There's just so much misinformation out there that as a user of both hosting providers I decided to write this Cloudways vs Siteground comparison so that you can make an informed decision as to which is most fitting for your needs while also dispelling some of the myths that exist. Full tutorials included.
I'm going to start out by saying that it's not entirely fair to compare cloud hosting with shared hosting. But in the same breath I'm going to say that for many, the prospect of cloud hosting had, in the past, seemed completely out of reach due to the higher costing model.
Well that's all changed and the reason I'm actually comparing Cloudways with Siteground lies in the fact that they fall into a similar price bracket and I know of many people who prefer to put their dollars to highest and best use. And that may mean the choice of either provider depending on preference and needs.
As I mentioned at the outset, I use both hosts. If you've read reviews (and they exist) that claim you can get a free domain name with Siteground or that you can't host email with Cloudways, read on.
The MAIN Differences Between Cloudways And Siteground
- Resources provided by multiple virtual servers across the cloud.
- Resources are fully dedicated.
- Server is scalable.
- Can handle high traffic.
- Pay as you go costing model.
- No contract.
- Resources provided by a single physical server in a fixed location.
- Resources are shared.
- Server cannot be scaled.
- Cannot handle high traffic.
- Fixed pricing.
- Upfront yearly paid contract.
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Table Of Contents
Speed can be measured in a number of ways. If we break down a GTMetrix speed test, we'll be able to gauge not only the time it takes to fully load a page but also the following important numbers:
- Server Response - the time it takes for the server to send the first byte of information to the user's browser, known as time to first byte (TTFB).
- First Paint - the first item to appear on the screen - it could be anything, even a background color.
- Contentful Paint - the first bit of "above the fold" content. Simply put, this is the content that appears on a page without having to scroll. Contentful paint is indicative of perceived load time and is the most important number as far as I am concerned. However, for the purpose of determining which hosting provider is fastest, I will not be isolating this number.
- Dom Interactive - the first bit of content that a user can interact with.
- 5 tests were performed for each provider.
- The same page was used for testing on both servers.
- No page caching was enabled.
- No domain caching was enabled (e.g. Cloudflare).
- No CDN's were active.
- No code based optimizations were applied, e.g, deferring scripts or CSS.
- Test Location: Vancouver, Canada
- Both pages resided on HTTPS and all tests used the same protocol. Therefore no redirects were applicable.
- Nothing was changed on either server stack.
- Summarized times are the average of the data set.
- The test page was not indexed by Google so all tests were performed under zero traffic conditions, ensuring no speed variables.
Test Results Summary
|Time To First Byte (TTFB)||398.8ms||539.2ms|
|Fully Loaded Time||960ms||1420ms|
It's clear that Cloudways outperforms Siteground in every respect.
For the purposes of this particular test though, the fully loaded time is the figure to place emphasis on as this represents the total time that each server takes to fully download and display all resources on the page.
There is almost a half second difference between the two without any traffic to the test page. Under conditions of heavy traffic, the difference will become more pronounced as resources are limited on a shared server and this is where shared hosting starts to fail.
Resources And Scalability
With Cloudways resources are fully dedicated and your server is scalable. If you expect a traffic spike due to an inbound promotion, your e-commerce store is getting busy or you simply find that your traffic is increasing and you need more resources, you can vertically scale your server.
If your server is set up on Amazon or Google Cloud, you can scale up and down with a couple of mouse clicks.
If your server is on another cloud infrastructure (Digital Ocean, VULTR or Linode) you can scale up the same way but if you need to scale down, say after a traffic spike, you will have to use the server clone feature to do so. In other words, you clone your server to a smaller sized one and then delete the original.
Currently Cloudways do not offer automatic scaling which some may see as a pitfall. Because scaling up for traffic increases and down to curtail costs requires a fine balance, it would be a nice feature to have. On the flip side, however, it would probably add some cost to your hosting package and if you compare Cloudways with other hosts, the platform offers the finest value for money in the marketplace.
Via the server control panel, Cloudways gives you all the tools you need to monitor your resources and make any timely adjustments.
With Siteground, resources are shared across the server (and obviously cross subsidized) and because each site is allocated a maximum of amount of (non-scalable) resources, exceeding these limits could lead to your site going down. This is why Siteground places limits on the number of visitors for each plan. If you abuse resources on a regular basis, you'll be forced to upgrade your plan to say Siteground's cloud hosting on which you can activate auto scaling.
