Cloudways is always an interesting provider to review, as they are a bit different than most of the hosting providers you will encounter. But who are they, the hosting company called Cloudways? And what do they do?
In essence, Cloudways uses the infrastructure or servers of proven cloud providers. On top of these servers, they put their own layer of software, leaving all the hassle and management of
Now that is their big selling point in a nutshell, as it takes often a lot of effort to manage your own servers. But still, you have a virtual server of your own. You will discover why this is so great for hosting multiple WordPress websites.
In this review, we have tested the combination of Cloudways with a server of Vultr with 4GB Ram, and 2 cores. The latter is the one providing the actual servers, while Cloudways is providing all the delights for managing it. Having said this, we believe Cloudways is mainly aimed at WordPress professionals and developers managing their own or clients websites.
Cloudways does support more applications than WordPress. But in this review, you will actually see Cloudways is also great for WordPress.
An extensive set of features
To summarize, the features Cloudways offer are quite extensive and provide most functionalities that you will need if you are a serious WordPress professional.
The hosting package we have tested comes with 4GB of ram, 2 cores, 60GB SSD storage and 3TB bandwidth. In our experience, this is enough to host up to 20 smaller WordPress websites.
If you assume that an average webpage is 2mb in size, this package may handle up to 1,5 million monthly visits before bandwidth runs out. Performance wise, you may read later on that this package – if properly configured – can even handle 1,5 million monthly visits.
As a managed cloud provider, Cloudways implements several features to make your WordPress websites (and your server) secure.
Accessing the Cloudways platform and adding new servers and applications is done by logging in with your account. Cloudways support 2-factor authentication to make the process of logging in more secure. With 2-factor authentication, a unique code is sent to your mobile phone. To log in, this code needs to be entered in addition to your password.
Cloudways secures each server with an OS based firewall and with regular patches and updates for the operating system. They do not seem to provide any firewall at the application level, meaning a separate firewall for each WordPress website.
Access to your WordPress applications and server is only possible using the secure file transfer protocol (SFTP) or using SSH keys. Simply said, the communication between you and the application is encrypted.
Also, SSL certificates can be added for free to each WordPress application. This enables your website to be served over HTTPS, meaning that the connection between a visitor and your website is encrypted.
And have we mentioned back-ups and restoring yet? Each of the WordPress applications on Cloudways is backed up with a frequency up to one back-up per hour. Of course, these back-ups can be restored at any time. Pretty useful might your application get hacked, destroyed, cranked up or just anything what could happen in this world.
At last, Cloudways blocks suspected persons trying to access your server or WordPress installations by their IP address. In the server settings, you can whitelist your own IP so it won’t be suspected.
Where Cloudways really excels is in the number of features aimed at developers and WordPress professionals. Let’s mention some of these:
- Memcached, Redis, PHP FPM and Varnish services for caching and better performance
- Control on all server services such as Apache and Nginx
- GIT integration and deployment on the application level.
- Easily cloning, setting-up staging or moving WordPress websites over multiple servers.
- Seamlessly scaling up of a server and monitoring of server resources
- Cron-jobs (outside WordPress)
- Integration with New Relic for application monitoring
- One-click Elasticsearch on the server level
- Notification Bot for server or application warnings with Slack integration
- A CDN for better global delivery as a paid extra
- Free support for WordPress Multisite
- And of course, WP CLI is installed
Now that is quite a list with technical words, but I assume you know what they as a developer :). There are two features which I find so outstanding for a managed hosting provider that I elaborate on them.
The first one is GIT deployment. You can connect your GIT repository to a certain WordPress installation. In addition, you can even select which folder this repository should be connected to. Subsequently, you can pull updates from the Cloudways control panel. This removes the necessity for SFTP and allows for a more integrated development cycle.
One of other the things we love being included is Elasticsearch, which can be enabled at the server level. Elasticsearch is a system to search through a lot of data at a high speed. And it is intelligent. Even if visitors mistype words, it can guess the right spelling and come up with meaningful results. The good thing is that it can be easily integrated with WordPress using the ElasticPress plugin.
Out of the box, Cloudways does not support the ability to have e-mail accounts, but they have a paid add-on for Rackspace e-mail accounts.
This also means that by default, a server will not send e-mails going from your WordPress installation. This means that you have to connect each of your WordPress applications or your server to an external provider such as Mailgun or SendGrid.
This might feel a bit of a hassle, but once you have it running it’s quite easy to implement. In addition, relying on an external provider to send your server e-mails may in many cases improve the deliverability of your e-mails. In plain language: e-mails get delivered in your inbox.
