Cloudways Review (With Speed Tips): Moving To Vultr HF Cut Load Times In Half, No More CPU Issues, While Saving $100/mo

Cloudways review

Back in 2019, I moved from SiteGround to Cloudways and posted my results.

I went from an upgraded version of SiteGround’s cloud hosting to DigitalOcean on Cloudways, then later to Vultr High Frequency with NVMe storage and Redis Object Cache Pro. I also tested Cloudflare Enterprise which I’ll get into later (it’s great for improving TTFB but needs full page caching and less challenge pages). It costs an extra $5/month per domain but definitely worth it.

Cloudways is awesome and a big step up from shared hosts like SiteGround, Hostinger, A2, or WPX. They make it easy to launch a server and connect your domain. Then it’s just a matter of getting comfortable in their dashboard (I’ll cover some speed tweaks to make your site faster). Some people are scared it’s too technical, but everything is pretty much point & click. Vultr HF also includes 1TB of bandwidth + 32GB of NVMe storage on their lowest $13/mo plan which is nice (it’s probably the main reason people won’t try Rocket.net – the host I recently moved to).

The main cons are the learning curve (lots of settings in the dashboard), support can be hit or miss, it get expensive as you scale, and the Breeze plugin needs work (use FlyingPress instead). You’ll also need a third-party email service such as Google Workspace, which means the “ideal setup” would be Cloudways Vultr HF + Cloudflare Enterprise + FlyingPress + Google Workspace.

Cloudways does 3-day trials along with a free migration (and here’s a coupon for 30% off 3 months). Feel free to comment with any questions or reach out to their community manager.

Cloudways black friday cyber monday code
Cloudways has a solid Black Friday Cyber Monday deal going on

 

1. My Results

What happened when I moved:

Siteground to cloudways shoutout

The KeyCDN report was with APO which isn’t on their Cloudflare Enterprise (it’s coming soon):

 

2. No More CPU Issues

SiteGround’s CPU limits can be a nightmare especially on their cloud hosting.

I had to upgrade from GoGeek to a $120/mo cloud hosting plan just to get rid of them, and $180/mo to have what I would call 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 the #1 Google ranked tutorial on reducing CPU usage in WordPress and still couldn’t fix it.

Once I ditched SiteGround, CPU usage was averaging well under 10%, so I scaled down and saved $100/mo. I was using DigitalOcean at the time since Cloudways hadn’t released Vultr HF.

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.

Cpu ram usage

Siteground cloud hosting sales receipt
Paying SiteGround too much to avoid CPU limits
Cloudways invoices
Scaling down and saving $100/mo

Siteground cpu limits joke

Siteground cpu limits to cloudways

Siteground cpu dance

 

3. Monthly Pricing, Scaling Gets Pricey

Cloudways is monthly pricing with no high 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 around their hosting. That’s why many higher traffic websites use RunCloud or CyberPanel which is a little more hands-on (launching a server on Cloudways can be done in a few clicks instead of provisioning a server).

Cloudways makes it easy to add CPU/RAM. Shared hosts usually trap you into 1-3 year contracts on a plan 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).

Cloudways vertical scaling

 

4. Cloudways vs. [SiteGround, Kinsta, WPX, Rocket.net]

SiteGround Kinsta WPX Cloudways Vultr High Frequency Rocket.net
Hosting type Shared Cloud Shared Cloud Private cloud
CPU cores Not listed 12 Not listed 1 32
RAM (GB) Not listed 8 Not listed 1 128
Storage SATA SATA SATA NVMe NVMe
Storage (GB) 40 10 15 32 10
Object cache Memcached Redis ($100/mo) x Redis (Pro) Redis
Server Apache + Nginx Nginx LiteSpeed Apache Apache + Nginx
PHP processing FastCGI FastCGI FastCGI PHP-FPM LiteSpeed
Bandwidth (or monthly visits) 5TB 25k visits/mo 200GB 1TB 50GB + 250k visits/mo
CDN SiteGround CDN Cloudflare Enterprise QUIC.cloud or XDN Cloudflare Enterprise Cloudflare Enterprise
CDN PoPs 14 270 73 270 270
Full page caching Coming soon
HTTP/3
WAF
Argo smart routing x x x
Load balancing x x x
Image optimization Limited x
Compression Brotli Brotli Brotli GZIP Brotli
CDN price Freemium Free $.01 – $.04/GB $5/mo Free
CPU limits Common Low PHP workers At their discretion Average None
Cache plugin SG Optimizer x LSC or W3TC Breeze x
Email hosting x Very limited x x
Major incidents Google blocked DNS for 4 days None Worldwide outage None None
Free migration $30/site Unlimited free 5-35 sites free 1 free Unlimited free
Renewals Yearly (high) Monthly Monthly Monthly Monthly
TrustPilot rating 4.6/5 4.4/5 4.9/5 4.6/5 4.9/5
Price $3-8/mo (1 year) then $15-40/mo $29/mo (yearly) $20.83 (yearly) $18/mo (with CF Enterprise) $25/mo (yearly)

 

5. Sign Up

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.

