An Honest Web Hosting Review in 2013: GoDaddy vs. Bluehost vs. InMotion

One of the most difficult decisions to make when launching a website is which company to use to host it.  If you look at online hosting reviews, you’ll see so many horror stories for even the most highly-rated shared hosting companies.  Often these are due to user error or disgruntled customers who flame the company because they were treated badly when their credit card expired or they had no clue what they were doing.  How many of these horror stories are actually represent important things like server reliability and speed?  How do you separate the capable reviewers from the disgruntled clueless ones who blamed their own failures on the hosting company?

Since I am a web developer, I’ve had the opportunity to try a variety of hosting companies, and hopefully I know the difference between when I mess up and when it’s my hosting company’s fault.  Here are my experiences with shared hosting on Go Daddy, Bluehost, and InMotion. Note that I’m talking about their shared hosting products (not VPS).

Go Daddy

Let me start with the largest and most hated company there is in the web development space: Go Daddy.  Developers tend to hate big corporations, but the reasons for the hatred of Go Daddy go well beyond that, with their misogynist advertising campaigns, support of SOPA (later withdrawn), and bad publicity like the photos of their CEO, Bob Parsons, shooting an elephant.  So, there is a tremendous amount of hatred for Go Daddy online, but not always for reasons that have to do with their services.

I signed up for GoDaddy years ago, before I was a professional web developer, before I knew about these things.  They were big, and I had heard of them, so I went with them.  They were actually fine for a long time, with only say, one or two outages per year that I noticed.  Then, in mid 2012 and early 2013, things went downhill fast.  My sites started to become really slow.  I’m talking, twenty-second load times or more at times.  It seemed to be related to sites with MySQL databases (i.e., WordPress).  My pure HTML sites were okay.  Then, they lost one of my databases (completely their fault).  They said they’d restore it in two days, but it took a week.  At this point, I was shopping for a new host.

A few months went by, and then something miraculous happened.  All of my GoDaddy sites sped up immensely, going from twenty second to four second load times!  I don’t know what they did, but they got their act together.  I have not noticed any downtime this year either! Their uptime has been impeccable. I don’t show a Pingdom chart, because it would be flat at 100%!!

Go Daddy’s customer service is actually not bad.  I can actually get them on the phone when I need to.

But, in spite of their improvements, I can’t recommend them to some of my clients because they would not want to be associated with that company.  I work with a lot of nonprofits, like an animal adoption organization.  Can’t use Go Daddy for them.  Churches?  Not with Go Daddy’s advertising campaign.  On top of that, their bad reputation will make any decision to go with them questionable if the slightest thing goes wrong.

So, here are my ratings for “the new” Go Daddy (after mid 2013), on a scale of 1-5 stars, 5 stars being best:

Speed ★★★★
Reliability ★★★★
Control Panel Ease of Use ★★★★
Customer Service ★★★★

Before mid 2013, my ratings for Go Daddy would have looked like this:

Speed
Reliability ★★
Control Panel Ease of Use ★★★★
Customer Service ★★★★

InMotion

With Go Daddy unusable for many of my clients for ethical reasons, I was hoping that InMotion would be my savior.  They are based locally, have good reviews online, and have not done anything stupid to mess up their reputation.  I signed up one of my clients with them and was impressed with the site load speed.  Really fast!  Then, crazy stuff started to happen.  I had the site go down for about an hour the first week.  Then again the next week.  I called and they said they were working on it.  I put it on Pingdom monitoring and noticed short periods of downtime here and there.  I requested they move the site to a new server, which they did after a few days, but that has had the same uptime problems.  I’d say the server is down for about an hour per month for me.  Here is the my Pingdom log for 30 days for a site hosted on InMotion (this is typical in my experience):

inmotion downtime

Here is the next 30-day period on Pingdom, just to prove these outtages are chronic. Note the second outtage was scheduled maintenance to fix the problem. Obviously, it didn’t work, because I had over 100 minutes of downtime a week later:

stc_pingdom_october_2013_small

I talked to one of the InMotion representatives at a WordCamp, and he claimed that their servers had been up for 100% of the time this year.  Maybe there is some difference in how we define “up”, but I know for a fact that my InMotion site was down many times this year, and I have the logs to prove it.

Their customer service is okay.  Someone in the U.S. is available to talk to 24 hours a day, which is great.  My phone wait times have ranged from a few minutes to almost an hour, which is not so great.

I really really want to like InMotion, but their reliability isn’t good enough for me, as of the writing of this article.  I really hope they improve, because their servers are the fastest of the three companies!  Here are my ratings for InMotion:

Speed ★★★★★
Reliability ★★
Control Panel Ease of Use ★★★★
Customer Service ★★★

Bluehost

With InMotion’s uptime being unreliable, I tried Bluehost after getting a lot of personal recommendations.  Of course I’ve seen their ads, and they have good online reviews, but I have heard more and more horror stories lately, and wondered if they were getting overwhelmed by new users signing on.

