When looking for web hosting, most of us consider speed, uptime and security as some of the most important factors. We want a web host that gives us an excellent value for money while ensuring that our websites are running smoothly and flawlessly.
Most website owners sign up for shared hosting plans from web hosting companies like Hostgator and Bluehost because aside from the fact that they’re cheap, they are also beginner-friendly. There’s no harm in choosing shared hosting plans and for the most part, they are good enough for low-traffic websites. But if have a busy website, it’s better to move to a virtual private server (VPS) for speed and performance reasons. VPS plans are faster and can handle more traffic than traditional shared hosting.
The problem is that setting up and managing a VPS require knowledge and skills in Linux systems administration. So unless you’re willing to spend hours learning Linux and how to manage and configure a server, it’s best to have an expert do it for you. That entails additional costs that most website owners would be hesitant to spend money on.
The good news is that there are managed VPS providers like Cloudways that make it easy for you to create, configure and manage a virtual private server. With managed VPS hosting, you don’t need to know Linux systems administration and server maintenance skills. These providers offer a web-based platform where you can develop your websites, monitor the health of your server, and many more.
Table of Contents
- What is Cloudways?
- Why Use Cloudways?
- How to Sign Up for Cloudways
- Activating Your Cloudways Account
- Launching Your First Cloudways Server
- Managing the Server
- Managing Your Applications
- How to Migrate Your Website to Cloudways
- How to Create a Staging Environment in Cloudways
- Verdict and Conclusion
What is Cloudways?
Cloudways is a managed cloud hosting platform and infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) for developers, website owners, digital agencies, online businesses and anyone who needs a fully managed solution for hosting websites and applications. Cloudways currently supports five cloud hosting providers: DigitalOcean, Linode, Vultr, Amazon AWS and Google Cloud.
Through an easy-to-use control panel, Cloudways enables developers of all skill levels to deploy unlimited servers and applications, all with 24/7/365 support, real-time monitoring, managed security, and automated backups. Cloudways-powered servers are optimized for speed, performance and reliability with dedicated resource allocations, SSD drives, advanced caching, security firewalls, seamless vertical scaling, regular security patches, and many more. A full list of features can be found here.
Pricing starts at $10/month for a DigitalOcean droplet with 1GB RAM and 25GB storage. Cloudways supports credit and debit cards (Visa, MasterCard and American Express) and PayPal. Learn more about pricing and plans in this page.
Why Use Cloudways?
Simply put, Cloudways is vastly superior to shared hosting. There’s nothing wrong with shared hosting and in fact, I recommend it to most beginners and small website owners, but it suffers from speed, uptime and performance issues.
Shared hosting means sharing server resources with dozens or maybe hundreds of other users – all competing for a limited amount of memory, bandwidth and disk space. If Joe Bloggs runs a memory-hogging script, it will drastically affect other users on the same server, resulting in slow websites and possible downtime.
In contrast, Cloudways servers have dedicated resources so your website or application runs at lightning speed and optimum performance. You are allocated a certain amount of resources in a private environment, hence the term “virtual private server.” Should you exceed your allocated resources, you can easily upgrade the server to a higher plan with more RAM and disk space.
I used to host my websites on shared hosting plans with Hostgator, Namecheap and other web hosting companies, until I discovered Cloudways and realized how superior it is. All my websites hosted on the Cloudways platform are blazing fast, both in the frontend and backend. Knowing how important a fast website is when it comes to SEO and user experience, I made the decision to move all my websites to Cloudways.
I tested the site speed of one of my slow-loading websites on GTmetrix while still on shared hosting and also after moving it to Cloudways. The website loading time was literally cut in almost half from 4.5 seconds to only 2.5 seconds as shown in the screenshot above. With further speed optimization like using a CDN and eliminating render-blocking resources, I could potentially lower the site loading time to less than 2 seconds.
Furthermore, my websites on Cloudways rarely suffer from any downtime. In fact, one of my websites have a 100% uptime rate in the last 30 days according to Uptime Robot.
Cloudways may be a tad more expensive than cheap shared hosting but the benefits far outweigh the additional costs. I’m currently paying $40 a month to host five websites on Cloudways and it’s worth every penny in my opinion.
If you’re still on the fence about whether to sign up for Cloudways or not, remember that a fast website results in better search engine rankings and lower bounce rates. Studies have shown that 40% of Internet users abandon a website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. Aside from faster loading times, websites on Cloudways rarely suffer from downtime so you don’t lose potential customers and sales.
How to Sign Up for Cloudways
Go to this site (affiliate link) to sign up for your free three-day trial of Cloudways. You will also receive $15 in hosting credits, which will be added to your available funds after account upgrade.
During the free trial, you can launch a server, deploy an application and migrate your website at no cost. After the trial ends, you will need to provide a payment method such as credit/debit card or PayPal to continue using Cloudways.
