Cloudways Review: Pay As You Go Hosting For Your Site
Oct. 22, 2020
There are just so many hosting options available these days that finding the right one can be a bit of a chore.
Well, don’t expect things to get any easier with Cloudways!
Why, you ask? Because this managed cloud hosting platform also lets you choose between 5 different data center providers.
Each of these providers has at least 10 different plans. And, you can even decide to pay monthly, or hourly. So that’s more than 100+ options to choose from!
For some, it will be a minefield. For others, it’s a great benefit to be able to pick exactly the features they need, like at a web hosting buffet.
So let’s dive in with this review to see who should use Cloudways and who should look elsewhere.
Table of Contents
Ok, as mentioned above, the first thing to understand about Cloudways is that you can choose between the five different data center providers: DigitalOcean (which we used for our tests), Linode, Vultr, AWS (from Amazon), and Google Cloud.
Every provider has a minimum of 10 plans, but for simplicity’s sake, I’ll only mention the four key featured plans from each provider. Let’s call them Entry, Standard, Advanced and Pro to make things easier. This is what it looks like in table form:
$10 / month
1 Core Processor
$22 / month
1 Core Processor
$42 / month
2 Core processor
$80 / month
4 Core processor
$12 / month
1 Core Processor
$24 / month
1 Core Processor
$50 / month
2 Core processor
$90 / month
4 Core processor
$11 / month
1 Core Processor
$23 / month
1 Core Processor
$44 / month
2 Core Processor
$84 / month
4 Core Processor
$35.51 / month
$86.77 / month
$176.26 / month
$274.33 / month
$33.63 / month
$75.29 / month
$142.48 / month
$232.80 / month
Then, don’t forget that you can always go up one level. For instance, with Google Cloud, you can go up to $1332.65 per month. This would give you an insanely performant 120GB of RAM and 32 vCPUs.
(Vultr also has special High Frequency plans, which are slightly more expensive than the ones listed above, but give you extra storage.)
Also, Cloudways is the only affordable provider I know who lets you buy hosting on an hourly basis.
For instance, with DigitalOcean, the entry plan would be $0.0139 per hour; Standard is $0.0306 / hour; Advanced is $0.0583 per hour, and Pro is $0.1111 per hour.
This is obviously best for agencies and resellers that manage client websites, or website owners who know when traffic spikes are coming.
This can be useful to know in advance if you plan on targeting certain specific markets worldwide. And as you can see, Amazon, for instance, is the only one with data centers in South America.
Cloudways Pros & Cons
So with all the above in mind, when exactly does Cloudways shine?
Flexibility: the main reason to choose Cloudways would be to hop on a different hosting plan whenever it suits your needs, making it a true pay-as-you go provider. It can be a great solution for website owners that need flexibility and expect traffic peaks.
Uptime: all of the hosting options will stay online virtually 100% of the time.
Server features: all servers launched on Cloudways have SSD-based hosting, PHP7, and built-in caches, amongst others.
Backups: manually backup your site with their dedicated plugin, or let their system do it automatically on an hourly or daily basis.
Server locations: This may depend on the provider you choose, but at least you have the choice and complete control.
Collaborators and users: team management is thorough, and easy to do.
Hourly pay-as-you-go: I can’t think of any other provider that lets you pay for hosting by the hour.
Support: It’s not that the support is bad, but rather that they divide it into tiers. You only get 15 minutes of live chat with the basic plans, which might not be enough to get to the bottom of your issue (it gets turned into a support ticket after that). You can get more minutes if you pay for the support add-on.
Not the easiest to use: The backend isn’t the most intuitive either – definitely geared towards more technical users, even if it’s better looking than cPanel.
Too much choice: for those who suffer from decision paralysis, the hundreds of Cloudways options are going to send you into overthinking mode.
No included CDN: it’s not expensive, starting at $1 per 25GB, but other providers include it for free.
What is Cloudways used for?
Cloudways is definitely geared towards the for more tech-savvy users. It’s for businesses who understand their traffic cycles, the kind of performance they need, and where they need to deliver content. Agencies and resellers will know how to make the most of the performance and options.
The performance, by the way, is excellent, and ideal for websites that need to auto-scale based on seasonal traffic spikes, like online stores.
