WPEngine vs Cloudways – Which Managed WordPress Host is Best?

When looking for web hosts, we can often become overwhelmed with all of the services that are out there. Especially when we are just starting out or scaling up for the first time, figuring out which company to go with for your web hosting can be a nightmare.

It’s important to get rid of all the flashy marketing and take a focused look at what your website needs, and how the different companies out there can help you fulfill those needs. To that end, we’ll need a good way to break down the basics and acclimate ourselves to the problem in bite-sized pieces.

In order to get this kind of bite-sized look at what we need to focus on, today we’ll be taking a look at two hosting companies, and how they stack up side-by-side. Going through this process with different websites is an excellent way to get yourself acquainted with the industry, and really see what each company has to offer.

For today, we’ll be looking at two WordPress-focused hosting services; WPEngine and Cloudways. These two sites both offer very well received and well-known services, both with a unique approach to this particular niche. While both of these sites have plenty to offer, especially in terms of WordPress functionality, they definitely both have some areas in need of improvement, as well.

To start us off, we’ll go over WPEngine, who they are, and what they’re about.

What Is WPEngine?

WordPress software powers a lot of websites, these days. Accordingly, many hosts have chosen to focus their services on providing optimized WordPress hosting services, designed to work perfectly with WordPress installs and plugins. WPEngine is among one of the leading WordPress-focused hosts on the market.

According to WPEngine’s website, 30% of all the websites on the entire internet are built using WordPress. On top of that, 27% of the top 10k sites by traffic are powered by WordPress, as well. These numbers really drive home the reality of WordPress’s viability as a content platform, and well-hosted WordPress sites can be a huge boon to certain types of websites.

WPEngine’s different plans offer a wide variety of WordPress-oriented stats and services, and they provide an expert level of customer support and ease-of-use, making them a very attractive option for newbies, while still having the power needed to fulfill the needs of larger-scale websites.

Let’s take a look at some of the different advantages WPEngine has to offer.

Pros of WPEngine

  • WordPress optimization. WordPress is a powerful tool that can build very high-performing websites with lots of features and content hosting possibilities. In order to keep your WordPress site performing at peak efficiency, WPEngine’s server hardware and feature sets are designed to power even the most plugin-heavy WordPress installs. Their options of both shared and VPS-based plans is a good thing to keep in mind, as well, as this adds a large amount of versatility to WPEngine’s pricing structure and scaling ability.
  • StudioPress themes. There are a host of premium themes, including mobile-responsive themes, available through StudioPress. Using these themes with your site will give you an easy-to-apply functional and aesthetic advantage over other designers who have to create their own themes or pay extra for premium ones through another service. Many of these StudioPress themes come with built-in SEO and security features.
  • Readiness assessments. WPEngine has a crack team of experts at their disposal ready to perform assessments on your site to make sure it’s ship-shape before going live. This can be a huge attraction for people who are just starting out, or who tend to do a lot of experimentation with their website design and features. The tests themselves are performed through code compatibility testing and site staging.
  • WPEngine has a lot of content features which are geotargeted toward certain geographical areas. This allows you to customize the way people in different parts of the world engage with your content, allowing you to easily reach an amazing amount of readers with your website functionality.
  • Customer support. WPEngine’s support has great customer reviews, and is available through 24/7 phone and live chat support. They also offer a large library of learning resources designed to get new web designers and experienced veterans alike acclimated to the ins and outs of the service.
  • Global presence. With servers based in the US, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, WPEngine is capable of offering awesome speeds and server accessibility no matter where in the world you are based. Having this kind of global presence means WPEngine will always be able to give you the best performance for the market in which you are present and active.
  • Wide range of partnerships. WPEngine is partnered with a wide range of other services, and offers a myriad of innovations as a result. Their various partners include Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, and others. All of their content provided through partnerships is optimized for use with WordPress, and provide a lot of extra features which many competitors can’t match.

There’s obviously a lot to like about WPEngine’s services. They have excellent customer support, onboarding resources, and a global presence that basically guarantees good performance and makes sense for your geographical market.

Their pricing structure is also quite versatile, but we’ll get to that in a moment. There are obviously some other ways in which WPEngine doesn’t compare so favorably to the competition, and it wouldn’t be a good idea to make any decisions without rounding out our research.

To that end, let’s take a look at the ways in which WPEngine tends to fall short.

Cons of WPEngine

  • Less versatile than some competitors. WPEngine offers a wide range of plans specialized for use with WordPress. While this makes them very versatile and scalable for WordPress-based websites, their functionality isn’t so attractive for websites that won’t be using the WordPress platform. Since both of the sites we’re looking at today are focused on WordPress optimization, this isn’t such a bit deal, but it can still be a good thing to keep in mind going forward.
  • Since WPEngine offers such a wide range of features, sometimes through partnerships with other services, some of their interface and features can be a bit difficult to get used to. While the system is designed to be easy-to-use, there are still aspects of it that will take a bit of time to learn how to use effectively.
  • Some restrictions. In order to offer the best speeds and uptime on the market, WPEngine places some slight limitations on the different installs and plugins you can use for your WordPress site. While this is pretty standard, and allows WPEngine to offer the kind of top-notch WordPress optimization that they’re known for, it’s still kind of disappointing when working with such a potentially versatile platform.

