In the past few months, I had heard a lot about Cloudways, a Managed Cloud hosting provider for WordPress. Back in 2011, Cloudways was founded by 4 guys, Pere Hospital, Aaqib Gadit, Uzair Gadit, and Umair Gadit as a Platform as a Service (Paas). It’s based in Malta, with additional offices in UAE and Spain.
People have been greatly appreciating about their cloud hosting service for WordPress, and I couldn’t refrain myself to take an in-depth review of Cloudways WordPress hosting. Fortunately, Subhan Alam at Cloudways was kind enough to provide me with a fully loaded Cloudways account to test their cloud services. And I took no time to come up with this Cloudways WordPress hosting guide.
Now before we begin this Cloudways WordPress Cloud hosting review, I want to clarify all your doubts regarding what is Cloud hosting, how it’s different from your typical shared or managed WordPress hosting, and the actual difference between Cloud hosting vs Managed Cloud WordPress hosting and all the possible advantages of hosting your WordPress site on the Cloud.
What is Cloud hosting
In simplest terms, cloud hosting is a group of several unlimited physical computers acting as one system. Your typical shared or dedicated hosting is depended only upon single machine, whereas cloud hosting is backed by many servers. Moreover, Cloud hosting also allows easy integration of various extra resources such as, HDDs and RAM.
How Managed Cloud hosting is different from typical WordPress hosting
I’ve been literally advocating Managed WordPress hosting since its inception, because of number of performance advantage it offers over the previous dedicated or VPS hosting servers. However, this Cloud WordPress hosting is a step ahead of our beloved Managed WordPress hosting. Now let me tell you how :-
Much more reliable – It happened with me in the past, when you choose to host your site on a VPS, which is equally shared between other users, and resources are limited. In fact, even if you’re on a dedicated server, everything goes well, until your site starts hitting sudden traffic surge, with limited single shared server resources your site is bound to break, even if you ask your host to increase the physical resources, it’ll take more than an hour in any case.
On the other hand, if you choose to host your site on a cloud hosting, your site can theoretically easily sustain any amount of traffic, all you need to do is click on scale option, and select the desired amount of resources. Within few seconds, the increased resources will be deployed, causing no site failure in sudden traffic spikes. Some Cloud providers, even allow auto scaling of resources, with no manual intervene.
Zero downtime – Since the typical WordPress hosting relies on a single physical server chances are high that if something went wrong, your site will experience down time. Whereas, the cloud hosting utilizes many servers, which behaves as a server farm and since this is a cluster of many servers, hence even if few servers break down your site will remain up, thanks to the number of connected servers, which acts as one.
Complete control – When you pick any traditional managed WordPress hosting you’ve little to no access to the server and everything is handled by the provider, which is a good thing in my views as I don’t want to fiddle with servers. While, if you’re on a Cloud hosting, and you’ve the zeal to configure your own server then, you’ve got complete access to your virtual machine, you can control what OS you want, what caching technology you want to install, it’s all upon you.
In case of Cloudways, primarily for “non-server” users, you don’t need to configure server on your own, you can simply opt for pre-optimize WordPress installation, and within few clicks your WordPress site will be up and ready.
Flexible billing, hence relatively affordable – With your traditional WordPress hosting you are billed monthly or annually with fixed plans, so that means no saving. Whereas, with Cloud hosting you only need to pay whatever resources you use. Additionally, there’s an option to choose billing on hourly or monthly basis.
Like in case you want to temporarily create a WordPress site for just a week, you can simply choose the plan to bill on hourly basis, and avoid the excess payment by getting billed for an entire month in an advance.
Difference between Cloud hosting and Managed Cloud hosting
The major difference between a cloud hosting and a managed cloud hosting is the “dedicated 27×7 support, and host of custom features,” which are absent with a typical Cloud hosting provider such as DigitalOcean.
I knew about Cloud hosting since a long, and I even tried to use DigitalOcean to host my sites, the performance was amazing but, DigitalOcean offers IaaS (Infrastructure as a service.) That means you’re provided with access to your virtual servers, a dedicated dashboard with access to various tools to manage your server.
