These companies used to be kinda the same…but now they’re not.
3 years ago, they were all similarish stack, performance, and pricing. Some differences in UI, business model, vibe and service level…but still mostly targeting the same customer base. Now they’re vastly different companies with totally different product positioning.
Here are some old reviews for comparison (if you’re curious).
- Cloudways vs RunCloud – Managed WordPress Hosting Comparison (UPDATED 2020)
- GridPane vs RunCloud – Managed Hosting Panel Review UPDATED 2020
- RunCloud hosting panel 2020 review
Let’s see what’s changed…
1. RunCloud (is the winner)
RunCloud is the winner. There I said it. If you got more important shit to do, you can stop reading now and just go sign up with RunCloud.
- BEST UI – most mature and cleanest professional-looking panel of all three. Tons of tools and widget-ey things for devs while still usable for noobs. You’re not lost clicking back and forth between the same screens like with Cloudways.
- BEST PRICE – easily the best and most non-obnoxious pricing of all cloud panels. RC is actually cheaper than even many new up-and-coming cloud panel services while despite still being better and with a longer-standing brand name. You can manage 1 server for only $6/month, and unlimited servers for $12/month.
- FAST – RC stack performance is on par with all the fastest cloud panels out there. Of course they all advertise that they’re faster than each other but really the best ones are all the same speed. Maybe 2% difference, tops.
- LITESPEED SERVER – it’s widely known that I’m the biggest fan of LiteSpeed servers, great performance and comes with my favorite cache plugin (LiteSpeed Cache). So obviously, I love that RC has OpenLiteSpeed (and being one of the few to have it).
- FILE MANAGER – hahaha, go look around and see how many cloud panels have a file manager feature. And you’ll see almost nobody’s got it.
- OK SUPPORT – many people say RC support is limited or bad or slow. I’m not sure about all that since it’s always worked for me. But maybe that’s because I’m not having noob issues.
I really love where RunCloud’s future is. Non-gimmicky hype marketing. No overblown promises. Public-facing figures (in FB groups) are professional and helpful. Features are added over time to a mature stack and the product works well. If I was to run my own cloud panel, it’d be like RunCloud.
It’s clean, it’s mature, it works, it’s cheap. A great little service at a great little price. Way more dev-friendly IMO than Cloudways or GridPane. Absolutely no-brainer best option of the 3 for me. And it’s the cheapest one!
2. Cloudways (is ok)
Cloudways is somewhat useable. The pricing is more fair than when they first started and the support is responsive. I used to recommend Cloudways as a safe bet, and while it still works for most people, I find it too buggy for me.
- ANNOYING UI – I’ve been using CW for 3-4 years now? And still find myself clicking back and forth between the same screens. I’m always looking for shit in the wrong places and the screens take forever to load. Things feel slow!
- BUGGY – really shocked how a company this big still has many bugs from time to time. Things like backup don’t work. Or files don’t have the right permissions. What’s the point of having SSH if I still have to bother your support team to do simple tasks? I’m not gonna bother listing the dozen other bugs.
- SLOW – this is really unacceptable. Many things are slow. The UI is slow. The stack is slow. Servers seem to be forever DDOS’ed or bot-ed to death. I won’t blame a cloud provider for dirty IP’s but it just feels like CW servers are always slow and support’s answer is always the predictable “you must upgrade”. Well guess what? I did just that and the speed still sucks.
- FAIR PRICING – the price is alright when the stack works. And I’m sure it works for many people as CW is quite popular. Maybe you’ll have better luck than the 50 times I’ve tried CW over the years.
- GOOD SUPPORT – support does indeed try to be helpful and solve problems. Of the 3 managed cloud panels listed here, CW support is easily the most noob-friendly. You can ask all kinds of dumb questions and their team will be patient enough to answer you.
Let’s face it. Cloudways is only the most popular because their affiliate program is the best-paying of the 3. RunCloud doesn’t give you much, and GridPane didn’t have one for a long time (I think they still don’t?). The pricing was never the cheapest and the stack was never the fastest. I think Cloudways stack and company are both too big (bloated) to evolve with the times. I don’t expect any improvement from them over the years and see myself recommending them less and less, if even at all.
