Cloudways is a popular, reliable and affordable way to host your websites and other apps. It offers a platform to easily deploy a server with one of five well-known cloud providers: DigitalOcean, Vultr, Linode, Amazon and Google. With Cloudways you are in control: you pay as you go and you set up your servers to host as many apps as you want. Coupled with all the features and dedicated resources, the pricing is Cloudways’ key selling point: see the current pricing here* – use code IBG10 to get 10% off Cloudways for three months.
At the same time, many of its strengths are also its weaknesses. Cloudways offers no discounted longer-term plans. While you get a dedicated environment, there is only one IPv4 per server and the only way to add RAM or CPU is to buy a higher plan. Its tech support is fast but limited to helping you with the platform not your app issues, unless you wish to pay extra. There are many add-ons such as email and CDN but most of them will cost extra. Also, because Cloudways does not own the infrastructure, it cannot offer uptime guarantees. And crucially, because of the way its platform is built, Cloudways holds all the keys to your server and is thus not an optimal solution for privacy-focused website owners.
While there are numerous alternatives to Cloudways, it is important to know how they differ and if they are a good fit for a specific style of server and app management:
- WPMU DEV: Fully Managed WordPress Hosting
- WPOven: Extra WordPress Support & Optimization
- Ethernet Servers: Managed DirectAdmin VPS
- IO Zoom: Managed Cloud Servers Worldwide
- ServerPilot: WordPress-Optimized VPS Hosting
- Hostwinds: Managed Virtualmin VPS
- InterServer: Easy-to-Use Webuzo VPS
- Cloudron: Privacy-Oriented Self-Hosting
- Webinoly: Full Control with Simple Commands
- Bonus: Free Server Management Tools
- Conclusion: Your Best Cloudways Alternative
In finding a better Cloudways alternative, it is useful to know what Cloudways is NOT:
- Shared hosting: Cloudways makes it easy to launch a server for one or multiple websites. Each server has dedicated resources, including an IPv4 address. You can configure and control your server settings, including specific packages and resources. All of this is unlike shared hosting where your website is hosted together with many others on a server you have no access to.
- Fully Managed WordPress hosting: Cloudways describes its service as a “managed cloud hosting platform” for PHP apps, including WordPress. In many ways, Cloudways is like a managed VPS provider rather than managed WordPress hosting. As the image below shows, Cloudways focuses by default on supporting its users with issues related to its tools – the platform and infrastructure – rather than those related to WordPress and other apps. As you can see, you can turn Cloudways into managed WordPress hosting but it will cost you at least $100 extra every month.
If you have been affected by one or several of Cloudways’ weaknesses, you will find below a selected list of some of the best and most viable alternatives to Cloudways that are better in at least one way. For example, some have better support, some offer more features, some are more privacy-oriented and some are much cheaper. What they all have in common is that they offer dedicated scaleable resources, including IPv4 and unmetered visits. They are also very affordable: their 4 GB / 8 GB RAM plans are typically cheaper than or equivalent to those offered by Cloudways.
The following VPS-based dedicated Cloudways alternatives are listed in the following order: those that are easier to use and have proactive support appear first, those that may require some learning and occasionally opening a support ticket appear last.
WPMU DEV: Fully Managed WordPress Hosting
WPMU DEV, an Incsub brand, is probably better known as a suite of WordPress plugins and tools that range from security and speed to SEO and marketing. Its hosting services can be purchased either as a stand-alone product or as part of the all-in-one subscription.
WPMU DEV is similar to Cloudways in that it relies on DigitalOcean in provisioning WordPress-optimized cloud servers with dedicated resources, including IPv4. You can pick from 10 globally located data centers.
WPMU DEV offers in many ways better value than Cloudways. It includes free nightly backups, up to 10 free email accounts and web application firewall. Its expert WordPress support is also included, so you get fully managed WordPress hosting. As all truly managed WordPress hosts, WPMU DEV limits each plan to one website. The pricing is however very appealing: it starts at $10 and higher plans are not as steep as those at Cloudways.
