Unmanaged virtual private servers such as those offered by Amazon and DigitalOcean offer you complete control at a lower cost.
However, without the technical skills required to setup, manage and secure a server, these options may be too complex for many to use.
To fill this gap, companies like Cloudways and ServerPilot are providing a way to get many of the benefits of a managed environment at the cost of an unmanaged server.
We're going to introduce Cloudways and show you how it can help you manage your Amazon or Digital Ocean servers.
To get started visit http://www.cloudways.com/en/, enter your email and click on large red button labelled “Free Trial”.
The next screen will prompt you to enter your phone number for verification.
Once you enter the verification code received on your phone, You will receive a welcome email with a link to set a password for your new account.
Click on the “set password” link provided in the welcome email.
If you have successfully verified your phone number and set a new password, go to https://clickngo.cloudways.com/ to login and get access to your dashboard.
#2. Creating your first server
Since this is the first time we have logged in, we would displayed with a 4 step server creation form.
Cloudways currently provided 2 options for hosting your website, DigitalOcean & Amazon Web Services. To be able to take advantage of 30 days free trial, I’d recommend choosing “DigitalOcean”. Once you click on the icon of “DigitalOcean” step 2 would be activated asking you to choose the application you wish to install.
Here You will be provided with different options such as WordPress, Drupal, Joomla and few others along with a PHP / MySQL stack for a regular website. Click on the “WordPress” icon to proceed to step 3 for selecting the size of our server.
Depending on the number of monthly page views to your website, Cloudways can recommend a server size. Once you choose the number of page views using the slider, click on the “Recommend” button to see a suggestion.
You will now be shown a confirmation box to either proceed with the recommended option. To proceed further you can now click on “Select Server Size” button or on “Cancel” and start over.
You could also click on the “I know my server size” tab to make a direct selection of a server size based on the amount of RAM and other specifics.
After selecting a server size, You will be able to pick a location of your server. The location will vary based on the cloud option you choose. Since we had chosen “DigitalOcean”, the options available to us would be “New York”, “London”, “Amsterdam” and few others.
After choosing your preferred location, click on the “Start 30 Day Free Trial!” button to create your server. It can take minimum 4 to 5 minutes to setup, configure & optimize a new server along with the installation of your chosen application.
After the server is setup, you should be taken to a screen showing details of your server. From here you can click on “Manage Server” button to see more options & tools for your server and a list of applications installed on it.
#3. Managing your server
Server management page provides details about your server such as IP address, number of applications installed, along with tools to changing settings, perform backup, monitor and to scale the server.
General server wide settings such as memory limit, error display, etc. can be setup from the “Server Settings” section.
#4. Application Management
Application is a Cloudways lingo for websites, domain or projects. You can create unlimited applications on your server depending on its resources.
During the server creation step, we had chosen an application i.e. “WordPress”. To access details of this installation, click on the “Application Management” tab on top next to “Server Management” Tab.
By default the first application you chose, would already be installed on this new server. You will be able to get the login details to the application (WordPress) backend and SFTP details from this section.
One great feature is that when you create a new application, Cloudways assigns it with a domain name. This can come in handy if you quickly want to deploy a test site.
Other tools such as domain mapping, restore can be accessed from this section.
Mapping a domain to your new app is simple. Depending on whether your DNS provider supports ANAME records, you can either point your domain to this new application by adding “ANAME” record in your domains DNS with the “Application URL” or by adding an “A” record with the IP address of the new server.
More details can be found at Cloudways article: “How to point your root domain”
#5. Setup additional websites / applications
New Applications can be setup on the existing server in just 2 steps. From the Application Management screen, you could either click on “Add Application” to add a new application or you can also clone your existing application by clicking on “Clone Application” button.
After clicking on “Add Application” You will be displayed with a list of applications to choose similar to the server creation step. After choosing one, depending on the application the application, within few minutes You will be able to access the new application from the same “Application Management” tab.
For now every WordPress application created is installed along with “W3 Total Cache plugin”. You could install all standard plugins you generally use and then use the clone feature to quickly create a template WordPress site to start your new project.
So is Cloudways worth considering?
While Cloudways is trying to provide the performance of Managed WordPress hosting to everyone for fraction of the cost, a user intervention may still be required on numerous occasions such as application shutdown, scaling, etc. While many tasks are made easy, something as basic as the ability to change password of a SFTP user requires connecting to the server via command line.
The security policy and data protection guarantee is unclear. I would not recommend this to someone with no experience in performing command line tools or those who want everything to be 100% managed. But those of you who know how to perform basic command line operations and just need to quickly get started with an optimized VPS with managed support, Cloudways is an excellent option to consider.
The more expensive services offered by managed WordPress hosting companies are tempting, but Cloudways does provide the next best thing at an affordable price.