Ever since Cloudways was acquired by DigitalOcean, I’ve seen quite a few complaints about price increases, removing Vultr (but you can still get it here), and people looking for alternatives.
Cloudways also scored poorly in Kevin Ohashi’s 2023 WordPress Hosting Benchmarks which explains why I’ve seen also complaints about degraded performance. Which is interesting… because Cloudways is supposed to be fast with cloud hosting, NVMe SSDs, Redis Object Cache Pro, and Cloudflare Enterprise which now supports full page caching (and Argo Smart Routing).
Needless to say, if you’re looking for alternatives, I moved to Rocket.net which costs more but averages a 100ms global TTFB with better support/TrustPilot ratings (and more hands-off). If you’re on a budget, look at ChemiCloud’s WordPress Turbo plan (which uses LiteSpeed, NVMe SSDs, and Redis). Or ServerAvatar which is similar to Cloudways but cheaper and has LiteSpeed.
If you still want to go with Cloudways, I still think they’re better than SiteGround, Kinsta, and most mainstream hosts. I’ll cover some things I’ve learned throughout the years including speed tweaks and why an ideal Cloudways setup would like something like this: Cloudways Vultr High Frequency + Cloudflare Enterprise + FlyingPress (not Breeze) + Google Workspace.
- Cloudways acquired by DigitalOcean
- Little awards in Kevin Ohashi’s 2023 Benchmarks
- Cloudways vs. shared hosts
- Cloudways vs. other cloud hosts
- My results
- No more CPU issues
- Monthly pricing, scaling gets expensive
- Sign up
- Launch a server
- Connect your domain
- Request a free migration
- Cloudflare Enterprise
- Redis Object Cache Pro
- Use FlyingPress, not Breeze
- More Cloudways optimizations
- Support isn’t great
- No email hosting
- You’ll want a separate backup plugin
- File manager workaround
- Navigating the dashboard
- Pros & cons
- More migration results
- Alternatives: Rocket.net, ChemiCloud, ServerAvatar
1. Cloudways Acquired By DigitalOcean
Since Cloudways was acquired by DigitalOcean, they’ve
- Increased prices.
- Removed Vultr and other non-DO providers.
- Added full page caching to Cloudflare Enterprise.
- Had several complaints about support and billing issues.
Getting bought out usually isn’t a good thing, and it also wasn’t with Cloudways.
2. Little Awards In Kevin Ohashi’s 2023 Benchmarks
Even with faster technology, Cloudways didn’t perform well in Kevin Ohashi’s WordPress Hosting Benchmarks. In fact, they received hardly any rewards for tests they competed in.
Rocket.net did! But I don’t recommend SiteGround, WPX, or GreenGeeks for various reasons (mainly because of limited resources and poor ethics). You can read my other hosting reviews.
3. Cloudways vs. Shared Hosts
While I try to keep this as accurate as possible, hosting companies change things often and I can’t guarantee 100% accuracy. Drop me a comment if something needs updating (thank you).
- LiteSpeed is faster than Apache.
- NVMe SSDs are faster than SATA SSDs.
- MariaDB is more powerful than MySQL.
- Redis is more powerful than Memcached.
