Cloudways Review: The Best Cloud Hosting on the Market?

I’ve signed up for many types of web hosting accounts in all my years running an online business.  I’ve had shared hosting, VPS hosting, and even WordPress hosting.

But I’ve never had a chance to experience Cloud hosting till now.

So what makes Cloud hosting different?

Performance and scalability.

Cloudways Review

Last updated: Dec 10, 2020
Initially published on: Dec 1, 2020
Product rating: 4.7 / 5.0

tl;dr Summary
Cloudways offers featured-packed cloud hosting plans at an affordable price

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With Cloud hosting, you can add (or subtract) resources from your server whenever you need them.

It really gives you the ultimate flexibility.

Today, I’m going to take a look at one of the most popular managed Cloud hosting services out there, Cloudways.

I recently migrated several sites over to them and in this Cloudways review, I’m going to share with you what I like and don’t like about them so far.

Cloudways logo

Here’s what I’m going to cover:


What Is Cloudways?

What is Cloudways

Cloudways is a managed, cloud-based web hosting platform established in 2009.  Since then it has become one of the highest-rated hosting services in a very competitive landscape.

What does a “managed, cloud-based” platform mean?

Managed web hosting is when your hosting server is maintained by the company leasing it to you.

This means you don’t have to worry about the technical hurdles when it comes to things like server issues, upgrades, security, or backups. Although Cloudways does give you some level of control over these aspects as well.

Cloud-based hosting is when your website is hosted on a network of servers (the cloud) as opposed to sharing a single server (shared hosting) or using a dedicated server (dedicated hosting).

Spoiler alert: Cloudways is one of the best in class for this type of web hosting.

Who Is Cloudways Targeted To?

When you’re just starting out with a website or hobby project, shared hosting – as in sharing a server with numerous other people – is perfectly acceptable and even recommended.

It’s a lot cheaper, and when you don’t have consistent traffic you really don’t have to worry about performance that much.

But as your website starts to grow, and traffic starts rolling in, it’s worth considering a cloud hosting plan.

There are several benefits including:

  • They can be optimized and configured to your specific website. Which can result in overall faster load times.
  • Server resources are only allocated to you. Which means they won’t be eaten up by other sites on the same server.
  • You get your own IP address. This prevents it from being impacted by spam or adult-themed websites (this association can impact SEO rankings).
  • Cloud-based servers are very scalable.  So you will always have enough resources available to handle the traffic as you grow.
  • They are more secure because there are fewer points of entry for potential malicious attacks.

So if you have one or more established websites and you’re considering a cloud-based solution, it’s probably a good time to bite the bullet and upgrade.

What Are Some Of My Favorite Things About Cloudways?

Awesome thing #1: The backend UI is amazing

Cloudways UI

When you use a shared hosting service you’ll almost certainly have access to a dashboard called cPanel.

cPanel has a ton of app-like functions for everything from email, to database, to domain management and everything in between. It’s a popular dashboard and one that many webmasters find themselves coming back to.

They also raised their prices recently which caused most of my web hosting companies to pass the cost on to me.

But Cloudways is a managed service, so it doesn’t come with a traditional cPanel dashboard.

While this can be a problem with some hosting companies, I found that the management interface built by Cloudways is considerably better than cPanel in almost every regard.

Not only does it replicate almost all the same features of cPanel, but the layout and organization is much more intuitive. While still including some very advanced (but optional) configurations.

More on those later in the review.

Awesome thing #2: The migration process is painless

The migration process

One of the worst things about changing your web hosting service is the prospect of moving all your websites over.

It’s technical. It’s time-intensive. And it’s accident-prone. Make one mistake and your entire business could be offline for hours or even days.

But moving my existing websites over to Cloudways was a totally different experience. Not only because they offer a free migration service, but actually doing it yourself is just as easy.

Here’s why:

  • They have a dedicated WordPress migration plugin that copies your entire website install over, and it works flawlessly.
  • Websites can be copied over to your Cloudways server without any domain configuration, and they can even be accessed on a temporary URL.
  • Domain names can easily be connected to individual websites (Applications) through the management interface, with the ability to assign a free SSL certificate on click.
  • Once a domain is connected, Cloudways automatically renames every URL structure present throughout your WordPress install.

Because of this streamlined process, I was able to migrate all my websites with absolutely zero downtime.

Awesome thing #3: The performance optimization is top class

The performance optimization

Cloudways uses all the right tech, tricks, and tools to squeeze the absolute most from your server performance.

This includes everything from hosting your data on solid-state drives (SSD), running pre-configured caching on the server level, using the most up-to-date PHP optimized servers, and even an optional integrated CDN.

The best part?

You don’t even need to understand any of what I just said because you automatically get all these optimizations from day 1 without any necessary tweaks on your part.

What Are The Annoying Things About Cloudways?