The only reason why I ever recommended Cloudways was because their stack was “good enough” and they offered noob support. If not for the noob support, I wouldn’t recommend them at all.
3. GridPane (is overpriced)
GridPane is too expensive for what you get. The starter plan is $200/month (compared to $6/month for RunCloud). Do you really think you’re getting 30 times the value? Of course not. But GridPane does have customers…so let’s fairly cover what they do right (along with the things I don’t like).
- SIMPLE UI – easy interface with fewer places to click, focusing on what matters most. Makes running servers look easy. I think newbies may prefer GP’s simpler interface. Whereas hardened devs (like myself) may prefer a fuller cockpit UI like with RC.
- FAST – no doubt about it, GP has always focused on speed. GP was the fastest cloud panel stack for a while…but (almost) everybody else caught up now. I like that the panel UI feels fast as well, unlike CW’s bloated ass.
- BACKUPS – this has never been my differentiator in picking a cloud panel but I believe GP has the best backup system? Maybe it allows the most frequent backup intervals or more backup options and locations? Not even sure, honestly. But if you have a very particular need regarding backups, GridPane is for you.
- US SUPPORT – GP support has been reported as hit or miss by many. but personally, I’ve only had fast responses by American devs/engineers so that’s a great thing for me. I much prefer that vibe over the overly-courteous “sir this, sir that” you get from Asian support devs. American support is more like “np, buddy!”.
- HIGH PRICING – GP has clearly marked their territory with a play like this. They only want serious clients with serious server needs. So basically, anyone running less than 10 servers is probably not a good fit for GridPane. Is the price set that high for brand prestige? Cover the higher costs of American support? Pay for affiliates? Avoid bottom-level clients that clog support lines with basic questions? I don’t know. All I know is I literally can’t recommend them to 99.99% of people out there.
- MISSED FEATURES – when you’re priced that high, you definitely need more features to justify the cost. And I’d say GridPane doesn’t have them. The most important features in GridPane can also be found in their competitors. And I often hear the unique promised stuff by their roadmap is missed or delayed.
- UNPROFESSIONAL FOUNDER – GP’s founder (Patrick Gallagher) is widely known as a mean person or at the very least a “speaks his mind” type of guy. God forbid you ever say anything unsavory about his service, you’re not only going to be personally (and publicly) attacked by him but he also likes to incite mob-shaming. Not a big deal if you silently use the service. But definitely a problem if you like to post honest opinions in public, or want your criticisms heard. Patrick is quick-tempered and easily ego-defensive about his business…so beware!
GridPane appears to me like a company without a rooted identity. In the 4 years they’ve been operating…I’ve watched them jump back and forth from one business model to another. Constant price changes, website redesigns, LTD sales, customer re-targeting, hosting masterminds, and decision switching on many things. (With the product being mostly the same the entire time.)
One could see this as a company being extremely agile and rapidly adapting to the market. Or you could see it as a company re-releasing its product repeatedly because it didn’t make its expected market impact. After all…why would any successful business/product switch its marketing so many times? (Nobody dares to change what works, right?)
All this tells me GridPane is more focused on profits than actually being the best cloud panel. Which isn’t a crime by any means (they are a business after all), but I’d worry about customers getting alienated in the future because they don’t fit GridPane’s profit-strategy.
4. What about the other stacks?
Every time I write one of these pieces, I get annoying comments asking about other services I didn’t list here. They’re not listed because they haven’t made enough impact to be compared. Could they be just as good, or even better? Absolutely. But I don’t cover them in this guide because they’re not at this level yet. Not fast enough, not enough features, not enough proven customers, or not enough differentiation in some other way.
But I already know some of you will insist on asking anyway.
- “But what about _____? Is _______ better than RunCloud?” *whiny ass voice*
NO. RunCloud is the best cloud panel right now for me. And if one day I change my mind…I’ll let you know right here on my site. And until I change my mind, this is my answer.