“A web hosting server is the lifeline of every site.” Said Dr. Chris Dayagdag, a Google partner and technopreneur. And he couldn’t have put it better. In essence, your site is only as good as its underlying hosting framework.
And so, as part of my journey to establishing the best possible lifelines for ecommerce sites, I decided to take a slightly different route this time round. Instead of the typical hosting services we’re all used to, I tried out one that’s most renowned for its extensive server abstraction capabilities.
Cloudways Review: About the Hosting Service
Considering it was founded in 2011, Cloudways is relatively young in the hosting space. But, don’t let that fool you. It’s anything but small. In a nutshell, it’s a managed cloud hosting solution that allows individuals and teams to create, launch, scale, plus coordinate a variety of web apps, including ecommerce site.
Aaqib Gadit (Co-founder and CEO) and Pere Hospital (Co-founder and CSO) have seen it grow over the years to become an established hosting service with data centers spread across the globe. Combine that with a staff of over 100 experts, and you begin to get a rough idea of how Cloudways is now serving thousands of websites.
All that is coordinated from their headquarters based in Europe’s Malta Island, plus complementary offices in Dubai and Spain.
Now that’s a rather interesting resume if you ask me. But then again, we all know that hosting can be a pretty challenging undertaking even for well-funded companies. That’s why only a handful of providers can rightfully boast of extensively optimized hosting services.
The problem with that category, however, is this- most of their solutions don’t come cheap. It costs a pretty penny to launch servers and extensive ecommerce applications.
Interestingly, Cloudways is among the few players who, from the look of things, are seemingly veering from this trend. Their services are comparatively cheaper than their principal competitors.
But, come to think of it, could that be a hoodwinking tactic? Or is Cloudways a legitimately effective hosting solution?
Well, it only takes you a couple of minutes to find out. This Cloudways review gives the facts as they are- the whole truth about its key features, pricing, performance statistics, plus a walkthrough of the platform.
Cloudways Review: Overview of the Hosting Service
The one fundamental thing you can always expect from managed hosting providers is, of course, servers. And you know what? Cloudways has five cloud providers to back it up. You can set up your own cloud server on either Google Cloud Platform, Vultr, Linode, DigitalOcean, or Amazon Cloud Services (AWS).
Just choose your provider, and voila! Cloudways will create a dedicated cloud-based virtual server for you in a matter of seconds. And if you want to expand the capacity, the platform allows you to acquire additional servers or scale your current server at any time from your account.
There are multiple ways of leveraging the resultant resources. You could take advantage of the PHP features to launch your own containerized apps. Or, of course, run a dynamic ecommerce website.
Now hang on. What type of features are we talking about here? What should you expect from Cloudways when it comes to ecommerce hosting?
Cloudways Review: The Key Features
Ok, let’s start from the top.
After you sign up, you’ll notice that Cloudways gives you a considerable head start by availing four of the major ecommerce platforms by default- OpenCart, Magento, Prestashop, and WooCommerce. It also offers stuff like Laravel, Joomla, Drupal, and WordPress.
Fair enough. But, let’s imagine you’re planning to base your online shop on another application. What options do you have?
Well, fortunately, Cloudways is flexible enough to support any PHP application. That means you can comfortably install an additional ecommerce platform if you like.
Managing Ecommerce Environment
One thing I’ve liked about Cloudways is this- it holistically optimizes your ecommerce website environment to help you sell comfortably and expand dynamically.
As soon as the site goes live, for instance, Cloudways will monitor everything around the clock. Consequently, they should be able to swiftly rectify any problem immediately it develops. And to keep you posted, the dashboard goes ahead to avail more than 16 varying analytics.
But that’s not all. When it comes to keeping tabs on your ecommerce site, you can rely on what they call the CloudwaysBot. It’s simply an AI system that tracks your website’s performance 24/7, then sends you relevant updates through text or email.