Annoying thing #1: Email hosting is not included

One of the benefits of cPanel is that you can set up a virtually unlimited number of domain-based email accounts through your hosting. It also costs nothing extra on top of your usual hosting bill.

With managed hosting like Cloudways, however, it’s not quite as simple.

Cloudways doesn’t offer email hosting as part of your package, so you’ll have to set up your email accounts elsewhere.

You have a couple of options here:

  1. Use Cloudways’ Rackspace addon at a discounted rate of $1 per month, per email. This is the easiest, most painless way to get around the lack of email hosting.
  2. Change your domain MX records up to a third-party email hosting service of your choosing, such as Zoho Mail (free) or GSuite (paid per email). There are some pros and cons to this if you go the free route, such as no SMTP support.

A Look Inside Cloudways

Picking Your Own Servers

When you first sign up to Cloudways, you’ll be asked to select a server.

Cloudways allows you to choose from various cloud hosting infrastructures like Digital Ocean, Vultr, or AWS, so you can choose an infrastructure that suits your needs.

Cloudways servers

There are pros and cons to each one and the price will vary based on which one you choose and what server size you need.

I won’t get into a comparison here since it’s outside the scope of this review.  But a lot of people recommend the Vultr High Frequency plan for its performance, so that’s what I went with.

Of course, it’s also important to choose a server location that represents the largest chunk of your website traffic, so that may limit your options.

Once your server is selected, you’ll see it listed under the Servers menu:

Cloudways servers menu

Now, here’s where it gets interesting.

Clicking into your server will open up the custom management interface, allowing you to view, access, and configure your server in various ways.

Most importantly, this is where you’ll find the Master Credentials for your server, including the public IP address along with an auto-generated username and password.

the Master Credentials

The left sidebar provides some options for server-level configurations and any other relevant data.

These include:

  • Monitoring server health, bandwidth, RAM, and disk usage
  • Managing additional services such as advanced caching
  • Adjusting basic server-level limits and packages
  • Security settings for whitelisting and blacklisting IP’s
  • Vertical scaling to easily increase server size
  • Backups to create and restore snapshots of your server
  • SMTP to configure automatic and transactional emails

Let’s look more closely at a few of them.

Monitoring

Monitoring

The Monitoring section gives a quick summary of the health of your server in real-time, including how much RAM, CPU, Disk and Bandwidth allocation you’ve already used up.

You can also click the Details tab to see minute by minute reporting of these metrics over time, including additional metrics like ‘Write Per Second’ and ‘Reads Per Second’.

Manage Services

Manage Services

Manage Services is an interface to get a bird’s eye view of what services are running on your server, and it gives you the ability to enable, disable, or restart specific services if required.

Many of these will be running by default and it’s best to leave this section alone if you’re not sure what you’re looking at, but advanced users may want to tweak this for slightly better performance.

Settings & Packages

Settings & Packages

The server-level settings include your execution limit, upload size limit, and memory limit, along with error validation.

The defaults here are fine, but if you start seeing these types of errors when installing WordPress plugins or running high-demand tasks, this is where you go to fix it — even if just temporarily.

The Packages tab allows you to upgrade things like your PHP framework or MySQL version, as well as advanced caching such as Redis.

Vertical Scaling

Vertical Scaling

Vertical scaling is how you upgrade your server limits. It works by moving the slider to increase server resources for a fee.

Depending on which type of server you chose during setup, it may not allow you to scale down using this same method. Instead, you’ll need to clone the server in order to downgrade your plan, if ever necessary.

Server Backups

Server Backups

This page gives you full control over when and how often backups of your server (and your websites) are taken.

Here you can set the scheduled time, backup frequency, and backup retention duration to whatever you require.  Keep in mind that more backups over a longer period of time will use up more of your server resources.

You can also enable local backups so you’re not relying on server backups alone, as well as on-demand backups if you’re worried about an impending change or update.

Applications

An application is essentially an individual website that lives on your server, and you can add as many applications as your server resources can handle.

To set up a new website install, you simply add a new application from the Applications’ menu:

Applications’ menu

You’ll then select which server you want to install the application to.

I only have a single server, but those with a large portfolio of websites will find this useful when organizing where sites will live.

You’ll then choose which version of WordPress you want installed:

Version of WordPress

By default, Cloudways will include their free Breeze plugin with every WordPress installation, which acts as a caching solution similar to WPRocket (though admittedly I still prefer NitroPack myself).

You can also opt for a raw PHP install if you don’t plan on using WordPress, and assign to a project — which is just a way to manage multiple apps/websites under one account or server.

Clicking the ‘Add Project’ button will now start the process of installing your new site with the default configurations and optimizations. It can take a few minutes.

Breeze plugin

Once finished, you’ll be able to select it from the Applications list.

