I have been though a lot of web hosts in my time. Even here on the Blog Marketing Academy, my hosting recommendations have shifted with the times.
These hosts are a bit of a moving target. They make changes. Sometimes they get acquired. Things shift around. And that means that my recommendation does change sometimes because my goal is to not only use what I think is the right host for me, but also to serve my readers and students well with solid recommendations.
Back in the day, I used to recommend Bluehost. But, after I personally experienced a site hack with them, I could no longer recommend them in good conscience.
I then recommended Siteground. I still like Siteground quite a bit, actually. They are a quality company and they are not owned by EIG. That said, I have heard a few rumblings around the net about some issues with support and the rolling out of their new Site Tools. My experiences using Siteground for clients have been just fine, but those rumblings do exist.
For awhile, I personally used WP Engine. They are a good host, too. But truth is, you're paying a lot of money for what you get over there.
Then, I switched to WPX Hosting. Again, a very solid host. Awesome support. But, under all that caching, the hosting accounts there don't give a lot of horsepower and that became problematic for a very dynamic site like THE LAB. Plus, the WPX control panel was rather annoying. You can read my reasons for switching here.
And today... I am now on Cloudways.
Today, I want to give a more in-depth review of how Cloudways works, why I chose them, and help you decide if it might be the right fit for you.
One thing I think you might find is...
Cloudways might even be the best fit for even a beginner with a brand new blog. In fact, I think this is going to be better than most any typical web host that new blog owners often consider.
How Cloudways VPS Hosting Differs From Traditional Hosting
Most blog owners out there end up on low-end, shared hosting plans from the likes of Bluehost, Siteground, A2 Hosting, etc. I think there are 2 big reasons for that:
- They see a lot of other bloggers out there recommending these companies (usually motivated by the affiliate commission)
- These companies usually hook you with super low introductory pricing.
It really is a big marketing game. That introductory pricing eventually goes away after your prepaid term, then your rate shoots up to normal. Siteground, for instance, hooks you as low as $6.99/month but you have to prepay for a year. Once that is over, you go up to $14.99/month.
But, what are you getting for that money?
Those low-end accounts are usually pretty light on server resources. You might be allowed to host only one, single website. You're probably going to be limited on traffic.
You're also sharing resources with anybody else they put on the same server. For instance, Bluehost will promise you unlimited sites and unlimited everything on their Plus plan. But, those resources are being shared with everybody else using the same thing. If you've got a busy site on the same server as you, your site slows way the hell down. I've heard my share of nightmares with those "unlimited" hosts. It isn't as good a deal as it sounds.
How VPS Hosting Is Different Than Shared Hosting
Cloudways doesn't run the same kind of infrastructure. It is all cloud-based, using third-party providers. Plus, what you're getting is a virtual private server (VPS).
A virtual private server is basically a software-based server, with dedicated resources. It completely simulates the experience of a dedicated server, but it uses software to do it.
Being that a VPS is standalone as an entity, it can actually be set up differently than other VPSes. You can have different server specs, scale them up and down as needed, or even set up special requirements on it that you need but other hosts wouldn't usually allow.
Basically, a VPS is YOUR server. You share nothing with anybody else. It is like a dedicated server, but way more affordable.
Who Is A VPS Right For?
Most hosts like Siteground or Bluehost offer VPS, but they market it as a higher-end offering. Therefore most blog owners don't really consider it. They might not even know what a VPS is.
Cloudways makes a VPS available as low as $10/month.
So, the question here is... why might you want to consider a VPS over typical hosting?
#1 - You Don't Want Your Site Speed Slowing Down
Shared web hosting means that you are sharing the same pool of server resources with everybody else. Most shared hosting accounts won't even tell you anything about what kind of server you're on.
If you are on the same server as other sites that either have higher traffic or are poorly managed, then your site suffers.
With a VPS, you don't share resources. If your site is running slower than you like, a VPS is your answer.
If your admin panel is slow because you have a lot of plug-ins, a VPS will give you more horsepower.
#2 - You Don't Want Artificial Limits
Low-end shared hosting accounts will typically limit the number of sites you can have. Most start out only allowing one site.
