This post is part 3 of my comments on Godaddy’s Managed WordPress hosting platform.
Part 3 will discuss the overall product being offered, now that it is publicly available, as well as some more experiences.
At the time of this post, their pricing structure is as follows:
Starter is $7/month for a single wordpress site with up to 25k monthly visitors
Business is $20/month for up to 5 wordpress sites with up to 250k monthly visitors
Pro is $70/month for up to 25 wordpress sites with “millions” of visitors
Part 1 discusses in more detail how I wound up trying GoDaddy. Briefly, I have a colleague who had a very high traffic wordpress.com hosted domain and he wanted to monetize it, which wordpress.com does not allow. We were looking at hosting options that would not be outrageously expensive, yet would also allow enough bandwidth/visitors to handle a site that routinely gets 350k visitors a month and at times can get more than a million visitors in a few day period. He was offered the Managed WordPress hosting at the $7 / month plan, informed there would be no bandwidth limits. There was also no mention of any limits on the number of visitors.
So, when I saw the product being made public, but with traffic limits on the smaller accounts, I got worried the product would not work for us. As Colby mentioned in the comments at the end of Part 2 of the review, beta testers are going to be grandfathered in to unlimited visitors. While that is very fortunate for my colleague, it isn’t as good of an offer for new sign-ups. Having said that, their prices are still better than the other managed wordpress offerings I’ve seen. For example, WP Engine charges $29 / month for 25k visitors and $99 / month for 10 sites and 100k visitors. The prices go up from there. This seems like crazy high prices if you have a single high traffic blog. So, for people who would consider WP Engine, the GoDaddy product is far more economical, and may be a comparable product. I’ve never used WP Engine, so I can’t really say, but so far the GoDaddy product seems to live up to its claims, but with a few bumps along the way for me.
The most important aspects of hosting to me are uptime and server speed. So far, using Pingdom monitoring every minute, there has been essentially 100% uptime. Over the past 30 days, there reportedly has been 2 minute of downtime total. To me, that is very acceptable.
As for server response times, the Pingdom Response Time report shows an average time of 640ms. Initially, when I was using the Easy AdSense plugin, which prevented proper caching, the page response times were around 1000ms. 1000ms is acceptable, but 640ms is very good. So, overall, current uptime and performance seems very good. I’ll have to see if that continues as the servers get higher loads thrown at them. With properly configured caching, which it seems like GoDaddy continues to improve, they should be able to maintain performance.
As to the bumps along the road. I already mentioned it took longer than I had expected for the nameservers to provision properly when moving the site to GoDaddy. It still was working fine within 48 hours, so I can’t fully say whether it was an issue with GoDaddy or just normal provisioning time.
I also mentioned that the theme editor is removed, but as I explained in Part 2, it is possible to restore it by changing one word in the wp-config file. Based on the feedback during their Google Hangout, it looks like many people are requesting the theme editor to be enabled by default.
I also already mentioned that the Easy AdSense plugin (and other similar ad serving plugins) break through their caching mechanism. Even though I know enough to hard code the adsense code into the theme templates, I find it MUCH easier to use a plugin. Hardcoding also was a bit of a challenge when using the Jetpack mobile theme.
The next bump in the road was when we did a second post, with a high amount of traffic directed to GoDaddy – it turned out the mobile theme was not loading properly. I had spent a significant amount of time to tweak the mobile theme to get the ads showing optimally, as many of the visitors to the site are using mobile phones. Hopefully I’ll get around to detailing how I optimized the mobile theme in a later post, but suffice to say, I was very upset that the mobile site was not loading properly. I called support and they were very nice and somewhat helpful. The person on the phone said the problem seemed to correct itself, but really it was just intermittent. While on the phone, I also wanted her to check and see if we were running into any traffic limitations (the 100 concurrent connections for non-cached content). She said she had one of the engineers check and they reported the site was at around 85 concurrent connections at that moment. She said an engineer would get back to me with more details about whether any traffic was throttled due to the connection limit, and she also said the engineer could explain how they define the 100 concurrent connections. Unfortunately, I never got a response to these questions. I suppose this is the type of customer service complaints that other people have reported with GoDaddy.
I had also sent a support request through the dashboard, and that request did get a response that there was a configuration error that they discovered and corrected. Since that time I have had no further problems with the desktop theme loading when visiting from a mobile phone. I understand these types of issues can be extremely complicated when trying to implement an advanced caching system which has to also deliver the proper mobile theme or desktop theme.
I am pleased to see that it appears they have managed to now get caching to work when visiting from a mobile phone. Using web-sniffer.net I am able to see the header response codes and the headers match the proper caching responses GoDaddy’s system uses. This is very good news as the majority of my colleague’s site is mobile phone traffic. I assume the trend will continue into the future with more mobile phone web traffic. If the majority of the visitors going to the GoDaddy servers were bypassing the caching mechanism, it would mean the server would be much more likely to get overloaded. Also, since the maximum traffic volume limits were set only for non-cached traffic, having everything going through cache now means he shouldn’t run into any throttling based on the number of connections (however they define them).
The last bump in the road was one day last week I noticed that my mobile theme was no longer loading the tweaks I had made to it. It was right after WordPress updated to 3.8.1. Unfortunately, the Jetpack mobile theme doesn’t have the ability to create a child theme. What that means is that when the mobile theme is updated, any changes I’ve made are overwritten, if I don’t use another mechanism for making those edits (like through css or a plugin). It turns out that the Jetpack mobile theme was overwritten with the original code. I didn’t see any update for the Jetpack plug-in, so I have no idea why the files were overwritten. Either way, it turned out to be a relatively easy fix once I sorted out the problem.
Since then, everything has been humming along nicely. Overall, I am pleased with the product. I think the customer support issues will be frustrating at times, but it seems eventually, with enough persistence, you can get your problems addressed by someone knowledgeable. I also am well aware that there will be growing pains and glitches as they introduce new features. For my colleague, though, $7 / month wordpress hosting that has the uptime, speed, and volume of traffic available seems perfect for him. If he had to go with the Pro package, though, I think I would find a more economical option using a semi-dedicated hosting package. As for how the performance would compare, I can’t say as I haven’t gone that route for a high traffic wordpress site yet.