For powerful WordPress hosting with a global presence and affordable price points, WPEngine is a very competitive option. Whether you’re new and want to start out using their shared plans, or a veteran looking to scale up their online presence, WPEngine has a lot of the resources and features that you will need to help you along the way.

Their disadvantages, as well, are not all too damning. Most of them are fairly standard when it comes to WordPress-based hosting services. That being said, we won’t really understand how these pros and cons stack up with the competition until we take a look at the next company on the list.

For our next look, we’ll be going into Cloudways, and how they differ from other services on the hosting market.

What Is Cloudways?

Cloudways is an easy-to-use managed cloud hosting platform. They provide a managed console for hosting websites on cloud servers. Although they provide a wide range of services, they have a huge focus on WordPress hosting. Their unique model also gives them a few other advantages as well.

Their actual cloud infrastructure is provided by third parties such as DigitalOcean, Vultr, Amazon, and Google. They also offer a free migration onto their platform to get their team of experts handling your server and security management, while you focus on the parts of your site that matter for your bottom line.

Another unique feature of Cloudways is their pay-as-you-go pricing. They actually have hourly contracts which allow you to pay for their services down to the hour, so you never end up paying for services you don’t end up using. There are some other interesting price features as well, but we can get to these in a moment.

For now, let’s start by taking a look at the various advantages Cloudways can provide for us.

Pros of Cloudways

  • 5 different cloud hosting services. Cloudways’s hosting is actually provided through your choice of one of five third-party companies. The companies include DigitalOcean, Linode, Vultr, Amazon Web Services, and Google Cloud Platform. Offering services from a variety of providers allows Cloudways to provide awesome security and server management features, easy-to-use interfaces, and excellent customer support based on which cloud service you decide to go with.
  • Easy to use. In addition to an extensive knowledge base and blog detailing the ins-and-outs of their service, Cloudways also has an intuitive and easy-to-use UI that is easy to pick up even for inexperienced web designers. This is a nice touch if you’re new or less experienced when it comes to hosting services.
  • Customer support. Cloudways provides well-reviewed customer service through 24/7 live phone or chat. While these options are pretty standard for most hosting services worth their salt, it’s still reassuring to know you’ll have access to competent customer support through the avenue of your choosing.
  • Fast servers. Because Cloudways’s actual cloud hosting services are provided by some of the leading third-party cloud hosting providers, they have very powerful servers available for their platform. Since they can focus on the management and user-interface side of their service, the outsourced cloud hosting is lightning-fast and does an excellent job of staying up-to-date and competitive.
  • Free SSL certificates. As a fairly standard security feature, Cloudways offers free SSL certificates for websites hosted on their platform. This is a nice touch, even if it is a fairly standard feature. SSL certificates are essential to the security of your website, and it’s always nice to get all of these things in one place instead of having to go through third parties.
  • Free WordPress caching plugin. Cloudways has a built-in caching plugin that works through Varnish and provides browser caching options. This allows you to cache your site without going to yet another third party for your caching services. You can control the caching options from the WordPress settings panel, as well.
  • Pay-as-you-go plans. Cloudways offers pay-as-you-go plans that bill by the server-hour. This works a little bit differently than real-time hourly billing, and websites that use more resources will cost more per hour than on a longer-commitment plan. This is still a good option for smaller websites, and the system is surprisingly viable for even larger scale websites that don’t use a lot of heavy plugins.
  • Free trial. Cloudways offers a free 30-day trial of their services. This is a bit different from the typical 30 day money-back guarantee that most companies offer, in that you don’t need to put down any money, and there’s no chance of being billed for non-refundable services. You won’t even need a credit card to sign up.
  • Customer referral commission. Cloudways offers an affiliate program which allows users to collect commissions for referring new customers onto the service. Your time can probably be better spent designing or managing your website and business, but this is a cool little gimmick that stands out.
  • Easy auto-updates. Cloudways allows you to easily schedule automatic updates of your WordPress software. This is a good feature as part of their “managed” cloud hosting label, and makes it easier to keep your website up-to-date.
  • Unlimited applications on any plan. All of the plans offered by Cloudways offer unlimited applications along with your WordPress install. This is great for people who want to run websites with a wide variety of application-based features. Extra applications will use extra resources, and this is important to keep in mind if you’re considering their pay-as-you-go structure.
  • Free migration. Like any good web host, Cloudways offers free migration of your website over to their hosting platform. This is another feature that comes fairly standard with any reputable hosting plan, and it’s more of a marketing gimmick than an actual feature. Still, it’s nice to avoid paying out of your own pocket for site migration if you don’t have to.

There’s a lot to like about Cloudways, and they have a unique approach to providing excellent cloud-based services. Their services work great for WordPress-based websites, but they aren’t as limited in that niche as a specialized service like WPEngine.

It’s obvious that the savvy web designer can make excellent use of Cloudways’s services, but it’s still important to go over some of their shortcomings before going forward with our considerations. Next up, we’ll be taking a look at some of the disadvantages that go along with Cloudways.