In case of any problem, you can capitalize on Cloudways’ New Relic integration to discover weaknesses and mitigate them accordingly. It’s one of the many third-party applications whose integrations come in handy when using Cloudways for ecommerce.
That said, other outstanding functionalities for optimizing your ecommerce environment include:
- Pay-As-You-Go framework, which helps you save money by paying for only what you’re using.
- Extensive versatility, which allows you to scale your resources based on the changing site needs.
- Dedicated resource environment, which protects your site from possible leeches.
- Well-networked secure environment, which safeguards all servers and links them in a way that facilitates compound but independent resource handling.
- Numerous datacenter locations, which are further supplemented by CDN solutions for enhanced site loading speeds.
- Convenient migration of sites between datacenters and servers.
- Replication of your site across multiple servers to reduce the risk of possible downtime.
Recently, it was proven that cyber crime is increasingly becoming more profitable than even illegal drug trade. And you can bet the criminals will not be slowing down anytime soon. That’s why, as a matter of fact, 66% of IT professionals consider security to be their principal concern when it comes to cloud computing.
Well, if they’re concerned, then I’m scared out of my wits. Security is, undoubtedly, the one thing I cannot afford to compromise, especially after witnessing firsthand the devastating effects of a data breach (but that’s a story for another day). So, I was particularly keen about website security when I assessed Cloudways.
And this is what I found out- that you get:
- IP whitelisting
- Two-factor authentication login
- Free SSL certificate that can be installed in a single click
- Regular security patches and firmware upgrades
- Free automatic backups of your entire site plus its files, with the ability to restore everything in a single click
- Dedicated firewalls
- Possible compensation in case of downtime caused by a Force Majeure event
Optimized Website Performance
Believe it or not, but the fact is- Google will punish you if your ecommerce site takes comparatively long to load its pages.
And even if you happen to still attract traffic with a poor search engine ranking, you’ll exceedingly lose quite a substantial fraction of sale opportunities. Each tenth of a second loading delay, on average, translates to a 7% drop in your conversion rates.
Thankfully, Cloudways offers a wide range of features to prevent that. It optimizes overall web performance through its:
- Autohealing server technology, which automatically rectifies your server immediately it starts experiencing reduced performance.
- Content Delivery Network system, which is built on high-grade servers spread across the world to accelerate site content transfer globally.
- Support for PHP 7, which is currently the best performing PHP version.
- Support for Redis, which is combined with Varnish, Nginx, and Apache to boost your website database’s efficacy.
- Free advanced caches like Full Page Cache and
- Dedicated environment framework, which reserves the server resources exclusively for your site.
Dynamic Project Coordination
Chances are, you won’t be running your online store solo. You’ll probably hire a couple of professionals from time to time to handle various projects. And that’s precisely where Cloudways’ team collaboration capabilities come in.
In short, you’ll be able to allocate tasks to various team members, replicate servers and applications, transfer servers to others, plus migrate your site accordingly.
When you need to move a WordPress site from a third-party host to Cloudways, for instance, you can take advantage of the Cloudways WordPress Migrator Plugin to make things much simpler.
And if you’re handling numerous websites, you might want to leverage Cloudways’ secure SSH and SPTP access, unlimited staging areas, plus automatic Git environment. Consequently, all the team members will be able to review and polish up their projects, before eventually publishing everything.
To help you set up, launch, manage, run, and coordinate your site effectively, Cloudways provides a multi-channel support system.
At the very least, you get to capitalize on its well-detailed knowledge base to learn pretty much anything- from application management to server provisioning. And if you experience any difficulties, you can always seek further clarifications from the active community of members that Cloudways enjoys.
Alternatively, you can also seek support directly from Cloudways’ team of experts. Well, phone calls have always been my favorite because of their convenience. Sadly, however, it turns out that Cloudways only goes as far as facilitating call requests. You basically place a request, then agents will subsequently call you during their working hours.
While it’s commendable that the platform offers phone support, I hope they ultimately consider upgrading the whole thing to facilitate uninterrupted toll-free user-to-agent calls.
