My honest thoughts on Cloudways managed hosting services!
Cloudways is a premium alternative to traditional VPS or cloud hosting providers and I would say competes directly with Runcloud and Serverpilot. They’re a new-ish hosting company getting popular very quickly by both technical as well as non-technical users. Beautiful service, easy to use, with great support and fair pricing!
I highly recommend it for many reasons:
What is Cloudways?
Cloudways is a managed hosting service that resells other cloud hosting platforms (you choose) and puts their panel/support on it. So you can choose between Digital Ocean, Linode, and a handful of other hardware…Cloudways tacks a fee on top of that…and sets up your server for you so you don’t have to do it yourself (or hire a sys-admin).
Their proprietary panel is really easy-to-use and makes server management fun. Many options without all the scary technical stuff. Everything you can do with cPanel will probably be even easier with their panel. Everything is already nicely configured and tuned for great performance out of the box. They have an easy way migration plugin for WordPress sites. And their support is top-notch, really friendly and skilled.
How does Cloudways compare with other hosting solutions?
Cloudways is more like other “managed hosting” solutions like ServerPilot and RunCloud, where the service is built around the panel and the server configuration. You’re paying them for their panel that sits on top of your own servers. Pricing is determined by the size of your server. You’re free to have as many sites and as much traffic as you want. In terms of features, pricing, and support….Cloudways costs more and considered a more premium/luxury option in my opinion. Performance is comparable.
Cloudways is much CHEAPER than premium WordPress hosting companies like WPengine and Flywheel, where the service is marketed mostly around the speed. In reality you’re paying for a really fast server stack (with proprietary caching implemented), easy-to-use panels, and noob-friendly support. Pricing is determined by how many sites and how much traffic you have. WPengine, for example, charges you by how many visitors you get per month.
In terms of features, pricing, and support…Cloudways is much cheaper, same amount of features, and probably similar support. Although out of the box, Cloudways setups would be a little slower than, you can easily increase your speed with a few server tweaks and cache plugin to be comparable. Best of all, your Cloudways plan would easily give much higher limits.
Cloudways is a middle-ground service right between premium managed-hosting like WPengine and cheap shared hosting like SiteGround.
Some people buy Cloudways to have a VPS with nice control panel and support. Others buy Cloudways to keep low price (like shared hosting) but get higher performance.
This is why we go with managed. No more fooling around with the command line. Give us a great production stack with a few options so we can go straight to creating websites. With unmanaged, you spend a lot of time installing modules, making tweaks, or setting things up. With managed hosting like Cloudways, you set everything with a matter of clicks and never have to worry about some forgotten setting.
- Great control panel – easy to create servers/sites, find settings, add SSL, anything you want. Yes, it really can replace your beloved cPanel.
- Organized settings – I love how they divide control options between SERVERS & APPLICATIONS. So much clearer this way.
- Apache friendly – it uses NGINX (with Varnish) as your reverse proxy but still runs Apache so you can use familiar .htaccess.
- Hassle-free – things just work. I hate to say this but with other hosts or managed panels, sometimes things just don’t work. Setting up a new site doesn’t work. Making DNS edits don’t work. Small mundane things require tech support help to resolve. With Cloudways, you can do all your routine tasks yourself without having to bother tech support.
2. DEV-FRIENDLY ENVIRONMENT
Need isolated sites that can clone and stage quickly? Need access to fast server settings so you can switch php versions, edit mysql, or enable/disable object caching and other modules on a whim? Cloudways interface does this well. Cloudways is the cheapest price you’ll ever pay for developer-friendly interface.
It’s a great cheap environment to work in for client sites…lots of space and plenty of controls. And should you want to host your client sites from Cloudways, their stack is performant enough. If not, you can easily migrate the sites away to your client’s server.
3. GOOD PERFORMANCE
How fast is fast? I’d say their server stack is generally good performance, although not the fastest VPS. (Apache with Nginx/Varnish as reverse proxy, pre-configured VCL and custom setup for maximum speed. Also perfect with their proprietary Breeze Cache plugin.) Most people coming from shared hosting will appreciate the speed boost.
- Apache & NGINX is not my favorite – but it works well and htaccess-compatible. It’s a great solution for people coming from shared hosting.
- Other hosts may be faster but harder to configure if you’re coming from typical shared hosting with cPanel.
- Lighter websites will feel like Cloudways is fast. Heavier sites will feel that Cloudways is slow.
Pro tip: make sure you purge or disable Varnish often during development.
4. RESPONSIVE SUPPORT
Got a question? Hit the chat option and a technical person answers all your questions, I have no issues with this at all! The support is friendly and skilled. But with that said, it isn’t intended for total newbs.
- Chat support responds fast!
- Always available whether I tried in morning or night.
- Support may not be the most skilled but they can resolve most issues right away. More complicated issues require you to wait till the next day.
- They are not meant for noobies and will not teach you how to use WordPress!
