#625 WP-Tonic Interview Show: We Talk To Revolutionary Hosting Provider Cloudways

We Talk To Revolutionary Hosting Provider Cloudways

With Special Guests: Robert Jacobi Director of WordPress at Cloudways

Robert Jacobi would like to discuss how hosting has become commoditized and how multi-cloud managed hosting providers like Cloudways has the potential to disrupt the WordPress hosting industry as we know it. This is due to how these platforms offer users more elasticity, choices, and potential when compared to typical hosting providers.

Furthermore, Robert can discuss why most web hosting vendors are not your friend. One of the first things developers look at when choosing a WordPress hosting provider is how popular they are.

These providers usually only appear popular because they have the funding needed to pay for plenty of affiliate endorsements, not because they are the top provider out there. Because of this, it’s important for developers to not get duped by overtly positive endorsements and to identify what a web hosting provider actually offers its users.

Robert will cover how your audience can identify the actual cost of providers — something large-scale hosting services hide in the fine print — and a variety of crucial factors to consider like scalability, reliability, safety, and adaptability.

WP-Tonic listeners can follow me on Twitter @RobertJacobi – and while they’re at it, they should follow @cloudways as well for all the latest news and updates.

For my latest musings on Cloudways, WordPress, and web development, visit my personal website robertjacobi.com where you can sign up for the newsletter and follow my blog. Cloudways’ own blog is also an excellent resource: https://www.cloudways.com/blog/.

This Week Show’s Sponsors

Castos: https://castos.com/

LaunchFlows: https://launchflows.com/

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Jonathan Denwood: Welcome back folk to the WP tonic interview show. This is episode 627. We’ve got a great guest. We have Robert Jacobs director of WordPress act Cloudways. It’s going to be a fascinating interview. I consider that Cloudways has kind of semi revolutionized the hosting space to some extent. So, Jacob, would you like to quickly introduce yourself to the listeners and viewers of the WP tonic show? 

Robert Jacobi: Just do a slight little edit for you. It’s Robert Jacobi.

Jonathan Denwood: Jacoby, sorry. 
Jonathan Denwood:
We should have done that in the prep and preview of Robert Jacobi, director of WordPress at Cloudways. Which if you know anything about Cloudways or you don’t we sort of have three major business units, Magento, PHP, WordPress, sort of the Goliath in the corporation. 

Jonathan Denwood: Unfortunately Robert my ability to mess up my guest names is notorious. Ask Steven, Steven would you like to introduce yourself to the new listeners and viewers? 

Steven Sauder: My name is Steven Sauder from zit fish.IO, where we make WordPress fast by optimizing the code that’s running your WordPress site. 

Jonathan Denwood: That’s fantastic, fantastic company. Before we go into the main part of the interview, I just want to mention my major sponsor. That’s Castos, Castos is the premium provider if you’re looking to get into podcasting for yourself or for clients. I use it myself I prayed for out my own pocket. And then I got to know the cast of our team. Obviously, Matt from the Matt report, joining them as director of sales and customer experience influenced me, but I’ve been just delighted with the platform, the UX design, and the suburb support that you get from the Castos team. If you’re looking to get into podcasting for yourself or for clients, you really should look at this platform. It really is superb and easy to use. 

They’ve also offered a special deal to the WP tribe. If you go over to WP tonic newsletter, you’ll find a unique offer just for your tribe. You get 50% off your first six months with Castos and that’s just a suburb offer. Go over there, sign up using their platform. So Robert like said might revolutionize is a little bit too strong a term, but it definitely Cloudways. First of all, how long has it been available and when did it enter the market? And secondly, I think you could say that it’s really kind of changed the hosting landscape to some degree. Would you agree with that Robert?

Robert Jacobi: Without a doubt and I hate being the boy we’re so awesome no one else does it like this, but we are doing it a little bit differently. So Cloudways is now 10 plus years of being in business. And we started out by just building a management layer on top of a digital ocean. And from there we’re like we can do this across a whole bunch of platforms and then make it really easy to deploy WordPress on, AWS, Google Cloud, Digital Ocean Lin node, and vulture. I knew I was missing one. So yeah, we support five different cloud providers, which is really unique a across whether it’s shared or managed hosting providers or WordPress, almost all of them use one of those five, but we actually empower our customers, which are developers, agencies, freelancers to take advantage of all these cloud services without having to be a genius system, AWS certified engineer, which I come from a techie background and I can deploy in AWS. And, oh my goodness, that is a pain in the three or four-letter word depending where you’re coming from. 

Jonathan Denwood: Yeah. Over to you, Steven.

