This is not a post I really wanted to make. It isn't a hosting change I really wanted to make. But...
I have made the decision to leave WPX Hosting.
I switched to WPX Hosting from WP Engine awhile back. Overall, I liked my experience with WPX. But, after using it for quite awhile, I'll summarize this way:
- Freakin' AWESOME support
- Fast hosting (if your site is the right kind of site)
There are things I didn't like about WPX Hosting. And their recent branding change and re-design didn't help, either. More on that below.
The big thing, however, is that my membership site (THE LAB) is not the kind of site that will perform well on WPX Hosting. And I had to switch hosts to alleviate the bottleneck.
In the process, I moved to Cloudways. And I will say...
This just might be the web host that you should look into, too.
Let's get into it...
WPX Support = Awesome
Before I get into the bad stuff, I just want to commend WPX as a company.
I have been working online for over 20 years. I have used every kind of web hosting there is, through numerous companies.
WPX Hosting has the fastest, more personal support staff I have ever experienced.
I am not one that likes phone support. I don't prefer having to open a ticket. When I have a question, I want it answered immediately. I'm demanding like that. 😉
I vastly prefer Live Chat support. And with WPX, I can have a real, live human being in conversation with me within SECONDS. No exaggeration. I don't believe I have ever waited longer than 20 seconds or so for a person.
With rare exception, too, the person on the other end knows what they're doing. This isn't some dolt who is following support flow charts and treats you like a moron. It is a real conversation.
So, given this, I really didn't want to switch hosting accounts.
But, I had to.
But, what's important is why...
My Issues With WPX Hosting
WPX Hosting is really solid WordPress hosting. However, the thing to know about WPX (as with most managed, shared WordPress hosting) is that all of the performance promises are reliant on a VERY high degree of caching.
WPX offers a very optimized server setup, including WPX Cloud and aggressive caching. For a typical blog, this works great.
If you are using WordPress for a more dynamic environment (like a membership site), then a service like WPX begins to show (or, in this case, not show) it's real power.
THE LAB is my primary membership site here at the Blog Marketing Academy. It runs on the following software stack:
- BuddyBoss platform and BuddyBoss theme (read my BuddyBoss review)
- LearnDash (read my Learndash review)
- WP Fusion (read my WP Fusion review)
I am also temporarily running MemberMouse on the site (but can't wait to get rid of it).
Point is... this is a very dynamic site with more plug-ins than most. Every person who accesses it is logged in. The environment is making a lot of database calls, uses more memory than most, and cannot be cached.
A dynamic, community site like THE LAB simply cannot be cached. It must act differently for every single person based on who they are and their member permissions.
This forced me to run WPX pretty "raw". Without any of the layers that give it the speed. It becomes REALLY obvious when navigating the WordPress admin panel. It would routinely take 10-12 seconds for screen refreshes inside the LAB's admin panel.
I did some looking around and found out that WPX accounts have a downright puny amount of dedicated server memory:
- Business Account - Only 128MB
- Pro Account - Only 256MB
I had the PRO account. So, all of my sites (including THE LAB) were only being given 256MB of server RAM to work with.
This is downright tiny. It will work just fine for the average blog, however. And if you can use all the fancy caching, the site will be blazing fast on the front-end. For my purposes, however, this was WAY too low.
But, it wasn't my only issue with WPX...
WPX Design And Control Panel
I'll be blunt...
WPX is ugly. I also think their recent rebranding (from WPX Hosting to WPX) and re-design was really poorly done.
It is like their designer read somewhere that orange and yellow were strong conversion colors, so they decided to VOMIT it all over their site.
Now, I would never switch hosts because they're ugly. But, I will definitely say that if I were now judging WPX from the outside, this design would turn me off big-time. It doesn't inspire trust. It doesn't hit the right selling proposition. It looks like a cartoon for a child.
The control panel inside the account doesn't get any better. But, aside from the looks, the control panel is actually rather annoying to use. My observations:
- Performing typical operations (like staging sites, or accessing backups) is pretty slow. You get the spinner and it'll sit there for several minutes.
- After just a few minutes of doing something outside the panel and coming back, you find you get kicked out. Login sessions are annoyingly short.
- WordPress logins were often met with a forced use of RECAPTCHA. And there was no way to turn it off. Basically, to get into my own site, I'm sitting there clicking on pictures of traffic lights and bikes. Freakin' annoying.
