The perfect provider, or overly complex?
Cloudways is a serious hosting company for developers and advanced website owners who demand full power for their applications. If words like “containerized,” “deployed,” or even “virtual environment” make you shudder, this isn’t the review for you.
Founded in 2011, Malta-based Cloudways specializes in managed cloud hosting and can accommodate a variety of different hosting needs including WordPress, Magento, Laravel, and custom PHP applications.
Here comes the technical bit. Cloudways provides a single console to integrate many cloud services and enables PHP developers to deploy containerized applications (meaning you can deploy and run PHP applications without launching an entire virtual machine for each app).
Since it has partnerships with all the major cloud providers, it offers servers located in over 42 data centers across 25+ locations around the world. It only caters to an English-speaking user base, however.
Cloudways employs more than 50 staff members to serve a global customer base of 20,000. While Cloudways has built a reputation for being fast, secure, reliable, and affordable, it still isn’t a big hosting company compared to some of the industry giants.
What’s more, although the plans are excellent, they include far more functionality than most beginners will need. Cloudways is best for business owners or web developers who want to maximize their productivity by leaving all the security and performance enhancement tasks to the professionals.
In this Cloudways review, I’ll dig into the features, ease of use, performance, support, pricing, and so on. I’ll answer questions like:
- How easy is it to use the platform?
- What’s customer service like?
- How fast are the ping speeds in each location?
- What are the best features Cloudways has to offer?
- What could be better?
If you give me 15 minutes of your time, by the end of this review you’ll know whether or not Cloudways is the right company for you.
Power hosting for power users
To test the Cloudways platform, I tried out its managed WordPress hosting service. I’m pleased to report, overall, I found this to be a nice balance of affordability, functionality, and speed.
Cloudways also offers basic features such as a website migration service from other hosts, firewalls, automatic backups, and so on. It doesn’t offer domain registration or SSL certificates, although you can set up the free Let’s Encrypt certificate via your admin panel.
Let’s go beyond the basics and take a look at the most interesting features Cloudways has to offer.
Cloudways is best known for being a “cloud-based integrator”. This is also why it’s popular with developers and owners of large websites with high-performance requirements (it’s also why it’s entirely unsuitable for most everyday website owners).
If this sounds like gobbledygook to you — essentially, it means you can create a server hosted with one of six major cloud providers without having to create an account with anyone other than Cloudways.
Plus, as Cloudways is a managed host, you won’t need to deal with the day-to-day management of technical tasks such as updating software or configuring the server. I’d say that’s a win-win!
Staging Sites and URLs
Cloudways offers unlimited staging areas and URLs, meaning you can easily test out new elements and make changes to your code without affecting your live website.
What’s more, there’s a one-click tool that allows you to clone the entire server (or even individual files and databases), so you can easily move your website to a staging URL and then push the changes live once you’re done.
As you’d expect with a premium managed hosting provider, you get a variety of built-in tools to optimize your page loading speeds, especially during peak traffic periods. These include SSD storage, built-in caches (Memcached, Varnish, and Redis), and CloudwaysCDN. If you’re expecting a sudden peak in traffic due to a promotion, you won’t need to worry about your website crashing.
With more and more remote workers on staff nowadays, you’ll need tools that enable you to collaborate effectively with team members. With Cloudways, you can easily assign tasks to co-workers and allocate each team member the appropriate permission levels to access your server, app, or website.
This is essential for the security of your website, and I’d highly recommend only choosing a host with these permission features.
If you’re a developer, you’ll be pleased to see that Cloudways provides a range of workflow tools to make your life easier. For instance, Git auto-deployment means that changes made in the remote repositories are pushed live immediately. There are also the usual features like SSH and SFTP access, of course.
Ease of use
You’re busy, I get it. Running a successful business requires you to wear multiple hats and fight fires on a daily basis. With managed hosting solutions, you can focus on what’s most important, and leave Cloudways to step in to handle all of the day-to-day (boring) technical aspects.
Creating an Account
Creating an account with Cloudways is easy. This is largely due to the excellent design of the main website and the user interface. While the platform is primarily geared towards developers and larger websites, beginners will still find it straightforward.
See just how fast and simple it is in my step-by-step guide.
Connecting a Domain and Installing WordPress
Likewise, the process to connect a domain and install WordPress is straightforward. You can easily find tutorials on this online, and Cloudways provides its own help documentation as well. Whenever I had any questions while setting up my website, I could simply access live chat via the main dashboard.
As Cloudways doesn’t offer domain registration services, you’ll need to purchase a domain from an accredited registrar and then map it back to Cloudways. This isn’t overly complex, but it does add a few additional steps that may feel slightly daunting to beginners.