|SiteGround GrowBig||Hostinger Business WP||WPX Business Plan||ChemiCloud WordPress Turbo||Cloudways Vultr HF (2GB)|
|Cores/RAM||Not listed||2 cores/1.5GB||1 core/1GB||3 cores/3GB – scalable to 6/6||1 core/2GB|
|Server||Apache + Nginx||LiteSpeed||LiteSpeed||LiteSpeed||Apache + Nginx|
|Storage||20GB SATA||200GB SATA||15GB SATA||40GB NVMe – 10/11 locations||64G NVMe|
|CDN||Google Cloud||QUIC.cloud||QUIC.cloud||QUIC.cloud||Cloudflare Enterprise|
|DNS||Internal (blocked for 4 days)||Internal||Internal||Internal||DNS Made Easy ($5/mo)|
|Cache plugin||SG Optimizer||LSC||LSC or W3TC||LSC||Breeze|
|Object cache||Memcached||Memcached||x||Redis||Redis Pro|
|Bandwidth or monthly visits||100k visits/mo (estimated)||At discretion||200GB||Unlimited*||2TB|
|CPU limits||Common||Low resources||3 PHP workers||Efficient w/ LiteSpeed||Average (use at least 1 core/RAM)|
|Email hosting||✓||1GB storage||Low limits||✓||x|
|Major incidents||TTFB/DNS/CPU issues, unethical||Fake reviews, scam reports, 2019 breach||Global outage blamed on dead CEO||None||None|
|Migrations||$30/site||Unlimited||5-35 sites||200 cPanel + 10 non-cPanel||1 free + $25/site|
|TrustPilot rating||4.8/5||4.7/5 (fake)||4.9/5||5/5||4.6/5|
|Intro price||$3.99/mo||$3.99/mo||$20.83/mo when paying yearly||$5.99/mo||$26/mo|
|3 year price||$659.64||$299.40||$749.88||$215.64||$936|
4. Cloudways vs. Other Cloud Hosts
As I mentioned earlier, Rocket.net is faster (you get faster PHP processing with LiteSpeed and way more cores/RAM) but it usually costs more than Cloudways due to less bandwidth/storage. You can also host multiple sites on the same Cloudways server while Rocket.net limits # of sites.
|SiteGround Cloud Jump Start Plan||WP Engine StartUp Plan||Kinsta Starter Plan||Cloudways Vultr HF (2GB)||Rocket.net Starter Plan|
|Cores/RAM||4 cores/8GB||Not listed||12 cores/8GB||1 core/2GB||32 cores/128GB|
|Server||Apache + Nginx||Apache + Nginx||Apache + Nginx||Apache + Nginx||Apache + Nginx|
|Storage||40GB SATA||10GB SATA||10GB SATA||64GB NVMe||10GB NVMe|
|Cache plugin||SG Optimizer||x||x||Breeze||x|
|CDN||Google Cloud||Cloudflare free + Polish||Cloudflare free||$5/mo Cloudflare Enterprise||Free Cloudflare Enterprise|
|DNS||Internal (blocked by Google)||Internal||Amazon Route 53||DNS Made Easy ($5/mo)||Cloudflare|
|Object cache||Memcached||Memcached||Redis ($100/mo)||Redis Pro||Redis|
|PHP workers||Not listed (but common issue)||Not listed (but common issue)||2 PHP workers||No limit||No limit|
|Database||MySQL||Not listed||Not listed||MariaDB||MariaDB|
|Nginx reverse proxy||✓||Manual configuration||$50/mo||✓||✓|
|Bandwidth or monthly visits||5TB||50GB + 25k visits/mo||25k visits/mo||2TB||50GB + 250k visits/mo|
|Malware removal||Scanner only||x||Removal pledge||x||Imunify360|
|Major incidents||TTFB/DNS/CPU issues, unethical||2015 breach||None||None||None|
|Migrations||$30/site||Paid (quoted)||Free (most hosts)||1 free + $25/site||Unlimited free|
|Price||$100/mo||$25/mo when paying yearly||$29/mo when paying yearly||$26/mo||$25/mo when paying yearly|
5. My Results
What happened when I moved from SiteGround to Cloudways (this was in 2019):
6. No More CPU Issues
For example, SiteGround’s CPU limits can be a nightmare especially on their cloud hosting. I had to upgrade from GoGeek to a $120/month cloud hosting plan just to get rid of them, and $180/month to have acceptable load times. While this is a common theme with shared hosting because they use limited resources, SiteGround’s is by far the worst I’ve seen. I wrote a popular guide on reducing CPU usage in WordPress and couldn’t fix it. It’s from their low resource limits.
Once I ditched SiteGround for Cloudways, CPU usage averaged under 10%. So I scaled down CPU cores/RAM and was able to save about $100/mo. SiteGround’s cloud hosting was a ripoff.
I’m not saying Cloudways will fix everyone’s CPU limits and you have to take into account they use Apache servers (instead of LiteSpeed which can handle 2x the capacity of Apache). I’m more saying: think twice about upgrading because of CPU limits especially if it’s on SiteGround.
7. Monthly Pricing, Scaling Gets Expensive
Cloudways is monthly pricing (no renewals).