However, when you try to set up your site on these typical Cloud hosting provider, it requires a lot of technical knowledge and it consumes a lot of time to optimize your site’s performance. Plus, these cloud hosting comes without any support and you’ve to rely on community for all kind of help. If you’re not familiar with managing servers, then it’ll be hard time for you to optimally run your site. After all, chances are high that even if you execute a wrong command, you’ll end up crashing your website.
On the other hand, Cloudways is actually a bridge between the other major cloud hosting providers such as Digital Ocean, AWS, and Google cloud platform. You can choose the same cloud hosting from DigitalOcean, or several other top-notch IaaS providers such as VULTR, Google Cloud, Amazon Web Services, and Kyup.
Once you choose your plan, Cloudways will take care of everything. With the addition of dedicated human support, and numerous custom enhancements, you’re going to leverage the most performance out of same cloud server. In short, if your’e not a system administrator alike me, then you’re bound to fall in love with Cloudways.
How Cloudways WordPress Cloud hosting is different
Cloudways Cloud hosting comes with nearly all the perks of a Managed WordPress hosting, except the fact that you need to install your WordPress site on your own. Configuring server and installing WordPress at Cloudways is fairly easy, all you’ve to provide is basic details and your site will be up within few seconds.
- Top-notch Cloud Infrastructure
- Freedom to choose from 25+ datacenter location
- Single click cloning
- Single click backup & restore
- Single click scaling
- Staging area
- Include your teams
- Platform level firewalls
- 24×7 human support
Cloudways plans and pricing
Well, the pricing is highly varied at Cloudways as it depends upon the Cloud provider you choose, the plans starts at low as $0.01/ hour or $7/month up to $2.74/hour to $1,973.68/month. All in all, there’s a plan for everyone, be it a seasonal WordPress blogger or even if your blog
Cloudways WordPress Hosting review 2017
In order to use Cloudways, you need to first create an account with them, they also provide a free 3 day trial to let you test all the features and services, without being charged a penny.
I like the way Cloudways, neatly tried to display all the information and options, without actually confusing the user.
There’s a top navigation section, inside the dashboard –
- Servers – It lists down all the active server instances associated with your account.
- Applications – Here you can find all the applications installed on all your servers.
- Team – Cloudways allows team members to work together on a project, so this sections shows all the team members.
- Projects – You can manage any number of projects, it surely helps to manage your work better, in case if you’re running many sites.
- More – It offers a CloudwaysBot, an intelligent virtual assistant that gives your personal recommendations and optimization tips. There’s also an option to access the Add-Ons, and if you’re a developer then, Cloudways also offers a powerful API to integrate with your services.
Once you finish subscribing an account with them, you’ll be prompt to setup a new managed application.
For WordPress, there are bunch of options including –
- WordPress with WooCommerce
- WordPress Multisite
- WordPress with no Cloudways optimization.
It’s advised to choose the appropriate copy of WordPress installation, for instance if you want to launch a WooCommerce backed store, then choose WordPress with WooCommerce.
Next you need to choose your Cloud provider from the list, it can be any. However, I had chosen DigitalOcean for now.
You also need to select desired amount of resources you want your server to be equipped with. I had selected a modest 2GB of memory, which will be enough to handle over ~1,00,000 visitors a month.
You also need to select the location of your server, since this is a cloud hosting setup therefore, the data centers are located globally and you’re allowed to choose the server located near to your targeted audience.
For instance, if targeted audience for my website is the USA, then I’ll select server location anywhere in the states such as New York or San Francisco. Once you’re done with the selection,now you can hit the “launch now” button.
Though, it’ll show that it may take around 7-10 minutes to deploy the server, but it finishes the task in mere 2-4 minutes.
Once your server is created, the selected WordPress application will be automatically installed on the server. On the right side it shows the total number of applications installed on this individual server, number of projects associated, and members allowed on this server.
The very first tab at the server management is manage credentials which provides all the login credentials for accessing the server of SFTP, and accessing the SSH. Interestingly, there’s also an integrated SSH terminal, in case if you don’t wan to use Putty.
To monitor the server usage, there’s a dedicated dashboard which shows, CPU usage. The second tab, is for monitoring the performance of your applications. They had partnered with NewRelic to provide app monitoring.