The pay-as-you-go nature of their plans can also be a benefit for those who don’t want to commit to a year long plan with some of the big name providers out there, like AWS or Google Cloud, or expect peaks of traffic.
When not to use Cloudways hosting?
If you need to host a simple website like a personal blog, small online store, WordPress portfolio or basic business page, I’d recommend looking at other options.
Registering with Cloudways is easy and straightforward. You can use your email, LinkedIn, Google or Github account.
They have their own control panel, so no cPanel. It looks modern but not exactly the most intuitive. After a couple of hours using their interface you’ll know how to do most things. Bear in mind that Cloudways comes with a lot of options, which can be intimidating for beginners.
In terms of team management, there’s a smart way to add users to your account. You can set them up to have full access or limited permissions. It’s also possible to assign them to individual projects only.
Cloudways plans don’t come with a domain name included. In fact, you won’t be able to purchase one from them. Check out Namecheap if you need a domain name instead.
Cloudways hosting only offers email accounts as extra add-ons. It costs $1 a month per email account.
There doesn’t seem to be any limitation with the databases on paper, as long as it remains within a reasonable amount. You can choose between MySQL and MariaDB as your database manager.
Besides WordPress, there are several other applications and CMS that you can install in 1-click. You’ll have a limited choice, but the most important ones are there: OpenCart, PrestaShop, Joomla, Laravel, Drupal and Magento.
You can choose between several providers to host your server. For example, you can have AWS (Amazon), Google Cloud, Vultr, Linode or DigitalOcean. For each provider, there are several plans and with several storage limitations.
The cheapest would be DigitalOcean and you can choose plans that have 25 GB, 50 GB, 80 GB and 160 GB of storage.
Monthy Data Transfer Limit
Similarly to the storage, the bandwidth also depends on the provider and the plan that you chose. If you use a DigitalOcean server your bandwidth will start at 1 TB and can go all the way up to 5 TB.
FTP Accounts and Secure FTP
It’s possible to access your site using SFTP (Secure FTP) and SSH. By default, you’ll have credentials to access the whole server system (master credentials) or just credentials to access an application (e.g. your WordPress installation). The account owner will be able to create several credentials for each application.
With Cloudways you can choose several datacenter providers like DigitalOcean, Amazon AWS, Google Cloud, Vultr or Linode. In total there are over 25 locations you can pick from. These include: the US (San Francisco, Chicago, New York or Atlanta), Canada, Brasil, Ireland, The UK, Australia, Germany or Singapore.
Cloudways comes with SSL certificates you can add to your sites. They also run secure software versions (e.g. MySQL and PHP).
Extras include bot protection, firewalls that block traffic to specific ports, and the applications you install are kept separately from each other. More information.
Users can enable two-factor authentication, so you’ll need to confirm your Cloudways session with an extra device. Additionally, they keep track of suspicious device logins, so you’ll get an email notification if a connection looks fishy.
In our series of independent tests, CloudWays performed well. The pages loaded within an average of 2.37 seconds, which is good enough. We used a DigitalOcean server for our tests.
In our experience, uptime with Cloudways is reliable as they use datacenters from serious providers like DigitalOcean, AWS (from Amazon) and Google Cloud.
You can configure your backups to be performed regularly, on an hourly or daily basis. You can also decide how long you’d like to keep backups for, anywhere between 1 to 4 weeks.
It’s also possible to create manual backups (e.g. before updating a plugin). It’s not free, costing $0.033 per GB. Sadly there isn’t an easy way to download these backups, you’ll need to use SFTP for that. It’s a good system, but I just wish it was a bit easier to deal with.
Cloudways offers an affordable CDN, you’ll have to pay extra if you’d like to use it. Competitors like Kinsta or WP Engine bundle it with their plans.
Currently, PHP 7.4 is available, all the way down to 5.6. You can choose between MySQL and MariaDB as your database manager.
SSL certificates can be installed for free. There is WordPress and Magento advanced caching in place. It’s possible to create staging areas. All good, but I just wish it was a bit easier to use.
Refunds and Guarantees
Cloudwys will only refund the funds that you haven’t used, as it is a pay as you go service. And you have to request the refund within 3 months after adding the funds. Cloudways doesn’t seem to offer an uptime guarantee.