However, it gets expensive as you scale which is probably the biggest complaint. You’re paying about 2x the price on the Vultr HF website for everything else built-in to Cloudways. That’s why many higher traffic websites use RunCloud or CyberPanel instead which are a little more hands-on (launching servers on Cloudways can be done in a few clicks instead of provisioning servers).
Cloudways makes it easy to add CPU/RAM, but shared hosts usually trap you into 1-3 year contracts with a fixed amount of server resources. This can be an issue if your traffic grows or you add plugins/features that need more resources (which is why so many people get screwed).
8. Sign Up
These next few steps walk you through setting up your site on Cloudways.
You get 30% off 3 months when you sign up though the page they created for me, and yes, I’ll get an affiliate commission. I appreciate it if you do, otherwise no worries. Gotta be transparent.
9. Launch A Server
The next step is to launch a server. Select an application (WordPress or WooCommerce) and name your app/server. Select a cloud host (I recommend Vultr HF), and the server size. 1GB is fine for small sites, 2GB+ for larger/WooCommerce sites. Select the data center closest to your visitors. Cloudways has 19 data centers for Vultr HF while most shared hosts only use around 4-6, so assuming you’re able to use a closer data center, this should already help improve TTFB.
Then click Launch Now.
I don’t recommend Google Cloud since Cloudways uses the lower tier N1 machine family. SiteGround originally used N1 when they moved to Google Cloud but now uses N2. Both are for balanced workloads instead of optimized workloads. If you’re doing Google Cloud, you want C2.
10. Connect Your Domain
After your server is done launching, you’ll connect your domain. Cloudways doesn’t offer domain names so if you don’t have one, I recommend using Google Domains or NameCheap.
Step 1: Add your domain name under Applications → Domain Management. Add the www version as an additional domain if you want to redirect all www links to the non-www version.
Step 2: Update DNS records. In NameCheap, go to Dashboard → Domain List → Manage → Advanced DNS → Add New Record. The A Record value is the Public IP found in Access Details in Cloudways. The CNAME is your domain name. Use the same formatting as below. Here are GoDaddy’s instructions (or Google instructions for the domain registrar you’re using).
Step 3: Add free Let’s Encrypt SSL (Applications → SSL Certificate) and enable auto renewal.
Cloudways also has a video on this.
11. Request A Free Migration
Request a free migration (9 squares → Add-ons → Application Migration). The first migration is free then it’s $25/site which is cheaper than most hosts. I had them move my site with no issues.
Or DIY with the Cloudways WordPress Migrator plugin.
12. Cloudflare Enterprise
Cloudways has a Cloudflare Enterprise add-on for $5/mo, so here are my thoughts.
They copied Rocket.net’s Cloudflare Enterprise which is why Cloudways didn’t have full page caching (they do now) and annoying challenge pages. Several hosts have been doing “partial integrations” of Cloudflare Enterprise but leave out key features. It boils down to this… Ben Gabler (Rocket.net CEO) was the first to add this and his previous experience as StackPath’s Chief Product Officer makes me trust Rocket.net more than other hosts integrating their CDN.
Rocket.net’s Cloudflare Enterprise is free, setup automatically, and has always had full page caching (without annoying challenge pages). But out of other “mainstream hosts” I would say Cloudways has the 2nd fastest CDN above SiteGround, WPX, Kinsta, WP Engine, and the others.
|Cloudflare Free||Cloudways Cloudflare Enterprise||Rocket.net Cloudflare Enterprise|
|Argo Smart Routing||Paid feature||✓||✓|
|Load balancing||Paid feature||✓||✓|
|Mirage/Polish||Requires CF Pro||✓||✓|
|Enterprise DDoS protection||x||✓||✓|
|Bandwidth||Unlimited||100GB||Determined by hosting plan|
|Challenge pages||Not often||Too often||Not often|
|Price||Free||$5/mo||Free w/ hosting|
Key differences between third-party Cloudflare Enterprise services (and Cloudflare free)
- Enterprise CDN – prioritized routing with CDN cache and unique IPs up to 100GBs.
- Managed WAF – includes PCI compliance with advanced bot management & mitigation.
- DDos Protection – prioritized for layers 3, 4, 7 with prioritized IP ranges and 100% SLA.
