I recently moved from shared hosting to Cloudways, a managed cloud hosting service. In this review, I share why I moved, how I set up my WordPress website with Cloudways and how it all went. A list of pros and cons and a few things I reckon you should try to avoid when moving will round it all off.
That said, I don’t consider myself a WordPress cloud hosting expert or a speed guru. This is a review from the perspective of someone who just wants fast and affordable hosting, learn a bit about web development but doesn’t want too much time taken away from his real passion. Writing. And Cloudways delivered.
Just one more thing before we begin. Should you find my review useful and want to support my work, feel free to sign up through my Cloudways affiliate link. Use the code TMC25 to get 10% off for 3 months. I earn a commission, which helps keep The Mind Collection alive. With that out of the way, here are the perks and pitfalls of moving to WordPress cloud hosting.
Table of Contents
- Why Move to Cloudways?
- How to Move to Cloudways?
- How to Optimise Cloudways
- Pros & Cons of Moving to Cloudways
- BONUS: What Not to Do
- Closing Thoughts
Why Move to Cloudways?
Let’s start with the question of why you would even switch WordPress hosting. If you’re like me, then you’ve been with a shared hosting provider for a few years. It was a good deal when you first signed up. Under $5 a month. But now it’s renewal time and the cost has gone up to almost $30 a month. And only if you commit yourself to another year or two. Mind you, we’re still talking about a mid-tier shared hosting plan.
So you ask yourself: Should I renew and lock myself in a shared hosting plan for another couple of years? Move to a different shared hosting service? Or make the move to cloud hosting? Well, allow me to make a case for the latter. When you’re picking up serious traffic, you’re probably starting to look for a few things:
- Flexibility and scalability because you don’t know how fast you’re going to grow.
- Ease-of-use because you don’t want the hassle of managing a server all by yourself.
- A superfast website with no CPU limits and enough bandwidth to appease the algorithm gods at Google.
All this needs to be affordable because you’re not quite there in the top traffic range (yet). That’s why I picked Cloudways. They have simplified cloud hosting by offering managed servers from providers such as Digital Ocean or Vultr. You’ll only be charged for what you use, billed monthly in arrears and can cancel at any time.
You can get managed cloud hosting for as little as $10 a month if you go with Digital Ocean. That’s cheaper than shared hosting for existing customers. Granted, it gets a bit more technical at Cloudways, but I found it to be more than accessible for a medium tech-savvy person like me. 99% of it is just clicking buttons. Still, there are a few things you should be aware of before making the move. So let me show you how I did it.
How to Move to Cloudways?
Moving to Cloudways was simple. You can get a 3-day free trial (no need to provide a credit card) and go from there. The first step is to choose your server.
Choosing a Server
I went with Vultr’s High Frequency plan for $13 a month. Vultr HF is what others have been consistently recommending to me. (Note that you could upgrade later from Standard ($11) to HF, but you will have to clone your server.) Vultr HF comes with 1 GB of RAM, 1 Core, 32 GB of storage and 1 TB of bandwidth.
According to Cloudways Support, the Vultr HF 1GB plan is good for up to 70k page views per month. The 2 GB ($26) can handle up to 130k page views. Though, these figures are hard to verify, as it depends on your site and setup.
Next, pick the location of your data centre. Vultr has one in nearly every corner of the world. Make sure to pick one closest to the majority of your audience. The last step is to choose your application (WordPress, WordPress + WooCommerce etc.). Cloudways will set up your server within a few minutes and you’re good to go.
Migrating Your Site
Cloudways offers to migrate your site for free. But I used their free WordPress Migrator. I prefer to do things myself, not least because of what I learn in the process. It was easy to use and there was zero downtime on my site.
If you’re worried you mess it up, do it like me and have a dummy site ready to test the whole process. This is fine because Cloudways lets you have as many websites as you want on your server. It helped me not make the same mistakes twice. But more on that later.
The migratory interface looks cryptic. But your Cloudways dashboard has all the details you need. Just copy and paste them into the migration plugin and hit migrate. Once that’s done there are a few more things to do.
Specify your domain in the dashboard under Domain Management. Then change your DNS records to point to your new server. If you use Cloudflare, you have to make those changes in their dashboard only. Lastly, go back to your Cloudways dashboard and install your free SSL. Also, check if HTTPS Redirection is enabled under Application Settings. Now test your website. It should all be fine.
How to Optimise Cloudways
Once your site has settled into its new home, you probably need to optimise it. Because things like caching, image optimisation, email etc. might be different from your previous hosting provider. Let’s review how I did that with Cloudways.
Breeze is Cloudways’ proprietary caching plugin. It’s automatically installed when migrating. If you had SG Optimizer installed before, it’ll be gone. And you should keep it that way (more below). Breeze is not as good as most paid caching plugins. But it does the job of managing all your caching levels.
I enabled the basic Cache System, Gzip Compression and Browser Caching. Varnish is another caching level which should be switched on automatically at the server level but whose auto purge function you should check in Breeze.
The plugin has more functions such as preloading and prefetching, database optimisation and image lazy loading. However, I use Perfmatters instead as I will detail further below.
