Cloudways vs. WP Engine (with speed tests): it’s a no-brainer

Cloudways-vs-WP-Engine

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

WP Engine has gotten slower over the years and has many restrictions: limited number of sites, banned plugins, no email hosting, no free migration, and their support isn’t what it used to be as reflected on TrustPilot. They’re also majority owned by GoDaddy (never a good sign). Similar to SiteGround, WP Engine has also gone very downhill and I wouldn’t recommend using them.

Cloudways is a much better choice and is who I use. Their DigitalOcean and Vultr High Frequency servers are worlds faster than WP Engine, they don’t the limit number of sites, offer a free migration, and have faster built-in caching (Varnish, Redis, memcached). Cloudways has much better TrustPilot reviews but more important, is one of the most highly recommended hosts in the WordPress Hosting Facebook Group and rated #1 in numerous Facebook polls.

 

1. WP Engine Has Gotten Slower

WP Engine used to be much faster than they are now.

Many people in Facebook Groups end up migrating away from WP Engine (usually to Cloudways) because they noticed their servers are getting slower. This is similar to SiteGround (both SiteGround and WP Engine use Google Cloud servers but aren’t fast). It just goes to show you that even if a host uses what are supposed to be fast servers, doesn’t mean this passes down to the customers. Like many things in hosting, it looks good on paper, but is just not true.

 

2. They’re Majority Owned By GoDaddy

In 2018, the same private equity firm who bought GoDaddy invested $250M in WP Engine. Lisa Box (from Endurance International Group), was appointed Vice President Strategic Alliances and Business Development at WP Engine. And I think you know what that means.

It means WP Engine is largely influenced by GoDaddy/EIG.

And if you know anything about the hosting industry, this is not a good thing. Both hosts have terrible reputations – GoDaddy was rated one of the top malware hosting networks worldwide while EIG is infamous for running companies into the ground. I 100% believe this is why WP Engine is also being run into the ground. Just this fact alone is enough to stay away from them.

 

3. WP Engine Bans Plugins

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

While WP Engine handles server-size caching, cache plugins do a lot more than just caching (font optimization, database cleanup, heartbeat control, etc). Without a cache plugin, you’re losing out on extra features done by WP Rocket (or whichever cache plugin you were using).

When hosts ban cache plugins, it forces many customers to use a plugin like Autoptimize which is a great plugin, but still doesn’t have quite as many speed optimizations as WP Rocket. You’re forced to install extra plugins to get these optimizations like Heartbeat Control + Prefetching.

 

4. WP Engine Limits Number Of Sites

WP Engine only supports 1 WordPress install on their Startup plan.

You have to pay for their Growth plan ($95/month) if you want to host extra sites.

So if you planned on hosting multiple sites on your hosting account at an affordable price, WP Engine isn’t for you. Unlike WP Engine, Cloudways lets you host an unlimited number of sites regardless of your plan. You just want to make sure it has enough server resources (CPU/RAM) to handle those sites. But even the cheapest Cloudways DigitalOcean plan for $10/month with 1 CPU + 1GB RAM should be able to handle at least 2-3 small websites. No need to pay more.

WP-Engine-Limited-Sites

 

5. Cloudways vs. WP Engine Speed Tests

This was a simple test I did to measure load times, TTFB, and server response times.

I signed up for 16 hosting plans, installed the same Astra Starter Site on each of them, then tested each website in multiple tools. Pingdom is the recommended tool to measure load times as reported by WP Rocket, and TTFBs were measured using a combination of WebPageTest, GTmetrix, and KeyCDN (only US locations since that’s where the data centers were located).

In the test, I used WP Engine’s Startup plan ($25/mo) and multiple Cloudways plans ranging from $10-13/mo (DigitalOcean, Vultr, Vultr High Frequency, and Linode). Even though WP Engine used a more expensive plan, it was not faster.

WP Engine was slower in all speed tests while Cloudways had the faster TTFB, load times, server response times, and average time spent downloading a page in Google Search Console.

Cloudways-vs-WP-Engine-Speed-Test
View test comparing 16 hosts with screenshots of reports
Cloudways Reports (Screenshots)

  • GTmetrix – 130ms
  • KeyCDN – 131ms
  • WebPageTest – 215ms
  • WPHPC Plugin – 157ms
  • Search Console – 205ms
  • Pingdom – 340ms
  • Data center: San Francisco, CA
  • Hosting plan used: DigitalOcean (1 CPU)
WP Engine Reports (Screenshots)

  • GTmetrix – 186ms
  • KeyCDN – 207ms
  • WebPageTest – 428ms
  • WPHPC Plugin – 1753ms
  • Search Console – 431ms
  • Pingdom – 1290ms
  • Data center: North Charleston, SC
  • Hosting plan used: Startup Plan

In the Pingdom test, WP Engine loaded in 1290ms while Cloudways DigitalOcean loaded in 340ms, a difference of 950ms. This was tested for a 1 week period at 30 minute check intervals, which means 336 individual Pingdom tests were performed on each of the sites.

