If you look for WordPress hosting there are many powerful solutions for a reasonable price. I’m using ServerPilot for two servers (DigitalOcean) for some time now and the performance is still amazing. In response to my ServerPilot review I got several questions and comments, why I’m not using Cloudways to host my WordPress websites. I used Cloudways hosting only once, to gather the information for this article. I hope this comparison will help you to decide which kind of cloud hosting is the best for your WordPress website(s).
How to compare both hosting services?
To compare both WordPress hosting services I used a 1GB server from DigitalOcean with a single CPU.
- Features – Comparing the features was the most difficult part, because both products are very different. I summarized the most important features for both products.
- Speed – To compare the speed, I’ve installed WooCommerce and the Storefront theme to create a “real” situation. I used also the W3TC plugin as cache module which is already installed for each WordPress app by Cloudways. Next I’ve used blitz.io for the load tests, with 200-1000 users from a single location during 2 minutes.
- Ease of use – Is it possible with both services to install a WordPress website without being a server administrator?
- Customer service – How fast and professional is the support you get for the service? How much support do you get for the subscription level?
- Price – For many people an important point, how much do I have to pay to use both services. Is there a free plan available?
ServerPilot – VPS Hosting for PHP Developer
The Serverpilot client installs an optimized stack on your VPS installed with Ubuntu 14.04 or 16.04. The configuration includes Nginx in front of Apache, PHP-FPM and MySQL. If you need other packages you can install them using apt-get or you can build your own installation packages. All important updates are executed by the ServerPilot client to keep your VPS safe. From the ServerPilot control panel it’s possible to configure servers, Linux users, apps, database users, databases and SSL certificates. Beside the configuration options, they offer real-time analytics and a log file viewer. If you need to setup anything else you need to use the command line from your server.
Choose the PHP version you need
Using ServerPilot it’s possible to choose for each app which PHP version I want to use: 5.4, 5.5, 5.6, 7.0 or 7.1. ServerPilot doesn’t use a Varnish cache, but all static files are served by Nginx. That will say I need to use a file based cache for my WordPress website(s). I played a bit with the settings from the W3TC (W3 Total Cache) plugin and the speed test results are okay:
49,130 Hits with 1,096 errors & 139 timeouts
Sure there are still a view errors and time-outs, but I’m okay with the result. Don’t forget I didn’t used Varnish on the front-end! During the test the server load was higher, but the server was still accessible for other visitors. Installing the ServerPilot client is even for the beginner very easy and is just a single step you need to do from the command line of your server. You need a SSH client (Putty) to install the SP client. Adding apps, users, databases and SSL certificates is very easy while using the ServerPilot control panel. After the app is created, you need to upload WordPress using a sFTP client. Using ServerPilot you’re free to install additional modules on your server.
Huge library of how-to guides
They offer a huge number of guides on their website and the support offers also some help if you need some (even for the free version). Seems like they offer (free) support only during the office hours, at least for general questions. There was no emergency, so I couldn’t test their availability during other time periods. On the other side, it’s not a managed hosting service, so I can contact the VPS hosting provider (DigitalOcean, Vultr, Linode, Rackspace, …) in case of server related problems. There are 3 plans with a different set of features: Free, Coach and Business. The free plan has all the features you need to run a regular server, for example for your WordPress website. The Coach plan adds it possibility to manage additional sFTP/SSH users, SSL deployment and server analytics to your account. The costs are $10 a month for each server. If you need more support or features like a log file viewer and slow request stats, you need to add the Business plan for $49 a month to each server in your account. You can’t have different plans for your servers in a single account, but you can open different accounts for each plan.
- ServerPilot is a service on top of a VPS you’ve using from a 3rd party cloud hosting provider
- If you go for a paid account type, the price doesn’t change if you get a bigger server
- You’re free to install/modify your own server if you like
- You can use multiple databases for each app
- There is a free account type you can use for as many servers and apps you like!
- The service requires some basic Linux knowledge from the user
- Varnish isn’t available by default and you need to configure it by yourself
- No 1 click app deployment
- No database management tool (you need to install phpMyadmin or stuck with the command line)
- You need to setup your own backup functions
Cloudways – Managed WordPress Hosting
The first thing that I noticed during sign-up and server installation was, that I didn’t need a DigitalOcean account to get a VPS. Everything is done from the Cloudways control panel. Each server is installed with Nginx, Varnish, Memcached, Apache, MySQL and PHP. They also create daily backups and statistics for your server. From the server control panel it’s also possible to configure some server/PHP settings like the max. upload size or the memory limit.
No root access!
While I’m using a managed WordPress hosting service, I can manage my server using the command line, but I don’t have root access. At moment that the server is ready, I’m able to create different apps like: WordPress, WordPress + WooCommerce, PHP/MySQL, Magento, Prestashop, Joomla, WordPress Multisite or Drupal. Each app type has a different setup for Varnish. Will say you need to decide right in the beginning what you need. It seems to me that a later move from “standard” WordPress to WP + WooCommerce could be a problem.
Admin panel for common jobs
On the admin page for your application, you will find the logins for WordPress, SSH/sFTP and MySQL. There is also an interface for CRON jobs, domain names, SSL certificates and a function to restore your application from a previous (daily) backup. As mentioned before, every application is installed with Varnish and that make your WordPress website really fast even if your site get a thousand visitors at the same time. Check this test results:
50,082 Hits with 119 errors & 10 timeouts
If you install a WordPress application, the W3TC plugin is always pre-installed. Sure the plugin offers more options than a file cache, but why Cloudways suggests to use Varnish and a cache plugin is maybe a little secret. Every feature that is available from the Cloudways control panel is easy to use and even the beginning WordPress webmaster should be able to manage these options. The database management tool isn’t from this time and you should use your own phpMyAdmin application instead. If you’re not sure what each options means, there is always a short information and if necessary a link to the documentation.
Support via live chat and email
Cloudways offers email support and if you like you can use the live chat 24×7. The support agent I spoke to was very qualified and was able to answer all my questions I had about their services and the control panel. There is also a knowledge database with documents for all common questions. They don’t offer a free version like ServerPilot and the price for a 1GB server is $15 a month. There are no different account types and the price becomes higher if you need a “bigger” server.
- Full managed service
- Available even for beginning webmasters
- 1 click app deployment
- Varnish and Memcached pre-installed
- Managed app and database backups and restore function
- No root access, no server modifications
- The database management tool is outdated and doesn’t work very well
- You can’t choose from different PHP versions
- No DNS zone available
- You can’t directly downgrade a server