Steven Sauder: Yeah. I think Cloudways is probably one of the first companies that, where I was actually on the server. And I felt comfortable managing it. And that kind of like is one of my leaping stones into like, getting farther and farther into server stuff and, played around with servers and installing things and blowing things up and taking things down and figuring out what I did wrong. But Cloudways is really like one of those jumping-off points for me, like where there was somebody that was kind of holding your hand through it, so you could make that jump without it being too scary. And that’s like a beautiful thing. I think when you have a platform that allows somebody to learn more and educate themselves as they kind of go along in a world that doesn’t feel too scary. Cause you still have all this beautiful UI layer over it, everything. And it’s, it’s really cool. 

So it feels like in the marketplace there’s been this huge birth of like management type platforms. Like I knew of Cloudways a while back to go up and down like there was like all of a sudden like spin up WP. I’m not sure where like run cloud fits into or red pants, another new kid on the block. How would you say Cloudways positions itself in WordPress hosting compared to these other server management dashboard admin panels?

Robert Jacobi: Oh, that’s an easy one. Everything’s already included, you’re done with a lot of these other services. You’re buying one. So you still have to go through the procurement process at WS, pay a separate bill, go through, Google cloud, go through Digital Ocean. You’re still doing a lot of the work on setting this up and getting it, you know pointers work provision. That’s the word I was looking for and getting lots of provisions. And then you go to another service and they’re like, okay, now I need to manage this, but now you have, two bills two throats to choke, I guess that’s the phrase. I actually like two heads to kick, but that’s it still, you’re dealing with multiple vendors. It’s adding complexity to your basic workflow. You’re having to deal with multiple vendors. And if you’re not actually saving any money at the end of the day. I know everyone is like, okay, price, price, price. Are we just gonna dump everything down so it’s the cheapest possible? No, I mean, you’re, you’re going to get value at a certain price point, but do you really need to deal with multiple vendors and multiple headaches throughout the deployment process?

Steven Sauder:
Yeah. W would you say that, like, everyone should move to a server management dashboard, admin thing? Like what Cloudways offers or like, should people, like, there’s a lot of people still in that very managed WordPress thing, like from other people that are all the way in, like GoDaddy land to like flywheel land, WP engine stuff, but like Cloudways is like another step right down that kind of pathway. Do you think everybody like that’s right for everybody, or do you have to feel like, you have a certain level of expertise and knowledge before you’re ready to make that hop to a management platform like Cloudways.

Robert Jacobi:
  You’re being very gentle, Steven. I appreciate it. I got, I got fixed. Absolutely not I mean, there are different hosting providers that, satisfy certain needs and requirements and that’s okay. It’s a huge ecosystem that works for everyone. I do really think. And, let this be the controversial statement of the day. I think shared hosting is a mess and no one wants anymore. It’s been commoditized to a price level, which is almost free, but you get what you pay for. So, there are going to be silos of different types of managed hosting. You’re going to have the kind of like restricted walled gardens that duct Neo WPAP, WordPress VIP, and WP engine have. So everything’s totally managed, but you just don’t have the flexibility to experiment do cool things, ad hoc and scale sort of ad hoc like you can at Cloudways. 

And that’s fine though. I mean, if you have an application or a WordPress software WordPress site product, whatnot that fits those confines. Great. I mean, can you do that in Cloudways? Sure, can you do that WP engine or VIP? Absolutely there’s a lot of shared hosts in the world where you get a ton of flexibility and they get nickeled and dimed throughout the process. And I’m just going to say, you get what you pay for. And one of the big things, I think all the sorting I’m going to lump Cloudways in this mix. All these top-tier providers are looking to do is educate agencies, freelancers, even end customers on, okay, you saw something that’s $2 a year. $2 a year is kind of ridiculous. So how much work are you going to have to put into that to make sure that it’s actually running there’s uptime, there’s support for all those, things that you have to have sorry, Jonathan, go ahead?

Jonathan Denwood:
No, sorry to interrupt. It was just good to get in because I think you’re touching on some really important points, Robert because I see Cloudways for the WordPress implementer, the WordPress freelancer, the WordPress agency the power user. I see those as the four buckets that would be attracted to Cloudways. I also feel that you provide the support that is orientated, which is technical support, but it’s not. So technically in its style that you need to come from a server background. There are other providers where their technical support, the language that they utilize to reply to tickets is so technical in nature that you need to be coming from a Linux admin background to actually understand the support ticket answers. If you understand what I’m saying. Would you agree with some of the things I’ve just said, Robert?