Assistance and Support
Cloudways support is, in my experience, good. It can be a bit slow, but you can pay extra for priority support. As the Cloudways Service Legal Agreement states, support chats are limited to 15 minutes with the basic support. After that, a ticket will be created for you which will be answered within 3 hours if it is urgent, or 12 hours if it’s not urgent.
An interesting proposition for expert users. Think: multiple website owners, digital marketing agencies, or web designers that resell hosting. You get to choose a true pay-as-you-go solution, even with the option to pay for hosting hourly.
It’s not the most intuitive provider, in my opinion, but CloudWay’s strong performance, security features, and abundant hosting options will make some tech-savvy website owners very happy.
The Backup section is easily accessible in the left menu of your main dashboard. As you can see, the main options are to do with the frequency of the backups. It’s nice that you can schedule the timing yourself.
The local backup option lets you create one copy of your site. For some puzzling reason, CloudWays doesn’t let you download it directly from the dashboard – you’ll have to use SSH or SFTP to access it. And more importantly: it isn’t free. CloudWays charges $0.033 per GB of data that you backup offline.
Cloudways Vertical Scaling
One of the key benefits of having so many options is that you can scale your resources based on traffic spikes.
With Cloudways, this is done via what they call “vertical scaling”. You can increase your server size, but also CPU and memory, depending on the provider you have chosen.
It is a cost effective solution, because you can keep all your data and web applications in one place, without having to migrate anything.
But there are a few things to note:
Storage scaling is permanent: so you won’t be able to scale back down if you only want to increase disk size. The workaround is to clone your server and move it to a scaled down plan, then cancel the upgraded one.
Scaling will take your server offline: make sure you do it during off-peak hours.
Different providers have different options: AWS and Google Cloud let you scale your server CPU and RAM independently. DigitalOcean, Linue and Vultr only let you scale the entire size of your server, including CPU, RAM and disk space.
Testing Cloudways’ hosting
As you can guess, measuring Cloudways’ performance is a bit tricky due to the number of server options. Still, this is what we found from our independent tests.
Only a few months worth of uptime monitoring, but Cloudways did well there, never dropping below the 100% rate.
Note, however, that Cloudways doesn’t offer an uptime guarantee, unlike some of its competitors.
Is Cloudways fast?
Yes! Once again, note that we’ve only used the DigitalOcean data centers, but according to our series of independent tests, the average page loading speed was perfectly acceptable.
Kinsta (3 months)
Results in seconds
Remember that with page loading speed, you’re always aiming under the 3 seconds mark, which is when users start getting frustrated. 2.37 isn’t the fastest, but it certainly does the trick.
Key takeaways: is Cloudways right for you?
Well, if you’ve been confused by any of the more technical terms in this review, such as CDN, staging, or server customization, you should probably look elsewhere. There are simpler alternatives that will host your site with good performance, and much fewer technical options. SiteGround or DreamHost come to mind.
If you’re after WordPress hosting, CloudWays is good, but there are also alternatives like WP Engine or Kinsta, where you get support and infrastructure built especially for WordPress.
Now, CloudWays is probably one of the better options for managing and getting the most out of a hosting stack. That is, if you’re an agency with hundreds of sites in your portfolio, or a reseller, you’ll be able to move sites to the best data centers, hop on a different hosting plan when needed, and use the scaling options to meet the demands of huge traffic spikes.
What Is The Advantage Of Choosing A Data Center Provider?
For owners of a single website, you can choose one that has server locations near your target market. For instance, AWS is the only one that has servers in South America.
For agencies and resellers, the main advantage is that you can manage all your sites in one place, with different data center options for your clients’ websites.
Is It Really Pay-As-You-Go?
Yes – Cloudways lets you access data centers from DigitalOcean, Linode, Vultr, AWS (Amazon Web Services) and Google Cloud (GCE) on a monthly, or even hourly basis. You can cancel at any time, and there’s no need to be locked into a yearly contract.
Why Can’t I Access My Free Trial?
It depends on the data center provider you choose. Google Cloud (GCE) and AWS (Amazon Web Services) don’t let you. You need to upgrade your Cloudways account to launch and access their servers.
With the other three providers (DigitalOcean, Linode, Vultr) it shouldn’t be a problem.
Are There Any Extra Costs?
Yes, if you want to choose a CDN, it will cost you around $1 per 25GB of delivered data. Offline backup storage is also charged at a rate of $0.033 per GB. Email accounts start at $1 a month.