Cloudways vultr high frequency discount

 

6. 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.

Cloudways launch vultr high frequency server

Vultr HF is the most popular with faster NVMe storage, higher CPU clock speeds, and 3GHz+ CPUs. You also have DigitalOcean (and DigitalOcean Premium), Linode, AWS, and Google Cloud.

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 use N2. Both are for balanced workloads instead of optimized workloads. If you’re doing Google Cloud, you want C2.

Preferred cloudways server

Vultr high frequency compute
Vultr HF uses 3GHz+ CPUs with high clock speeds
Nvme vs sata
NVMe storage is faster (source: PCWorld)

 

7. 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.

Cloudways domain management

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).

Add cloudways records to namecheap

Step 3: Add free Let’s Encrypt SSL (Applications → SSL Certificate) and enable auto renewal.

Cloudways ssl management

Cloudways also has a video on this.

 

8. 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.

Cloudways free migration 1

Or DIY with the Cloudways WordPress Migrator plugin.

 

9. Cloudflare Enterprise

Cloudways has a Cloudflare Enterprise add-on for $5/mo, so here are my thoughts on it.

The 3 biggest complaints are no APO (yet), challenge pages, and the settings are very limited with no option to use free Cloudflare features like page rules, firewall rules, crawler hints, SXGs.

But have you actually tried it? I did and my site was much faster compared to using Cloudflare Pro directly from Cloudflare (and that’s really all I care about, along with improved security). I found the Enterprise features you gain in the add-on outweigh the free features you lose.

Cloudways doesn’t include all Enterprise features if you were to buy it directly from Cloudflare, but are you really going to pay $200/month+ instead of $5/month on Cloudways? Probably not.

It does present users with more challenge pages which you can only customize when using Cloudflare Pro+ directly from Cloudflare. So while it did make my site faster, I think it needs quite a bit of work. It seems like they’re playing catch up with Rocket.net who offers it for free with full page caching, no challenge page on the frontend, no configuration, and an overall smoother integration (their CEO Ben Gabler also has a long history of working with the edge and went as far as building Rocket.net’s own data centers in the same locations as Cloudflare).

Cloudflare Enterprise (Kinsta) Cloudflare Enterprise (Cloudways) Cloudflare Enterprise (Rocket.net)
CDN PoPs 270 270 270
Prioritized routing
Full page caching x
HTTP/3
WAF
Argo smart routing x
Load balancing x
Image optimization x
Automatic configuration x x
Price Free $5/mo (1 domain) Free

 
Features

  • 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 Cache (Coming Soon) – I’m hoping they add this soon just as much as you are.
  • 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.

Setup Instructions

Cloudways also has a guide on this.

Cloudflare enterprise with cloudways
Step 1: Enable Cloudflare Enterprise on your domain
Verify domain ownership for cloudflare enterprise on cloudways
Step 2: Copy the TXT records provided by Cloudways
Cloudways txt records cloudflare dns
Step 3: Add the TXT records to your DNS
Cloudflare enterprise on cloudways
What it looks like after it’s set up
Keycdn ttfb no cloudflare enterprise
TTFB (no Cloudflare Enterprise) measured in KeyCDN
Keycdn ttfb with cloudflare enterprise
TTFB (with Cloudflare Enterprise) measured in KeyCDN

 

10. Redis Object Cache Pro

Redis Object Cache Pro is free on Cloudways and can be enabled under Servers → Settings & Packages → Packages → Install Redis. Cloudways will then install Redis as a drop-in plugin under your WordPress plugins menu. Stack Overflow has a nice thread on memcached vs Redis.

Cloudways redis

Here’s the table Cloudways shows on their blog:

W3 Total Cache* LiteSpeed Cache* WP Redis Redis Object Cache Object Cache Pro
Performance
Batch Prefetching x x x x
Data compression x x x x
Cache priming x x x x
Asynchronous flushing x x x
Features
Cache Analytics x x x
Secure connections x x x
Highly customizable x x x x
Logging support x x x x
Cluster support x x x
Replication support x x x
Reliability
Mitigates race conditions x x x x
Extensively unit tested x x x x
Integrations
WooCommerce optimized 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
Batcache compatible x x x
Relay integration x x x x

 

11. Use FlyingPress, Not Breeze

Cloudways has been making improvements to Breeze, but I still recommend FlyingPress.

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.

