People who know us or watch our iThemes.tv broadcasts know that we are very anti-GoDaddy hosting. Typically, we keep our commentary about their terrible hosting limited to forum topics, broadcasts, or in-person discussions, but I’ve had enough. I want to call out GoDaddy hosting for their terrible service and support, and I’d very much like to see one of two different outcomes result from this post:
- All our customers stop using GoDaddy so we don’t have to waste our time fine-tuning our code to work around their horrible setup.
- GoDaddy finally gets serious about hosting by improving their servers and server infrastructure, providing users with a real control panel, ceasing to massively oversell their servers (this is why most GoDaddy-hosted sites are so slow), and providing real support that doesn’t answer every problem with “you need to upgrade to a dedicated server”.
Before I start digging into the topic, I’d like to point out that I do use GoDaddy for two products: domains and SSL certificates. Do I think that they are the best in either of those two areas? No, but they are good enough for me, and I would recommend them for those products. It needs to be said though that I am getting very sick of buying a domain or SSL cert from them and having to wade through page after page of upsell offers. I’m sure that upselling is a goldmine for them, but for me, I’m really tired of it. I’m a loyal domain and SSL customer for them, and I don’t want to have to relearn their upsell tricks every time I buy a product from them.
As you can see, it’s very easy to get on a GoDaddy rant. However, this post is much more than a rant. I’m well beyond rant with them in terms of their hosting. The fact is that their hosting is poor, and that costs us and our customers time that could be better spent working on projects that make money or doing something more enjoyable than pulling our hair out. Another fact is that their hosting is huge. I’m sure it’s a massive cash cow for them, which means that there are a huge number of people around the globe paying each and every month for bad hosting that will bite them one day. As a person who spends each day trying to make things work as well as possible for as many people as possible, the fact that they can tolerate selling such a horrible product to so many people makes me ill.
I must warn that this post is quite exhaustive. I wanted to backup my claims and describe why their hosting is poor rather than just saying “GoDaddy hosting sucks,” which it does BTW.
Quality Hosting is Important
First, I’d like to point out that hosting is the single most important factor to consider and monitor when you have a website. If anything goes wrong with your hosting, your web presence is gone. If your hosting support is slow to respond or always blames someone else for your site’s problems, your personal or professional reputation is suffering for it.
For many people, the only thing that matters is price. While price is an important factor to consider, there are more important ones. The following are the most important aspects to quality hosting. If your host is missing any of the following, you need to look at investing your money more wisely to give your site the hosting it deserves.
Each time your site goes down, people can’t get to your site. That means lost sales, lost readers, and/or lost reputation.
Beyond the fact that people can’t get to your site when it is down, there is a loss of time associated with stability issues. If you ever sent emails, created support tickets, started up a live chat, or made a phone call to find out why your site is down and when it will be back up, you’ve lost time due to a site hosting issue.
Imagine that your time is worth just $5/hour and that your amazingly-cheap hosting costs $3/month. If you spend at least one hour a month trying to deal with your hosting company on stability issues, you could spend $8/month on better hosting, better invest that hour+ of wasted time, and not have lost anything.
Just as I’m sure you’ve decided to leave a site if it is slow, other people have done the same. This means that if your personal or business website is slow, you are losing visitors just because your site is slow.
Problems are going to happen. When you have a problem with your hosting, you’re going to need someone to help you out. For most people, the most knowledgeable resource they have in regards to their site is their host. So, if your site’s hosting company doesn’t give you good support, then you are going to have a hard time figuring out problems when they happen.
Why GoDaddy Hosting is not Quality Hosting
The only GoDaddy hosting accounts I’ve worked with were for testing purposes or were client sites. That being the case, I don’t have any personal experience with GoDaddy’s hosting stability (uptime). So, I can’t speak to how stable their hosting is. However, as I wrote about above, stability is only one factor of quality hosting. It is the performance and support areas where GoDaddy’s hosting quality really starts to take a nosedive.
Horrible Control Panel
If you’ve worked with a hosting company before, you’ve probably used or heard of either cPanel or Plesk. Both are control panel software packages created to make managing your domains, sites, databases, etc simple to do directly from the web browser. Rather than using one of these established tools, GoDaddy made their own. While it isn’t unusual for a hosting company to make their own control panel, it is unusual for a large hosting company to spend so much time on making a custom solution that is worse than an off-the-shelf solution.
Want to create a new database, add a subdomain, change your 404 page, add a FTP user, change an existing FTP user’s password, or do things that are typically simple and quick to do on other hosting? No problem, but you’re going to have to wait. How long do you have to wait? It won’t tell you. Some functions tell you up to 30 minutes, but others (databases, subdomains, etc) just say “Pending” until they are done (which can take hours).