I signed on a client, and immediately I liked their website interface.  Out of the three services I tested here, I’d say it was the easiest to use.

Unfortunately, my WordPress site on Bluehost was slow.  Much slower than Go Daddy or InMotion, by far.  Take a look at the next section to see my real-world test results.

After a few months, I discovered another problem.  My Bluehost sites would go down a few times a month for up to an hour at a time, similar to Inmotion.

Bluehost has an easy-to-use email forwarding service, but that has been flaky as well, with some messages delayed or dropped, as reported by my client.

Overall, I was disappointed.  I really wanted to like Bluehost.  But, with these results, I can’t recommend them either.  Maybe things will improve.

Here are my ratings for Bluehost:

Speed ★★
Reliability ★★
Control Panel Ease of Use ★★★★★
Customer Service ★★★★

Load Time Shootout

I used Pingdom to measure the load time of a WordPress site on each of the three hosts.  Note that the sites are not the same, so we are not exactly comparing apples to apples, but I believe the general trend here is accurate.  Higher numbers are bad.  The last point on the chart is the average.

load time shootout

As you can see, Bluehost loses when it comes to load times.  InMotion was best, with an amazing 1.91 second load time.  Go Daddy wasn’t bad at 4.24 seconds.  Bluehost was dismal with a 15.16 second load time average.  If you remove the 40 second load time as an anomaly, then you still get an average load time of 8.8 seconds, nothing to be proud of.

The Winner

So, with their reputation so terrible, you might be surprised and dismayed to hear that Go Daddy is the overall winner of this shootout.  Hopefully they will clean up their image, because honestly their service is really good now and I use them for all of my personal sites (including this one).

I recently attended a WordPress meeting where some of the pros recommended the following companies for shared hosting:

For WordPress hosting, many of the pros recommend WP Engine.

What have your experiences with hosting companies been like? I’d really like to hear your experiences, even if, and especially, if they different from mine!!!! – Brian



14 thoughts on “An Honest Web Hosting Review in 2013: GoDaddy vs. Bluehost vs. InMotion

  1. I have nothing but success with Godaddy. I’m a designer that has hosted with them for over 12 years, and really had no problems. I host and buy domains through them for all my clients and myself. Not sure if I am setting myself up because of that, but knock on wood, so far so good.

  2. I have been testing on and off for the last year using Pingdom and I was shocked to find that my friends sites hosted on GoDaddy were getting nearly flawless service while my sites on Bluehost were down often and had poor response times. I’m going to be opening a GoDaddy hosting account to continue experiments with my own sites, but I won’t be advertising this – they truly do have some ridiculous advertising that doesn’t help them clear up their bad re with web hosting community. Pingdom is the real thing – definitely very enlightening.

  3. Great post. I am glad to hear that Go daddy’s hosting services have improved. I signed up once with them over 10 years ago and received such a bad service that I had to switch to a different company in the same week. If I remember well, Go Daddy was operating more as a reseller back then.

    As for Bluehost, I have had several accounts with them for more than 8 years. Things were so great that I recommended them to all of my clients. However, the past year and half, their services, from down time to slow servers, have been awful. I had to close many of my accounts that I had with them because, as a reseller, I was losing many clients due to their slow servers. I still have one reseller account left which I hoped to close next year.

    I have used many hosting companies in the past, including Jushost, hostgator and Lunarpages. The one that I have been most happy with is Hostgator. I still have accounts with hostgator and Lunarpages. I had to close my only Justhost account because they suspended my account without warning due to too much traffic(I still wonder about that traffic. It seems that it could not be replicated). I also had a dreamhost account once. I don’t remember why I don’t have them anymore.

    1. Hi Obed,

      Thank you for sharing! It is interesting to see that you had a very similar experience with Bluehost (slow servers, down time). As I write this, my client’s Bluehost site is down…

      Thanks for the tip about Hostgator. I’ll try them out!

      Thanks,
      Brian

  4. It’s always nice to come across honest and genuine reviews such as your Brian. I am using Rochen and LighningBase but have a couple of sites I’d like to tuck away on cheaper hosting for now and have been look at going back to Godaddy for this!

  5. I’m using RoseHosting.com for my hosting needs. Their servers are pretty fast and the tech support is second to none. I can highly recommend them to anyone looking for a reliable hosting provider.

    1. Hi Jacob,

      Thank you so much for this tip about RoseHosting! They look very good. Do people need to know how to use the Linux command line and how to install Apache to use their managed virtual servers, or can everything be done from the control panel and ftp?

      Thanks,
      Brian

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