You can also set up automatic scaling for the RAM and the CPU of your cloud. Our unique auto-scale option prevents slowness and downtime in the event of unexpected traffic spikes. If turned on, it will add more resources if your current ones are no longer enough. The added amount is pre-defined by you, so you have full control over auto-scale related charges.
Siteground's cloud plans start at $80 per month.
You can keep tabs on your resource usage from your cPanel.
While Siteground strive to monitor server resources to ensure the smooth operation and integrity of their shared servers, I did (once) experience an issue where another site caused a negative impact on the speed of the server. Siteground quickly rectified this after a support ticket was opened.
Siteground built their business on impeccable support. They'll go out of their way to fix anything that a user will be unable to achieve themselves. If there's something you can do yourself, say via cPanel, they'll gladly point you in the right direction.
Live chat support is exceptionally good and the techies will refer anything they can't handle to level 1, 2 or 3 technical support depending on the complexity of the problem.
They obviously take care of all aspects of the shared server management and do a good job of monitoring your resource usage. They'll let you know if your site is starting to come close to maximum resource usage so you'll have a fair chance to make any necessary changes to your hosting.
Additionally, their knowledge of WordPress related issues is unquestionable.
Cloudways are great at server side management and their cloud engineers will help you with any server related issues. This also extends to some of the more technical things such a domain pointing and DNS, for example.
The live chat support engineers are not the most clued up when it comes to WordPress support but they have a ticketing system for more advanced issues that can't be handled by live chat.
Having said that, things work seamlessly with Cloudways and I've never had any reason to believe that a problem could go unresolved.
Cloudways also take their support a step further with their automated bot which is amazingly intelligent at providing solutions to many known problems and/or questions.
As a matter of fact, all live chats start with bot support but you can transfer to a real person at any time just by typing "person" into the text field. If the bot cannot answer your question, you will be automatically transferred for human intervention.
If I had to rate the rate the level of support out of a maximum of 10 points, I'd give Siteground 9.8 and Cloudways 8.5.
Interface - cPanel vs Cloudways Control Panel
While shared hosts like Siteground use cPanel, cloud hosting providers build their own interfaces.
Yes, cPanel may offer certain functionality that you won't see in the Cloudways control panel.
For example, the file manager feature is very handy and is probably one of the most missed features with cloud hosts.
But that doesn't mean that the functionality can't be achieved, just that you'll have to go about doing things a little differently. If you make Filezilla your friend, it's really easy to manage files between your server and local PC.
Another handy feature of cPanel is the ability to easily host email. I'll cover this shortly, but I want to point out right here that it's just NOT TRUE that you can't host email with Cloudways. You most certainly CAN.
The truth is that only cPanel aficionados may initially resist the simpler, non-clunky, easy to use Cloudways interface.
For those who've never used it, the Cloudways control panel is so easy to navigate it's silly!
Nevertheless, if you're worried about changing what you're familiar with, my Cloudways review and setup guide goes through everything you could possibly ask for, step by step, including how to migrate your site to Cloudways with just a few mouse clicks.
But ease of use aside, cPanel will slow down your site because it's bloated and it runs on Apache which is really slow compared to NGINX. That's why cloud hosts don't use it.
Cloudways have designed their stack in such a way that they achieve the best of both performance and stability. Nginx is renowned for performance while Apache is known for stability. Cloudways combines these and then sandwiches Varnish in between creating a perfect combination whereby the static content is served by Nginx, after which the dynamic content is passed to Apache for caching by Varnish in between. This creates stability from back and speed from front. Friggin' brilliant!
My take: There's really nothing you can't achieve with the Cloudways platform that you can with cPanel.
Because Siteground uses cPanel, setting up your email inbox/es is real easy. Choose the Email option in cPanel.
Then choose a preferred email address and the domain.
Now if you've seen anything on any other site/s that says you can't host your email with Cloudways, the author/s are mistaken. You most certainly can.
It's just as quick and easy as doing it with cPanel.
If you're looking for transactional email, e.g. sending out newsletters etc. to your subscribers, Cloudways (or any cloud host) is going to become way too expensive. I would suggest you use Convertkit for that type of email service provision.
But to host your own email inbox with your own custom email address/es, Cloudways have partnered with Rackspace and setting this up is a breeze. Each separate mailbox will set you back the tidy sum of $1 per month.
From the main interface, click on the additional features menu.
Select the Rackspace option.