Cloudways is a “pay as you go” service, which means that you will be charged only for the resources that you consume. You will be invoiced for the resources and services that you used in any given month at the start of the next month. Click here to learn how Cloudways billing works.
By the way, you can use the coupon code TECHPILIPINAS to get 20% off on your first bill. You can enter the coupon code by clicking “Got a Promo Code?” during signup. You can still enjoy the free trial and the discount will be applied on your first invoice.
Don’t forget to add a payment method after the free trial in order to get $15 in free hosting credits.
After a few seconds, your account will be ready. But first you have to verify your account using the activation link sent to you via email.
You will not be able to launch servers and deploy applications unless you verify your account.
Activating Your Cloudways Account
Check your email for a message with the subject “Activate Your Cloudways Account.”
Open that email and click “Activate Account.”
You will be asked to provide your mobile phone number. Enter it into the field provided and click “Send SMS” or “Call Me.”
Enter the 6-digit verification code sent to you via SMS or call. The code is valid for only two minutes. Otherwise, you’ll have to request a new code.
After successfully activating your Cloudways account, you can now launch your first server, create applications and more. Remember that you have a free trial for three days so you don’t need to worry about cost. You can choose to continue using Cloudways after the trial by adding a payment method.
Launching Your First Cloudways Server
First, you need to create and set up your server in Cloudways. This is where your websites or applications will be hosted.
To launch your first server, enter the following information:
- Application Type – This is set to WordPress 5.3 by default, but you can choose PHP, Laravel, Magento, Drupal, OpenCart, PrestaShop, or Joomla.
- Application Name – You can change this to the name of your website.
- Server Name – This is the name of the server and can be anything you like.
- Project Name – Useful for organizing your applications into different projects or clients. You can always change this later.
Next is to choose from any of these cloud hosting providers: DigitalOcean, Linode, Vultr, Amazon EC2 (AWS), and Google Cloud Platform. I recommend DigitalOcean or Vultr since they’re the most affordable ones available.
For the server size, you can choose 1GB of RAM if you’re hosting one website and if it only has a handful of traffic. You can always upgrade the server size anytime you want. The ideal server size depends on how resource-intensive your applications are. In any case, you can monitor the resource usage in Cloudways to check if your applications are using too much memory or disk space. We will get to that later in the article.
Take note that you can only launch a server up to 2GB in size while on the free trial. To increase the server size to more than 2GB, you’ll need to upgrade your account by adding a payment method.
Last but not least, select your server location. In most cases, it doesn’t matter where your server is located, although you might want to choose a location that’s closest to your website’s audience. For example, if most of your website visitors or customers are from the United States, then it’s better to choose a server location like Los Angeles.
At the bottom of the page, you’ll see your hourly and monthly charges. In this example, I will be paying $0.0139 per hour or $10 per month for a 1GB DigitalOcean server in New York.
Click “LAUNCH NOW” to create the server. Wait a few minutes for the server to be added.
After the server is created, you will see its IP address and the date it was created. You can add as many servers as you want for your applications and projects by clicking the “Add Server” button.
Managing the Server
Cloudways makes it extremely easy for both beginners and experts to manage their cloud servers through its web-based platform. There’s no need to connect to the server through secure shell (SSH) although advanced users can still do so if they want to.
To start managing, click the name of the server.
You will now see several options to manage, configure and monitor your server. Let’s go through each option one by one.
This is where you can view your server’s public IP, username and password.
You can use these master credentials to gain access to your server through SFTP or SSH (using a SSH client like PuTTY). You also have the option add your SSH keys to access the server without a password prompt.
To keep your server running smoothly, you’ll need to monitor its resource usage. Cloudways allows you to monitor resource usage statistics such as RAM, CPU and disk usage. You can quickly see if your server is using too much RAM or CPU which might degrade its performance. If you find that your server is consistently running out of memory then it’s time to upgrade your server.
You may click the DETAILS tab to see graphs for each type of resource usage such as idle CPU, free disk, free memory, incoming and outgoing network traffic, monthly bandwidth, and more.
This is where you can control the core services (e.g. Apache, MySQL, Nginx) necessary for your applications to run. Unless you know what you’re doing, you should leave the settings as is.
Settings and Packages
Cloudways makes it easy to change your server settings with a few clicks of the mouse.
For instance, if you want to increase the memory limit of your website so that it can handle more intensive tasks, then you can change the default setting of 128MB to 256MB or more.
You can also change the various settings for core services like PHP, MySQL, Apache, and Nginx by clicking the ADVANCED tab. If you want to change your version of PHP or MySQL, you can go to the PACKAGES tab.
For extra security, you can block IP addresses that attempt to access your server.
You can also block all IP addresses except those in your whitelist. This is not recommended if you have a dynamic IP.