Cons of Cloudways

  • No domain registration. Although Cloudways provides excellent managed cloud hosting services through a variety of third party cloud hosting companies, they don’t provide registration for your domain names. You will have to register your domain through another company, which can be a drag if you’re used to getting this service from your hosting company.
  • No email hosting. In addition to lacking domain registration, Cloudways also doesn’t provide email address and hosting services. All of this kind of makes sense when you think about the way in which their cloud hosting is handled, but it can still be disappointing if you’re used to getting all of these services in one place.
  • Support can be difficult to reach. Although Cloudways has well-reviewed customer support with a variety of avenues, there are some reports of slow response times over the phone or through live chat. It’s unfortunate, but it’s a fairly common shortcoming, even among companies with an excellent reputation for customer service.

Just like with WPEngine, these disadvantages aren’t anything too major. They’re still important to keep in mind, however, especially as we move forward into the final stages of our decision.

Next up, we’ll be breaking down these two companies and looking at how they compare specifically in three distinct categories. We’ll be taking a look at how these two companies perform in terms of functionality, support, and price.

Functionality Comparison

Both WPEngine and Cloudways provide excellent support for WordPress-based websites, and are versatile enough for small and large-scale websites alike. WPEngine’s functionality is a little bit more limited, in that it’s much more oriented toward WordPress-based websites. Cloudways’s hosting is a bit unique as well, with its third party cloud hosting.

Overall, both websites have a global presence and comparable functionality when looking purely at their WordPress capabilities. Cloudways has a few extra interesting freebies such as their trial and caching plugin. Although they may not have the same library of learning resources as WPEngine, Cloudways seems to remain a very strong option for newer and smaller-scale customers.

The functionality alone is a little bit nebulous without looking at price, so we’ll come back to all this and take a look now at how these two companies tackle support.

Support Comparison

Both companies have very well reviewed customer support. Since Cloudways provides its managed hosting services through third parties, it can be a bit complicated and you can end up using customer support more often. That being said, their managed hosting model does simplify a lot of the more technical aspects of server management and security.

WPEngine on the other hand offers customer support through the same avenues, and has a very comparable reputation for the effectiveness of their support team. This is still a bit hard to judge, as both companies have excellently received support teams, but a small reputation for slow response times.

Price Comparison

This is the make-or-break moment for many customers. Without looking at price, it’s impossible to really judge how effective a particular hosting service is. Cloudways’s pricing structure is fairly complex, as they offer their cloud services through a range of third party companies, but we’ll compare a comprehensive summary of both company’s price points, nonetheless.

  • WPEngine offers “startup” plans from $35 per month, “growth” plans from $115 per month, “scale” plans from $290 per month, and custom plans for people that need even more scale and reliability.
    • The prices may seem a bit steep compared to Bluehost’s but the functionality is much more versatile. The “startup” plan gives you 25,000 visits, 10GB storage, 50GB in monthly bandwidth, and 1 website. It also throws in the Genesis Framework, StudioPress Themes, and support options I mentioned earlier.
    • The “growth” plan bumps this up to 100,000 visits, 20GB storage, 200GB monthly bandwidth, and 5 sites.
    • The “scale” plan is a whopping $290 per month, and includes 400,000 visits, 30GB storage, 400GB of bandwidth, and 15 websites.
    • They also have a “custom” plan for people who require much more powerful websites. This bumps the visits into the millions, the storage into the 1TB area, the bandwidth above 400GB per month, and up to 25 websites.
  • Cloudways works a bit differently, and has different pricing structures based on the third party hosting service you end up choosing. The companies that offer their cloud hosting through Cloudways include DigitalOcean, Linode, Vultr, Amazon Web Services, and Google Cloud Platform.
    • The price ranges and capabilities of these different services vary. The cheapest is DigitalOcean, and the most expensive is Amazon Web Services.
    • For DigitalOcean, the plans start at $10 per month ($0.0139 per hour), and include 1GB of RAM, 1 core processor, 25GB of storage, and 1TB of bandwidth.
    • These plans range all the way up to $1035 per month ($1.4375 per hour), which buys you 192 GB of Ram, 32 core processor, 3840GB of storage, and 12TB of bandwidth.

For Amazon, the plans start at $34.91 per month (0.0485 per hour), which gets you 1.75 GB of RAM, 1vCPU processor, 4GB of storage, and 2GB of bandwidth.

  • These plans range all the way up to $3058.26 per month ($2.2476 per hour), which includes 256GB of RAM, 64vCPU processor, 4GB of storage, and 2GB of bandwidth.

Overall, the price ranges are much more varied with Cloudways, and there are some interesting tidbits as well. You probably noticed that the DigitalOcean plans offer far superior storage and bandwidth, but it’s important to note that these are starting prices for these plans, and extra space or bandwidth can be purchased as well.

Wrapping it Up

In the end, it looks like WPEngine is probably the better option for newbies and smaller-scale websites, due to their price points and ease-of-use. If you’re larger scale, Cloudways has an insane amount of options in all of its plans, and a lot of good support features to help you scale and manage your web resources.

As always, if you have any comments or want to point out something we missed, let us know!

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