Cloudways vs. WP Engine Key Differences With Before/After GTmetrix Reports (2022)

Cloudways vs wp engine

If you’re thinking of using Cloudways vs. WP Engine, choose the first one.

WP Engine has gotten slower over the years and has restrictions: banned plugins, limited number of websites on each plan, no free migration, and awful support which is reflected in their 3.5/5 TrustPilot rating. They’re also majority owned by GoDaddy (never a good sign) and similar to SiteGround, their TTFB is slow and have gone downhill in recent years. I’m not going to sit here and say WP Engine is amazing because I want commissions. They are not good at all.

Cloudways is just a better host all around. Their Vultr High Frequency plan is very popular in Facebook Groups (it’s what I use and you can check my GTmetrix results). They also have way more flexibility. You can choose which cloud hosting provider you want (DigitalOcean, Vultr, etc), your server size, get a free migration, host multiple sites regardless of your plan, and they have fast built-in caching (Varnish, Redis, and memcached). Support is much better than WP Engine with a 4.7/5 TrustPilot rating and they were rated #1 in tons of recent Facebook polls.

Save 25% off your first 2 months at Cloudways when you sign up with code OMM25.

 

1. WP Engine Has Gotten Slow

WP Engine isn’t fast anymore.

Many people in Facebook Groups moved away from WP Engine because their servers are slower. This is similar to SiteGround (both SiteGround and WP Engine use Google Cloud servers, but neither are fast). It goes to show you that even if a host uses “fast cloud hosting,” that doesn’t mean your website will load fast. WP Engine also makes some bold claims saying they’re the “unequivocal performance leader in WordPress.” But it’s just not true. The only people recommending WP Engine are affiliates because they pay $200/sale in commissions.

Wp engine to cloudways switch

Wp engine to cloudways migration

Wpengine-to-cloudways-migration

 

2. Majority Owned By GoDaddy

In 2018, the same private equity firm who bought out GoDaddy invested $250M into WP Engine. Lisa Box (from Endurance International Group), was appointed as Vice President Strategic Alliances and Business Development at WP Engine. So what does this all mean?

WP Engine is largely influenced by GoDaddy/EIG.

And if you know anything about the hosting industry, it’s not a good thing. Both have awful reputations – GoDaddy was rated one of the top malware hosting networks worldwide while EIG is infamous for running companies into the ground. Yoast and StudioPress were also acquired by WP Engine or Clearlake/EIG and people are flocking away like scared sheep to better alternatives like Rank Math’s SEO plugin, Astra, GeneratePress, and even Elementor.

 

3. WP Engine Bans Plugins

WP Engine’s banned plugins means no caching or backup plugins.

While WP Engine handles server-level caching, cache plugins do a lot more than just caching (CSS/JS/image optimization, database cleanup, etc). Without a cache plugin, you’re losing out on extra optimization done by WP Rocket, LiteSpeed Cache, or whatever cache plugin you use.

When hosts ban cache plugins, many people go to Autoptimize which is a great plugin, but it doesn’t have as many optimizations as WP Rocket or LiteSpeed Cache. You’d need to install extra plugins (i.e. Heartbeat Control, WP-Optimize, Pre* Party Resource Hints) to get these.

 

4. WP Engine Limits Number Of Sites

WP Engine makes you pay an extra $17 per website if you want to host multiple websites, or upgrade to their Professional plan for $49/mo which supports 3 sites. Cloudways lets you host unlimited sites regardless of your plan. You just want to make sure it has enough resources (CPU/RAM) to handle your website’s traffic and CPU usage. Even the cheapest Cloudways DigitalOcean plan for $10/mo with 1 CPU + 1GB RAM should be able to handle 2-3 small sites.

Wp engine startup sites

 

5. Cloudways vs. WP Engine Speed Tests

This was a simple test where I measured load times and TTFB.

I signed up for 16 hosting plans, installed WordPress with the same Astra Starter Site on each, then tested each them in multiple tools. TTFB was measured using an average of WebPageTest, GTmetrix, and KeyCDN (only the US locations since that’s where the data centers are located).

In the tests, I used WP Engine’s Startup plan ($25/month) and multiple plans from Cloudways ranging from $10-13/month (including DigitalOcean, Vultr, Vultr High Frequency, and Linode).

Even though WP Engine used a more expensive plan, it was not faster.

In the Pingdom test, WP Engine loaded in 1290ms while Cloudways Vultr High Frequency loaded in 326ms, a difference of 964ms. These were tested for a 1 week period at 30 minute check intervals, which means 336 individual Pingdom tests were performed on each website.

Wordpress-hosting-2020-pingdom-test

I also ran tests comparing TTFB, results of the WP Hosting Performance Check plugin, and average time spent download page in Google Search Console. Average TTFB was based off 5 locations: KeyCDN (3 US locations), GTmetrix, and WebPageTest. Only US data centers were used during the test since you would probably choose a host with data centers in your same country, so testing global locations is somewhat pointless. WP Engine’s TTFB averaged 274ms while Cloudways DigitalOcean averaged 159ms, a difference of 115ms. Small, but noticeable.

Cloudways-vs-wp-engine-speed-test
View test comparing 16 hosts

Cloudways Reports

WP Engine Reports

 

6. Cloudways Is Faster With DigitalOcean + Vultr HF

I wanted to touch on Cloudways DigitalOcean and Vultr High Frequency since these are two of Cloudways’ most popular plans.

DigitalOcean is slightly cheaper starting at $10/month but still performs incredibly well. They also have DigitalOcean Premium starting at $12/month, then Vultr HF starting at $13/month.

