US-based GoDaddy is a hosting giant, the largest in the business, with more than 63 million domains under management and over 14 million customers. But is it the right company for you?
GoDaddy's baseline Economy plan – priced at £5 ($6.10) a month for the three-month plan, £4 ($4.90) a month paid annually, all prices excluding VAT – seems relatively limited, with support for only one website and 100GB of storage. There's a free domain, basic email and easy installation of WordPress and 120+ other applications, but crucially no SSL certificate.
The Deluxe plan – £7 ($8.60) a month, £5 ($6.10) paid annually – supports unlimited websites, subdomains and storage space. You also get up to 25 x 1GB MySQL databases, up from 10 in the Economy plan.
The Ultimate plan – £10 ($12.25) per single month at first, or £8 ($9.80) a month paid annually – doubles your RAM and CPU allocation, and includes Premium DNS (extra security with DNSSEC, maybe better performance and uptime). Ultimate also includes a 1-year SSL certificate, but you'll have to pay the regular renewal fees after that, currently £49 ($60) a year.
GoDaddy also offers various specialist plans and add-ons. Managed WordPress hosting starts at £5 ($6.10) a month, the Website Builder helps you create a website for £5 ($6.10) a month, and a capable eCommerce account gives you a web store, shopping cart and marketing support for £20 ($25) a month.
A 30-day refund 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 is almost 1,500 words).
There are cheaper deals elsewhere, especially when you factor in starting discounts. 1&1's Basic plan gives you unlimited websites and web space along with an SSL certificate for a two-year price of £48 ($59) plus VAT. GoDaddy's Ultimate plan gives you extra performance and Premium DNS, but no website builder, at a cost of £168 ($205).
Still, the costs are much closer in other situations, and opting for GoDaddy brings other advantages. The standard Linux packages use cPanel as a frontend, so experienced users will be at home right away. There's more low-level access to the server, including raw access logs. And extras include a year-long trial of an Office 365 Outlook mailbox with support for mail, contacts and a shared online calendar.
Choose a GoDaddy hosting package and you're generally offered four term lengths: one or three months, then 12, 24 or 36 months. The effective price per month drops if you opt for a longer contract, although not by very much. For example, the Ultimate plan is £7.99 ($9.80) a month for a 1-year contract, £6.49 ($7.90) over 3 years.
The signup page also provides a starter list of add-ons, from site backup and restore to automated daily malware scans, and if your plan includes any free trial products, they'll be selected already (you can remove them from your cart if you prefer).
After paying the bill, you're walked through the rest of the setup process. Essentially this means entering a domain name, choosing the data centre where your site will be located, and creating a cPanel login. You might not be clear about these just yet – maybe you've not chosen a domain, or you're not sure whether your site should be hosted in Europe or the US – but it's easy to change your mind later.
Creating a site
GoDaddy's regular Linux hosting lets you manage your site with a standard cPanel-based frontend. This isn't exactly beginner-friendly, and the custom control panels used by hosts like 1&1 will save novices some time and effort. Time spent learning cPanel isn't wasted, though – it's widely used by many hosts – and if you're familiar with cPanel already there won't be any issues at all.
GoDaddy's core hosting accounts don't include the Website Builder. With prices starting from £5 ($6) a month this isn't cheap, but it also has better content and more features than 1&1's free equivalent. The preview sites are simple but professional, and if you're looking to create something quickly and with minimal hassle it might be worth the cost.
Another option is to use cPanel and Installatron to install a blogging platform, content management or some other web application. We tried installing WordPress and were presented with a lengthy list of technical options, more intimidating than the ‘just type your site name’ approach of 1&1 and some other rivals. But this does mean you get access to important settings that more basic wizards ignore (blog admin, auto-update policies), and these all have sensible default values anyway. If you're not sure what an option means, ignore it, hit Install, and you'll have access to your WordPress console in a few seconds.
GoDaddy offers three levels of support: a searchable web knowledgebase, a customer forum, and an official 24/7 phone support number.
The knowledgebase opens with some very limited FAQs, so for example browsing to ‘Linux Hosting (cPanel) > Troubleshooting’ gives you just three articles, two on FileZilla issues and one on WordPress plugins. But there are plenty of helpful technical articles available, if you understand the technical issues enough to come up with the relevant search keywords.
We like to see hosting companies offer forums, and GoDaddy's can provide some genuinely useful help. But questions aren't seen by as many people as you'd think – maybe 25 a day in some cases, and they're probably also looking for answers rather than trying to provide them. So it may take several days to get an answer, if you see one at all.
We dialled the support phone number instead. Navigating the phone menus is a hassle – enter customer ID, enter phone PIN, choose the type of service you need, choose the question area – but eventually we were given a predicted wait time of 11 minutes (tedious, but some services don't give any time estimate at all). 14 minutes later we were speaking to a helpful support agent, who quickly explained everything we needed to know.
The positive mood continued with our server performance tests, where Bitcatcha’s Speed Checker gave us a speedy B rating (where A is great, through to E which is bad) and WebPageTest averaged only 0.4 seconds for its ‘first byte’. There's no guarantee you'll see the same – there are just too many variables involved – but it's still a good result, especially for GoDaddy's most basic hosting account.
GoDaddy has a wide choice of products, good uptime and decent performance, but you may have to spend a lot on plans and add-ons to get the features you need.