Add the mailbox after choosing a desired email address and password.
Couldn't be easier!
The moment you point your domain name to Siteground (or any shared host), they automatically take over the management of your DNS entries.
With Cloudways, you setup an A record at your domain host (I use Namecheap) and point your domain to your server's IP address. The DNS function remains with your domain host.
If you prefer to keep everything under one roof, your can transfer DNS management to Cloudways by installing the DNS add-on.
Select DNS Made Easy.
Choose how many domains to include (up to 5 domains will cost $2.50 per month).
You will receive a success message and as the process is manual, support will liaise with you via their ticketing system to finalize everything.
NOTE: If you setup Cloudflare to work with your hosting, the DNS function is automatically delegated to them. It's really easy to manage your DNS through Cloudflare.
I'm going to dispel another bit of misinformation.
Cloudflare integrates with both Siteground and Cloudways alike.
The only difference is that Siteground provides the integration either through your accounts tab ...
... or via cPanel.
Siteground simplifies the process (just a tad) by taking care of nameserver changes so you don't have to worry about doing that manually at your domain host.
But really, it's just as simple to integrate your Cloudways site with Cloudflare. You just have to do it manually and with these instructions, it shouldn't take you much longer than a few minutes.
On the Cloudflare site, sign up for a new account. Don't worry, all of this is totally free.
Add a Site.
Click on the Free Plan and then the Confirm Plan button.
Cloudflare will query your DNS.
Go back to your domain host and change the nameservers. Here's how I do it with Namecheap.
Cloudflare will complete the nameserver check. You may need to click on Re-check Nameservers.
You will receive an email when Cloudflare is done. Then return to the Cloudflare website, click the Overview button and refresh your page.
Go back to the Cloudways Server Management dashboard > Settings and Packages > Advanced. Select Cloudflare under the WAF module. This will allow your server to see the visitor's real IP address which is great for tracking your traffic.
Simple as that!
Caching And CDN
Both Cloudways and Siteground have built their own caching plugins but they're significantly different.
Breeze Cache by Cloudways is a page caching plugin designed to work specifically with Cloudways.
You can then concatenate (merge) these files and defer their loading to prevent render blocking.
The Breeze caching plugin also integrates seamlessly with the Cloudways CDN which is powered by Stackpath (ex MaxCDN). You'll need to install the Cloudways CDN add-on.
Then activate the checkbox within Breeze Cache.
These assets are then distributed across multiple servers in different locations and delivered to users from the data center closest to the user's location. Naturally this has a very positive effect on speed.
The Cloudways CDN will set you back $1 per month.
Siteground's SuperCacher is a server side caching plugin comprising three different levels of caching.
- Dynamic Cache - Dynamic content differs from static assets in that it lives within the database of your application, e.g. your posts. The database is queried each time a visitor requests a post. Obviously there is a time factor involved here. The dynamic cache keeps all of your sites resources in its store (cache) including the dynamic content. In other words, it stores entire pages of your website in memory (RAM). There is no preload (cache warming) mechanism that is used to build the cache. It is built and stored in memory only after the first visitor's request for a specific post. Thereafter, subsequent requests for that post / page will be delivered from RAM which is much quicker than a database query. This mechanism is powered by NGINX and works together with the static cache. The cache is not automatically flushed. It must be manually flushed, meaning that you have to remember to do it at pertinent times.
- Memcached - (pronounced memcache d). Again RAM is used to store data thereby speeding up database queries and API calls. It is most effective for sites that rely on repeated calls to the database, e.g. e-commerce sites where numerous products are sold. Cache flushing must be manually done.
SuperCacher certain helps with speed but I've personally found page caching to be more effective. I have disabled SuperCacher on my Siteground sites in favor of WP Rocket.
If you want to use SuperCacher, access it from cPanel.
On the next screen, activate Static Cache.
Switch to Dynamic Cache tab.
Switch over to Level 3 Memcached tab and activate.
Siteground don't have an in house CDN. If you want to integrate a CDN I would only recommend Stackpath. It will cost you about $10 per month.
Cloudways works on a Pay-As-You-Go system. You only pay for the resources you use. Due to this, billing is monthly in arrears and there are no contracts.
Numerous plans are available starting from $10 per month hosted on the Digital Ocean cloud infrastructure to $36.51 per month on AWS (Amazon Web Services).
All plans can accommodate as many sites as you wish as long as you have enough resources to support them.