Otherwise, the best option you have at the moment is arguably live chat. Submitting a ticket online might also be convenient if they get back to you fast enough.
Cloudways Review: Using The Platform
If you consider trying out Cloudways, the place you’ll start off with is most likely the pricing page…
Ok, things might get a bit complicated here, especially if you’re used to the same old hosting pricing schedule of about four or five subscription plans.
Well, interestingly, Cloudways doesn’t offer six, seven, or eight options. They are much more, and you might feel overwhelmed at first. But, after closer scrutiny, you should be able to figure out the whole pricing methodology that the service uses.
Here’s the thing. Cloudways has essentially grouped the subscription offerings based on its five cloud server providers. Come to think of it, it all makes sense considering infrastructure services are usually priced differently.
Now, Cloudways then goes beyond that to offer multiple plans for each provider. Therefore, what you pay in the end depends on not only the provider you choose, but also the corresponding server specs.
And to give you a rough idea of what to expect, here’s the range of prices:
- Google Cloud Platform plans range from $33/month for 1.7GB RAM and 1 CPU- to more than $1,290/month for 120GB RAM and 32 CPUs.
- Amazon Web Services plans range from $36/month for 1.75GB RAM and 1 CPU- to more than $3,567/month for 384GB RAM and 96 CPUs.
- Vultr plans range from $11/month for 1GB RAM and a 1-core processor- to more than $385/month for 64GB RAM and a 16-core processor.
- Linode plans range from $12/month for 1GB RAM and a 1-core processor- to more than $1,205/month for 192GB RAM and a 32-core processor.
- Digital Ocean plans range from $10/month for 1GB RAM and a 1-core processor- to more than $1,035/month for 192GB RAM and a 32-core processor.
The best thing about all these options is the simple fact that you’re bound to find a perfect one with just the right resources.
Managing Your Account
After you’ve signed up and verified your email address, you can proceed to choose your ecommerce application.
The next step is selecting your preferred infrastructure provider from the list of five options- Google Cloud Platform, Amazon Web Services, Vultr, Linode, or Digital Ocean. Then proceed by picking a server size that suits your ecommerce needs, followed by a server location that’s closest to your target audience.
Finally, hit “Launch Now” and voila! That’s all it takes to launch your server.
From your account control panel, you’ll then be able to acquire a domain, set up the SSL, get email accounts, control server services, upgrade the PHP versions, access the command line, use the database manager, and much more.
Cloudways Ecommerce Hosting Performance Benchmarking
Cloudways might be loaded with all the outstanding performance-enhancing features we’ve covered. And yes, it also goes ahead to supplement that with a guarantee of compensation in the event of server downtime.
Well, admittedly, all this sounds good. But, let’s face it. It’s only admissible if it can be proven. And so, thanks to my curiosity, I decided to conduct the tests for everyone’s sake.
Now, as we’ve established, the best metric for assessing hosting servers is Time To First Byte (TTFB). It’s basically the amount of time the server takes to process a request before it subsequently starts availing the site data. In other words, it measures the overall server response.
The WooCommerce-based site posted 573ms while its Prestashop counterpart recorded 598ms. Then Magento and OpenCart-based sites, on the other hand, generated 556ms and 598ms respectively.
Ok, fair enough. But, what does this mean?
Well, if you’ve checked out a couple of my previous TTFB tests, then you know what a reading of 500-600ms translates to. Although it’s not the fastest range we’ve recorded, it’s still very impressive.
Therefore, all things considered, Cloudways is indeed one heck of a high-performing ecommerce hosting provider.
Who Should Consider Using Cloudways?
Now, having explored the basics, principal features, pricing, performance levels, and various weaknesses, I’d say Cloudways is a reliable host for small, medium-sized, plus enterprise ecommerce sites. And since it’s particularly effective in scaling resources, it should be an outstanding choice for fast-growing sites.
What do you think?