Everyone’s trying to improve TTFB for core web vitals.
Speed is the main reason I use a host. Features, support, and price are important, but give me those load times! That (and price + CPU limits) are why I moved from SiteGround to Cloudways.
After being on Cloudways since 2019, I gotta say. Still happy! This Cloudways review shows pros & cons, how to migrate to Cloudways, and how to optimize your server for even faster load times. I also have live websites using DO, DO Premium, and Vultr HF so you can test the speeds.
I want to mention that I have almost no coding skills. Some people are scared Cloudways is technical, but what’s technical about it? Launching a server? Adding a domain and updating DNS? Clicking a few buttons in the dashboard to make your server faster? Requesting a free migration? The dashboard isn’t hard and here are instructions on how to move to Cloudways.
The biggest cons are the cost of Rackspace (if you want email hosting), WP Rocket (since Cloudways Breeze needs work, but they’ve been improving it), backup costs, and Vultr having some downtimes. But for key things like speed, support, and price, it’s hard to beat Cloudways.
Why I use Cloudways
- Moving away from SiteGround
- Moving to Cloudways (migration results)
- Do vs. DO Premium vs. Vultr HF
- Pros & Cons
- Rated #1 in numerous Facebook Polls
- Step 1: Sign up
- Step 2: Launch a server
- Step 3: Make your server faster
- Step 4: Connect your domain and add SSL
- Step 5: Login to your WordPress dashboard
- Step 6: Add Cloudflare
- Request a free migration or DIY
- Cons: Vultr downtimes, email, backup costs
- Managed hosting makes a difference
- Monthly pricing with no high renewals
- What people are saying in Facebook Groups
Affiliate Disclaimer – if you use my Cloudways affiliate link, I really appreciate it. They’re one of the most highly rated hosts in Facebook polls and conversations, and I’m currently using their Vultr High Frequency plan. I donate a good chunk of this blog’s income to GoFundMe campaigns – your support would really be appreciated.
1. Moving away from SiteGround
I’ve used SiteGround GrowBig, GoGeek, and cloud.
Every time I upgraded was because of CPU limits. The jump to cloud was expensive and I kept having to add more CPU/RAM to prevent CPU overages. After paying $180/mo for several months, it was time to move. Since then, I also think SiteGround’s slow TTFB, reduced support, price increases, and unethical decisions didn’t do them any favors. I couldn’t imagine going back.
Knowing I was getting ripped off by SiteGround, I decided to downscale my CPU/RAM when moving to Cloudways DigitalOcean to only 4CPU + 8GB RAM for $80/month (I was previously using 6 CPU + 10GB RAM). Even after downscaling, I had zero CPU issues on Cloudways and my site loaded 2x faster. And for the record, my site was optimized for low CPU on SiteGround.
2. Moving to Cloudways (migration results)
Part of the reason I moved was because all the other people I saw moving to Cloudways and posting faster reports. Here are people who moved to Cloudways (click thumbnails to enlarge):
I ran a simple speed test where I tested 16 hosting plans using the same Astra Starter Site in Pingdom (and other tools). Cloudways Vultr HF and DigitalOcean were #1 in most of the tests. DO Premium wasn’t included (it wasn’t available at the time), but I will add it in the next round.
3. Do vs. DO Premium vs. Vultr HF
I feel like the general consensus is that DO Premium isn’t much faster than regular DO (if at all…. wish it used AMD instead of Intel). Vultr HF is faster than DO but has had more incidents.
Here are 3 demo sites I setup with the exact same Astra Starter Template, plugins, and Cloudways configuration. Feel free to click through the sites or run your own speed tests.
- DigitalOcean: cwdoserver.com
- DigitalOcean Premium: cwdopserver.com
- Vultr High Frequency: cwvltrhfserver.com
To use them, sign up through their WordPress hosting page and click the “High Frequency” option for Vultr or “Premium” for DigitalOcean. You’ll select them when launching a server too.
4. Pros & Cons
- Speed (my TTFB is consistently under 200ms).
- Releases new servers (i.e. DO Premium + Vultr HF).
- Multiple caching levels (Redis, memcached, Varnish).
- Releases new PHP versions (Cloudways has PHP 8.0).
- Free migration and 3-day trials make them easy to try.
- Monthly pricing (no yearly contracts or high renewals).
- Support is great as reflected in their Trustpilot reviews.
- Free SSL, staging, bot protection, cron job management.
- You shouldn’t exceed CPU unless your site actually uses it.
- They have a Cloudways Users Facebook Group to ask questions.
- Choice of 5 cloud providers: DO, Vultr, AWS, Google Cloud, Linode.
- Lots of data centers to choose from between all their cloud providers.
- Launching a server and using their migrator plugin is straightforward.
- Their community manager can answer your questions when signing up.
- Vultr servers can have downtimes.
- Breeze plugin usually doesn’t perform better than WP Rocket.