Here are some screenshots of what I experienced while trying to do different things in the Control Center. While I just took these, I knew what to expect as their system always does this. This isn’t a random issue, this is par for the course… How it is supposed to work.
- Create a database
- Add a subdomain
- Change the 404 error page
- Create an FTP user
- Change form mailer email address
- Install WordPress
- Enabling SSH is going to be legen… Wait for it…
Check again two hours later because you forgot you were waiting and find out that it’s been so long that you need to log in again…
… dary! Legendary.
Not only are all these waits annoying, none of them tell you when the wait is finally over and you can go about your productive day. It would make a lot of sense to send an email when the database was finally done “Pending” so that I don’t have to sit there for a few hours clicking the refresh button. Of course, it would be even better if the Control Center worked like just about any other control panel and didn’t make users wait for such basic things.
Along the way, you find out that long waits aren’t the only annoyance. Let’s try setting up that new database.
First we find out that there is an arbitrary limitation that the password must start with a letter.
Then we are told that we must use between 7 and 14 characters. Unlike the previous limitation warning, we had to try to save the new database settings before this limitation was pointed out.
Amazingly, the database usernames appear to be global to GoDaddy hosting and not just to the server. So, good luck picking a database name you’ll remember.
Moving on, let’s say I have a site at GoDaddy, and some code broke. I contact a person who can help me (IT guy, software provider, etc), and they ask for an error log to find out what the problem was. You go to your GoDaddy Control Center to get your error log and find that you had to first enable the error log.
Not only that, you also find that every seven days the error log turns itself off. Good luck tracking something that only happens randomly as you’ll quickly forget that the error logging turns itself off. It would make much more sense to only keep the last seven days of error logs or to rotate the logs once a week while keeping four old logs thus allowing for a full month of error log access. But no, that would be too simple and helpful, this is much better.
Want to quickly spin up a test site? Have a site problem and need to give someone FTP access quickly? On GoDaddy hosting, good luck with that. See you next week.
Slow Infrastructure + Slow Servers = Slow Sites
Most shared hosting setups are quite simple. A relatively-powerful server is put together, server software is installed on it (Apache, MySQL, cPanel, etc), and customers are added. Done.
Some hosting setups are quite complex. For example, there are hosting offerings on “the cloud” which means that hundreds or thousands of servers are connected together and all of them together act as an enormous, super-powerful server.
There’s another setup between the two extremes that can offer improved performance if done well. This setup uses one server as the web server that processes code (PHP, Perl, etc) and serves static files (HTML, CSS, images, etc) while another separate server or multiple servers are used to provide the database. The idea behind this type of setup is that the classical setup can have wasted potential by having too high of a web load with a very load database load or vice-versa. Splitting the databases to other servers allows for each server to be tailored for maximum performance for either web or database while keeping the performance high overall.
This last setup is the type that GoDaddy uses. Whenever you create a new database, you must go look at the details once it’s done “Pending” so that you can see the hostname of the database. This indicates that they add new databases to a server that is capable of handling the additional load (at least, I would hope that they balance the load like this). This should mean great database performance for GoDaddy; however, there is that one little caveat. Notice how above I said “if done well”? That’s where the problem comes in. It seems that GoDaddy has not done well with this.
The problem with GoDaddy’s database servers is that they often times are very slow. Either the network that connects the web servers to the database servers has latency (slowdown) issues or the database servers themselves are just too overloaded. It could always be a combination of the two, but I think that the overloaded database servers is the primary problem.
Not every database host seems to have this problem, so it is possible that you could get lucky. The testing server that I’m working with right now seems to get lucky since the database response times are good; however I’ve seen many clients that weren’t so lucky. One customer I worked with had a GoDaddy server setup that took an average of 18 seconds to process all the queries needed to load the front page of a fresh WordPress install. To put this in perspective, when I benchmarked the database performance on my personal HostGator shared hosting account, it took a mere .13 seconds on average to process the same queries.
I contacted GoDaddy support on behalf of the client to see if we could resolve the situation. The told me that they didn’t see a problem on their end. I provided evidence of the problem, and they still shrugged it off. I asked if it would be possible to get the database set up on a different database server as the one being used had issues, and I was told that it wasn’t possible. So, I helped the client migrate away from GoDaddy, and GoDaddy had to refund the $200+ that he had paid in advance for their hosting.