Robert Jacobi:
Yes I think, there’ll never be a reason where you have to go into the terminal and type of PS dash Aus to figure out what’s hanging your site. And for you super lit Linux geeks, you’ll get that joke. But does it help to have a technical bit of sophistication? Yes. Because that just kind of walks you through the process better like, okay-

Jonathan Denwood:
I don’t think Cloudways is really trying to attract the really basic business owner type. I just don’t think it’s really suitable for, and I don’t think you’re trying to attract that. Would I be correct? 

Robert Jacobi: We’re not competing with Wix or Squarespace that that’s just not, part of the equation. You generally have to have just enough. So the old joke I ran an agency for 20 years, it was, empowering customers. And then they, know enough to cause a lot of damage. So the beautiful part is we can empower our customers to know enough and they will cause that damage because we have the support, the user interface, the infrastructure to make sure that they can ask the right questions, but don’t have to blow up anything.

Jonathan Denwood:
Before I throw it over to Steven again I’ve got a little, I want to see what your attitude to they see is Robert. I’ve got a little bit of a beef with developers that go to clients and say, you’ve got a commerce website, you’ve got a membership website. You got a couple of thousand users. I can cut the cost down of the server, drastically. And then they go and they set up something on Amazon web services, or they set up something on Digital Ocean and they control it. Oh. And if they disappear or they throw out, the client nobody knows anything. Nobody’s got the login details. Nobody knows anything about anything. I think that’s unprofessional and pushing the boat out a bit too far to suggest that to clients. What are your own feelings about that?

Robert Jacobi: I have plenty of feelings about that. Can we ask that question just slightly less wide or narrower maybe? 

Jonathan Denwood:
Yea sure. 

Robert Jacobi: because I got plenty. I just want to make sure I answered the right question.  

Jonathan Denwood:
Yeah, sure. Go ahead. And you interpret the way you want it to Robert.

Robert Jacobi:
Oh boy. Make me do all the work. So I like to use a car analogy or a lot of these things. While I’m a computer technical geek engineer by history and experience, I know nothing about cars. My experience with cars is I put a key in, and these days you don’t even put a key in there are buttons and things. Anyway there’s a one-click install for cars, so I get in I’m driving and that’s what I want to have happened. I feel that agencies and developers should have a fiduciary responsibility to explain what’s going on, even if it’s over the head of the customers, and be Frank and honest that if I, as a freelancer or an agency, if we get wiped out by the earthquake, flood, tornado meteorite dinosaurs.

 You might be, in a bit of trouble, that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with saying I can’t do everything all the time. What is the contingency plan for that? I think educating customers about making sure they ask the right questions. If I get 1977 used Mercedes-Benz that only runs on diesel. I’m in trouble if I haven’t done my homework to realize that, oh, the diesel and the regular patrol are totally two different gases and I can blow up my engine and screw everything up. So I think it’s incumbent upon people who are providing these tools and technologies to make sure they explain all the ramifications of the choices they’re making us developers and you can dumb it down. You don’t have to say, well, this is, using this type of PHP caching and who knows what will happen. We don’t need to get that, type of [Inaudible 16:14 ]. 

I think it’s fair to say, if you’re going to AWS directly, you’re going to need someone who is an AWS engineer. Do you want that? If you don’t want that, these are the alternatives. And a lot of these managed hosting providers always, either already use AWS, or you can have, a more flexible platform like Cloudways, to start at AWS or start at Digital Ocean and then migrate to different cloud services, depending on how your business scales. It’s complex and there are plenty of folks who are just trying to, make a couple of hundred bucks a month extra with their side gig. And aren’t going through all the things that I would consider important as, having an agency and putting those things out.

Yeah. It costs more. That’s the back to, $2 a year hosting, you get what you pay for. And it’s hard to educate people about that. Web stuff is, is not as this role as the car analogy. I know if a car is working because I can see all tires inflated, if they’re not, I get it. But I don’t know if there’s, a [Inaudible 17:39 ] for, security. I don’t know if there are backups. I don’t think about them. If I’m an end-user good agency won’t push that forward. Boy, I just kind of rambled on, on that, but-

Jonathan Denwood: No you are very tactful. But I think you agreed with the basic and I’ll put to you and I think you handled it quite well. We’re going to go for our break. When we come back, we’re going to be delving more into this fascinating world of hosting how it works with WordPress, with Robert Jacobi. Hopefully, I pronounced it correctly this time. I have no idea what I said the first time probably that’s why I made the bulls out of it. And we’ll be back in a few moments folks.

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Jonathan Denwood:
We’re coming back. We’ve had a fascinating discussion so far. If you want to get the interest of WordPress people, just start talking about either hosting or page builders, and you’ll just get our army of listeners. 

