GoDaddy Responds to HostBenchmarker

Shane Labs August 25, 2014 19

Last week I revealed my new side project – a site that secretly runs performance tests on shared hosting accounts and reports the results. I didn’t get much feedback from you readers, but guess who did contact me – GoDaddy!

Uh oh!

When I first got the email from GoDaddy I freaked. Were they going to be pissed that I was exposing their performance? Was I violating their terms and conditions by sending testing bots to their servers? Was my account about to be deleted – or worse – are they about to sue me?

GoDaddy Email

GoDaddy emailed me – should I be worried?

A pleasant surprise

Actually, what followed was a very pleasant experience.

Turns out they had seen my post on Reddit about them and were curious of my testing methods. They understood I wasn’t going to tell them which server I was on (I don’t want to chance preferential treatment), but I was able to tell them what hosting package I was using, so they could help isolate the issue and work on a fix.

But then what happened shocked me – they put me in touch with another employee (the head of Hosting Research and Development) so that he could assist me testing their servers even further.

Wait – WHAT? They actually want me to be doing this?

This employee, Dave Koopman, not only works to fine tune all the GoDaddy servers and ensure they’re running fast and stable, but he’s also an industry expert in hosting performance (check out his blog). His goal is to better the hosting industry by promoting real performance reviews instead of biased opinions. He sees sites like mine as a challenge – and if I uncover some holes in their performance, he’s ecstatic it was reported and is immediately working on a fix.

GoDaddy’s response to my performance tests

Dave read through how I run my performance tests and offered some input. For the most part he thought it was actually pretty spot on:

“Shane, first I want to say, I am thoroughly impressed by your dedication to your mission. Your use of multiple tools, webpagetest, pingdom, download test, blitz.io, and support response all combined together is awesome. I have a few comments to make, and I hope you take as constructive criticism and not a bash on your method. Your method is the best I’ve seen in the wild and I’m learning from you. I hope you continue to run this and I hope we can stay in touch to learn from each other.”

– Dave at GoDaddy

After I stopped blushing I read through his extremely long, detailed email, and was very impressed. He understood every procedure I was performing, and was quite thrilled with them. He shared some test results of his own that he had performed with Pingdom, Catchpoint, and Gomez (and they weren’t too far off from mine). He also offered a few suggestions, if I was open to making my tests a little more accurate.

Note that through this all I was taking everything he was saying with a grain of salt, as he was someone that could benefit if the tests were changed to benefit GoDaddy in some way. But almost every suggestion he provided made sense and would be more accurate for all hosts, not just GoDaddy.

A few of the suggestions he provided that I particularly liked include the following:

  • Page Speed Test: Do median of 9 runs, not 3 (he heard a study that said 31 is the ideal number of runs, but webpagetest.org limits you to 9). Also think about doing Native bandwidth instead of Cable (I recommend using “Native”, because the bandwidth/latency simulator is less than ideal and when you mix real latency with simulated latency, you get inconsistent results). Finally, to avoid skewing due to server location, perform one set of tests from the west coast, and another from the east coast, and average the results.
  • Load Test: Consider running this from multiple IP addresses to prevent the chance that the server will go into defense mode. (Blitz.io has a setting to do this, just need to figure it out).

I really appreciate those suggestions and will be rolling them out in next month’s tests.

More than support

Just when I thought I couldn’t be surprised any more, Dave did it again: he offered to create and donate a private WebPageTest server so I could take advantage of additional testing features not offered publicly. This included the ability to run batch tests that would increase the number of tests I can run (in addition to automating the process and making it easier for me to do). He also configured it to have multiple testing locations, so I can test from the east and west coast and average the results.

Private WebPageTest Instance

Private WebPageTest Instance

Dave got this set up in less than a day and then proceeded to take time to teach me how to take configure and take advantage of the new testing features. For the nerds that are interested, the WebPageTest web server is hosted on a GoDaddy VPS, while the test agents are spun up as needed via Amazon EC2. This setup will provide no advantage to GoDaddy even though they’re hosting the web server since the testing agents are on Amazon and in very different locations.