Now there are a couple of other features that are worth mentioning. First, it is possible to add projects and move WordPress installations and servers inside certain projects.
Subsequently, it is possible to add team-members to Cloudways and give them access to a wide variety of levels, such as project level, server level or application level.
This is a great advantage in working together with clients, employees, other companies or developers.
Cloudways = Stellar Performance
In short, Cloudways excels in cached performance. It leaves many of the managed and well known hosting companies for WordPress far behind for their price level.
Technologies for Performance
Cloudways uses a combination of Apache, Nginx, PHP-FPM, Redis and Varnish to provide stellar performance and cache web pages. Caching is basically a
virtual Server instead of a Shared One
With Cloudways you have your own virtual server without the hassle of managing it. But what does that mean? Usually, your WordPress website shares the resources of a server with other websites. You may know this, but basically, a server is a computer on which websites can run.
With Cloudways, you have more control over your resources because you’re using your own virtual server. It’s like having a tiny virtual computer on which you can run your own WordPress websites.
This is a huge plus over shared hosting companies. They will usually throttle or even close down your website if you are using too many resources. At Cloudways, your server will just crash and automatically restart if it can’t handle the number of visitors. If your server is constantly on the edge of its capabilities, you can easily scale to a more expensive server.
For our hosting tests, we set-up Cloudways with their own caching plugin Breeze and loaded WordPress with WooCommerce, a heavy homepage and a bulky theme. In essence, this creates a good baseline for testing. Subsequently, we simulate a large number of users visiting the website and measure if the website still loads under 2 seconds.
Maximum Concurrent Visitors: 2200
With caching enabled, the 4GB Vultr package from CloudWays can handle up to 2200 concurrent clients with an average response time of 0,327s. That means that 2200 people may be able to visit your webpage every second, while it still responds within 2 seconds for every request. You may want to know that this equals 132000 pages visited in a minute.
If you are ok with a maximum response time of 10 seconds (you shouldn’t), this server can handle up to 2700 concurrent visitors with an average response time of 1,82s.
Cloudways is less performant if you are using many options where caching is not possible, such as platforms with many user interactions or uncached ajax calls. This is mainly because it is still using Apache as a web server.
Closest Loading Time Averages: 0.53 seconds
We’ve tested this server with Pingdom, WebPageTest and GTMetrix for average loading times with a heavy theme and WooCommerce. The server was located in Amsterdam.
The closest Pingdom server (Stockholm), loaded the website 0.53 seconds. GT Metrix, testing from Canada, averaged 3.00 seconds while the WebPageTest loaded the website on average in 3.80 seconds.
Time to First Byte: 32ms
We tested the time to first byte from seven loads, and it averaged a whopping 32ms.
But how stable are my websites…?
Cloudways puts a managed hosting shell on top of proven cloud providers for a reason: these provide stability and ongoing performance.
In the one year testing period that we have extensively used Cloudways, we have encountered 100% or 99.99% uptime for most of the WordPress websites hosted at Cloudways.
How many websites could you host per plan?
Based on our own experience with several packages, we found out that the various hosting plans may account for the following amount of optimized websites. Please note that these numbers only count for small websites and are no hard figures, as each website may have a different impact on your server.
|Plan||Estimated Number of Small Websites|
|Vultr $11/month (1GB)||~ 5|
|Vultr $23/month (2GB)||~ 10|
|Vultr $44/month (4GB)||~ 25|
Usability on Cloudways is good
We may conclude that cloning, migrating and adding new WordPress installations is a breeze with Cloudways.
The major thing we’re not so fond of is that you have to wait a couple of minutes before a new WordPress installation is accessible.
Adding and cloning WordPress
So how does installing WordPress actually work in Cloudways? First, you have to add a server and wait a couple of minutes until this server is configures. Subsequently, you can add WordPress installations to this server. And yes, as many installation as you want.
It’s very easy to add and clone WordPress applications in Cloudways. Just hit the add application button, select the desired WordPress version and an application is launched in a couple of minutes. And it’s a little annoying that you have to wait a couple of minutes before this new installation is added.
By default, this application comes with an automatically generated login for your WordPress installation and a temporary URL, which makes it perfect for adding websites that still need to be developed. All these details are accessible in a single screen.
At last, the clone functionality allows you to clone existing applications or set-up a staging website, even across multiple servers. This is very useful if you want to clone or move an application to another server because of its size.
One particularly useful possibility of the clone functionality is using it for creating WordPress templates. For example, you can create a basic WordPress installation with all plugins configured to your own preferences, and clone this each time you want to add a new installation.