- Image Optimization – Mirage + Polish compress images, resizes them for mobile, serves them in WebP, strips EXIF data, etc. I definitely prefer this over image optimization plugins.
- Full Page Caching – Cloudways finally supports this which should significantly improve your TTFB in multiple worldwide locations when testing your site in tools like SpeedVitals.
- Argo + Tiered Cache – routes your traffic through the fastest Cloudflare network paths.
- Global load balancing – creates a failover so traffic is re-routed from unhealthy origin servers to healthier origins. This can reduce things like latency, TLS, and general errors.
- HTTP/3 access – you still get HTTP/3 when using the CF Enterprise add-on on Cloudways.
Cloudways has a guide on this.
13. Redis Object Cache Pro
Redis Object Cache Pro is especially good for speeding up WooCommerce/dynamic websites (Redis is more powerful than Memcached especially with Redis Pro’s relay integration). This is free on Cloudways and can be enabled under Servers → Settings & Packages → Packages → Install Redis. Cloudways will install Redis as a drop-in plugin in your WordPress plugins menu.
This table is found on objectcache.pro.
|W3 Total Cache||LiteSpeed Cache||WP Redis||Redis Object Cache||Object Cache Pro|
|Mitigates race conditions||x||x||x||x||✓|
|Extensively unit tested||x||x||x||x||✓|
|Query Monitor integration||x||x||x||Basic||Advanced|
|WP CLI integration||Basic||x||Basic||Basic||Advanced|
|Site Health checks||x||x||x||x||✓|
14. Use FlyingPress, Not Breeze
It just does a better job addressing core web vitals. Compared to WP Rocket, FlyingPress has more features and it also optimizes for real-world browsing better. For example, Perfmatters agrees that when removing unused CSS, loading the used CSS in a separate file is faster for real visitors while inline is better for “scores.” Things that may seem small can make a big difference.
|Remove unused CSS||x||Inline||Separate file|
|Host fonts locally||x||x||✓|
|Lazy load background images||x||Inline HTML||lazy-bg class|
|Exclude images from lazy load||x||By number||By number|
|YouTube iframe preview image||x||✓||✓|
|Self-host YouTube placeholder||x||x||✓|
|Add missing image dimensions||x||✓||✓|
|Lazy render HTML elements||x||x||✓|
|Scheduled database cleanups||x||✓||✓|
|Frequent new features||x||x||✓|
|Documentation||Needs more detail||Detailed||Needs more detail|
|Facebook group||Cloudways Users||WP Rocket Users||FlyingPress|
15. More Cloudways Optimizations
Here are a few other optimizations you can make on Cloudways. These can depend on whether your site is WooCommerce or low/high traffic. Cloudways also has quite a bit of documentation.
- Use PHP 8.0+.
- Use MariaDB 10.4.
- Use a 512MB memory limit or higher.
- Activate Redis add-on (see previous step).
- Use FlyingPress instead of Breeze (see previous step).
- Configure Varnish rules to exclude URLs/cookies if needed.
- Activate Varnish add-on (specifically good for eCommerce sites).
- Increase PHP-FPM memory limit from 32M (mine was set to 1024M).
- Schedule backups during non-peak hours if you’re using Cloudways for backups.
- Use Cloudflare’s DNS (see dnsperf.com). Not related to Cloudways, but important.
- Replace wp-cron with a real cron job (use code below or see Cloudways instructions).
- Use error logs to find bad bots, URL requests, status code errors, slow pages/queries.
- max_execution_time: 30-60s, max_input_time: 60s, max_input_vars: 1000 (what I used).
This is the code for adding a cron job (remember to disable wp-cron beforehand). This can specifically help reduce CPU usage by preventing wp-cron from loading on every pageview.
*/5 * * * * wget -q -O - 'https://wordpress-413270-1299955.cloudwaysapps.com/wp-cron.php?doing_wp_cron
16. Support Isn’t Great
Support is definitely what I see the most complaints about.
This can range from billing confusions to flat out poor support. I can honestly say Cloudways support has been fine for me, but it’s not like what you’d get with Rocket.net and ChemiCloud.