Video Chatting

Dave teaching me about the new private WebPageTest instance via video chat

When I use this server next month to run some tests, I will be taking a few precautions to keep the sites I test private. After all, if he set up the server, he could always find out what was happening on it. However, if he does see my list of URLs, figures out which one is hosted by GoDaddy, and attempts to game the system I’ll be able to notice a huge change in results. And if Dave doesn’t have an explanation for that, then I’ll know he had other motives (although I honestly do trust the guy, he seems very genuine).

Impressed by GoDaddy

This whole experience has really changed my view of GoDaddy. I hadn’t really used them before personally, but I’m aware the public perception isn’t the best. Regardless, I’m convinced that their team actually cares about this and is trying to change it. Did HostGator ever care when their servers were unreachable for hours? Hardly. But here’s an employee who is actively looking for problems before they’re encountered and reaching out to make things better. He’s so proud of his team and progress that he wants us to be trying to find problems!

Good job, GoDaddy. Thanks for the testing resources, and thanks for the great attitude. You’ve definitely gone up a notch in my book with your service (although they already ranked #1 in fastest support response time).

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19 Comments »

  1. Ken August 25, 2014 at 7:45 am - Reply

    Being that all my sites are hosted at GoDaddy, I was glad to read this. Like you said, they have had a bad reputaion, but I’ve always been to lazy to switch. After reading this post, I’m pretty sure I won’t change. The sites I have are more of a hobby anyway, so as long as GoDaddy is working toward enhancing their performance, I’m fine sticking with them. Thanks for the info.

  2. Gint Grabauskas August 25, 2014 at 8:21 am - Reply

    Hi Shane, my name is Gint – I head up Software Development (in Hosting) at GoDaddy and can attest to the fact that Dave is the real deal – an expert that cares about performance across the industry.

    You should also know we are working very hard to change the perception of GoDaddy. From building awesome (and fast) products, to how we treat our valued customers, to how we build software (full on Agile Transformation), to how we enable and develop our awesome employees – we are evolving this company.

    Thanks for the post and keep your eyes peeled for more goodness that is to come.

  3. ThingsUnder15 August 25, 2014 at 9:49 am - Reply

    Came here thinking you probably got letters from lawyers. I was pleasantly surprised. Good on you GoDaddy.

    • Shane Labs August 25, 2014 at 12:45 pm - Reply

      Right?! Hopefully I never have to deal with lawyers because of this venture *fingers-crossed*

  4. Damian Nowak August 25, 2014 at 11:20 am - Reply

    One of DNsimple.com’s feature is “The satisfaction of not having to use GoDaddy!” (haha). Seems they are currently working hard on fixing their reputation. That’s good. Helping the unofficial benchmarking is a very good move.

  5. Milt M August 25, 2014 at 11:48 am - Reply

    This is a nice breath of fresh air these days. I was surprised at the response you got and it has also changed my opinion of GD, though only slightly. I was a hosting support agent for a competitor (that had its own problems so I advised against them to my friends). I had a lot of issues with GD’s front line support people’s knowledge/skill which I’m betting is still a problem. Though I suppose that’s a problem at many companies that are trying to save a buck while running a high volume of discounted sales.

    Anyway, I wish you the best and I hope you and Dave keep up the good work!

    • Shane Labs August 25, 2014 at 12:45 pm - Reply

      Thanks Milt!

  6. Dave K August 25, 2014 at 1:02 pm - Reply

    Thanks for the compliments and writing this up. It’s an accurate reflection of the radical shift happening in GoDaddy products, support, ads, marketing and really all areas of the company. We do a lot of in house testing and it’s really helpful to see unbiased 3rd party tests as well. I was happy to collaborate on the testing tactics with you and happy to hear what a positive impact it had on you. I gained some insight too, both the download test for it’s simplicity and the support test for ingenuity. Great job, keep up the good work, and I’ll keep working on making GoDaddy better and better.

  7. BradChesney79 August 25, 2014 at 8:04 pm - Reply

    I ended up switching off of GoDaddy’s servers for two reasons. First, I started as a noob without need or interest in installing PECL features or changing settings in Apache. GoDaddy was inexpensive and I could register my domain name at the same time I was paying for hosting. So, eventually I did need ‘root’ essentially. Then Bob Parsons, cripes. Who shoots an elephant for any reason? So, I’ve been at linode.com (after trying vps.net).