WordPress-Hosting-2020-Pingdom-Test

The TTFB test averaged 5 locations: KeyCDN (3 US locations), GTmetrix, and WebPageTest. I only used US data centers since you would probably choose a host with data centers that’s in your same country, so testing global locations is somewhat pointless. WP Engine’s TTFB averaged 274ms while Cloudways DigitalOcean averaged a 159ms, a difference of 115ms.

WordPress-Hosting-TTFBs

 

6. Cloudways Is Faster With DigitalOcean And Vultr HF

I wanted to touch on Cloudways DigitalOcean and Vultr High Frequency since these are 2 popular plans on Cloudways.

Cloudways DigitalOcean is slightly cheaper starting at $10/month but performs incredibly well and was their most popular plan (especially in Facebook Groups). However, they just released Vultr High Frequency which is supposed to be faster than DigitalOcean and is only $13/month.

Vultr High Frequency uses 3.8 GHz processors and NVMe storage which is supposed to be 40% faster than Vultr’s standard servers. Cloudways just released Vultr HF on 8/20/2020 and many people have reported a much faster dashbaord. You can read more about it on Vultr’s website.

Take a look at these migrations results:

Cloudways-Migration-ResultCloudways Pingdom Load TimesUntitledGodaddy DigitalOcean Migration
Cloudways Pingdom ReportNamecheap To Cloudways Migration

 

7. Cloudways Is Who Most People Use 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.

Hosting-Recommendation
Moving-From-WPX
SiteGround-Alternatives
Preferred-Web-Hosting
Elementor-Hosting
Web-Hosting-France
SiteGround-Alternative
VPS-Cloud-Hosting

 

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 comes with memcached, Redis, and Varnish for better caching.

With WP Engine, you would need to install their Advanced Caching plugin which isn’t always updated with newer WordPress versions. Not only does Cloudways give the advanced caching, but they don’t block you from using cache plugins for other optimizations.

Cloudways-Servers-Dashboard

The Cloudways Breeze plugin is okay but I would still use WP Rocket since Breeze lacks many features included with WP Rocket. You can test it out if you like (more people would use it if Cloudways added more features such as prefetching external domains, heartbeat control, etc).

Breeze Database Cleanup

 

10. Cloudways Has Better TrustPilot Reviews

TrustPilot is especially 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 4.8/5 star TrustPilot rating. Thanks Cloudways for listening! Support is now much better.

Cloudways TrustPilot rating:

Cloudways TrustPilot Rating

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 Rating:

WP-Engine-TrustPilot-Reviews

WP-Engine-TrustPilot-Review

 

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

Cloudways offer 1 free migration, then $25 per site, while WP Engine offers no free migrations. Instead, WP Engine wrote a tutorial and you are 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 will be prompted with a migration form.

Cloudways Application Migration

Then fill out your details:

Cloudways Free Migration Request

 

12. Neither One Has Email Hosting

Neither Cloudways or WP Engine offer email hosting.

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

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

With WP Engine, you can save 2 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 the Cloudways WordPress Hosting page:

Cloudways-Pricing

Here are WP Engine’s prices:

WP-Engine-Pricing

 

14. Get 25% Off Cloudways With Code OMM25

I have a promo code that gives you 25% off your first 2 month at Cloudways: OMM25

Cloudways Promo Code

 

15. Getting Started On Cloudways

Step 1: Sign up for a Cloudways using a free trial with promo code OMM25.

Step 2: Add a server.

Add-Server-To-Cloudways

Step 4: Name your app/server name, select a server (I recommend DigitalOcean or Vultr HF), then select your server size data center closest to your visitors. When done, click Launch Now.

Vultr-High-Frequency-Option

Step 5: In Cloudways, go Servers → Manage Services, then enable the following:

Cloudways-Services

Step 6: Go to Settings & Packages and upgrade to PHP 7.4, MariaDB 10.3, and install Redis.

Hosting-Speed-Optimizations

Step 7: Also in “Settings & Packages,” increase memory limit to 256MB.

Cloudways Memory Limit

Enjoy the faster load times :)

This post is huge with 70+ images and 400+ comments yet can still get a 1.4s load time.

OMM-2020-GTmetrix-Report

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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