Founded in 1999, Gandi is the top domain registrar in France, with around 2,000,000 domains under management. But as with many other registrars, the company also has an extensive line in website hosting, covering everything from simple personal products to powerhouse cloud hosting plans.
Gandi products stand out for their support of multiple domains, with even the most basic low-end plan capable of handling up to 5 websites.
Databases are another highlight. While other providers often restrict you to a very few 1GB MySQL databases, Gandi has no limit on numbers or size.
The company handles storage a little differently, too. All shared hosting plans come with the same 20GB of storage, but that's not a hard limit - you can add more as required from £0.19 ($0.25) per GB per month, up to a maximum of 2TB.
The baseline Small plan gives you unlimited bandwidth, 20GB storage and up to 5 websites for £4.20 ($5.46) a month. This may be cheaper than it looks, as we noticed the website included UK sales tax in the total, where most providers leave that out. But the down side is you don't get a bundled domain, and there's no SSL support.
The £6 ($7.80) a month Small+SSL plan extends the product with unlimited SSL certificates.
The Medium, Large and X-Large plans add more resources, while the top-of-the-range XX-Large supports unlimited websites and unlimited SSL certificates for £33.60 ($43.68) a month.
Gandi's cloud hosting is also reasonably priced, with plans starting from £9.83 ($12.78) a month for a simple 1 core, 1GB RAM and 20GB storage product with an IPv6 address only, and ramping up to £213.94 ($278) for a 16 core, 24GB RAM and 1TB storage setup. But there are potential catches, including a 3TB monthly traffic allowance for all plans, after which 'rate limits may apply', apparently.
Perhaps best of all, you can try out Gandi's Medium Hosting plan (up to 10 domains) free for ten days, no payment details required. That's unusually generous, and should give you more than enough time to test Gandi for yourself.
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Creating a Gandi account only takes a moment: enter your email, choose a user name and a password, and you're in, much easier than usual.
The company is just as straightforward when it comes to helping you get started. You're not sent a massive Welcome email crammed with technical details, and Gandi's console doesn't redirect you to a video tutorial or a startup wizard. You're just presented with Gandi's simple account console, where a single line of highlighted text explains that you can try a Medium hosting plan free for ten days, and a Try Now button points you in the right direction.
Creating your Medium instance is fractionally more complicated than we expected, as the website asked us to choose a preferred web language (PHP, Node.js, Python, Ruby) and database (MySQL, MongoDB, PostgreSQL). Newbies may be unsure what to select, and it would help if the website at least set PHP and MySQL as sensible defaults.
The choice of data center (France or Luxembourg) is simpler, and you're also required to provide a name for this instance, to identify it from any others you might create later.
Gandi's website next takes you through its regular order process, which includes providing your full contact details (name, address, phone number) and creating an invoice. But as long as you've chosen the trial plan, the invoice will show there's no charge, and you won't be asked for any payment details.
Once our order was complete, Gandi activated our account and we were able to access our hosting dashboard. A simple interface gave us an overview of our account, and included tools to create new sites and manage them from a custom control panel.
Creating a site
The Gandi dashboard has a Sites panel which enables managing multiple websites within your server space. Each one gets its own folder and works as an individual website, with its own domain.
Creating a new site is as easy as entering its domain name. If you've registered the domain with Gandi, its LiveDNS system can update your DNS records automatically, but otherwise the website gives very brief instructions on how to do this manually. These are nothing more than "add this record to your DNS record", so beginners may be left confused, but anyone used to managing domains won't have a problem.
Gandi doesn't offer a full 1-click installation platform, such as Softaculous, but there is an automated WordPress installer. We tried it, and the system worked faultlessly, enabling us to log in to the WordPress dashboard within a few seconds.
Your other main options are to connect and upload files via SFTP, or to deploy files via Git (the open source version control system.) Unfortunately, there's no browser-based file manager to inspect your files or tweak them manually.
Management tools are available in Gandi's own control panel. This is no match for cPanel, and gives you little more than access to Apache and PHP status, PHP configuration, phpMyAdmin, Varnish cache control and assorted system logs.
Elsewhere, a handy Snapshots feature works as an emergency backup, taking four images of your disk at predefined times (1 day ago, 2 days ago, 7 days ago, 14 days ago.)
If you run out of space, or just want to try something more powerful, a Resize option enables choosing another Gandi plan. The trial allows you to resize as many times as you like within its ten days.
While all this works well enough, the interface makes it occasionally confusing. Navigation is inconsistent, with multiple ways of displaying your current location in the system, and stepping back to the previous page. Options aren't always where you would expect them to be. Menus don't always have their own scroll bars, allowing some options to apparently "disappear" off the top of the list. We soon learned how the system worked, but these issues meant we never felt entirely comfortable.
We also ran into a problem with the temporary subdomain Gandi had allocated us (<id>.testing-url.ws), when Chrome warned us that it had been reported for phishing. Presumably this was due to the previous owner abusing Gandi's trial to get ten days of powerful hosting for free. It wouldn't matter much with a production site as we would be using our own domain, but if Gandi's trial attracts a lot of scammers, it's possible that more of its IPs and resources will appear on security blacklists.
Cloud hosting can be complex, so it's important that a provider offers decent support. Gandi's control panels don't provide much help in the interface, and there's no always-visible Help button, but a left-hand sidebar has Support and Documentation options which will point you in the right direction.
Gandi's web knowledgebase looks much like any other. Articles are organized into topics (Domains, Hosting, Billing, more), choosing a topic displays the most popular results, and there's a search engine to help you find specific answers.
Most of Gandi's content is targeted at experienced users. If you're looking to update your name servers to redirect a domain, for instance, HostGator offers tailored instructions for fifteen popular domain registrars. Gandi just has lines like "when linking a root domain (e.g. example.com), you'll have to create A and AAAA records", and leaves you to figure out the detail yourself.
We tried running keyword searches and noticed several issues. The search engine appears to search the entire website, not just support articles, so for instance some results pointed to website sidebars. Some of our searches returned both French and English-language results, and these weren't always very relevant to our keywords. Entering 'WordPress', for instance, got us articles like 'Console SSH d'urgence sur Gandi Simple Hosting', 'CNAME Records' and 'The Varnish cache system' in the top 5.
These aren't necessarily fatal errors, and if you've some knowledge of hosting, you'll find your way around. It's just a little more awkward and time-consuming than with something like cPanel.
If all else fails, you can send a message to the support team. At least, that's the theory. We've seen plenty of customer reviews complaining about Gandi taking an age to respond, and not delivering much when they do.
We only review hosts on our own experiences, though, so we sent a simple test question (how can we view our server error logs?) via the website's online form. This seemed to work, but on posting the message, redirected us to a page which didn't exist, and displayed a Return to the Home Page button which didn't work.
Some 28 hours later, a very brief response arrived. This didn't specifically answer our error log question, instead pointing us to the general support document for Gandi's control panel, which itself didn't spell out the solution in detail. We would still figure it out in a real-world solution by going to the control panel and checking out the log options, but if someone has asked support for advice, we would hope to get a more personalized and detailed response.
Lots of small issues and annoyances, but good value in some situations, and maybe worth a look for experienced users who are looking to host a lot of websites.
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