    • Shane Labs August 25, 2014 at 8:56 pm - Reply

      Yeah, I hear you on the elephant thing – although they’ve changed CEOs since then.

  8. Rob Orozco August 26, 2014 at 5:50 pm - Reply

    Dave Rocks! He was definitely I’vefof the greats I had a chance to work with at GoDaddy. I still keep a vps and domains with them and without sounding like a subjective psychofant, they’re always looking to improve their products and lessen the density of their current cluster populations.

    I’m glad there are people like you who test these services and report accordingly. Thanks

  9. ray August 26, 2014 at 7:25 pm - Reply

    How many times did he ask you to renew your service for 5 years?
    I say this as a past employee in the hosting department

  10. GDNinja August 27, 2014 at 7:25 pm - Reply

    @ray lol someone sounds a little bitter… GoDaddy’s hosting department has been doing a good job lately about getting rid of employees who bring down morale and have no ambition so your post doesn’t really surprise me.

  11. Zack August 28, 2014 at 10:23 am - Reply

    Excellent write! Great to hear that GoDaddy was so involved with your report.

    Would it be possible for you to track down the source of the “31 is the ideal number of runs” claim? I am really curious about this and would like to read the source research.

    • Shane Labs August 29, 2014 at 6:57 am - Reply

      Hey Zack – I don’t have any source research, and neither did Dave, he just heard it in a presentation once. Someone on Reddit chimed in with an explanation: “If you are wondering about the whole ’31 tests’ thing, it’s probably as a result of someone taking basic statistics, they often teach (incorrectly) that a sample size of 31 or larger is needed to approximate a normal distribution as a result of the central limit theorem. The truth is, there is no set number, but 31 sounds good.”

      So it looks like this may not be ideal. Before I run my next set of benchmarks I’ll be testing that number to see what I need to get consistent results.

  12. Chérie August 29, 2014 at 8:47 pm - Reply

    Hi Hosting Gurus,

    This thread has been a fabulous read! I know Dave and have experienced his awesomeness. Thank you Dave for your vast knowledge on how to make websites fast.

    Thank you Shane for the thorough review.

    Chérie

  13. kms September 12, 2014 at 11:47 am - Reply

    Great stuff btw. I was wondering about this…

    “However, if he does see my list of URLs, figures out which one is hosted by GoDaddy, and attempts to game the system I’ll be able to notice a huge change in results. And if Dave doesn’t have an explanation for that, then I’ll know he had other motives (although I honestly do trust the guy, he seems very genuine).”

    The September results show GoDaddy with a HUGE change. Gaming or not?

    Hmmm.

    • Shane Labs September 12, 2014 at 12:48 pm - Reply

      I thought the same thing! Although when I looked into it further it’s just the page speed test that they did better on. Other tests they’re still behind on (like download and stress/load). I have exercised great effort to keep my url’s private, so I’m pretty sure he doesn’t know them. I’m going to assume it’s due to the fact that I changed the way I run the page speed test to be more accurate. Perhaps GoDaddy really is the fastest in this category and that’s why Dave originally reached out to me?

      Regardless, it’s something I’m keeping my eye on.

  14. Jim Lockwood November 28, 2014 at 8:26 am - Reply

    I was a GoDaddy customer several years ago for only about three months. That was about all I could handle of the terrible service, constant upselling, and the worse tech support in the industry. Well, I have to say, it seems like the winds are starting to blow in another direction.

    Since the sale of GoDaddy and the new leadership, I have been reading more and more posts like this one that find GoDaddy is turning around. First, it seems the new folks realize that the reputation is terribly tarnished and they have a lot of work to do. Secondly, THEY ARE DOING THAT WORK. I don’t think I’ll be buying any hosting services from GoDaddy in the near future, but I’m going to stop bashing them and will wait to see what happens.

    Best wishes to Dave and the GoDaddy team. I hope you are successful in this challenging turnaround.

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