Breeze WP Rocket FlyingPress
Remove unused CSS x Inline Separate file
Critical CSS x
Host fonts locally x x
Preload images x x
Lazy render HTML elements x x
Lazy load background images x Inline Helper class
Exclude images from lazy load x By URL By Number
Preview image for YouTube iframe x
Self-host YouTube placeholder x x
Add missing image dimensions x
Scheduled database cleanups x
Documented APO compatibility x x

 

12. 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 256MB 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 is 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).
Cloudways settings packages
Use PHP 8.0, MariaDB 10.4, install Redis
Cloudways-manage-services
Activate multiple caching layers offered by Cloudways
Cloudways php fpm settings
Increase PHP FPM memory limit

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

 

13. 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.

 

14. You’ll Want A Separate Backup Plugin

I also recommend a third-party backup plugins service like UpdraftPlus or ManageWP.

Cloudways also charges $0.033/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.

Cloudways backups
Cloudways backup setting

Updraftplus

 

15. 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).

Tiny file manager

 

16. Support Used To Be Bad, It’s Better Now

While this is something you have to experience yourself, I’ve always been very happy with Cloudways support. It ain’t Kinsta, but it’s better than SiteGround. I haven’t had many issues I’ve needed to contact support for, so that’s a good thing.

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.

Cloudways community manager

Cloudways vs siteground support

 

17. 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.

Cloudways server settings

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).

Cloudways application settings

 

18. Cloudways Acquired By DigitalOcean

Cloudways was acquired by DigitalOcean.

I always preferred Vultr High Frequency, but the DigitalOcean team is solid and is doing a great job with their other products. It probably means they’ll make DigitalOcean more appealing on Cloudways, but it’s too early to tell. I haven’t seen any significant changes since this happened.

 

19. Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Speed (feel free to test my website).
  • Cloud hosting is obviously faster than shared.
  • Vultr HF has high CPU clock speeds + NVMe storage.
  • Cloudflare Enterprise should make your website faster.
  • 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 8.0).
  • Monthly pricing without yearly contracts or high renewal prices.
  • Free migration, 3-day trials, and promo code makes it easy to try.
  • 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.

Cons

  • Apache servers.
  • No email hosting (use Google Workspace).
  • Some CPU usage complaints on small servers.
  • No file manager (use SFTP or Tiny File Manager).
  • Cloudways Breeze plugin isn’t great (use FlyingPress).
  • Scaling CPU/RAM for larger websites can get expensive
  • Cloudflare Enterprise needs APO, + less challenge pages).
  • Offsite backup storage is $0.033/GB per server (use a third-party service).
  • New customers sometimes have to show ID to get their account approved.

 

20. More Migration Results

Other people who moved to Cloudways and posted results:

Siteground vs cloudways vultr
Source: Oxygen User Group
Cloudways-woocommerce-on-vultr-high-frequency
Source: WooCommerce Help & Share Group
Cloudways switch hosting
Source: Twitter
Siteground to cloudways move
Source: Twitter
Dreamhost-to-cloudways-vultr
Source: WordPress Hosting Group
Change hosting to cloudways
Source: Twitter
Digitalocean to vultr hf
Source: WP Speed Matters
Cloudways vs bluehost
Source: Post Removed
Vultr vs siteground
Source: WordPress Hosting
Cloudways-vultr-high-frequency-speed
Source: WP Rocket Users

 

21. Great Feedback In Facebook Groups

Here are some polls/threads about Cloudways:

Slow ttfb siteground

Moving away from siteground
Source: WordPress Hosting
Elementor-hosting-poll
Source: Elementor Community
Hosting geared towards france
Source: WordPress Hosting
Favorite siteground alternative
Source: BloggingGyaan
Reliable-fast-hosting
Source: Post Deleted
Hosting poll 2019
Source: WordPress Hosting
Wpx vs cloudways
Source: WordPress Hosting
Shared managed hosting suggestions
Source: WordPress Hosting
Web server poll
Source: Oxygen User Group
Favourite wordpress hosting
Source: Twitter

Final Thoughts – there are plenty of good cloud hosts and Cloudways is just one of them. Try them out and see yourself. They do 3-days trials, a free migration, and here’s 30% off 3 months.

 

Cheers,
Tom

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79 thoughts on “Cloudways Review (With Speed Tips): Moving To Vultr HF Cut Load Times In Half, No More CPU Issues, While Saving $100/mo”

  1. Hi Tom,

    Can you please compare WPMU DEV’s Hosting plans? They certainly look like they could compete with Cloudflare and their reviews are quite polished.

    Would be appreciated to get your feedback on them as there’s not much reviews online about them.

    Appreciated!

    Reply
  2. Hi there, I really appreciate your articles!
    I love the content and recommendations of your website, so Smooth navigation, and too fast, love it.
    Currently, I’m Using GoDaddy Should I Move To Cloudways ..? Please Suggest Me.

    Reply

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