Considering using Cloudways to host your WordPress site? Cloudways offers a unique approach to WordPress hosting that lets you harness the power of cloud computing, without needing any special technical knowledge (that’s the unique part!).
In my hands-on Cloudways review, I’ll dig into exactly what it is that makes Cloudways unique, why Cloudways’ approach gives you more flexibility than most other WordPress hosts, and how it works to host a WordPress site at Cloudways.
By the end of this Cloudways review, you should be able to decide whether Cloudways is the right spot to host your WordPress site(s).
Cloudways Review: Not Your Average WordPress Host
Cloudways does things differently than pretty much every other WordPress host.
Let me explain…
Most WordPress hosts either:
- Have their own physical hardware which they rent to you. On the more budget end, you’ll typically get a little slice of a shared server.
- Use someone else’s hardware, like a specific cloud hosting provider. For example, Kinsta uses Google Cloud Platform to host all their subscribers’ sites. You don’t get to “pick” that — it’s just the infrastructure Kinsta chose.
Cloudways is different because it lets you choose exactly what cloud hosting environment you want to use from five of the biggest cloud hosting providers:
- Amazon Web Services (AWS)
- Google Cloud Platform
What’s more, you have control over the exact resources you get from your provider and can easily scale up or down as needed.
So, if Cloudways isn’t providing the physical hardware, what’s the benefit of using Cloudways over just signing up directly at DigitalOcean or AWS?
Basically, Cloudways configures everything for you at a server level and provides a user-friendly interface that lets you manage and interact with that raw cloud hosting space.
Normally, trying to set up and maintain your own cloud hosting space is super technical. I consider myself pretty tech-savvy for a normal person, and it’s still far more than I could take on. So unless you’re a developer, hosting WordPress yourself on cloud hosting is out of reach.
When you use Cloudways, though, you can still benefit from the flexibility of cloud hosting — you just don’t need any technical knowledge.
Cloudways will properly configure your cloud hosting environment and give you tons of helpful tools such as:
- Built-in caching.
- Lots of security rules and a dedicated firewall.
- Easy one-click SSL certificates.
- Automatic backups.
- Easy staging areas.
Why Not Just Use a Managed WordPress Host?
There are plenty of managed WordPress hosts that use cloud hosting infrastructure and give you those same convenient tools. So, what’s the difference between using Cloudways and using one of those hosts?
A few things:
- Choose your own cloud hosting provider. You can select from any of the five supported cloud hosting providers, whereas a managed WordPress host doesn’t give you any choice.
- No traffic limits. Most managed WordPress hosts put a cap on how much traffic your site can have per month. With Cloudways, there’s no arbitrary cap — it’s based on the exact resources that you use.
- Easy scaling. With a managed WordPress host, you’ll have set hosting plans. For example, the “$35.00 per month StartUp plan”. With Cloudways, though, you can choose the exact hardware you want to use and scale it up or down as needed.
- Pay as you go and no contract. With a traditional host, you’ll pay monthly at a minimum and sometimes you’ll need to pay yearly. With Cloudways, you’ll only pay for what you use and are never locked in — you can even pay hourly if you want!
- Host multiple sites. Want to launch another site? You can either share the same server or spin up another server if you want to give it dedicated resources. You can host as many sites as you want (as long as you give those sites enough resources to run).
As you can see, most of those benefits connect to flexibility. And, I think that’s the most attractive part of Cloudways. You get all the flexibility of cloud hosting, while still being able to work through a convenient, beginner-friendly interface.
Enough talking — let’s check it out!
How to Launch a Server and Install WordPress
To show you how easy Cloudways makes it to use cloud hosting for WordPress, I’ll take you through the entire setup process.
There are two basic terms you need to understand with Cloudways:
- Server – This is a specific allotment of space on a cloud hosting provider. For example, you might get 1 GB of ram, 25 GB of storage, and so on. If you don’t get a lot of traffic, you’d be surprised by how quickly even the cheapest DigitalOcean server loads.