WPMU DEV vs Cloudways:
- WordPress-specific support included
- Free email accounts
- Nightly backups included
- Web Application Firewal
- 99.9% uptime guarantee
- 30-day money back guarantee
WPOven: Extra WP Support & Optimization
Founded in 2016, WPOven has been able to quickly grow its customer base by offering comprehensive customer support that includes free malware cleanup, free unlimited migrations and best-effort WordPress optimizations along with theme and plugin troubleshooting. As a managed WordPress host, WPOven also includes such essential features as server caching, multiple PHP versions, WordPress staging, SSL certificates and DDoS mitigation as well as a free email account per server.
Besides allowing unlimited websites and unmetered visits, WPOven is similar to Cloudways also in that it offers dedicated resources and an IPv4 address. WPOven has built a robust platform on top of Linode infrastructure featuring over 10 global locations, with free offsite backups taken to Amazon S3.
WPOven’s pricing differs from that of Cloudways in a number of ways. You can test WPOven for a fortnight for free. After that the entry plan costs $19.95 a month although you can prepay for a year to get two months free. Some features are not included in the cheaper plans: for example, if you use WordPress Multisite or manage clients, you will need the Professional plan. On its Business plan and above, WPOven also includes a Virtual Assistant that comes with SEO support, graphic design and even content optimization.
WPOven vs Cloudways:
- Free offsite backups
- Free email account
- Free malware cleanup
- 24/7 WordPress support
- Prepay and save
- 14-day free trial
Ethernet Servers: Managed DirectAdmin VPS
Ethernet Servers specializes in budget web hosting services with a focus on excellent customer support. Its managed VPS hosting is probably an unlikely Cloudways alternative but it is easily the best option for those with numerous websites who wish to fully delegate server management without paying extra.
Besides full server management and best-effort website support, Ethernet Servers includes premium licenses of DirectAdmin and Softaculous that simplify running any number of websites. As is common with a fully managed VPS, each OpenVZ server is manually provisioned (under 8 hours). You can choose between two INAP data centers in New Jersey and Los Angeles and a Flexential data center in Jacksonville.
While the entry plan is more expensive than those at Cloudways, it includes 4 GB RAM, 4 CPU Cores and 3 dedicated IP addresses. Use code WELOVEHOSTING-VPS-30 to get 30% off your fist invoice ($14.85/month for 12 months).
Ethernet Servers vs Cloudways:
- WordPress-optimized servers
- Free 3+ dedicated IP addresses
- DDoS protection included
- DirectAdmin & Softaculous included
- Daily account backups included
- Root SSH access (advanced)
- Free account & website transfer
- Support with website issues
- DirectAdmin email accounts
- 99.9% uptime guarantee
- 60-day money back guarantee
IO Zoom: Managed Cloud Servers Worldwide
IO Zoom is the best Cloudways alternative for those who need the flexibility of managed VPS hosting and the benefits of global cloud servers of Vultr, Linode or DigitalOcean. IO Zoom lets you choose among a variety of operating systems, including CloudLinux, and web servers, including LiteSpeed. You can also use any control panel you prefer, ranging from the industry-standard hosting panels at an extra cost (cPanel, Plesk and DirectAdmin) to numerous open source options upon request.
If you need to transfer your existing managed VPS, including from Cloudways, IO Zoom offers free server migration assistance. IO Zoom fully manages all server-side components, such as mail server, DNS, firewalls, OS and security updates. You can prevent future server disasters by adding inexpensive snapshots or backups. If you need more storage, IO Zoom gives you the option to attach block storage at a reasonable fee. IO Zoom lets you scale your server up or down and can help distribute traffic to multiple servers.