Beginners and experts alike can follow my how-to guide, which covers the entire process.
WordPress Automated Migrator Tool
Migrating hosts can be stressful (I’ve been there!), especially if you’re running a high volume of traffic. Cloudways allows you to migrate your existing WordPress website easily with its Automated Migrator Tool.
However, if you do need assistance, Cloudways also offers one free expert website migration.
One-Click Software Installer
Granted, it’s no Softaculous, but Cloudways offers more than ten (you read it right, ten) apps that you can install with a single click. The selection includes WordPress, Magento, Laravel, Drupal, and more. Unlike basic auto-installers, the Cloudways installer allows you to deploy programs to multiple websites on a single server as well.
If you need to scale your servers at any point, you can do this instantly with a couple of clicks. The best part about this is that it won’t affect your existing server configurations or parameters. Plus, with the Cloudways pay-as-you-go pricing model, you’ll only ever pay for resources you’ve used.
A+ for speed and performance
As the Cloudways platform integrates the services of third-party cloud providers, you need to refer to the individual companies for the uptime Service Level Agreements. The good news is that Cloudways has only partnered with reputable providers such as DigitalOcean, Amazon Web Services, and Google Cloud.
Because these are the best cloud providers in the industry, Cloudways can boast loading speeds that are 40% to 50% faster than regular hosting services. There are no reported issues of downtime or slow websites; in fact, Cloudways has gained a reputation for reliability and speed.
That said, if you’re running a website with a high volume of traffic, you need the assurance that your host can keep up with the demand. To make sure Cloudways could really deliver in this aspect, I ran my own tests using the Sucuri Load Time Tester.
The results were impressive – Cloudways is ripping fast. The website I created on Cloudways scored A+ overall, with loading times at less than half a second for most countries.
Australia and Tokyo fared the worst (Tokyo was close to two seconds), but given that my chosen servers were in London, I can understand why. On average, the overall time to first byte was 200 milliseconds.
Round-the-clock customer service with live chat
Customer service is available 24/7 via live chat and an online ticketing system. This suited me perfectly. However, if you’d prefer to speak with someone over the phone, you can request a call back. Like many modern companies, there isn’t a phone number advertised on the website.
I got the distinct impression that live chat is the preferred method for support (who wants to talk on the phone anyway nowadays?).
You can also refer to Cloudways’ substantial knowledge base, which includes tons of help documents and tutorials. Alternatively, if you want to chat with fellow developers and tech-geeks, you can post a question in the active community forum.
Like the rest of the website, the customer support pages are well-designed and easy to navigate.
During my time with Cloudways, I hopped on live chat on several occasions — even when I was trying to decide on which cloud provider to choose.
Each time, the operator was readily available and always picked up within a couple of minutes, no matter what time of day it was. There was one instance in which he was confused about my question and gave me an unrelated answer, but on the whole, the responses were helpful and well-informed.
As Facebook is listed on the Cloudways Contact Us page, I sent a message to test customer support via this social media channel. I asked a simple question (“how long is the free trial?”), so I expected a quick response. Unfortunately, even though I waited a couple of days for a reply, I never got one.
Twitter was also prominently displayed on the Contact Us page, so I decided to test their responsiveness here as well. I asked the team how I could check how many resources I’d used (a pretty basic question).
I could tell the question had been read within a minute of my sending it, so I was hopeful for a quick response. Once again, none came even after a couple of days. It seems Cloudways doesn’t offer any form of support via social media.
On the plus side, you can upgrade, downgrade or cancel at any time, and as your billing is calculated by the hour, you’ll only pay for what you use. When you’re logged into your dashboard, you can easily see a snapshot of your usage and spending to date.
There’s a rather measly three-day free trial — then again, most managed hosting providers won’t provide any sort of free trial, so this could be considered generous. If you decide to commit to a paid plan, the only payment options are Visa, American Express, and Mastercard.
Cancellations & Refunds
In order to test the CDN, I had to upgrade to a paid account. Though I was slightly disappointed by the limitations of the free trial, I did like the ability to view my real-time billing inside the admin panel.
As you’ll only pay for the resources you’ve used, there isn’t a refund policy or money-back guarantee. In fact, the terms clearly state that Cloudways will only refund you for services you haven’t used.
Nevertheless, I decided to test what would happen if I requested a refund. The whole process was completed via live chat. The operator downgraded me (no questions asked) and applied a credit to my account. As the money hadn’t left my bank account yet (you only get billed after a month), there was nothing to refund.
Read more about my experience of canceling and getting a refund.