While I haven’t seen any database issues as severe before or since and this was around 2 years ago, the issue and response was very alarming to me. Since that time, I have worked with many clients hosted at GoDaddy that have severe performance issues. Each time I try to resolve the problem by contacting support, I get the same response of “not our problem”. There is actually one other thing that GoDaddy support typically says, but I’ll save that gem for the next section.
To close out the slow server topic, I’d like to say that not all GoDaddy servers are slow. The one I was recently put on when I spun up a testing account was amazingly fast. I checked the hardware specs on the server and found that it was a new dual-quad core system with 8GB of memory. It’s definitely a beefy server, but so were many of the slow ones I’ve worked with. I think that my testing server is fast because few people are on it. Checking the IP Neighbors of the server, produces 2 results. By comparison, most GoDaddy servers I have to help clients with have hundreds if not thousands of other domains on their server. So, it’s clear why my testing server is so fast right now; it’s an extremely powerful server that is mostly empty right now.
Worst Hosting Support I’ve Worked With
This is of course very subjective, but if I, as a person who has the knowledge to manage my own servers with a coding background, have a hard time with support at GoDaddy, I fear most people haven’t a chance. I can identify when support is wrong or ignoring an issue, the average hosting customer can’t.
The main reason that GoDaddy’s support is terrible is because they aren’t really support at all. Essentially, they are an extension of sales. Nearly every single response I’ve ever gotten from GoDaddy support has involved an attempt to upsell me or the client to virtual dedicated or dedicated hosting. In every one of these situations, upgrading hosting above shared hosting would be totally unnecessary if their shared hosting performed as it should.
Remember the client I spoke about above with the massive 18 second average database issue? The first time I contacted GoDaddy about the issue, I was told in order to run such a demanding application that the account would need to be upgraded to virtual dedicated or dedicated hosting. When I explained that it was an install of WordPress with no content, no plugins, and the default theme, support was unfazed and confirmed that the account would need to be upgraded. I gave benchmarking results between the server they provided and one at HostGator, and they still didn’t care. They were adamant that shared hosting simply would not be sufficient.
For a while, I thought that this was a fluke. A bad support person who simply didn’t care to follow through. I’ve since discovered that this is the standard way GoDaddy does business.
Your site is slower than it used to be? Upgrade to virtual dedicated hosting. It’s still slow? Upgrade to dedicated. It’s still slow? That’s your fault. I actually know someone who ran into this exact situation. When the problem first came up and I heard about it, I said that they should leave GoDaddy. Apparently they were already told this by others but for one reason or another stuck with them. They upgraded all the way to dedicated hosting, and their site was still slow. Good job GoDaddy. You got the upsell to $100+ per month and still failed to meet the needs that most shared hosting can meet for $5-10 a month.
BackupBuddy launched 22 days ago, and already support for it has 25 threads that involve GoDaddy. We’ve been working the past three or so weeks specifically trying to figure out how to get BackupBuddy to work on GoDaddy properly, but it’s been challenging. Odd issues such as random 500 or 404 errors and terminated zip process kept haunting me. So, I threw in the towel and contacted GoDaddy support, hoping that they would work with me to figure out what was going on with their hosting that made this so difficult.
So far, this has proved useless. I’ve posted the content of these support tickets on one of my sites so that you can see exactly how GoDaddy support works when a real problem is encountered. Note that on both, my initial support request is below their response. So, read the “Customer Inquiry” part first. Note: This is technical stuff.
The first response is fairly typical and is like a handshake when starting a technical support discussion. The second response gets disappointing. Basically, the second response showed that the support tech either had no idea what I was talking about (in which case the ticket should have been handled by someone else) or didn’t bother to read it at all. The tech said my WordPress plugin was broken because it produced errors (he ran it directly rather than running it through WordPress). He then commented on how their shared servers don’t provide access to Git (even though I never asked about it). Using the Git commentary, he then suggested an upsell to a virtual dedicated or dedicated server. Ah… There’s the classic GoDaddy support that I know and loathe… Ignore the real problem, don’t provide any actual help, and then attempt an upsell.
Another nice bit to notice in that second response from GoDaddy support is how he recommends that I contact the author of the plugin to get support from them. Very funny as I am one of the authors of the plugin and contacted them as the author to make the plugin work with their hosting.
I would love to think that GoDaddy will see this and improve their hosting. Unfortunately, from everything I’ve seen and experienced related to GoDaddy hosting, I believe that they simply don’t care. Their hosting amounts to a cash cow that they grow with their maze of upsell practices when people buy other products. Since people caught by such sales tactics are typically less experienced with web hosting in general, they are also less likely to realize how poor their hosting is.
If you have experiences with GoDaddy (good or bad) that you’d like to share, please post a comment below.
BTW… GoDaddy hosting sucks.