Your plan choice will depend on the amount of memory (RAM) you need, storage space, data transfer capacity, processor capability and you will also have to consider which infrastructure will provide you with the best server location as this may affect the infrastructure you choose and hence costs.
Siteground plans start from $3.95 per month on the most basic Startup plan to $11.95 per month on the highest, GoGeek plan.
** But there's a caveat here. **
- The Startup plan, which is the most basic and can accommodate only one site, starts at $395 per month FOR THE FIRST YEAR ONLY. Thereafter, the price goes up to $11.95 per month.
- The GrowBig plan comes in at $5.95 per month for year one and $19.95 per month thereafter.
- The GoGeek plan starts at $11.95 for the first year and $34.95 per month thereafter.
To put this into perspective, Siteground's GrowBig plan can be compared with Cloudways' Digital Ocean most basic plan.
Siteground don't quote RAM but they offer 20GB storage space and data transfer rate is unlimited. However, you are limited by simultaneous process and CPU seconds.
The plan starts at $5.95 per month and renews at $19.95p.m
Cloudways offers 25GB storage space and data transfer of 1TB, which is plenty.
The plan is $10 per month.
For roughly the same cost as Siteground, you'd get 50GB space, 2GB RAM and 2TB bandwidth with Cloudways. And remember, resources are dedicated.
You be the judge!
The Pros Of Cloudways vs Siteground
- Pay As You Use - NO CONTRACTS!
- Plans From $10 Per Month.
- 5 Cloud Providers (Digital Ocean, Google, Amazon, Linode, VULTR).
- Host Unlimited Websites.
- Fully Dedicated Resources (No deceptive marketing).
- Latest Speed Technology (SSD, HTTP/2).
- Optimized Stack With Caching (Including Memcached, Apache, Varnish, NGINX, Redis).
- FREE Breeze Inhouse Caching Plugin.
- Multiple PHP Versions And PHP 7.X Ready For Ultimate Speed.
- Cloudways CDN (Stackpath Under The Hood).
- 60+ Data Centers For Superior Performance And Global Response Times.
- 1-Click FREE SSL Certificates.
- No clunky and slow cPanel.
- 24/7 Live Chat And Ticketing For Unsurpassed Support.
- Comprehensive Knowledgebase.
- 1 Free Managed Migration.
- 1-Click Automated Or On-Demand Backup And Restore - Frequency From 1 Hour to 7days.
- 1-Click Revert (after restore).
- Extend And Scale Storage In A Few Clicks.
- Vertical Scaling - 1-Click Hosting Feature Scales RAM, CPU And Storage.
- Deploy Over 10 Sites In 1-Click.
- Dedicated 1-click Staging with revert option.
- Git Integration.
- 1-Click Cloning Of Entire Server Or Individual Site.
- FREE Cloudways Migrator Plugin Can Move Your Site Seamlessly To Cloudways.
- FREE TRIAL - No Credit Card Required.
- Recommended by WordPress.
- EASY to configure.
- FREE email accounts.
- Phenomenal speed technology for shared hosting.
- Latest HTTP/2 and NGINX server technology with SSD storage.
- SuperCacher (static, dynamic and memcached - only static on Startup plan).
- Multiple PHP versions.
- 4 Data centers to choose from.
- FREE Cloudflare CDN with one-click installation.
- GUARANTEED 99% up-time. I've had 100% over last few years.
- Brilliant support and service levels via live chat and ticketing.
- 1-Click staging environment and 1-click push to live.
- FREE SSL Certificates.
- 1 FREE migration (not available on Startup plan).
- Daily backups.
- 30 DAY MONEY BACK GUARANTEE.
The Cons Of Cloudways vs Siteground
- Down scaling on Digital Ocean, VULTR and Linode involves some downtime.
- Year 2 hosting costs can become high.
- Staging environment can be problematic and require support at times.
- Throttling if you exceed given resources.
- cPanel affects site speed.
- On demand backups must be purchased on Startup plan.
I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I enjoyed writing it.
I believe I have given you enough to decide which hosting platform is best for your specific needs while clarifying some of the misconceptions out there.
Now it's over to you. Which host is right for you?
Leave me a comment (below editor's rating).
Cloudways vs Siteground (September 2019) + "How To" Guides
The main differences between Cloudways vs Siteground lie in the allocation of resources, server scalability, the ability to handle traffic, pricing, contractual terms and the user interface.