You can easily increase the size of your server or add block storage. On DigitalOcean, you can only increase the server size but not decrease it. If you want to decrease the server size and reduce the monthly bill, you’ll have to clone the server.
Choose the new server size in RAM and click “Scale Now.” The upgrade will take a few minutes. Take note that upgrading the server will temporarily stop all processes so you might want to do this at a less busy time such as midnight.
Cloudways provides scheduled and on-demand backups so you don’t need to worry about losing your websites and applications. You can set a schedule for the backup process to run, as well as the frequency (up to 7 days) and the retention period (up to 4 weeks).
Enabling local backups will make an additional copy of your backup to your server. You can then download the local backup via SFTP or SSH.
To perform an on-demand backup, click “Take Backup Now” and Cloudways will create off-site backups and local backups (if enabled) of all applications in the server.
If you want to use a transactional email service like Mailgun and SendGrid, you can set it up on Cloudways and your outgoing emails will be delivered through that service.
You can choose between your own SMTP (e.g. Mailgun, SendGrid, Mandrill) or Elastic Email which can be activated from the Addons section.
After adding the SMTP service, you may test it by sending a test email.
Managing Your Applications
Cloudways allows you to install and manage all kinds of web applications on your server. Installing and creating a WordPress site is a walk in the park with Cloudways, and they even offer free website migrations to paying customers.
If you already have an existing website, you can ask the Cloudways staff to migrate your site over to your new server or use the Cloudways WordPress Migrator plugin to automatically transfer your site. In the succeeding chapters, we will discuss how to migrate your website over to your new server using the plugin but first we’ll cover the basics of Cloudways application management.
Click the Applications link at the top menu and select the application that you want to manage.
On the left sidebar, you will see the options to manage your application. Let’s go through each one in detail.
In this page, you can view important information about your application such as the application URL and the usernames and passwords of your application’s admin panel and MySQL database.
You might also want to create a unique set of application credentials (username and password) for this app. You can use these credentials to access your app via FTP or SSH.
To access the MySQL database, click the “Launch Database Manager” button.
If you want keep track of your application’s performance, the monitoring section gives you an overview of important statistics regarding site traffic, PHP performance, MySQL queries, running crons, and disk usage.
You’ll also be able to view your access logs as well as the error logs.
The domain management section allows you to change the primary domain and additional domains of your application.
After setting the primary domain, you should update the nameserver settings by creating the proper DNS records on your domain registrar or DNS hosting provider. Read this page to learn how to set the correct DNS records for your domain to point to your Cloudways application.
Cron Job Management
You can add your cron jobs to schedule tasks that will be executed in the future.
Add a cron job by clicking “Add New Cron Job” and then entering the time in minutes, hours, days, weeks or months as well as the scheduled command. Click the “Advanced” tab to insert a cron syntax.
Cloudways provides free SSL certificates for all applications courtesy of Let’s Encrypt. If you don’t want a free SSL certificate, you can add your own custom certificate.
I recommend enabling auto renewal so that you don’t have to renew your Let’s Encrypt certificate manually after expiration.
Backup and Restore
This is one of my favorite features that convinced me to switch to Cloudways from shared hosting. Cloudways performs automatic off-site backups as well as on-demand backups. No need to use a backup plugin or service because Cloudways does it for free.
You can easily restore your app using any of your available backups. The number of available backups depend on the frequency and retention period that was set in the Backups section under Server Management. So if you set the backup frequency to 1 day and the retention to 1 week, then you will have 7 available backups to choose from.
The backup and restore feature comes in handy when something goes wrong with my website (such as a plugin error) or if I want to revert to a previous version of my site. I can make changes or edits to my website and if anything goes wrong, I simply restore the previous version with just a few clicks.
Deployment Via Git
Cloudways allows you to deploy code from git repositories like Github. This article explains how to use git for deploying code to your application.
Change various settings of your application such as folder name, default webroot, TLS version, Varnish caching, SSH access, CORS headers, and more. You can hover your mouse pointer over the “i” icon for a quick summary of each setting. In most cases, you don’t need to change anything in this section.
The Cloudways WordPress Migrator plugin automatically transfers your website from your old host to your new Cloudways server. Just provide your application details and the plugin will do all the hard work. In the next chapter, I will teach you how to migrate your website to Cloudways using the plugin.
Cloudways offers a content delivery network (CDN) to speed up the delivery of static resources for your application and make it load faster.
At the moment, Cloudways CDN costs $1 for every 25GB. You’ll find that other CDN providers like BunnyCDN (which I’m using) offer cheaper pricing, but if you don’t want to deal with setup and other hassles, you can activate Cloudways CDN right away.
How to Migrate Your Website to Cloudways
Moving your website to the Cloudways platform is easy using the WordPress Migrator plugin powered by BlogVault.
