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GoDaddy review

We take a closer look at the US hosting giant

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(Image: © GoDaddy)

Our Verdict

GoDaddy offers lots of options and quality support, but can be expensive in some situations.

For

  • Wide range of products
  • Data centers in US, Europe, Asia
  • 24/7 live chat and phone support
  • Linux and Windows hosting

Against

  • Underpowered starter plans
  • Not the cheapest for some products
  • Shared hosting has below-par server response times
  • 48-hour refund for plans less than 1-year

US-based GoDaddy is a web hosting giant, the largest in the business, with more than 80 million domains under its management and some 20 million customers. But is it the right company for you?

GoDaddy's shared hosting starts at $5.99 a month on the three-year plan ($8.99 on renewal), which gets you 100GB storage, 10 databases, unmetered bandwidth and support for a single site. Unusual extras include a free 5GB Office 365 email mailbox for a year, and there's a free domain thrown in with annual and longer plans.

That's not bad, but it's disappointing to see there's no SSL certificate. Bluehost, HostGator, InMotion and other big names all now provide a free Let’s Encrypt SSL certificate with even their cheapest accounts.

Those accounts can be significantly cheaper than GoDaddy, too. HostGator's Hatching plan supports a single site, includes unmetered storage and a free SSL certificate, but costs only $2.75 a month on the three-year plan, renewing at $6.95.

Move up the GoDaddy range and there are some very capable products. The Ultimate plan supports unlimited websites, disk space and databases, unmetered bandwidth, premium DNS management and a free GoDaddy SSL certificate for a year.

It's relatively expensive, though, at $12.99 a month for an initial year, then $16.99 a month on renewal. HostGator's Business plan supports unlimited everything and throws in a dedicated IP for $7.95 a month on the annual plan ($5.95 over three years), renewing at $16.95.

GoDaddy does score for its flexibility. Not interested in the standard Linux hosting, for instance? Switch to Windows for no price premium, a very unusual touch.

Alternatively, capable VPS hosting products offer better performance, cPanel management and a free SSL certificate from $19.99 a month over two years, $29.99 on renewal.

You can also opt for basic or managed WordPress hosting from $6.99 a month.

If you're after maximum power, a very configurable dedicated server range gives you control over hardware (RAM, storage), term length (1-24 months), management (managed, fully managed, self-managed) and more.

A 30-day money-back guarantee offers you some protection, but there are all kinds of conditions and variations. The grace period drops to only 48 hours if your contract is for less than a year, and there are a bewildering range of other conditions (the refund policy small print alone is almost 2,000 words).

GoDaddy rarely has the best deals, then, especially if you're looking for a starter product. IPage's baseline plan gives you unlimited disk spaces and databases, a free domain and free SSL certificate for $1.99 a month over three years, for instance, $7.99 on renewal.

Still, the costs are much closer in other situations, and GoDaddy does have its own advantages (easy Windows hosting, the year-long trial of an Office 365 Outlook mailbox, as we discussed above). Factor in the range of products and it's a web host you need to check out.

Getting started

GoDaddy has plenty of products to choose from, but finding the right one can be a challenge. The website mostly focuses on core features, with very few of the detailed comparison tables you might see with other hosts, for instance. Anyone interested in low-level technical details might have to hunt around the support site to find out exactly what's included with a plan.

If you're happy with the core features, though, signup works much like any other host: choose a plan, a domain, a data center (North America, Europe, Asia) and hand over your cash in the usual way. As long as it's via card, anyway - no PayPal, bank transfer or other options here.

One highlight is GoDaddy's pricing clarity. Some hosts have cluttered shopping carts where you must scroll around or open a list to find your plan options. GoDaddy has a very plain and minimalist cart, black text on a white background, the plans available, offer and renewal prices of each, the total of whatever you've selected so far and a warning that there may be taxes to add, too. There's no attempt to catch you out or push you in a particular direction, GoDaddy simply presents your options as clearly as possible.

Web Dashboard

GoDaddy's web dashboard is plain but supremely easy to use (Image credit: GoDaddy)

Web dashboard

GoDaddy hosting plans are managed from the company's plain, simple but surprisingly effective web dashboard.

There are no deeply nested menus, no icon-stuffed panels, no toolbars or tabbed panels, no pointless graphics or animated ads. Instead, there's a list of whatever products you've purchased, with 'Manage' or 'Setup' buttons; some links to commonly used hosting modules (phpMyAdmin, File Manager and FTP Manager); and a button to launch cPanel, where you'll find every other management tool you're likely to need.

The same simplicity is visible just about everywhere. Some hosts make it so difficult to find the Cancel Account option that we end up searching the Support site to find out more. Here, GoDaddy has a single Account Actions menu on the Dashboard with only three options: Upgrade, Reset and Cancel. Much easier.

If you run into trouble anyway, a Help button gives you instant access to GoDaddy's knowledgebase via a pop-up window on the current page (much more convenient than opening a new browser window or tab).