Redis Object Cache
Redis is (yet) another caching layer, only for your WordPress backend. (Note that all managed cloud hosting plans 2GB upwards come with the free pro version of Redis Object Cache.) Enabling Redis is a bit more complicated, though.
Cloudways has a tutorial on How to Install and Configure Redis on WordPress. Only thing is you have to edit your WP Config file (for every site you have installed). I used the WP File Manager plugin instead of what they recommend. I never enjoy messing with the code, but it worked just fine.
From there, it’s only a matter of clicking install in your Server Management dashboard. Lastly, I downloaded the Redis Object Cache plugin and enabled it there. Now, my WordPress backend is much faster and more responsive.
If you want more from Cloudflare and can spend $4.99 more per month, Cloudways offers Cloudflare Enterprise. This includes features such as managed WAF, image optimisation (serve webp) and DDoS protection. Full page caching, however, is still being tested. At the time of writing, this review it was unclear when Cloudways will make it available.
Update: If you’re using Super Page Cache for Cloudflare you should deinstall Cloudways’ Breeze. Both are caching plugins and might conflict. And don’t worry about Varnish support. Enable it in the Super Cache advanced settings and you’re good to go.
Once full-page caching is available I probably sign up. Also due to…
This is another optimisation challenge my move from Siteground left me with. As short on Core Web Vital-improving features as SG Optimizer is, it has you covered with webp conversion and image optimisation. For me, this worked seamlessly with Cloudflare as well.
Breeze has none of that. There are paid alternatives such as Shortpixel and the free Converter for Media. But they either don’t work very well with Cloudflare or not at all. Cloudflare’s Polish is included in the Enterprise plan and could come in handy.
Together with the fast managed cloud server, this has boosted my website speed to a score of almost 100 on PageSpeed Insights. Just make sure you don’t double up with other plugins (and Cloudflare) on enabling functionalities.
Now to another challenge of moving to managed WordPress cloud hosting with Cloudways. They don’t offer email hosting. At least not for free. So instead, I use Cloudflare email routing. Since this is only for incoming emails I also set up Gmail so I can respond using my domain-based email. Here’s a useful tutorial on how to do it. If you want to go paid, there’s of course Google Workspace. Cloudways’ Rackspace Email Add-on is an option, too.
For what it’s worth, I’ve been quite happy with Cloudways support so far. By the time I’m writing this Cloudways review, they’ve regularly checked in on me, making sure I was doing okay setting it all up (maybe a bit too often). More importantly, when I did need help, they were very responsive. You can use the live chat function or write them an email. I’m at the other end of the world in a very different time zone from where they’re based. But I usually get a response overnight.
Pros & Cons of Moving to Cloudways
Now all in all Cloudways managed WordPress cloud hosting makes for a fast and affordable package. Feel free to test my website on GTmetrix and PageSpeed Insights. I haven’t looked back since I moved. That said, here are the pros and cons of moving to managed cloud hosting with Cloudways as I see them.
- Fast servers (I use Vultr HF)
- Flexibility (3-day free testing, monthly billing, no lock-in, get 10% off for 3 months with code TMC25)
- Unlimited websites and plenty of bandwidth
- Affordable Cloudflare Enterprise*
- Choice of data centres close to your audience
- Learning curve coming from shared hosting
- Scalable server resources at the click of a button
- Excellent uptime record (as opposed to a certain shared hosting company whose DNS was down for days and they just shrugged their shoulders)
- No lightspeed servers (Apache only)
- Learning curve coming from shared hosting
- Breeze lacks features such as image optimisation (I use a third-party plugin instead)
- Gets more expensive as you continue to scale
- *Cloudflare Enterprise doesn’t include full-page caching (yet)
- Offsite backup storage cost $0.033/GB (I also use UpdraftPlus for backup)
- No email (I use Cloudflare/Gmail alias instead)
- No built-in file manager (I use WP File Manager plugin)
BONUS: What Not to Do
As happy as I am with the move, there are always things you wish you had known before you moved. I planned it pretty thoroughly to avoid unintended consequences. So in best via negativa fashion, here are a few things I can share on what not to do.
- move only a few days before your old plan ends. Give yourself enough time to settle in and test. I made sure I had enough time left with my old provider in case something went wrong
- jump into your website migration before making backups
- move before you know how to replace features you might lose when leaving your previous provider
- forget finding and setting up an email hosting alternative before moving
- reinstall SG Optimizer (if coming from Siteground), for example, to use the image optimisation function. It may mess up your HTTPS and upset Breeze.
So if you’re looking to make the move to managed cloud hosting after reading this review, Cloudways is definitely worth a look. If you make the switch, chances are you’ll come out with a faster website on the other end. And if it doesn’t work for you, you can move on at any time.
In my view, what you win compared to shared hosting far outweighs what you lose. So if you’re convinced and want to give Cloudways a try, check out their managed cloud hosting plans through my Cloudways affiliate link. Use the code TMC25 to get 10% off for 3 months. You’ll get a good deal and you’ll help keep The Mind Collection alive.