There is a handy manage services panel, which shows live status of all the server services such as, Apache, Memcache, MySQL, New Relic, Nginx, PHP FPM and Varnish. At any time, you can control these services, by restarting them, purge the cache, etc.
Cloudways has done a good job by, listing down all the various server-level settings and packages in a single panel. Here you can configure the execution limit duration, max file upload size, max memory allowed for a PHP request, etc.
The advanced level settings allows you to configure, PHP, MySQL, Apache, Nginx, HTTP/2 support. While, the packages tab, lets you decide what version of PHP you want to use, MySQL version, activate Elasticsearch, and Redis.
In case if your IP is blocked by the server for SSH/SFTP access, you can white list it here.
The most renowned feature of Cloud hosting is here, the Vertical scaling. If in any scenario, your site consumes all the available resources this feature comes as an instant savior. All you need to do is, select the desired amount of resources and push the Scale Now button. The server will be shortly updated with the new server resources.
The backup server feature can be personalized, you can configure the server to automatically backup the server with the frequency of every 1 hour to 7 days, you can keep your backup files for 1 week to 4 weeks.
If you want to locally download the backups, then enable the local backup option, and a copy of backup will be saved on your server, every time when a backup script will run.
For imminent backup, there’s also an option, to take server backup now.
The last tab under server management section, lets you configure your own SMTP or allows your to choose the paid SMTP, such as Elastic Email.
Inside the Applications management section, the access details tab is your one stop area to get all crucial information about your WordPress site. You can get the application URL, WordPress admin credentials, MySql database credentials, and you can even add multiple credentials for SFTP/SSH access to the application directory.
Under the domain management, you can define the primary domain for your WordPress application.
Although, an average WordPress user doesn’t uses Cron level features but still, if you’re willing to automate your application cron jobs, then you can add them here.
With the advent of Let’s Encrypt, there’s now a free SSL available for all, so yes even with Cloudways you can turn on a free SSL certificate for your WordPress site by just providing your email and domain name. If you’re using custom SSL, this is the place to configure it.
In case if your WordPress site at Cloudways got broken somehow, this restore feature lets you restore your site with one of the available backups.
For developers, you can deploy your code or any changes to your WordPress site via GIT. You will require to generate SSH keys first.
Typically, it would be hard for you to change the directory name of your WordPress installation. Though, with Cloudways, you can easily change the same using this tab, not just the WordPress directory, you can even change the webroot directory of WordPress.
In case, if you want to disable Varnish caching while testing some new changes on your site, then you can do it from here. There are other tabs, to configure PHP and Varnish settings.
To move your existing WordPress site to your Cloudways server, there’s a dedicated WordPress plugins named as “WordPress Migration.” You can download and install the plugin on your WordPress site, submit all the required credentials and it’ll automatically migrate your site to the Cloudways, within 1-4 hours (depends upon the size of your database and WP-content directory.
Now this is really interesting to me, as sometimes I need to work on projects, as a team. In such cases with other hosting, you need to provide the single login credentials with other members. However, at Cloudways you add any number of people you want to your Cloudways account, as a team.
They can have varied job title, restricted access to your account, individual projects, or even servers, you can grant them permission to only raise support tickets on your behalf and likewise.
If you’re running many different sites, Projects can be really helpful to your work. You can create Projects, where you can group several similar sites together.
Testing the Performance Cloudways WordPress 2017
For me, it doesn’t makes sense to test Cloudways performance, since they don’t actually provide you the hosting, in fact it’s provided by other popular Cloud hosting providers.
The performance at Cloudways is varied by the cloud provider and the server resources you choose. It’s almost like, an Indian saying “the more jaggery you put it, the sweeter it gets.”
Therefore, if you choose a 512 MB server, you’ll get budget performance. If you had opted for a 2GB server you’ll get better performance and your site can handle a good amount of traffic. If you go for best in class providers, such as Amazon AWS, and Google Cloud, then you’ll experience even faster sites with these elite cloud hosting providers.
However, I would still like to test the performance of Thunderstack and server scaling features.