GoDaddy's stripped-back dashboard won't appeal to everyone, but we think it works well, making it quick and easy for every level of user to find the hosting tools they need.

cPanel

Manage your website from a full-featured cPanel setup (Image credit: cPanel)

Creating a website

f you're looking to host a WordPress site with your GoDaddy account, there's some good news: the company makes that surprisingly easy.

The initial signup wizard ends with an optional 'Create a WordPress website' step, for instance. Click 'Yes', enter a WordPress admin username and password and the package is installed within a couple of minutes.

This is as simple as a WordPress install can get, but it's also very limited, and gives you no control over how the site is set up.

Installatron

Installatron enables installing WordPress and hundreds of other apps (Image credit: cPanel)

Skip the first WordPress installation option, though, and you can try again via Installatron, GoDaddy's feature-packed automated installer.

This doesn't support as many apps as Softaculous (150+ vs 400+), but it covers all the big names - WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, MediaWiki, phpBB, PrestaShop and many more - and works in much the same way. Choose the app you need, fill in whatever setup details it needs and Installatron installs and configures it within a minute or two.

Installatron has other advantages, too, including support for some very sophisticated management tasks. It can back up installed apps to or from FTP, FTPS, SFTP, WebDAV, or Dropbox, for instance, then optionally restore them to a different location, ideal when you're migrating a site.

GoDaddy's regular shared hosting plans don't include any form of website builder, not even the highly restricted demo versions you'll often see with other hosts (many have limits on your website size, the number of pages and more).

That's not a big deal, though, as the company has plenty of other options.

Website Builder

GoDaddy's website builder offers some quality templates (Image credit: GoDaddy)

GoDaddy has its own Website Builder with a particularly strong set of e-commerce tools. There's a one-month free trial, and plans range from $10 to $25 a month with an annual subscription, depending on the features you need. (The $10 plan has enough power for many personal and business sites, although you should expect to pay at least $20 a month to get a decent web store.)

If you're not using WordPress or the Website Builder, you can also upload your site via FTP or the file manager, then use cPanel to create databases, set up email accounts and generally manage every aspect of your website.

Performance

We used Uptime.com, Domain-tools' website speed tests and Bitcatcha to measure the performance of our GoDaddy site (Image credit: Uptime.com)

Performance

GoDaddy claims to offer 'fast, reliable hosting', but does it deliver? We were keen to find out.

We began our benchmarking process by setting up a simple website on our test GoDaddy shared hosting account. We then had Uptime.com check the site every five minutes, from multiple locations in Europe and the US, recording site availability and response time.

GoDaddy achieved 100% uptime, with no outages over the week of testing. That's good news, although it's also what we would expect for short-term checks.

Response times were slower than most, with a range of 280-785ms and an average of 354ms. That's at the sluggish end of the 200-400ms spectrum we see from most starter shared hosting products, but it still represents a major improvement on the 649ms average we saw in our last review.

Dotcom Tools' Website Speed Test measures page load time from 16 locations around the US and Europe. Results varied considerably from 1.1 to 2.3 seconds, but they were never impressive; some free web hosts have load times under 1.5 seconds, and the best products are closer to 0.7-0.8 seconds.

While these results are a little disappointing overall, keep in mind that our tests covered GoDaddy's baseline shared hosting plan only. VPS, dedicated, and other premium products give you more powerful hardware and a greater share of resources, and they're likely to deliver much, much better performance.

Support

GoDaddy's first line of support is its very well-presented web knowledgebase. Menus, a search box and a wide collection of articles all appear in a floating sidebar within GoDaddy's dashboard, rather than a separate browser tab, making it easy to read advice alongside whatever control panel element you're trying to understand.

In our last review we gave some examples of poor organization, where content wasn't always appearing in the categories you might expect. GoDaddy seems to have improved this, though, and articles appeared to be better grouped and sorted.

The search engine seems more intelligent, too, and entering various keywords got mostly relevant results.

Some advice is a little questionable, such as the article warning that setting up a cPanel hosting account might make your current website and email addresses stop working. You can buy and carry out a vast amount of cPanel work without causing any problems at all, and you're always in full control of when a domain is redirected to point to your new hosting.

These issues are the exception, though, and most users will find a huge amount of decent content to explore. 

If the website can't help you, scrolling to the bottom of the Help window gives access to live chat and 24/7 phone support.

We tried live chat and were talking to a support agent within a few seconds. He responded to our question without asking for unnecessary extra detail, and quickly gave us useful and accurate information.

Accessing phone support can be more difficult, as you try to navigate the phone menus (enter customer ID, enter phone PIN, choose the type of service you need, choose the question area, subtract the number you first thought of) and delays can be several minutes at peak time. It can be the easiest way to discuss some issues, though, and previously we've found GoDaddy's phone support agents to be friendly and helpful.

Final verdict

GoDaddy has a wide choice of products and decent phone and email support, but you may have to spend a lot on plans and add-ons to get the features you need.