- Application – This is a WordPress site. One WordPress site equals one application.
You can run as many applications as you want on a server, but only as long as your server has enough power to handle them. Again, this depends on the exact resources each WordPress install consumes; there’s no arbitrary limit.
To get started, you’ll first choose your application. You can either install…
- Naked WordPress (with or without Cloudways optimizations).
- WordPress with WooCommerce.
- WordPress Multisite.
Then, you can choose your cloud hosting provider, the size of your server, and its location. You can always change the size of your server when needed, so don’t stress too much. Again, that’s one of the unique things about Cloudways.
For example, I’m set to launch my site on the 2 GB server from DigitalOcean:
At the bottom, you’ll see the price for your specific configuration. You can either pay it monthly or just pay hourly for the actual resources that you consume. Again, that’s a unique thing!
Once you click Launch Now, you’ll have a short wait while Cloudways provisions your server and installs WordPress:
Then, you’re set to jet with a working WordPress site. Pretty easy, right?
Managing Your Site with Cloudways
To manage your WordPress site, you can use the Applications area in Cloudways, which shows you a list of all your sites:
You can also use this interface to add another WordPress site (+Add Application).
Application Management Dashboard
When you click on a specific site, you’ll open the Application Management dashboard which shows you all of the details for your site.
Here, you’ll be able to:
- Find FTP and MySQL credentials to manage your site.
- View disk usage statistics.
- Manage your domains (Cloudways gives you a free subdomain by default, but you’ll want to connect your real domain).
- Install an SSL certificate from Let’s Encrypt with a single click.
- Restore your site from one of the automatic backups.
- Manage developer features such as Cron jobs and Git.
Easy Staging Sites
A staging site is basically an identical copy of your site in a safe sandbox that you can use for testing. It’s really handy for safely working on your site without affecting your live website.
Cloudways makes it super easy to spin up a new staging site from the orange floating action button in your application dashboard:
You can deploy your staging site to any server.
Then, you’ll be able to interact with your staging site just as if it were a live site. Except now, the application gets marked as staging:
When you’re happy that everything is working right on your staging site, you can open the new Staging Management area and push your data from staging to live:
The neat thing here is that you can choose whether to push:
- Just the files.
- Just the database.
- Both the files and database.
You can automatically back up your site as part of the process, too.
You also have the option to push from live to staging, which is helpful for longer-term projects. For example, you can push your live database to your staging site to make sure your staging site has your latest content.
All in all, the staging tool is super convenient and gives you a lot of flexibility.
Managing Your Server(s) with Cloudways
In addition to managing your individual applications (WordPress sites), Cloudways also provides you with a similar interface to manage your servers:
You can have as many servers as you want, each with their own configuration. For example, you could have one server at DigitalOcean and another one at Google Cloud Platform.
While some of the options here are developer-focused, there are some more convenient things for casual users, too. I’ll highlight three of the biggest features…
Vertical scaling lets you change the size of your server, by either adding/removing computing power or changing store limits. Scaling up is super easy while scaling down might require using the cloning feature.
This allows you to instantly change your server’s resources, which isn’t something that you can do with most hosts.
For example, if you find that you’re getting more traffic, you can add more resources with just a few clicks:
The Backups tab lets you configure how backups work, such as how often to create new backups and how long to retain backups for. You can also run an on-demand backup if needed:
Finally, the SMTP tab lets you configure an SMTP server to use for your server. You’ll need to set this up if you want to send transactional emails from your WordPress site. I’d recommend something like Mailgun or SendGrid, both of which offer free sending plans:
Unlimited Free WordPress Migrations
If you’re currently hosting elsewhere and thinking about making the switch to Cloudways, you can migrate unlimited WordPress sites to your Cloudways server(s) via the official Cloudways WordPress Migrator plugin at WordPress.org.
All you do is enter the SFTP details from your Cloudways account in the plugin’s interface and it will handle migrating your site to Cloudways, which is super convenient.