Domain management is quite straightforward in Cloudways. You can add primary and secondary domains under domain management. By adding a primary domain, Cloudways automatically rewrites all your WordPress URLs to this domain. Useful, isn’t it?
Secondary domains can be used if you redirect domains to the same domain as the primary domain, or if you are using a WordPress multisite with subdirectories. For example, if you point your A-Records of the secondary domain to the same server, it will redirect to the primary domain.
Migrating to Cloudways
Cloudways does not come with migration tools on their own platform, but they have developed a plugin which can be added to WordPress to migrate
So how does this work? You have to add a plugin to the website you are planning to migrate. After you have entered the details of the destination website, it will migrate the current website to the destination. Cloudways has a short video which explains this much better.
They will also migrate your first website for free. And that saves some of the hassles.
Managing Projects and Team-Members
Now we have shortly mentioned the projects, users and teams manager. What it basically does is allowing you to but your WordPress websites and servers into any projects.
Subsequently, you can add team-members and assign them to certain projects: they will only have access to servers and WordPress applications in these projects.
You can control if team-members can add new servers, applications, adjust billing, and so forth. Of course, access control goes way further down to limiting team-members to only access certain applications.
And as I mentioned, this is great for working together with clients, employees, external agencies and developers and moves Cloudways beyond a regular hosting platform.
Managing Servers and Applications
From a usability perspective, you want to be able to manage your WordPress installations and servers with at much ease as possible. Cloudways did a great attempt at achieving user friendly application management.
What we find a big plus for the Cloudways platform is that all settings for managing a server are in one place. Also, all settings for managing a single WordPress installation are in one place. It’s a little less obvious to delete applications, as the option is hidden under the button in the right corner.
As you can see in the above screen for server management, all options are shown in several tabs. And as you have seen in the section about managing domains, a similar approach is used for managing applications. And this is a great advantage over hosting parties using cPanel. For the latter, settings are often in all kind of places.
Now in my opinion their platform is not so simple or intuitive as some of the major managed WordPress hosting parties such as WP Engine or Flywheel. But to close with a positive note: this may be caused by the incredible amount of features they have crammed in their offerings.
Quick, but so-so Support
The support is okay for some cases, but other cases have to be solved by yourself. Sometimes, don’t expect too much from support if you are not technically literate. But, Cloudways does provide extensive documentation and a supportive community. That’s at least our experience with using Cloudways support for more than a year.
Live-chat and tickets
We have a little preference for hosting parties that are using live-chat. Because you immediately know if they can help you are not. Now how fortunate, Cloudways is using both live-chat and a ticket system to help you out. But….. in our experience, the live chat is not always available.
Occupied, but present
We love the fact that the live chat is immediately available and you can fire your questions straight away. However, often a conversation takes a lot of time and answers are not given straight away. Sometimes, the person on the other side of the proverbial line seems a little bit occupied.
A good answer h
alf of the time
And that brings us up to the following point. We received some good help on many occasions. However, sometimes the answers given by the support staff were just a rephrase of our own actual questions.
For example, we were looking for the best settings for Varnish Caching on a multisite with subdomains. A
This is not an isolated case. We found often the answers from support staff were not very elaborate. Sometimes, we were even able to solve the matter ourselves during the conversation. We have read many raving reports about the Cloudways support and we appreciate the hard work these support staff is doing. But in our opinion, it is sometimes a little bit lacking.
Knowledge Base and Community
As you may know, support entails more as live chat and ticketing. Cloudways took great pains to form an elaborate base of knowledge and documentation on using their platform. We found that in most cases, this documentation was accurate and up to date.
In addition, they provide a community where each member can start a discussion but also request for features. And the latter in fact encourages transparency, as also unsatisfied customers are allowed to start discussions And that brings us to the end of this review. So what can we conclude?
To conclude: Great Value
While the entry pricing level of Cloudways is somewhat higher than most entry hosts, they do provide great value in terms of performance, usability and features delivered. Especially if you consider the number of visitors their packages can handle compared to other Managed WordPress providers, who often have a limit on monthly visitors.
Cloudways is in our opinion aimed at people who are somewhat more technically minded. For example, you have to connect your Cloudways servers to an external e-mail provider before it will send e-mails. As another drawback, we’re not overly enthusiast about their support.
But the major drawback for the more technically focused is that once your servers turn bigger, the price levels also rise significantly. And if you’re one that knows his or her way around using virtual private servers, you might consider players such as ServerPilot, RunCloud, Laraval Forge or Gridpane. But Cloudways is still significantly cheaper than traditionally managed WordPress hosts such as WP Engine or Flywheel.