Founded in 2015 and registered in Texas, IO Zoom stands out as an affordable provider of expert 24/7 managed services with a focus on cloud servers/VPS. IO Zoom’s managed cloud VPS pricing starts at $10 a month regardless of the infrastructure provider. As is common with cloud computing, all instances are billed hourly and, because of the nature of managed cloud hosting, all payments are nonrefundable.
IO Zoom vs Cloudways:
- Freedom to choose a control panel
- LiteSpeed, Apache or Nginx
- Support with mail server & email
- Affordable snapshots & backups
- Option to attach block storage
- Server migration assistance
- Same pricing for all cloud providers
ServerPilot: WordPress-Optimized VPS Hosting
ServerPilot has long been one of the main alternatives to Cloudways if your priority is a better price. The main difference between the two is that you need to buy a server separately from your preferred cloud infrastructure. With a minimum required 256 MB RAM, a tiny VPS will cost you less than $3. Billed hourly, ServerPilot pricing starts at $5/month, with extra $0.50 for each website.
ServerPilot does all the server management and app installation for you. Its interface is almost too simplistic but certainly user-friendlier than typical control panels. If you encounter an issue, you are likely to find a solution in its extensive knowledge base. Its in-house support is fast and experienced.
ServerPilot vs Cloudways:
- WordPress-optimized packages
- Your choice of any cloud provider
- Simple user-friendly interface
- In-house US-based support
- 14-day trial with no credit card required
Hostwinds: Managed Virtualmin VPS
Hostwinds has built its own cloud control portal that makes it easy to launch a server with custom packages and configurations. It is in many ways similar to such cloud compute services as Vultr with the difference that you can choose managed support for your server.
When creating your cloud server, you can choose from over 20 applications, including many open-source control panels that simplify server and website management. Because of its ease of use and security features, Virtualmin is one of the strongest choices. If all you need is to manage your own websites, you are likely to find everything you need in the free Virtualmin version. You can also choose an alternative open source control panel such as VestaCP or a cheap one such as CWP. You can also request that a different control panel be installed, for example CyberPanel or Hestia CP.
You can create a KVM server in one of three locations: Seattle, Dallas and Amsterdam. You can also choose your preferred billing frequency, from hourly to triennial. Because you get 25% off your first invoice, it is a good idea to prepay for at least a year, starting at $8.24/month.
Hostwinds vs Cloudways:
- Managed support included
- Feature-rich cloud portal
- Virtualmin control panel
- Virtualmin email accounts
- Root SSH access (advanced)
- 99.99% uptime guarantee
- Prorated refunds
InterServer: Easy-to-Use Webuzo VPS
Another cheap Cloudways alternative for unlimited websites, InterServer is a perfect choice for those who like to be in full control of their server. InterServer has made it easy to manage the server and websites by giving you the option to have Webuzo control panel pre-installed on its Virtuozzo platform.
Webuzo is a multi-user control panel developed by the makers of Softaculous. Webuzo lets you install and manage such apps as WordPress in addition to configuring your server, including DNS, FTP, database, email and advanced security. After a one-month trial, Webuzo costs $2.5/month for one user.
InterServer also offers a free DirectAdmin personal license to manage up to 10 domains on your server. DirectAdmin has some of the most comprehensive tools to manage both your server-side services and your websites but may not be as easy to use as Webuzo.
InterServer uses data centers in New Jersey, New York and Los Angeles. The cheapest server is a 2 GB RAM slice that costs $6. If you buy 4 or more slices, InterServer includes free managed support.
InterServer vs Cloudways:
- Root SSH access (advanced)
- Pre-installed Webuzo
- Hundreds of apps, including WordPress
- Webuzo email accounts
- 99.9% uptime guarantee
- Managed support for 8+ GB RAM
Cloudron: Privacy-Oriented Self-Hosting
Cloudron is easily the best-kept secret in the world of WordPress hosting. Probably because WordPress is just one of many other apps including VPN you can choose to host on your server with Cloudron.
Unlike the majority of WordPress hosting solutions, Cloudron values your privacy and ensures complete data ownership and control.