However, a VPS is your's to do with whatever you want. You can have as many sites as you want. Your only limit is the resources of your server. And if you find you need more, you can always scale it up without having to transfer to another host.
#3 - You Have Security Concerns
Shared hosting accounts mean shared servers. Which means every site on that server is a potential attack point. These shared environments sometimes are big targets, too. Like I said, I personally had a site hacked on Bluehost.
A VPS is it's own thing. If you want to set up additional security enhancements, you can.
#4 - You Want To Run A Membership Site Or Process Orders
Online stores and memberships need to remain very dynamic. They also take up more resources than the typical blog. There's also more security considerations.
A VPS will give you more server power to power very dynamic sites where you cannot use all the caching layers that make otherwise weak hosting seem fast.
Plus, with a VPS, you can set up different types of caching (like Redis object caching) to speed up dynamic websites like a membership site.
#5 - You Want To Not Be Limited To Just WordPress
Much of the time, in order to get the conveniences of managed WordPress hosting, you need to go with an account that limits you to WordPress only.
But, you can do what you want with a VPS. And Cloudways has one-click installs of other software, too.
#6 - You Get Weird Server Errors On Your Current Host
Sometimes you'll be working on your site and you'll suddenly get weird errors like "Service Unavailable", "Internal Server Error" or other things. Many times, this is a result of a server barf, not something you did wrong.
Upgrading to a VPS with dedicated resources often alleviates the issue. It just gives your site more breathing room.
#7 - You Like Getting More For Your Money
I know those cheap hosts like Bluehost will hook you in with that intro pricing, but then it goes up from there. And you're on a pretty limited environment.
Plus, to lock in those low hook rates on the other hosts, you have to pre-pay for a year or more. That means that even if you end up having issues, you feel "Stuck" there until your prepaid term is over.
For $10/month on Cloudways, you can get a MUCH faster, more reliable server environment. And $10/month is less than most of the shared hosts after the intro pricing.
There's no weird hook pricing with Cloudways. You just go right into the monthly or annual plan. But, that rate is a much better bang for your buck. And it is locked in.
#8 - You Work With Clients, Too
If you run an agency and work with clients on their websites, a VPS is an awesome solution to host their sites. It gives you way more flexibility. Plus, you can host unlimited sites on one VPS.... or spread them around multiple VPSes inside the same account.
How Cloudways Works
I am a big fan of managed WordPress hosting. It just makes life easier. Being able to do one-click staging sites, one-click installs and other self-service operations without having to be a total nerd is convenient.
By nature, a VPS is a pretty geeky experience. It is just a "raw" server and it is up to you to know what to do with it.
Cloudways makes it easier. You get the power of a VPS, but with the convenience of a managed web host. So, even though you have a VPS, you have features such as:
- 1-click installs (and not just WordPress)
- Unlimited websites
- Free SSL certs
- Built-in Cloudways CDN
- Built-in caching using Breeze (however you have far more control over it than you do with most managed hosts)
- 1-click and simple staging sites
- Managed backups (both the entire server and each site, with ability to customize your backup schedule)
- Team collaboration so others can manage your servers, too, without sharing login.
- Easy ability to scale the server up if you get traffic spikes
When you sign up with Cloudways, you can choose from (currently) 5 different providers for your VPS:
- Digital Ocean
- Amazon Web Services
- Google Cloud
Cloudways basically acts as a layer between you and that VPS. Cloudways is what makes the VPS easy to use. Simple as that.
You are paying a bit of a premium for the Cloudways convenience and support, but it is worth it. For instance, Digital Ocean will sell you a basic VPS (they call it a "droplet") directly for just $5/month. Without Cloudways, you're paying $10/month.
I am personally using the Vultr High Frequency VPS, since I think it is ideal for dynamic sites like membership sites and online stores. VultrHF is faster CPU, faster memory, and faster storage. Perfect for sites that make a lot of database queries and have to remain pretty dynamic.
With Cloudways, you can run 1 or multiple VPS servers from the same account. You can use Cloudways to host client sites, if that's your thing. You can put your online store or membership on a different VPS than your blog, if you want. You set it up how you want. I personally only have one VPS right now for everything.
