Head-to-head comparison between these modern panel providers!
Both are incredible solutions for anyone wanting to manage their own webserver but without server configuration knowledge. Both are comparable in pricing, features, and performance but do vary enough to cater to different use cases.
I’ll go over their features and drawbacks (if any), as well as my personal opinions on the use cases they fit best.
Buckle yourself in as the control panel stack market is now moving faster than ever!
History of both companies:
I’ve been a fan of both for a while. Both are quality hosting options with some notable differences from each provider.
RunCloud – company background
A highly respected team from Malaysia that took the webhosting world by storm. It’s known for its open-source community vibe as it entered the market established by ServerPilot and now-revived EasyEngine. RunCloud was cheaper-priced, had more features, friendlier-UI, and even better performance compared to ServerPilot.
I think most people like RunCloud for it’s superiority to ServerPilot (who was superior to EasyEngine). The company has a nice vibe, the design and UI look very clean and sexy while offering all the fancy features that developers want. The pricing was extremely attractive as well. The only thing holding back RC was probably that they were out of Asia instead of USA or Europe but their product continues to impress. The panel and hosting stack is mature and everything runs really smooth. No weird issues or growing pains.
I feel they are officially the standard by which all managed hosting panels are judged today. Everyone else is compared to them, maybe different in features or in the stack or in the pricing. They’ve got a great team and again, I love their community vibes.
GridPane – company background
An American grassroots hosting company that I first noticed on Facebook Groups for hosting experts. It’s inspired by Webinoly, one of the many performant community-driven stacks available, but wrapped in a dead-easy-to-use UI. Its pricing, features, and UI were very much comparable to other existing options on the market if not better.
Upon first hearing about them, I thought they were another “me too” company selling a fancy UI over a managed stack they copied from somebody else. I was fortunate enough to have Patrick (their founder/head-developer) reach out to me and so grateful that he did as I was wrong about their service.
Other companies in the managed hosting panel market
It wouldn’t be fair to speak on these two companies without a little background on others.
- EasyEngine – the first “stack” to go mainstream (at least that I know). Back in those days, we didn’t have any fancy managed hosting panels. It was sys-admins mostly provisioning servers from scratch. As the VPS market took off (making higher-resource servers more attainable), server admins everywhere started using install scripts to save time. EE was one of the popular community-supported install script. Unfortunately, it was still too technical for many end users.
- ServerPilot – basically improving on EasyEngine’s community offering and making it a paid service. Instead of you having to stay updated with EasyEngine, you could simply install ServerPilot and let their panel automatically manage updates and whatever other new features you might need.
- RunCloud, Cloudways & other “managed hosting panels” – then came on the market, adding more features and further establishing this niche industry.
- WPengine, Kinsta & other “managed hosting services” – then came out with their own stack and panel, adding tech support, and packaged it all together as a “premium managed webhosting service”.
The main difference between “managed hosting panels” and “managed hosting services”:
- Managed hosting panels – let you pick whatever backbone provider you want (DO, Linode, Vultr, etc) and they don’t offer any tech services regarding webhosting. Their pricing is for their stack and GUI only. They’re a great option for developers who know what they’re doing and simply want an easier way to manage many servers.
- Managed hosting services – offer tech support but also control the backbone layer. Their pricing includes the server fees and is therefore higher. Their pricing is also more expensive as they don’t let you have your own VPS, you’re on a shared server. Your panels are also less cluttered with less features, making them easier to use (although limited for developers/experts). Their plans are better for non-techies upgrading from shared hosting and not want to see anything about server management.
RunCloud vs GridPane – Comparison
- RunCloud – developers/sys-admins managing high-performance websites for themselves or clients. But also needing a helpful development environment to build new sites.
- GridPane – more for end users and regular people trying to manage their production sites.
- RunCloud – offers both NGINX-only (faster) and Apache-with-NGINX (allows htaccess). I like that they offer both although I’m not happy with their hybrid Apache/NGINX stack performance so I’ll never use it.
- GridPane – only NGINX. Which is fine for most sites, IMO.
- RunCloud – is fast. But can be faster once you setup caching.
- GridPane – is faster! Right away with just blank default installs….comparing RC-NGINX to GP-NGINX, I could see that GridPane was clearly faster. I was shocked about RunCloud’s performance to be honest; I was expecting more from their NGINX-only stack. Sure, I could have done more testing and tried more complicated configurations but that was enough for me. Do note that GridPane’s stack has caching activated right off the bat whereas RunCloud doesn’t. GridPane’s stack has way more load capacity as well.
- RunCloud – has everything you need.
- GridPane – has everything PLUS a whitelabeling option coming out soon. This is a huge benefit if you plan to give clients control panel access.
User Interface (UI):
- RunCloud – has more areas to click on, full of features/settings. Feels mature. A dream for developers working on projects.
- GridPane – cleaner and much simpler. Nice features and quickly jumps you straight into your sites. I think non-server guys will prefer GP as they’re only working with live production sites.
- RunCloud – feels easier to use if you’re a server guy and love fiddling with settings regularly.
- GridPane – feels easier to use if you want to just get to work straight on your WordPress site and never mess with server settings.
- RunCloud – has the edge since it feels more mature. Many options neatly laid out. Much more polish.
- GridPane – also works just fine. But I’ve had a few scenarios where things didn’t work and I had to wait 4-12 hours for response from support. There’s a few comments on FB suggesting GridPane isn’t yet mature and ready for production that I think are very fair. I’m sure they’ve improved a lot since these comments were made.
- Both RunCloud and GridPane were very easy to set up. RunCloud, I had a slight snag trying to get into SSH to connect the server. If you’re a linux guy or very savvy with the command line, RunCloud will be no problem for you.
- GridPane, I had no issues getting the server up but then the site wouldn’t work until I contacted support. It was a minor issue and they assured it would never happen again. For non-techies GridPane will definitely be easier to get started.
- Keep in mind that you only have to set up a server once and that’s it!
- RunCloud – professional, feels more mature. They don’t officially offer support but their stack is reliable enough that you wouldn’t need it.
- GridPane – has great support, friendly and helpful. They are more personable and more likely to go out of scope to help you.
- RunCloud – has a free plan that isn’t much use because it doesn’t include SSL. Their paid plans start at $6.67/month (1 server) and $12.50/month (unlimited servers).
- GridPane – has an awesome fully-functioning free plan that allows 1 server and 10 sites. Their paid plans start at $30/month (unlimited servers) which is still very reasonable to me.
The verdict – RunCloud is mature (developer-friendly), but GridPane is faster (user-friendly)
Really tough call. Depends on what you’re looking for. If you want a really mature environment that works and very developer-friendly, RunCloud is the pick. If you want something more simple and clean, and more “supportive” I think GridPane is better. GridPane was a little faster for me as well.
My best advice is to try their free plans and pick the one with the UI you like more. Workflow is the difference for me between these two rather than performance. If all you got is a few simple sites and nothing else, GridPane seems like the better pick.
If anybody asks me today which one is better, I’m gonna recommend GridPane for less-savvy WordPress users and RunCloud for developers with many open projects.
For those wondering which server provider to pick, I peronsally prefer Linode first and Vultr second. You’re welcome to pick from other options if you like their performance/UI/location/support better.