First, log in to your WordPress admin area and install the plugin by going to Plugins > Add New. Search “Cloudways migrator” and install and activate the plugin.
Once the plugin is activated, click “Cloudways Migrate” on the left pane.
Enter the required application details such as destination site URL (application URL), database name, server public IP address, SFTP username, and SFTP password. You can find these information in Applications > Access Details in Cloudways.
Tick the “I agree to Blogvault Terms of Service…” box and click “Migrate.”
Depending on the size of your application, it will take several minutes for migration to complete.
If the migration is successful, you may now view the new migrated site through the destination or application URL (e.g. http://wordpress-209663-886119-cloudwaysapps.com).
Log in to the WordPress admin area on your migrated site and test if everything works as expected on both the backend and frontend. If you’re satisfied, you may proceed to Applications > Domain Management to add your domain and then change the DNS records on your domain registrar.
To change your domain’s DNS records, log in to your domain registrar or DNS provider (e.g. Cloudflare), and set the A records to your public server IP.
- Type: A record
- Host: @ (for root domain) or www
- Value: your server IP address (e.g. 184.108.40.206)
- TTL: automatic
This is how I set the A records to point to my Cloudways app:
If you’re using Cloudflare, you don’t need to change the DNS records in your registrar since you can edit the A records in the DNS management page in your Cloudflare account.
After updating the A records, use What’s My DNS to check if your changes have propagated. It will take up to 48 hours for changes to domain records to propagate.
For non-WordPress applications, you will have to migrate your website manually by uploading your files via SFTP using Filezilla or any FTP application, and then uploading the database tables to MySQL.
How to Create a Staging Environment in Cloudways
With Cloudways, you can create a staging environment where you can make changes to a replica or copy of your website or app, and then deploy these changes to the live site once everything is working perfectly. A staging environment allows developers to test new features or changes on a website without affecting the live or production site.
For example, if you want to try out a WordPress plugin but you’re worried that it might negatively affect your site, you can create a staging site to test it. Then once everything is working fine, you will then push the changes to the live site.
Cloudways makes it easy to create a staging environment with just a few clicks. Go to your list of applications and on the right side, click the icon with three vertical dots. Click “Clone App/Create Staging.”
Choose the server where you want to create the staging application, and then check “Create as Staging.” Click “Continue.”
Wait a few minutes as the staging application is being created.
Go to the list of applications and you’ll see a new application named “Staging-(Name of App).” Click on that application to start managing it just like you would a real app.
You can now start making changes to the staging site, log in to its admin panel, access the database, view the frontend, update the application settings, and many more.
To push your changes to the live site, click “Staging Management” on the left menu. Under “Copy Data From Staging to Live,” click “Push” to deploy your changes to the live site.
When you’re done, you can safely delete the staging application by going to the Applications page and clicking “Delete.”
Verdict and Conclusion
If you’re looking for a mix of speed, performance and reliability in web hosting coupled with ease of use and outstanding features, look no further than Cloudways. There are countless web hosting companies but in my opinion, nothing compares with Cloudways. You’ll have access to a powerful platform that gives you total control and flexibility in web development, at a price that you can easily afford. Cloudways is perfect for the solo website owner as well as digital agencies with a large roster of clients.
What I liked most about Cloudways is the ability to create a staging environment which I find extremely useful when I want to test some changes before pushing it to the live site. Most shared hosting plans don’t offer a staging environment and developers would need to use a plugin or third-party service for that.
Another feature that convinced me to move to Cloudways is the free automated and scheduled backups. I lost count of how many times I messed up something on my website and Cloudways backups saved me each and every time. I only have to click a button and my website will immediately revert to my selected backup.
The biggest downside in my opinion is the lack of cPanel. cPanel is known for its ease of use and simplicity that enable non-technical users to launch their own websites. Most users, especially those who come from shared hosting, might be a little confused with the Cloudways control panel.
So if you’re used to using cPanel to upload your files and create MySQL databases, Cloudways might be a bit overwhelming. However, I think Cloudways did a good job designing its platform for beginners. There are tooltips with a short explanation of each setting or option along with links to helpful guides. You can also hit the support button on the right side of the screen to access the knowledge base, start a live chat or create a support ticket.
As for the support, I can say that I’m extremely satisfied. My questions were usually answered in less than an hour. If you have an urgent question, I suggest starting a live chat as they’ll answer your questions quicker, but it has a time limit of 20 minutes. If you think that you need assistance for longer than 20 minutes, then it’s better to open a support ticket instead.
I hope that this Cloudways review helped you decide if it’s the right web hosting company for your needs. My experience with Cloudways has been exceptional and I’m sure it will be for you too. It’s time to say goodbye to slow shared hosting and say hello to fast, reliable and optimized cloud hosting courtesy of Cloudways.
Affiliate Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links to products and services. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.