- CloudwaysCDN uses StackPath (other CDNs are generally better).
- No email hosting (Cloudways offers Rackspace for $1/email per month).
- Sometimes, new customers must show ID to get their account approved.
- Support used to not be great, but has definitely improved the last couple years.
- Offsite backup storage is $0.033/GB per server (use your own backup solution).
- Scaling down CPU/RAM means cloning server and migrating sites (not too hard).
5. Rated #1 in numerous Facebook Polls
The WordPress Hosting Facebook Group is a great place to get feedback from non-affiliates. If you dig through polls and conversations, you’ll see a lot of people moving to Cloudways usually because of slow TTFBs, expensive renewal bills, CPU limits, or poor support from their old host.
Here are 18 polls on “the best hosting” (click thumbnails to enlarge):
And for the record, DigitalOcean is the only host listed in the WordPress optimization guide.
6. Step 1: Sign up
Here are instructions for launching a new WordPress site on Cloudways (I’ll also show you some features along the way). Or jump to step #12 if you’ll be migrating an existing website.
Sign up for Cloudways and activate your account (you’ll get an activation email).
7. Step 2: Launch a server
Once your account is activated, go to you’re Cloudways dashboard and launch a server.
Name your app/server, then choose a server. I generally recommend regular DigitalOcean or Vultr High Frequency. Cloudways also has an article on the differences between their 5 cloud providers. New or low traffic sites can probably get away with 1GB, otherwise I would do 2GB+ especially if you’re running multiple sites or using resource-hungry page builders, plugins, or WooCommerce. Select the data center closest to your visitors. Then finally, click Launch Now.
Wait for the server to be created.
Here’s a GIF showing the process (outdated, but still the same process):
8. Step 3: Make your server faster
Cloudways made a YouTube video on this, but here’s the gist.
Click “Servers” on top. This is where you can tweak your server settings (PHP version, memory limit, caching), scale the server, configure backups, etc. Below are a few settings I recommend.
Increase memory limit to 256MB (Servers → Settings & Packages).
Use PHP 8.0, MariaDB 10.4, and install Redis (Servers → Settings & Packages).
Enable Redis + memcached, then disable Varnish (Servers → Manage Services).
9. Step 4: Connect your domain and add SSL
Cloudways will assign a temporary domain (i.e. wordpress-5914908.cloudwaysapps.com). You need to add your domain to Cloudways and point it to the temporary domain by updating DNS.
Click the Applications tab.
Add your domain to Cloudways (Applications → Domain Management).
Update your 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.
Cloudways also has a video on this:
Add free Let’s Encrypt SSL (Applications → SSL Certificate) and enable auto renewal.
10. Step 5: Login to your WordPress dashboard
Find your WordPress login details in Cloudways (Applications → Access Details).
Login to your WordPress dashboard.
11. Step 6: Add Cloudflare
CloudwaysCDN uses StackPath’s data centers. However, Cloudflare + BunnyCDN are usually the more recommended CDNs in Facebook Groups. And if you’re using WP Rocket which also uses StackPath, their RocketCDN ($7.99/mo) is cheaper than CloudwaysCDN ($1 per 25GB).
To add Cloudflare, sign up and change nameservers (you don’t need to do this again if you’ve already done it). Then login to Cloudways → Servers → Settings & Packages → activate Cloudflare’s WAF Module. Use the Claire Chrome Extension to verify Cloudflare is working.
12. Request a free migration or DIY
Request a free migration from Cloudways (first one is free, then $25 per site).
You can request it by clicking the 9 squares → Add-ons → Application Migration.
Or use the Cloudways WordPress Migrator Plugin to do it yourself.
Cloudways has a full list on their features page.
- Staging – if you want to clone your website to test new designs or plugins, staging is easy. Go to Applications, click the three dots, and click “Clone App/Creating Staging Website.”
- Backups – set backup frequencies, time, configure local backups, and take a backup on-demand. Shoutout to Cloudways for backing up servers (one time, I deleted a server too early which had a staging site on it, and they were able to recover it). This saved my butt!
- Add Team Members – grant your team members access and set their permission levels.
In the dashboard, the add-ons tab lists their paid services:
- DNS Made Easy – NameCheap and GoDaddy’s DNS are slow. Cloudways offers DNS Made Easy for $2.5 per 5 domains, but Cloudflare is free and is a fast DNS (just use that).
- Rackspace Email – you’ll need this to use email hosting which costs $1/email per month.
- Elastic Email – great if sending out sensitive email (see Cloudways’ email comparison).
- Application Migration – Cloudways will migrate 1 site for free, then $25 per site after.
- Application Upgrade – if you’re worried about updating WordPress, plugins, etc, you can pay Cloudways $50/month to do this for you, but I really don’t know anyone who does it.
- CloudwaysCDN – use StackPath’s data centers and costs $1 per 25GB (I use Cloudflare).
Cloudways support used to be mediocre, but it’s gotten much better.