Unlike Cloudways and similar to ServerPilot, you will need to get a separate cloud server (with Ubuntu OS and minimum 20 GB SSD) and have Cloudron install all the packages on it. You have two ways to connect a server. The first one is to run a set of commands in your SSH client to connect a server from any provider. The second one is to use a 1-click Cloudron image from select cloud providers including DO, Vultr and Linode.
One of the things that is great for non-techies but not so much for sysadmins is that Cloudron manages everything on your VPS and leaves hardly any room for customization. Still, for a hands-off way to host your apps in a dedicated environment, Cloudron offers unrivaled value. You can host up to two apps for free or unlimited apps from $15/month paid annually.
Cloudron vs Cloudways:
- Privacy-focused self-hosting
- Free email account included
- Multiple apps to choose from
- Dedicated container for each app
- Two apps hosted for free
Webinoly: Full Control with Simple Commands
A less-known alternative to Cloudways, Webinoly may seem quite a different beast entirely but it delivers extraordinary value once you are ready to switch from a control panel to a set of well-defined commands. Put bluntly, Webinoly is the cheapest, most powerful and 100% privacy-focused way to manage your VPS and website.
While Webinoly does not come with a GUI control panel, it offers the essential tools to manage and access your server and files, including SSH, phpMyAdmin and SFTP. You can configure caching, backups, staging environments and any other thing you would normally do with a traditional control panel. Unlike many SaaS control panels, Webinoly does not store your SSH password or keys. If you need visual server monitoring, you can either install Datadog or use HetrixTools* Server Monitoring Agent.
In contrast to similar WordPress webserver script stacks, Webinoly includes open source software from well-known trusted sources only. With Webinoly you create an enterprise-grade environment for your websites on any server for free.
Webinoly vs Cloudways:
- Full privacy and control
- Root SSH access (advanced)
- Your choice of cloud provider
- Open source script stack
- Optimized LEMP stack
- Free to use
Bonus: Free Server Management Tools
The best way to cut costs on your hosting expenses is to use one of many free server management tools to easily administer any inexpensive VPS. If you are after even more alternatives to using Cloudways and similar commercial platforms, below you will find a selection of the best open source control panels and other free server admin tools, including ServerPilot competitors and Cloudron alternatives.
Open Source DirectAdmin Alternatives
One of the major cPanel alternatives and competitors, DirectAdmin (DA) is a proprietary control panel developed by JBMC Software. While neither free nor open source, it is a popular choice both for personal use (starting from $2/month) and for reselling web hosting. Boasting a tidy polished interface, DA is flexible, secure and relatively easy to use. You can even get DirectAdmin for free with either your managed VPS (e.g. Ethernet Servers) or unmanaged VPS (e.g. BuyVM).
Besides such inexpensive proprietary DirectAdmin alternatives as Webuzo and CWPPro, you can choose from a variety of open source control panels, most notably Virtualmin. Virtualmin GPL is a Webmin module that provides a comprehensive toolbox for website hosting (including DNS, email, databases, etc.). It also includes easily installable applications such as WordPress. While there is a paid Professional Virtualmin version that is not open sourced, it essentially adds a reseller function and tech support.
As with other control panels, Virtualmin user experience is not for everyone and there are many Virtualmin alternatives. One is Ajenti V that works as an addon for Ajenti 1.x in a similar way that Virtualmin works with Webmin. Another open source alternative preferred by seasoned pros is ISPConfig that has many advanced features such as multi-server management and OpenVZ virtualization. Froxlor is more lightweight than ISPConfig but is also aimed at more advanced server administrators.
If you are looking for a DirectAdmin alternative that is not only open source but also easier to use to host your websites, there are several options even though many of them are not as mature as Virtualmin or ISPConfig. The most popular free control panel for beginners, especially those switching from shared cPanel hosting, is CyberPanel that comes with OpenLiteSpeed Web Server. Another beginner friendly option that also supports OpenLiteSpeed in addition to Apache and Nginx is aaPanel, which is an international version of the Chinese BAOTA panel. Finally, Hestia CP, a fork of VestaCP, is lightweight, feature-rich and easy to install and has an active community.