So the folks that understand L don’t filter into the same group. The folks that understand Linode and vulture know the pros and cons of using one of those providers, at their core infrastructure. So one, I think they are continually improving, especially on the uptime side of the universe. But they, by their very nature they are. And you said it perfectly, I mean there’s that digerati that totally get vultures. Like this is awesome, super high frequency, but if you’re already in that space, thinking that way, then you know, you’re going to have to use one of these providers and you’re not. And you understand that there are those blips let’s call them. I don’t want to use risks but blips that, that occur with that. And the typical end-user typical agency is not at that level. They’re, they’re not looking for that kind of stuff. And speed, frankly. Actually, I just want to cover speed as a whole that is getting commoditized all over the place. So you can go to Bluehost GoDaddy.

Jonathan Denwood: Did you have to do that Rob? My temperature has just increased you got me [Inaudible31:47 ] there. Did you have to do that Robert? 

Robert Jacobi:
And now email is going to come because I know all these folks very well. And I’m not trying to, and quite the contrary there’s a race to commoditizing speed. At some point, hosting is not going to be the issue. And in a lot of cases, hosting is not the issue. If I’m in rural America with my mobile phone, trying to get site hosting is not the problem, that the last mile is the problem. So that level of performance is really evening out, over the long-term. And what kind of value can we add on top of that? 

So as a customer, you want to be secure, safe, don’t waste a lot of time on things you don’t want to waste. So, it’s great that we have five providers where you can geographically put up things wherever you want. We spent a lot of time talking about speed, all the hosting companies, certainly Cloudways, but really all the hosting companies are in a mind space that we will get down to zero time. So that the bottleneck won’t be at the host, all the ones who care about infrastructure and getting content out there, that’s going to be zero time. So where do we move in the next generation of hosting sites on the web? Certainly, there are gonna be providers that don’t give two poops about, okay, I got your site up, good luck all the ones who care realized that the conversation’s happening, WordPress about speed and performance.


Well, you guys are already about a year behind what all the hosting companies already talking about. We’re past that. We know that that is a critical piece of infrastructure that will be commoditized. Everyone will have zero. Let’s put that in quotes, zero speed bottlenecks at some point, whether that’s, today for Cloudways tomorrow for someone else, or whatnot. So as we move forward in time, what’s the experience, what’s the value at? How do we take the friction out of the engineering experience? How do we take the friction out of the consumer experience? How do we take it out of the agency experience? Make those things easier.

Like, let’s jump all the way back to cars. How much software is in your car today that wasn’t there 10 years ago? I mean, are you kidding me? It’s, ridiculous. We don’t think about, you know RPM. We don’t think about horsepower. I mean, with electric cars, horsepower doesn’t exist anymore. It’s not even a real concept. Its torque, oh, infinite torque on an electric car. So all these things, technology moves us forward. And the things that we were measuring ourselves against 10, 15, 20 years ago, that’s just expected. And that just better be there. So it better be, five-nines of uptime. It better be 0.1 milliseconds to, first bite that’s just going to be expected. So everything else is where I feel the Good hosting companies are providing value.

Jonathan Denwood: I thought that was well put Thanks for that, Robert we need to wrap up the podcast part of the show, we’re going to continue this discussion. Robert’s agreed to stay on you’ll be able to watch all this interview, plus the bonus content on the WP tonic Facebook page. Got it right this time. Also, if you really want to support the show, go over to WP tonic newsletter, sign up for our weekly newsletter, which gives you all the in-depth news about our controversial, but fun round table show. So Robert, what is the best way to learn more about Cloudways and definitely more about you and your thoughts in the world of hosting and WordPress. 

Robert Jacobi: certainly Cloudways.com. You can find us at Cloudways on Twitter. You can also find me at Robert Jacobi on Twitter, and I am open for all sorts of DMS and chats and whatnot, and I’m happy to engage. I love open source. I love WordPress. I love the hosting communities and spaces as a whole. Yeah. I’ve had to engage. I get weird invites on my calendar for five, six in the morning, because I’ve decided that sleeping is not an option anymore.  
Jonathan Denwood:
Oh, wow. That’s great news. Let’s see how long you lost. Steven How can people find out more about you, your thoughts, and your company Steven?

Steven Sauder: head over to zipfish.IO and check out what we’re all about. 
Jonathan Denwood:
Like I said We’re going to wrap up if you want to watch the bonus content, go over to the WP tonic Facebook page, and you’ll be able to see the whole interview again and plus the bonus content. We will be back next week with another great guest, another great conversation around the world of WordPress, online marketing, and everything to do with tech. We will be back next week folks bye.

Outro: Thanks for listening to the WP tonic podcast. The podcast that gives you a dose of WordPress medicine twice a week.

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