Team Management Functionality
If you need to give other users access to your Cloudways account, Cloudways’ Team feature lets you give other people access, but only to specific servers and/or applications.
This is really convenient if you have a team or you just want to give a freelancer access to a specific server or site:
What about Performance Tests?
You may have noticed that I haven’t run any performance tests in this Cloudways review. I didn’t forget, nor am I lazy.
The reason I haven’t done this is because there’s no single Cloudways “hardware” to run a performance test against.
That is, your site’s performance really depends on the provider and resources that you choose. If you give your site adequate resources for its traffic, it’s going to load fast on any of these cloud hosting providers.
AWS, Google Cloud Platform, DigitalOcean… those are what the big guys use. Your site isn’t going to be slowed down by the underlying hardware.
Additionally, Cloudways gives you tons of resources to optimize your WordPress site. For example, Cloudways builds in its own CDN, as well as a performance stack with Varnish, Nginx, and Memcached:
Cloudways also developed the Breeze plugin, which is available at WordPress.org for free. Breeze helps you implement caching, as well as performance optimization tips such as minification and a CDN integration.
Basically, as long as you follow basic WordPress performance best practices and give your site enough resources, your site is going to load fast.
Pricing is another area at Cloudways that depends entirely on your choices. That is, it depends on which cloud hosting provider you choose and what resources you want from that provider:
Basically, you’ll pay whatever the naked cloud hosting would cost plus an extra amount to Cloudways for the convenient dashboard and management features.
You’ll only pay one bill to Cloudways, though — you don’t need to pay separately to the cloud hosting provider.
So, what kind of premium does Cloudways charge?
Well, let’s look at the DigitalOcean plans…
If you went directly to DigitalOcean and purchased their plan with 2 GB memory, 1 vCPU, and 50 GB storage, you’d pay $10.00 per month. That same plan at Cloudways is $22.00.
Another example – the DigitalOcean plan with 4 GB ram, 2 vCPUs, and 80 GB storage costs $20.00 per month through DigitalOcean. That same plan at Cloudways costs $42.00 per month.
So basically, you seem to pay a little over 2x what you’d pay for just the cloud hosting resources. That might sound like a tough deal, but there are two important things to remember:
- The management dashboard is really well-designed and makes managing your site(s) a breeze. If you wanted to use DigitalOcean directly, you’d need to be a technical user to get anything done. The price premium is literally what lets cloud hosting be accessible to non-technical users.
- The real comparison is versus other managed WordPress hosts, and Cloudways is quite competitive there. Especially when you consider the flexible billing, unlimited sites, no arbitrary traffic limit, etc.
Final Thoughts on Cloudways
I’m a big fan of Cloudways.
Cloudways takes a modern approach to hosting — cloud hosting — and makes it accessible to casual WordPress users.
You can use the same infrastructure that major enterprises are using… via a simple dashboard that makes it super easy to manage your site, create staging sites, restore from backups, and more.
Beyond that, you get more flexibility than any other WordPress host can offer. No annual billing; you can start or stop your hosting as needed down to the hour.
You also don’t have to deal with any arbitrary limits. No traffic caps, no website limits. As long as your server has the resources, you can do whatever you want. And if your server doesn’t have the resources? You can scale things up with a single click… and then scale down in the future if needed (though scaling down takes more than a single click; you have to clone your server).
If you’re already overwhelmed with managing your shared hosting account, Cloudways might not be for you. But, I think most casual users will have no problem using Cloudways.
The great thing is that there’s no risk to trying it out. You can get started with a free three-day trial to experience all of the functionality. Give it a try and see if it works for you.
Choose your cloud hosting provider. No arbitrary traffic or website limits. Super simple dashboard.
While Cloudways makes things simple, it still might overwhelm some casual users.
Cloudways gives you a convenient interface to harness the power of cloud hosting for your WordPress site.
Cloudways gives you a convenient interface to harness the power of cloud hosting for your WordPress site.
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