Side note: You can also clone existing applications and set up a staging site. This process is as easy as clicking a button and staging sites can be pushed to the live site with another click. Super simple.

Here, Cloudways gives you the basic access details including the auto-generated application URL, login credentials, and database access.

Of course, you can connect your own domain and change any of these details if you wish, it’s only set up this way for convenience.

Cloudways access details

The left sidebar, similar to the Server settings, is where you’ll find your application-level configurations and any other relevant data.

These include:

  • Monitoring app traffic, PHP performance, and disk usage
  • Checking access and error logs
  • Enabling bot protection to prevent hack attempts (recommended)
  • Adding or removing domains
  • Adding and managing cron jobs
  • Generating SSL certificates (powered by Lets Encrypt)
  • Backups to create and restore snapshots of your site
  • General application (website) settings
  • Optional CloudwaysCDN configuration

Let’s look more closely at a few of them.

Bot Protection

Bot Protection

Bot Protection is exactly what it sounds like; it automatically blocks any automated traffic to your website.

This includes intrusion attempts and other malicious activity to protect your site from hackers, as well as detecting unusual (or unnatural) traffic surges to reduce server usage.

For some reason, this is turned off by default but I recommend turning it on.

Domain Management

Domain Management

This is where you connect a domain name you already own to your application, and you can connect multiple domains if you wish.

It’s important to note that you’ll first need to point your DNS to Cloudways through whichever domain registrar you’re using. Cloudways provides documentation on how to do this for all the popular registrars.

SSL Management

SSL Management

Having an SSL certificate for your website has become standard practice these days, not only for the encryption and security benefits but also because Google likes them.

Here, Cloudways allows you to quickly and easily generate a SSL certificate for your site through the free LetsEncrypt service, and you can even enable auto-renew to make sure it never expires.

I did this with multiple sites that I migrated over and it was painless.

Backup & Restore

Backup & Restore

Where the server-level backup settings allow you to set things like backup frequency and retention, this is where you can overwrite your live site by restoring previous backups.

It’s also worth noting that on-demand backups can be taken here at the application level, which is more efficient than taking an entire server backup when it’s really intended for a single site.

CloudwaysCDN

CloudwaysCDN

Cloudways has its own Content Delivery Network (CDN) conveniently called CloudwaysCDN.  You can enable this right here in the application management interface for a small fee.

You will need to tweak some settings inside your application to complete the setup, such as through the provided Breeze plugin if using WordPress. Again, Cloudways has plenty of documentation to see you through.

Cloudflare’s CDN (free) is still a stronger option for most people.

Cloudways Pricing: How much is Cloudways?

The pricing for Cloudways depends on which type of server you pick, and how many resources you decide to allocate to it.

The cheapest are the Digital Ocean, Vultr, and Linode servers which start at $10, $11, and $12 per month respectively. Google Cloud servers start at $33.63 and AWS servers start at $36.51.

All plans come with the same features. So as you scale up, you pay extra for more RAM, processor power, storage, and bandwidth.

You also get a free 3-day long trial to familiarize yourself with the platform. The trial starts whenever you create your first server and no credit card is required.

Final Thoughts

I’ve been quite happy with my Cloudways experience so far.

Migrating my sites over was very simple with their WordPress plugin. And I’ve ended up saving a lot of money by consolidating web hosts.

Cloud hosting is a bit more technical than with your standard CPanel hosting. But the Cloudways interface is quite nice.  And there are plenty of tutorial videos that can get you up to speed quickly.

So if you need the power and flexibility that cloud hosting provides then I would definitely recommend giving Cloudways a try.

Switch your hosting to Cloudways

Cloudways Pros

  • Amazing custom interface
  • Performance optimized servers
  • Basic and advanced server configurations
  • Advanced security features and configurations
  • Scheduled and on-demand backups and recovery
  • One-click cloning and staging sites
  • User and team collaboration tools
  • Projects for organization applications
  • Native CloudwaysCDN with easy setup
  • Vertical scaling for seamless server upgrades
  • Free migration (or use the migrator plugin)
  • Good third-party integrations
  • 24/7/365 live chat support
  • Very competitive pricing
  • 3-day free trial (no credit card)

Cloudways Cons

  • No built-in email hosting
  • No domain registration
  • CloudwaysCDN isn’t free
  • Advanced features can be daunting
Affiliate Disclaimer: I hope you liked this Cloudways review. Please note that any links inside this article may be affiliate links to Cloudways. That means that if you click on one of the links and sign up, I may be compensated for it. If you do happen to click, thanks! Any money we make keeps this site running and allows us to keep producing high-quality reviews.
About Lewis Parrott

Lewis is a writer and SEO nerd based out of Southeast Asia. He spends most of his day churning out internet marketing related content from his laptop. Believe it or not, he also has a girlfriend.

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