month featured on their newsletter where you can nominate your site too.
The hosting panel has a suggestions option where each DreamHost customer is allocated certain number of points to vote for the implementation of new features, there is also an online shop where to buy DreamHost merchandising and besides hosting, for an extra charge DreamHost offers backup space where you can store digital goods an sell them easily with DreamHost managing the payments taking a percentage for each sale.
You can create a DreamHost URL link for your visitors to donate money directly to your hosting account expenses.
If you are a developer and need to run Python and Ruby on Rails applications DreamHost hosting panel has good support for this, much easier to implement than using cPanel.
HostGator Strong points
HostGator uses a customized cPanel to manage hosting, this is one of the most used hosting panels in the World and experienced users will feel comfortable using it with no learning curve, if you do not like the personalized Hostgator skin you can revert it to the original cPanel skin.
HostGator provides 24/7 support via live chat, phone and email, this is a big plus, but be warned that my personal experience with their tech live chat has been poor, I would advise you to always use email, this way you have the ticket number logged into your account for future reference.
DreamHost weak points
Full backups at DreamHost can only be done through the control panel once a month, I find this length of time far too long, you could back up too FTP any time you like but this is not ideal.
DreamHost Wiki is edited by users and information can be lacking and not accurate at times. DreamHost hosting panel is unique to them, it is easy to use but it has a small learning curve to locate everything, if you are used to cPanel you will have to retrain yourself.
I have not used DreamHost support yet, I can’t comment on this other than to say you contact their staff via email/Hosting panel only.
HostGator weak points
HostGator forums seem focused in making a sale to new customers and not in getting together a community.
When I have had to speak with their live chat support my chat got automatically cut off after exceeding certain designated minutes (this can be extended), the techs there were very slow replying which contributed to the chat being cut off.
I suffered a serious incident resulting in the loss of a website due to HostGator wrong tech live chat support advice, after I raised the issue with a supervisor four days later he claimed he could not find the ticket number even after I gave him the staff name and my domain name, incidentally that chat log played in my favour, he did however said he apologised if what I was saying was truth, I found it very convenient to place some doubts in my words while not being able to find the chat log.
HostGator 24/7 live chat support is a big selling point that no other host has but it will be of no use to you unless they can solve the problems, if your website is hacked for example, live chat will be unable to help and redirect you to email support instead, my overall impression is that HostGator live chat tech staff is not knowledgeable enough for advanced questions.
You rate HostGator tech chat once it is finished and that rating it is linked to their wages, the staff will do their best to please you and get good ratings, but this does not necessarily mean good advice, it is easy to make up something you don’t know so that it looks like everything has been solved, give it good ratings, and some days later disaster strikes and you realise it wasn’t that way.
I am not claiming this always happens, but it happened to me at the very least once, I am posting one of my HostGator ticket numbers that ‘did not go missing’ to prove that I am not making it up: OFH-14763732
If you are a HostGator customer representative be aware that I do not want to inquire about the issue any more and I will not erase this post, just saying because two times that I posted about it at two different hosting forums HG customer service was quick posting back offering me their help, which looks and is very cool but the case is now closed and I am done with it.
Conclusion DreamHost vs HostGator comparison
Both web hosting companies have very similar prices and allocated resources, the major difference is the hosting management panel, DreamHost hosting panel is ideal for newbies and experienced users might want HostGator’s cPanel.
Support is clearly quicker at HostGator, 24/7 through live chat, and the community feeling is clearly superior at DreamHost.
I can’t really side with HostGator or DreamHost, it is a very close call, every webmaster has different wants and needs, I think that there is not a clear answer in the DreamHost vs HostGator comparison and it will come down to personal taste other than features and prices.