Open Source ServerPilot Alternatives
The appeal of such tools as ServerPilot is that you can deploy such PHP apps as WordPress on a tiny VPS with little effort on your part. The problem with ServerPilot is that it is not open source and gets costly as you add more servers and apps.
There are dozens of similar closed source ServerPilot alternatives. Like ServerPilot, most of them start out as freemium server management tools but – as soon as their customer base is big enough – they all remove their free plans. This is the case with ServerPilot’s major competitor RunCloud. Other paid options include ServerAvatar, Cleavr, SpinupWP, ServerWand and FireupWP.
Some closed source alternatives to ServerPilot that are still free often have unpalatable limitations. Ploi is free for one website only and does not include automatic server updates. ClusterCS does not run on either Debian or Ubuntu and has a confusing dashboard for most users. And Moss.sh, acquired in 2020, is slow to update its server OS requirements and its free plan allows integration only with one cloud platform such as Amazon and Google.
One notable open source ServerPilot alternative is Cipi. Cipi comes with all the essentials for running PHP apps on a server, including LEMP stack, SFTP, SSL certificates and multiple PHP versions. Cipi is still in its early days and, among many must-have features, does not include a WordPress auto-installer. In the end, if you do not need a graphic user interface, you may be better off with Webinoly as an open source ServerPilot alternative.
Open Source Cloudron Alternatives
Cloudron balances several roles and models. It is neither closed source nor open source and describes itself as source-available. It is neither entirely premium nor free as you can run two apps on all your servers for free. Much of such balancing has to do with Cloudron trying both to make self-hosting available to anyone and to cover costs associated with regular maintenance of its app packages.
One major open source Cloudron alternative for self-hosting web apps is Sandstorm. To be sure, Sandstorm is available as a community project but is no longer a business project. Sandstorm is similar to Cloudron particularly in its security practices that include automatic cryptographically signed updates and containerization of each app in its own sandbox. Sandstorm has a large selection of apps, including WordPress, but lacks many popular ones such as OpenVPN and Nextcloud.
Another Cloudron alternative that has been around for a while is YunoHost. It is 100% free and open source. Similar to Cloudron, YunoHost features many popular web apps. The problem is that many apps are not up-to-date and some are even flagged as low-quality in the app catalog. YunoHost is also not as easy to set up as Cloudron and offers a bumpier user experience.
Finally, the most promising open source Cloudron alternative is FreedomBox. Like Cloudron, FreedomBox was created to help users protect their privacy and data ownership through self-hosting. Unlike Cloudron, FreedomBox is based on Debian OS and is meant to run primarily on a small computer box in your home. That said, FreedomBox can also be installed on any Debian-based VPS. While the number of apps is smaller compared to Cloudron, major software packages e.g. WordPress and Syncthing are there.
Conclusion: Your Best Cloudways Alternative
Each of the above-discussed alternatives to Cloudways offers outstanding value for hosting WordPress or other apps on your cloud server in a dedicated environment with IPv4. To summarize, here is a quick guide to each Cloudways alternative (from more expensive to less expensive):
- Fully managed server + WordPress-specific support: WPMU DEV
- Comprehensive WordPress optimizations for all websites: WPOven
- Multiple websites + managed DirectAdmin VPS: Ethernet Servers
- Managed Vultr, Linode or DO with any control panel: IO Zoom
- Any tiny cloud VPS + simplistic user-interface: ServerPilot
- Open source control panel + reactive support: Hostwinds
- Pre-installed easy-to-manage Webuzo: InterServer
- Self-hosting with minimum effort + privacy: Cloudron
- Full control + open source + privacy + free: Webinoly