The general consensus is that Vultr HF is the fastest choice, but also had some downtimes in the past. Since I moved to Vultr HF in 2020, I can’t remember my site going down at all and they still have a solid 99.9% uptime. Vultr HF uses 3.8 GHz processors and NVMe storage which is supposed to be 40% faster than Vultr’s standard servers. You can read more on Vultr’s website.

Do-vs-vultr

Here are migration results from people who moved to Cloudways (click thumbnails to enlarge):

 

7. Cloudways Is Very Popular In Facebook Groups

I always recommend joining both the WordPress Hosting and WP Speed Matters Facebook Groups to get unbiased feedback about WordPress hosting from mostly knowledgeable people.

Cloudways was #1 in numerous Facebook polls and highly recommended.

Recent Facebook polls show a large shift in people moving away from low quality hosts to Cloudways, LiteSpeed servers, Kinsta, GridPane, and A2 Hosting (click thumbnails to enlarge):

Moving from siteground
Ecommerce hosting poll

 

8. Cloudways vs. WP Engine’s Dashboard

Cloudways and WP Engine both have their custom dashboard.

Cloudways dashboard mainly consists of the Servers, Applications, and Add-Ons tabs:

Cloudways-applications-dashboard

Cloudways add ons

WP Engine’s dashboard is pretty straightforward:

Wp-engine-dashboard

 

9. Better Caching On Cloudways

Cloudways has memcached, Redis, and Varnish while WP Engine has their own caching system. They also don’t block you from using cache plugins. However, the Cloudways Breeze plugin isn’t the best and I would use WP Rocket instead since it comes with a lot more speed optimizations.

Cloudways-servers-dashboard

Wordpress admin speed on cloudways

 

10. Cloudways Has Better TrustPilot Reviews

TrustPilot is good for getting reviews about a company’s support.

Cloudways support didn’t used to be great (and neither were there TrustPilot reviews). But Cloudways has definitely made a big effort to improve their support which is why they now have a 4.7/5 star TrustPilot rating. Thanks Cloudways for listening! Support is much better now.

Cloudways trustpilot review

WP Engine support has declined immensely as reflected in their TrustPilot profile. Support used to be good but if you look at recent reviews, you can see how their support went downhill.

Wp-engine-trustpilot-review

 

11. Cloudways Offers A Free Migration, WP Engine Does Not

Cloudways offers 1 free migration, then $25/site, while WP Engine offers no free migrations. Instead, WP Engine wrote a tutorial and you’re expected to migrate all your websites yourself.

On Cloudways, you can request a free migration once signed up. Just click the Boxes tab in the navigation menu → add-ons → click the pencil icon. You’ll be prompted with a migration form.

Cloudways application migration

Then fill out your details:

Cloudways free migration request

 

12. Neither Have Email Hosting

Neither Cloudways or WP Engine have free email hosting (a con for both).

With Cloudways, you can sign up for a Rackspace account for $1/email per month which is cheaper than Rackspace’s standard pricing of $2/email per month. It’s not exactly “included email hosting” but at least Cloudways gives you an option for a relatively inexpensive price.

Cloudways supports SMTP and so does WP Engine.

 

13. WP Engine Is Expensive, Both Are Monthly Pricing

Both Cloudways and WP Engine have monthly pricing which is nice.

With WP Engine, you can save 4 months by committing to 1 year. Cloudways doesn’t offer a yearly incentive, but it’s nice they both offer monthly pricing that’s not ridiculously expensive.

You can see this on their WordPress hosting page:

Cloudways-pricing

Here are WP Engine’s prices:

Wp engine pricing

 

14. Get 25% Off Cloudways With Promo Code: OMM25

I have a promo code that saves you 25% off your first 2 months at Cloudways.

Cloudways coupon code
25% off 2 months of Cloudways with code OMM25 (or use their coupons page for 30% off 3 months)

 

15. Getting Started On Cloudways

Some people think Cloudways is “too technical” but it’s really not.

Step 1: Sign up for Cloudways using a free trial with the promo code OMM25. They will send you an email to activate your account, then you will be taken into their Cloudways dashboard.

Step 2: You’ll be prompted to launch a server.

Launch server on cloudways

Step 3: Name your app/server, then choose a server (I recommend either DigitalOcean Premium or Vultr HF). Select your server size (1GB is only for very small sites, otherwise use at least 2GB). Select the data center closest to your visitors. When you’re done, click Launch Now.

Cloudways launch vultr high frequency server

Step 4: Add your domain to Cloudways (Applications → Domain Management).

Cloudways domain management

Step 5: Add a free Let’s Encrypt SSL (Applications → SSL Certificate) and enable auto renewal.

Cloudways ssl management

Step 6: 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.

If using GoDaddy, see their instructions.

Update dns records
In your domain registrar, add an A record to with your Public IP (found in Cloudways) and domain

Cloudways also has a video tutorial on this:

Step 7: Go to your Settings & Packages and Managed Services tab. This is where you can upgrade PHP versions, MariaDB versions, increase to a higher memory limit, and install Redis.

Cloudways memory limit

Enjoy the faster load times :)

Omm gtmetrix 2021
Even long posts with tons of images and 600 comments still load in about 1s with a 51ms TTFB

I hope this comparison was helpful. When it comes to WP Engine vs. Cloudways, the latter has much better speeds, support, and better technology which will result in much faster load times and a better overall experience with your site. That’s why the decision is honestly a no-brainer.

Cheers,
Tom

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