Every site you set up on your VPS is called an "Application". So, I just set up a new Application and had it automatically install WordPress.
Migrating Your Sites To Cloudways
Cloudways has a Migrator plug-in that works flawlessly and I was able to migrate all of my own sites without any complications at all. It basically worked like this:
- Set up the Application on Cloudways to install WordPress. It will just be default at this point.
- Install the Cloudways Migrator plug-in onto the site you want to clone to Cloudways (on your old host).
- Enter the details into the plug-in. Just copy/paste from your Cloudways account.
- Hit the Go button. 🙂 It uses BlogVault to move everything.
- Wait. 🙂
- When it is done, check that everything looks good on Cloudways. You will be using a big, default Cloudways URL to access the site temporarily.
- Change the primary domain of the Application on Cloudways to your actual domain.
- Change your domain settings to switch over to Cloudways using your server IP address.
- Once it is done (usually takes less than a minute), install your free SSL certificate on your domain.
Important Things To Know About Using Cloudways
As already covered, Cloudways is a different kind of hosting solution. Cloudways is not actually hosting your sites. Your VPS is on the VPS provider you've chosen. Cloudways is just the app and company you are using to manage the VPS.
Most VPS hosting is a pretty manual, geeky experience. Developers love them, but us normal people can easily find them overwhelming. But, Cloudways makes it easy.
But, there's a few differences and things to be aware of when it comes to day-to-day use of Cloudways. Let's cover a few of them...
They Don't Host Your Email For You
You're not going to manage your email addresses for your blog through Cloudways because they don't handle email. This means you will need to route the email aspects of your domain elsewhere.
Probably the easiest thing to do is to use your domain registrar to set up email forwarders and just forward to Gmail or something similar.
In my case, I run everything through FastMail. Some people use Google Apps.
But, you will need to route your email somewhere else.
They Don't Manage Your Domain(s)
Most packaged web hosts provide an all-in-one experience. You can point your entire domain to them (or buy it through them) and you manage every aspect of your domain through your host.
Cloudways doesn't work like that. So, you will manage your domain through your registrar. Personally, I buy my domains through Namecheap and I use CloudFlare (the free service) for managing them. It works very nicely.
They DO Have a CDN, But It Is Extra
With a lot of packaged WordPress hosts, you have a content delivery network (or CDN) as part of the service. They basically mirror your site files (like images and CSS files) on servers across the globe so that they are served closest to your visitor. It speeds up your site.
A VPS has no CDN. But, Cloudways does provide an option. It is called CloudwaysCDN.
You can configure it on a site-by-site basis right inside your account. It is an extra charge because it is a service that is not part of your VPS. That said, it is quite cheap. You only pay $1.00 for the first 25GB of bandwidth, then only $0.04 per gig after that. I honestly don't expect my CDN bill to surpass $3 or $4 for a whole month, so the cost is negligible.
Oh, and CloudwaysCDN is actually using the MaxCDN network, which is one of the leading CDN's available.
They Have Their Own Cache Plugin
On a lot of WordPress hosts, they have built-in caching. It is set up at the server level. It is effective and is what makes these otherwise weak hosting accounts seem fast.
These server-level caches can also be annoying at times. For instance, if you need to set up cache exemptions, you'll often need to deal with support to do that for you manually.
Cloudways doesn't make any assumptions. This is part of why Cloudways is much more flexible. You are not getting everything cached whether you like it or not.
Cloudways has their own WordPress cache plug-in called Breeze.
It works quite nicely and is also built to integrate directly with Cloudways. For instance, if you turn on the CDN, Cloudways just configures it in Breeze automatically.
If you don't want any caching, you can do that, too. Just turn off the Breeze plug-in. For a membership site, for instance, you don't want any caching.
You Have Much More Control
With most shared hosts, the server is set up the way it comes. You don't get any choice in the matter.
With Cloudways, you can set things up for your own needs. Now, you don't have full root access to the server, but much of what you would want to ever do you can do through the managed control panel. For instance:
- You can control your PHP settings much more thoroughly than most shared hosting.