- The way staging sites work is inconvenient. For instance, you cannot refresh an existing staging site with changes from the live site. You are forced to DELETE the staging site and re-create the whole thing.
I really liked the way WP Engine worked. WPX was never as good. I liked everything else, so I put up with the differences in the control panel.
But, given that THE LAB was doggin' pretty hard and they actually managed to make their interface worse, I went shopping.
Why I Chose Cloudways
I knew I didn't want to go with another typical shared, managed WordPress host. I wanted something more.
I wanted to use a VPS (or virtual private server).
A VPS means I am getting dedicated server horsepower that is not being shared with other sites. It means I can configure it the way I want. It is also far more power than you're going to get with most any shared hosting service.
The irony here is that even the smallest VPS will give you 1GB of RAM these days. That's 4 times what I was getting with WPX! And you can purchase that VPS for only $5/month!
Thing is, a standalone VPS is quite a nerdy experience. It is basically a virtual server with nothing on it. It is up to you to set the whole thing up and make it work. You've got to be a server admin to know what you're doing.
I decided to go with Cloudways.
Why Cloudways over Gridpane? Gridpane is very powerful. The team is big on support and the founder seems accessible and a fun dude. In the end, though, it felt like Gridpane was still a bit nerdy. Some things that I'd like to be able to manage myself in a simple interface would require them to do it. Cloudways seemed more developed and, frankly, a little more dumbed down. More my style. 😉
The way it works is that Cloudways will use a VPS on a provider that you choose.
They act like a middleman by provisioning the VPS on your behalf and then providing the full control panel so that you can manage it without being an uber-nerd.
I decided to use the VultrHF VPS. This is the "High Frequency" VPS that comes with more CPU power and faster memory and disk access. It is suitable for sites that are going to be pretty rich on database queries, etc. Like a membership site.
Why Cloudways Is Better Than Pretty Much All The Usual Shared Hosting For WordPress
Now, get this...
Hosting has really gotten cheap these days. I clearly remember the days when I was paying over $400/month for a fully dedicated server for my business.
With WPX, I was on their $49.99/month plan. For that, I could host 15 sites, get 20GB of storage, and up to 200GB of bandwidth per month.
After coming from WP Engine where I was paying $115/month for less, I thought WPX was awesome.
As of now, I am on the $26/month plan with Cloudways. A bit hard to believe for me. If I find I need to bump it up to the next level of VPS, that will run me $50/month which is pretty much exactly what was paying WPX.
But, this little $26 plan is giving me:
- A high performance VPS, with 2GB RAM and 64GB of disk
- 2TB of bandwidth
This is a faster server. With 8X the server memory , over 3X the disk space, and 10X the bandwidth. For half the money.
There are no shared resources. I am not limited to WordPress. I have more control. Yet, the Cloudways admin panel gives me every convenience I am used to. Every managed feature I'd want... I have.
Oh, and the interface is actually professional, not a damn cartoon like WPX is now.
And in terms of support? I've now had to deal with Cloudways support 3 times. I am able to quickly and easily access live chat support. I have a knowledgeable person in chat with me within less than a minute. So far, it has been just as good an experience as WPX Hosting.
Is Cloudways Right For You?
I will followup later with a full review of Cloudways and how things work. This post was just about why I switched. But, the question would be here...
Is Cloudways a good fit for you?
Simply put, you will get far better performance from a VPS than a shared hosting account. You are simply getting more for your money.
Even if you rented a VPS without the middleman (which would make it more nerdy, for sure), you can get one as low as $5/month. Cloudways makes it easy, though. And their cheapest option is $10/month.
For $10/month, you will get a VPS with Digital Ocean and it will have 1GB of RAM, 25GB of storage and 1TB of bandwidth. That blows away pretty much any shared hosting account you will get.
The cheapest WPX account is $24.99. The cheapest Siteground account starts at $6.99/month but then will go up to $14.99/month. Many people end up on the GrowBig plan with SiteGround and that will run $24.99/month after the intro pricing period. While I really like Siteground, the simple truth is that you get more for your money with Cloudways.
So, considering cost and sheer power (and hence performance for your site), a VPS managed through Cloudways is superior in pretty much every way.
The one tradeoff is this...
While Cloudways makes things pretty simple, their target market is not people who barely know anything. Cloudways is not going to teach you how to use WordPress. You will need to know some of the basics on your own here.
In my view, however, I see no downside for even people who are just getting started to go with something like Cloudways. It is just a better buy. No doubt about it.
I will followup further with a full review of Cloudways...