5. FAIR PRICING
I love that Cloudways is really fair about their pricing. It’s not cheap but it’s also not excessive. You get great performance, great control panel, AND great service. Anybody on shared hosting should be going with a Cloudways $10/month plan! Huge upgrade in performance and service.
To be honest, I probably still wouldn’t use Cloudways for anything above their $10/month plan because it’s more expensive than what I can manage on my own. Their hardware mark-ups are anywhere from 20-250% (still below market rate, mind you!). For example, their $50/month plan uses a $20/month Linode server. For other managed hosts, you might see something around $80/month for a $20/month server. For the amount of traffic I get, I’d like to have at least a $40-60 VPS.
I prefer to do things myself (with my own sys-admins) but would highly recommend Cloudways for newbies and non-technical users. They’re so easy to use and much cheaper than premium hosts.
6. MULTI-USER ACCESS
This is great if you need to give server or application to team members and clients. Most other managed control panels either can’t do it, or they lock that feature behind a pricier plan. What Cloudways can’t do is reseller billing or whitelabeling the panel when users log in.
7. ANY CONS?
- No cPanel – but they do have their own great proprietary panel.
- No email hosting – but you shouldn’t be using that anyway if you’re a serious business. (Their Rackspace email add-ons are only $1/month.)
- No tech support for newbies – you shouldn’t need this! (Use Google.)
- Not for big WooCommerce sites – if you have a huge bloated store, you need a much more powerful VPS than $10/month Cloudways option.
- Not for scaling – not recommended if you think your traffic will grow quickly. Their stack isn’t performant enough and their pricing is too expensive.
- Performance overhead – compared to VPS, Cloudways stack feels a bit “heavy”.
- Buggy UI – I hate to say this but as of OCT 2019, there are still many buggy issues from time to time. Some services or permissions don’t work. Weird loss of access or rights in SSH. Support can usually fix them but it sucks to have to do that.
- Permissions annoyance – you’ll have to whitelist IP’s, switch between master and app credentials to do any serious work using CLI. Also contact support because some things won’t work. Sometimes it’s a matter of the server, other times because of the UI not letting you into certain areas. Support was always helpful but I hate having to contact them.
- Support reliance – some things simply won’t work and you WILL have to use support since they have full root access to the server. Annoying as heck for true power users.
No review is fair without pointing out flaws or potential areas of opportunity. Cloudways biggest cons are not cons at all. They have a great service at a great price. Now what I CAN tell you is who they aren’t a good fit for.
They’re not good for total newbies, people who don’t have any experience with websites or even cPanel and need everything spelled out for them. Also not good for systems experts, who want root access and access to all server configuration settings. And lastly, not good for people who want the absolute cheapest all-in-one hosting solution including emails!
8. Cloudways Alternatives
Want to shop around? Check out these other players in the same industry niche and price range (actually cheaper):
- RunCloud – one of my favorites. They offer Apache/NGINX or pure NGINX stack. Pick Apache-NGINX combo if you don’t know what you’re doing. Their UI and servers work well.
- GridPane – new company with great founder, great mission. Good people. Their stack is similar to famous high-performance stacks like Webinoly/Kinsta. They’re faster than Cloudways but not quite as easy to use, and sometimes more issues than Cloudways. Not recommended for non-techies.
- ServerPilot – an established panel in this industry. Trusted by many pros. Works well.
Give Cloudways a try!
The main advantage of choosing Cloudways over going straight to a hardware provider (Linode/DO/Vultr) is that they preconfigure what might be a complicated stack to set up yourself. They set up Apache with NGINX/Varnish in front, Memcache/REDIS object caching, and fantastic control panel distinguishing between servers and applications….it’s a performant solution.
Their price advantage is in the low-cost price range ($10-20/month). Most people setting up a server that small would lose the cost savings in setup time and even more money if they need a panel, and they also wouldn’t have support. Most people out there can’t set up a faster/cheaper/easier-to-use server than Cloudways can. With that said, if you want truly high performance, you should look elsewhere.
Their technical advantage is in the dev-friendly environment (staging/etc) with lots of server access and htaccess. Great for developers to go back and forth and work with things without worrying about overly-managed webhosts who don’t give them access toeanything.
Come see why so many people like them. (Happy Facebook reviews.) I wouldn’t have recommended unless I was really impressed. Their Apache w/NGINX (Varnish) is a perfect combo for performance and ease-of-use. It’s a nice mid-step between regular vanilla-flavored Apache that you get with most shared hosts, and the ultra-fast but trickier NGINX.
If you’re using SiteGround at the cost of $12/month (which becomes $30/month after the first year), you’re a great candidate for Cloudways. Their lowest plan starts at only $10/month (using Digital Ocean) and you’d be getting a high-performance VPS, which is faster than SG shared hosting! It’s a much better server/performance.
- Use the free trial: www.cloudways.com
- change your php version to 7.2 or higher
- pick mariaDB instead of mysql 5.x