- You can set up optional caching, such as Redis caching. This is very handy for membership sites.
- You can set your own backup schedule
- You can assert strong access controls over things like SSH/SFTP access, MySQL access, etc.
- You can actually see your server resources and how they're being used
- You can manage CRON jobs yourself
- You can set up cache exemptions on your own without dealing with support
Yes, some of this is more geeky than many who are here. But, point is... you can keep things as simple or as geeky as you want. If you want more control, Cloudways won't really hold you back. If you want something that is pretty simple like the regular shared hosting plans, you can pretty much have it that way.
How's The Support?
Cloudways support has been great. So far, I have dealt with them 4 times - all via live chat.
In all 4 instances, I was in a chat with a real, live person within a minute or so. In one instance, I had to answer a couple questions from a chat bot first, but then I was quickly routed to a real human.
In one instance, he had to elevate me to a senior engineer and I had to wait a few minutes to get picked up. But, the issue was resolved. In all instances, it was a good experience and I was talking with a person who know what they were talking about and weren't treating me like an idiot.
You can also submit a ticket to their help desk. This is better suited to more detailed issues. I prefer real-time chat, so that's what I use. There's also a community forum of other Cloudways customers to use, but I haven't used it.
Cloudways also has added (paid) levels of support available. But, I haven't used them. Their support is good as is, however if I were hosting hundreds of sites I'd probably go with an add-on plan.
So, Is Cloudways The Right Fit For Everybody?
For awhile, I had this 2-tier hosting recommendation here at the Blog Marketing Academy. Basically...
- I recommended Siteground as the best all-around starter host.
- I recommended WPX Hosting specifically for managed WordPress hosting, if people wanted that.
Now I have Cloudways here.
In terms of pure "bang for your buck", I think Cloudways blows them away. Even the $10/month entry-level Digital Ocean VPS through Cloudways is going to give you way more server horsepower than either Siteground or WPX.
From the cost perspective, Cloudways is the way to go.
Siteground is still perhaps a better option if you really want an "all in one" host. One company that will do everything. Siteground is convenient like that. While Cloudways is better, it leaves things like email and domain management up to you. In some ways, Cloudways is a bit more work to set up.
Which goes to an important point...
Cloudways is pretty user friendly, but there will be some things in the account admin area that a newbie won't understand. In most cases, you don't need to mess with them at all. It is more for the geeky types. But, point is that Cloudways's target market is a bit more advanced.
Cloudways does not assume you have no idea how to use WordPress. They're not going to hand-hold you through the basics. They're going to assume you know that... and know enough to know why a VPS is a better way to go.
This is why Cloudways isn't going to be making the rounds on blogger blogs. 🙂 You're not going to see most bloggers pimping Cloudways like they do Bluehost. Bluehost pays bigger commissions, for one. 😉 But also, Bluehost and Siteground and those companies are targeting newbies who don't know much about web hosting.
So, CloudWays is for you if...
- You want more server power for your money and don't want the artificial limits like other hosts
- You are running a dynamic membership site or online store (I definitely recommend VPS if that's you)
- You're a little more developed in terms of tech knowledge and won't go cross-eyed over things like SSL, CDNs, and some of the usual web hosting terminology
If you're brand new and just want a company to hold your hand through it all and do everything in one place, then Siteground is probably still the better option.
It is always easy to switch to Cloudways later. 🙂
I'll Help Make It Easy
I want my students to get the best deal. Always.
And I firmly think Cloudways is a better deal than the other hosts. VPS hosting is just a more powerful option. It is also very flexible, so you can start small to begin with and easily scale your server up as you grow.
I don't want people who are just starting out to feel intimidated by it. I know it is easy for me to sit here and say how easy it is. I've been doing this awhile. 🙂
So, I'm going to create an online course inside THE LAB specifically on how to get around with Cloudways.
All PRO members will have access to it. But... I'll also hook you up with full access to it FOR FREE as a bonus if you decide to sign up for Cloudways through the Blog Marketing Academy.
The course isn't done yet. But, even if you sign up before it is done, we'll put you on the waiting list and it will be unlocked automatically for you as soon as it is ready. Give me 2-3 weeks to get it done.