For test purposes, I had installed WordPress (Cloudways Optimized) on a 2 GB DigitalOcean server, located at New York (USA), as well as I had also installed a copy of WordPress, without any optimization on the same server. Let’s see how they both perform.
This installation came with the latest version of WordPress 4.8.1 and you’ll get pre-installed W3 Total cache plugin, along with Akismet and Hello Dolly.
Since, it makes no sense to test the load speed of stock WordPress without any content, therefore I had installed FakerPress and installed some 70+ posts and pages. As, I’ve a neat good amount of experience with optimizing sites with W3 Total cache, within few clicks, I was able to optimize the site and the Google Pagespeed score was already 97 for desktop and 91 for mobiles.
In case, if you’re not aware of how to optimize your site using W3 Total cache for optimal performance, you can use this guide, created by Cloudways.
Cloudways Speed Test #1
Hardware : Digital Ocean 2 GB RAM, 2 Core Processor
Cloudways Optimized WordPress
WordPress version – 4.8.2
Total no of posts & pages – 77 posts / 185 pages
Total no plugins – 1, W3 Total Cache
Theme active – Twenty Seventeen
Cloudways Speed Test #2
Hardware : Digital Ocean 2 GB RAM, 2 Core Processor
Cloudways Optimized WordPress
WordPress version – 4.8.2
Total no of posts & pages – 77 posts / 185 pages
Total no plugins – 6
- Contact Form 7
- Jetpack by WordPress.com
- W3 Total cache
- WP Smush
- Yoast SEO
Theme active – Twenty Seventeen
I know with WordPress, we need several plugins to add wide type of custom features to our respective sites. Therefore, I added few must have plugins for any WordPress site, and in addition to W3 Total cache I had also added few plugins that includes JetPack with all its crucial features turned on, Contact form 7, Yoast SEO, WP Smush, WP-Sweep, and FakerPress being activated.
However, surprisingly! despite of addition of new plugins with increased number of browser requests, and page size, this time site performed even faster and loads under mere 621 miliseconds. All thanks to the Thunderstack tech and dedicated hardware.
Cloudways WordPress Hosting Stress test
So clearly, it’s proven that Cloudways optimized WordPress hosting won’t sacrifice the performance of your WordPress site, even if you’re relying on many plugins. But, what about the stress test? will the site be able to handle lots of simultaneous traffic on your WordPress site? let’s put our Cloudways site on a stress test.
I had set up a simple stress test for our test site with the help of load impact with 50 virtual visitors for 5 constant minutes.
The results were far better than I had expected, 50 virtual unique visitors put no impact on the response time of our test site hosted on Cloudways WordPress hosting remain constant, at around 80 milliseconds, that’s really impressive. Let me clear this again, since this is a cloud platform you actually don’t need to worry about sudden traffic surge if somehow your hits the peak of server usage, all you can do is simply increase the server resources from your panel.
Similarly, my test didn’t encountered any server issues and our test site constantly served all the requests. Hence proven, the Cloudways WordPress hosting provides a solid platform to host your WordPress sites.
For detailed overview of the stress test, you can visit this link.
In the end, Cloudways is all about high-end performance, robust scalability and better grip on your managed server. If you want a modern hosting platform for your WordPress site, that can be scaled within few minutes to accommodate large amount of traffic, then choose Cloudways WordPress hosting. In the past dedicated hardware used to mean that you need to control every aspect of your server, and you should know all technical know-hows about the server but, with Cloudways, it’s no more the same.
If you’re a typical WordPress user with basic knowledge abut the hosting, choose the default settings, which are optimal for the performance of your site. However, if you’re a server ninja, then you’re free to discover with the advanced settings. There’s a dedicated support by Cloudways team, in case if you encounter any issues.
Overall, Cloudways WordPress hosting is for everyone, be it if you’re a novice, pro or server ninja. It’s a modern-day cloud hosting, with options to choose your Cloud from Google, Amazon AWS, Digital Ocean or more. Flexibility to choose your server location, size and multitude of features to add wings to your WordPress sites.
Are you looking to try, the Cloudways WordPress hosting? do let me know your thoughts in the comments below, or if you’re already using their services, don’t forget to share your experience/review with us.Try Cloudways WordPress