It’s not the same level of support you would get at someone like Kinsta, but it’s still very good. They helped me several times when I needed help with moving my websites, backups, SSL, and Cloudflare. If you have questions, you can always reach out to Muhammed Moeez (Cloudways community manager) whose #1 job is to make customers happy and answer questions. He is also active in the WordPress Hosting Facebook Group. I was in touch with their community manager during my free migration. Above anything, it gave me peace of mind + accountability.
Their improved support is directly reflected in their TrustPilot reviews. I always like to go through other Cloudways reviews to see what other people say and I suggest you do the same.
Cloudways in a nutshell:
Breeze – the Cloudways Breeze plugin is worth testing, but it’s missing prefetch and heartbeat control which can easily be added with a few simple lines of code, or with plugins like Heartbeat Control and Pre* Party Resources Hints. I still use WP Rocket, but like all cache plugins, they react differently based on the site. If using Autoptimize, keep all minification and file grouping settings off in Breeze. There have also been complaints about version 1.2.0 breaking websites. Cloudways also has a tutorial for setting up Breeze, or you can use my recommended settings.
Breeze Settings (click thumbnails to enlarge):
This tutorial aligns with the settings I recommend:
16. Cons: Vultr downtimes, email, backup costs
Vultr Downtimes – in the Cloudways incident history, Vultr has a lot more incidents than most hosts. This isn’t Cloudways’ fault, but it’s something to be aware of if you’re using a Vultr server.
Email Hosting – Cloudways does not provide email hosting, but they’re partnered with Rackspace to provide it for $1/email/month instead of $2/email/month (Rackspace pricing). And for transactional or outgoing emails, they are also partnered with Elastic Email to provide an easy setup, or you can setup your own SMTP provider like Gmail SMTP, SendGrid, Mailgun.
Backup Costs – Cloudways charges $0.033 per GB for backups which will be included in your monthly bill. Or you can use your own backup solution like UpdraftPlus to avoid these charges.
Vertical Scaling – scaling up is easy (drag the circle to however much CPU/RAM you want to add). However, scaling down requires a few extra steps to clone the server and move your site.
16. Managed hosting makes a difference
Other than a large performance improvement, managed hosting also takes care of software updates, security patches, and hardware management. But performance is the biggest draw.
The difference between shared hosting and managed cloud hosting is huge. GoDaddy, Bluehost, HostGator, Hostinger, and really any shared host will get blown away by Cloudways. If you’ve never experienced good cloud hosting before, you will see improved server response times (TTFB), load times in GTmetrix, and a noticeable difference when clicking through your pages.
And now that GTmetrix includes Lighthouse recommendations, your core web vital scores should improve too (since many Lighthouse items are correlated with how fast your server is).
17. Monthly pricing with no high renewals
Most hosts lock you into a yearly contract (or more).
Cloudways is monthly pricing with no higher renewals. And at least in the last 5 years, I don’t believe Cloudways has changed the price of their hosting. With companies like SiteGround increasing prices and sticking you with high renewals, monthly pricing is a breath of fresh air.
|Vultr High Frequency||$13/month|
18. What people are saying in Facebook Groups
First off, nearly every hosting company blocks Facebook reviews (probably because so many people use it to bitch). Cloudways is one of the few hosts that allows Facebook reviews. And last time I checked, they had 5/5 stars with 400+ reviews, which is pretty damn good for Facebook. Having the great experience I did, I decided to leave them my own gem of a review.
What other people say about Cloudways:
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Cloudways fast?
Cloudways gave me about 2x faster load times than SiteGround's cloud hosting and I'm paying 1/2 of what I was. My site loads instantly and you can click through my pages to see how fast they load. They use latest PHP versions, MariaDB, and a very fast infrastructure.
Which 5 cloud hosting providers do they use?
DigitalOcean, Vultr, Linode, Google Cloud, and Amazon (AWS). Their DigitalOcean plan is the most popular, and cheapest.
What is Cloudways' pricing structure?
Cloudways has a monthly pricing structure with no yearly contracts or upfront fees.
Does Cloudways support email?
Cloudways does not provide email hosting directly, but they are partnered with Rackspace who offers it for as low as $1/email/month instead of $2/email/month (Rackspace pricing).
How does Cloudways compare to SiteGround?
They have a better value especially once you reach SiteGround's renewal prices, but they're also a little more technical. SiteGround is good for shared hosting, but if speed is important, Cloudways is the way to go.
Is Cloudways a middleman?
In a way, yes. Their hosting is marked up about 200% because it's managed hosting. If you have time to configure and maintain your own server, you can buy directly from the cloud hosting provider. Otherwise, Cloudways will manage the servers for you.
Ready to experience the powerful servers on managed cloud hosting?
Don’t be like me and try to stick with the same host just because I was comfortable, even though their TTFB got slower. Once I finally pulled the trigger, there was no looking back.
+1 for Cloudways