So you’re looking into using Cloudways as your hosting provider, and you’re wondering how they stack up against the competition.
But hold on one second.
I tested out Cloudways for a client project because they have gotten really good press for creating a truly unique product in a pretty staid industry.
As with any unique product, they’ll need a bit of background on the web hosting spectrum.
Usually your website files live on a part of a server that you rent from a hosting company (hence “shared” hosting). A cloud is an entire network of data centers that host website files in a distributed & decentralized fashion. Your files are deployed “everywhere” in a way of speaking. You just rent the resources on the network needed to host & deliver your files.
Imagine real-world housing for a second. Traditional hosting is like buying a house, townhouse or condominium. You buy it and you can do whatever you want. It’s cheap and predictable. But if your entire extended family shows up one day – you might have some issues hosting everyone. Cloud hosting is like having access to any house anywhere in the world whenever and wherever – you just have to pay per night for whatever house you use. It’s more expensive day to day, but when your entire extended family shows up one day – it’s a pretty simple, quick fix. You just get the 12 bedroom house for the night and no one is the wiser.
The actual cloud is built by the biggest tech companies in the world. There are not that many. Amazon is the biggest. They are closely followed by Google, Microsoft, Oracle, and IBM along with a few smaller ones like Digital Ocean.
With cloud hosting, you have more access to guaranteed resources than on shared hosting.
On shared hosting, you have a set amount of resources on a specific server that also has a set amount of resources. For example, you might have 1GB of Memory dedicated to you on a server that has 10GB of memory in total.
But suppose there are 10 customers on that shared server, each with 1GB of memory. 9 of those customers start using a full 1GB of their allocation – sometimes a little bit over. Well, now, you can’t actually use your 1GB of memory without bringing the server done. In that case, you might get throttled or one customer’s site might get taken down. Now, a good shared hosting will have network engineers who have built out ways of balancing, but it’s the core tradeoff with the setup.
On cloud hosting, you pay per use of resources on a distributed network of servers that has basically infinite resources. Your data doesn’t live on a single server. Instead, it’s copied on a whole network all around the world. If a single server gets overloaded, another server starts returning the the data.
This is the reason why NetFlix runs on Amazon’s cloud and why Twitter runs on Google’s Cloud. Those are extreme but illustrative examples. They see huge spikes at random times during the day that only a cloud can handle.
This makes cloud hosting a great option for websites that have spiky traffic (like viral news sites or a site that goes through regular launches) and doesn’t want to commit to a set amount of resources that may or may not be guaranteed.
But cloud hosting is traditionally expensive and very technical to set up, which can make it not make sense for a lot of DIYers and small businesses. The time & money to get it configured *just* right is out of reach for most businesses.
And that’s where Cloudways comes in.
What is Cloudways?
Cloudways is what’s known as a “managed cloud hosting company” headquartered in Malta. They offer hosting via the big cloud companies, but they manage the process by providing custom setup software, support, and some price smoothing to make cloud hosting more accessible to small businesses and DIYers.
Confused yet? Yeah – me too, and I’m the one trying to write this review and explain it to my clients.
In some ways, this point is a pro for Cloudways. They are trying to do something truly unique in the hosting industry. Anything truly novel is hard to figure out. That doesn’t come along often, and it’s worth pointing that out.
Essentially Cloudways provides the guaranteed resources of cloud hosting with the guaranteed pricing of shared hosting. For a lot of businesses, this deal does not make sense — but if you know you’ll have really high highs and really low lows in your website traffic and don’t want to commit to (or deal with the technicalities of) direct cloud hosting with Google, Amazon, etc., it’s a fairly interesting set-up.
So with that said, let’s look at the Pros and Cons of Cloudways hosting.
Pros of Cloudways
There are a lot of Cloudways reviews online – usually with user-generated reviews based on anecdotes and personal experience. That’s fine but I take a different approach. As I’ve said in other hosting reviews, there is no such thing as a “best” web host. The “best” is the right fit for your project based on your goals, budget, experience & expertise. Here are the pros (advantages) for considering Cloudways.
One of the biggest advantages of using Cloudways as your cloud hosting provider is their simplified pricing packages. Traditionally, cloud hosting pricing is pretty complex. Because you pay for what you use, it can be difficult to figure out exactly what you’re going to end up owing. Just look at Google Cloud’s pricing calculator:
Cloudways has simple, monthly pay-as-you-go plans. There’s no calculating, no guessing — just straightforward monthly rates that you can choose based on your needs.
They also have a chat bot that will recommend a specific plan for you based on the number of websites you have, your traffic volume, and the purpose of your site (i.e. blog, digital agency, etc.).
All in all, the pricing structure is straightforward and pretty hassle-free, which is a huge competitive advantage when comparing Cloudways to other cloud hosting providers.