One thing I suggest (especially if you’re new) is to reach out to their community manager Muhammed Moeez if you have pre-sales questions. Before I moved, I reached out to them on Facebook so I could have peace of mind more than anything. They also have a Facebook group.
17. No Email Hosting
Keeping web/email hosting separate is a good thing (besides price) since emails take up inodes/files. You also want resources to only be dedicated to hosting your website and not email. Plus, if you decide to switch hosts, you don’t have to switch emails which can be a pain.
Cloudways only offers Rackspace for $1/email per month but I use Google Workspace (Cloudflare also started offering free email addresses). I’ve never used Rackspace so I can’t comment on whether it’s good vs. bad or setting it up. I’ve always preferred Google Workspace.
18. You’ll Want A Separate Backup Plugin
I also recommend a third-party backup plugins service like UpdraftPlus or ManageWP.
Cloudways also charges $.033/GB for local backups which can be downloaded via SSH/SFTP, but they only provide 1 copy of the latest backup. And while I’ve never had a problem, I have heard a few horror stories of backups getting deleted, etc. Regardless of your host, it’s always a good idea to have off-site backups by a third-party service so your eggs aren’t all in one basket.
19. File Manager Workaround
Cloudways doesn’t have a file manager, but they do have SFTP.
Also, thanks to Roger for pointing out a workaround in the comments for people coming from cPanel. Since Cloudways doesn’t have a file manager, you can download and upload Tiny File Manager via SFTP which gives you access to functions like Zip, Unzip, Create, Delete, Modify, View, Quick Preview, Download, Copy, and Move files (see more features on the GitHub page).
20. Navigating The Dashboard
Sign up for a Cloudways demo if you want to check out the dashboard.
The Server tab is where you can change settings for Redis, Varnish, PHP version, MariaDB, memory limit, backups, scale your server, configure SMTP, and monitor CPU/RAM/DISK usage.
The Application tab has your WordPress login details and lets you create staging sites, monitor traffic + errors logs, add domains, configure SSL, manage cron jobs, restore backups or take one on-demand, and tweak Application settings (Varnish, WebP, XML-RPC, PHP-FPM, Varnish, etc).
21. Pros & Cons
- Cloud hosting is generally faster than shared.
- Vultr HF has high clock speeds + NVMe SSDs.
- Cloudflare Enterprise is arguably the fastest CDN.
- Multiple caching layers (Redis, Memcached, Varnish, etc).
- They use MariaDB which is comparatively faster than MySQL.
- PHP-FPM tends to use memory more efficiently than FastCGI.
- Stays updated on PHP versions (currently supports PHP 8.2).
- Monthly pricing without yearly contracts or high renewal prices.
- Many reports of Cloudways fixing CPU issues on shared hosting.
- More control of specific server settings (see WP Johnny’s guide).
- 44 data centers to choose from between all their cloud providers.
- Choice of 5 cloud providers: DO, Vultr, AWS, Google Cloud, Linode.
- Launching a server and using their migrator plugin is straightforward.
- Apache servers.
- Support isn’t great.
- Breeze plugin isn’t great (use FlyingPress).
- No email hosting (use Google Workspace).
- High CPU usage on smaller servers (i.e. 1GB).
- No file manager (use SFTP or Tiny File Manager).
- Scaling CPU/RAM for larger websites gets expensive.
- Previously lacking features with Cloudflare Enterprise.
- Several complaints after being acquired by DigitalOcean.
- Offsite backup storage is $.033/GB per server (use a third-party service).
22. More Migration Results
Other people who moved to Cloudways and posted results:
23. Alternatives: Rocket.net, ChemiCloud, ServerAvatar
Rocket.net – beats Cloudways in performance, support, and ease of use (but can also cost more). Feel free to test my global TTFB in KeyCDN or SpeedVitals. The “correct” way is to run about 3 tests to ensure resources are cached and served from your CDN’s closest data center.
ChemiCloud – the best shared host out there IMO without the pesky CPU limits you get with SiteGround and other hosts. Great for small-medium sites, but they also have good VPS options.
ServerAvatar – similar to Cloudways where you use a control panel to connect and manage servers, but lacks several features you get with other hosts (Cloudflare Enterprise for example).
Do you think Cloudways is still worth it? Need help choosing a host? Lmk in the comments.