Cloud Host Variety
Another interesting advantage of Cloudways is the ability to choose your Cloud Host. Cloudways offers hosting with several big cloud hosts, from DigitalOcean to Amazon to Google.
Again, this makes Cloudways the middle man of sorts. You’re not actually hosting on their platform — they serve as the intermediary between you and the cloud hosting platforms.
Having the choice of cloud hosts in a more simplified pricing structure is definitely a pro… but again, it really only makes sense if you know you’ll have highs and lows in your website traffic and don’t want to commit to (or deal with the technicalities of) direct cloud hosting with Google, Amazon, etc.
In addition to hosting your website files, a good hosting server will also deliver those files as quickly as possible every time a visitor goes to your domain name address.
There are a lot of variables that go into how fast your website is. You can have the fastest server in the world and still have an incredibly slow website due to issues on your end. But either way, you want to have a hosting server that is fast so that you can work on your side of the equation.
One of the best measurements for approximating performance is TTFB or Time to First Byte. Again, I know that network engineers throw a lot of asterisks here and if you know *exactly* what type of website you are running – you can absolutely ask for detailed allocated specs. My goal with my hosting reviews is to provide a narrative of tradeoffs so that you can make the call for your website.
But here’s how DigitalOcean performed via Cloudways with my website when I first set it up on a clean WordPress install –
.0127s for TTFB is pretty speedy, especially when you compare it to the performance of budget shared hosts like Web Hosting Hub, Hostinger, iPage, or even GoDaddy Hosting. Actually, it’s really fast no matter who you compare it to.
Again, there are tradeoffs here. The more your use on Cloudways, the more you’re going to pay. But if you’re looking for a hosting platform that can handle spikes of traffic without throttling your performance, Cloudways gives you some great options.
Cons of Cloudways
Like any web host, Cloudways has disadvantages. There are plenty of Cloudways complaints to be found online. Plenty are valid, and some are simply anecdotal. Here are the cons that I found while using Cloudways for hosting.
Complex Set Up
Perhaps the biggest con of Cloudways is how complex it can be to get up and running.
As much as Cloudways positions themselves as the ones who take care of the complexities of cloud hosting, making it easy for business owners to get set up and focus on their actual business… the set up of hosting with Cloudways is far more complex than traditional hosting.
For starters, aside from a video on how to migrate your WordPress website and some articles, there isn’t much in the way of onboarding (AKA guiding you through getting set up on their platform). We did get a few emails from customer support, but if you wanted to dive in and get started yourself, it’s a bit like navigating a maze.
We also had some trouble getting our account up and running. The sign up process isn’t as simple as entering your information and diving in. Cloudways has to confirm your details, and it took a few different conversations with support to get access to our account.
Lastly, after the three day trial (more on that in a minute), we had to remigrate our account. Now – this could have been user error, but it was so complicated – even for someone who has written a ton of reviews of hosting companies. I couldn’t even tell if it had worked the first time.
Limited Trial Period
Despite their simplified pricing structure, Cloudways does have one main con in the pricing area… and that’s their limited trial period.
Usually hosting platforms will come with some sort of guarantee or trial period, so you can test them out before you commit. Cloudways offers three days — and if you’re having difficulty figuring out the migration and set up, those three days go pretty fast.
Again, if you’re committed to cloud hosting, this probably doesn’t matter to you. But if you’re testing it out, it’s a short period.
At most hosting companies, you have an account area where you access to billing, account information, bonuses (ie, Google Ads credits), etc – it will also have links to your actual server backend/dashboard.
Most hosting companies use cPanel as the server backend/dashboard. cPanel is where you go to do anything with your hosting server – install any applications (ie, WordPress), set up email addresses, get your FTP information to upload files, etc. It’s simple, straightforward, and since most hosting companies use it, it’s sort of an industry standard that you can get help with anywhere online.
Cloudways does not use that setup. They use a proprietary backend for both your account administration and your server administration. It’s seamless for what they do…but it’s not really something you can Google or DIY troubleshoot.
On one hand, it is simplified and allows Cloudways to provide a truly customized experience. On the other hand, the set up is confusing and feels limiting. It’s difficult to sort through where things are, and everything feels overly technical (which really doesn’t help me “focus” on what I do best, AKA run my business).
It adds to the complexity of the platform, rather than making it more streamlined and simple.
Conclusion & Next Steps
Overall, I found Cloudways to be a unique solution for those who need the benefits of cloud hosting without the complete complexity of it. While Cloudways still isn’t as straightforward as traditional hosting companies, it does streamline the process of getting set up with a cloud host.
If you’re looking for the benefits of cloud hosting, but don’t want to deal with the overly technical set up, fluctuating payments, etc., go ahead and sign up for Cloudways here.
However, if you just need a solid hosting company that’s straight forward, easy to use, and can handle steady website traffic, you’re better of with a traditional hosting platform like InMotion Hosting. I’ve used them for years – and they fit most small business sites’ need for a balance between price, performance & support.