As cloud hosting has grown in popularity, we’ve seen more and more server hosting control panels pop up that are specifically focused on helping you easily host WordPress sites on cloud hosting from providers such as DigitalOcean, Vultr, Linode, Amazon Lightsail, and more.
Most of these options are SaaS tools – the big names here are RunCloud, GridPane, SpinupWP, etc. Cloudways also offers this type of hosting, though with a more managed approach.
WPCloud Deploy is sort of like those tools, but it’s an open-source, native WordPress plugin. That is, you can set up your own WordPress install to act as your own self-hosted control panel to manage cloud hosting from popular providers and quickly fire up new WordPress sites as needed.
You not only get full ownership of your hosting control panel (and the ability to customize it), but you also get to avoid the monthly fees that those other services charge.
It’s a compelling proposition, so I’m excited to check it out in our hands-on WPCloud Deploy review.
A quick note – I have self-hosted WordPress sites on DigitalOcean using some of the other tools in this space, but I’m not a developer, so I won’t necessarily be able to speak to some of the more developer-centric features that developers are into.
WPCloud Deploy Review: What Does It Do?
If you’re not familiar with this type of hosting, here’s a quick primer before I get into WPCloud Deploy’s nitty-gritty features.
Cloud hosting providers such as DigitalOcean and Linode have made performance-friendly hosting incredibly cheap. For just $5 per month, you can get your own dedicated cloud VPS that offers surprisingly good performance – I have sites loading in well under a second on just the $5 per month DigitalOcean plan.
However, the problem with these cloud providers is that they’re just “naked” hosting – you need the technical knowledge to set up and manage PHP, web servers, caching, security, etc. Unless you’re a super technical user, that’s not something you can handle, which means you can’t benefit from cloud hosting.
WPCloud Deploy, and other server control panels in this space, simplifies this process by giving you an easy way to set up these servers and create/manage your sites. Again, I’m not a developer, but, with the help of these tools, I’m still able to benefit from cheap cloud hosting – you can too.
More specifically, WPCloud Deploy will automatically:
- Install all the packages/tools that you need to run a WordPress site, including PHP, Nginx, MariaDB, etc
- Configure your server to be secure
- Install and manage Let’s Encrypt SSL certificates
- Configure server-level caching and other performance features
It will then also help you quickly fire up new WordPress sites, as well as providing convenient managed WordPress features such as:
- Automatic backups to off-site storage
- Staging sites
With other server control panels, you would need to sign up for their service and use their hosted dashboard to provision new servers and manage your WordPress sites.
Where WPCloud Deploy is different is in that it lets you self-host this server control panel using a native WordPress plugin. Basically, you’re using WordPress to run your WordPress server control panel.
Now that you have the background information, let’s take a look at some of the specific features that you get with WPCloud Deploy.
Supported Cloud Hosting Providers
WPCloud Deploy supports the following cloud hosting providers:
- Amazon Lightsail
- Amazon EC2
Tech Stack & Features
WPCloud Deploy uses a LEMP stack. If you’re not familiar, that’s short for:
- Nginx web server (offers better performance than Apache, especially under scale)
- MySQL database (technically MariaDB for WPCloud Deploy)
So when you fire up a new server on your cloud hosting, WPCloud Deploy will automatically provision this tech stack for you.
WPCloud Deploy also uses Nginx for server-level full page caching and you have the option to install Redis or Memcached on your servers for object caching.
There’s also a snapshot failover tool called Server Sync. It syncs your site to a separate server every hour (or a custom schedule). If your primary server goes down, you can point your DNS to your backup server to minimize downtime.
Convenient Managed WordPress Features
In addition to provisioning your cloud servers with an optimal stack, WPCloud Deploy also comes with features to help make it easier to manage your sites.
- A one-click WordPress installer
- Easy & free SSL certificate installation via Let’s Encrypt
- Automatic scheduled backups to off-site storage (Amazon S3 – you’ll need to pay for the S3 resources that you use, but S3 is super cheap for storage)
- Site/server cloning to create staging environments
Native WordPress Solution & Customizable Dashboard
Again, the most unique thing about WPCloud Deploy in relation to other tools is that it’s a native WordPress solution. Beyond giving you full ownership, this also lets you fully customize the dashboard to meet your needs.
For example, you get a “Cloud Server” custom post type. If needed, you could use ACF to add custom fields to collect additional information about each server. That’s pretty cool and gives you a lot of opportunities for customizing things.
You can also further customize your dashboard with your own “add-ons”. For example, you can run custom scripts when provisioning a server or WordPress site and add options to the dashboard for on-demand use.
You’ll also get dedicated WordPress user roles, as well as the ability to create teams to restrict access to servers/sites.
WPCloud Deploy Pricing
WPCloud Deploy has two different preset plans, but they also offer a la carte options where you can purchase individual features.
The main differences between the plans are:
- The cloud servers that it supports
- Some advanced features, like Server Sync
- Multisite support
Both plans let you provision unlimited servers and create unlimited WordPress sites:
- Core – $149 for one year of support and updates
- All Access – $499 for one year of support and updates or $1,499 for three years of support and lifetime updates.
You can also browse all of the a la carte options here. For example, if you just want to add Vultr support to the core tool, you can purchase the individual Vultr extension for $49. The same goes for other providers, as well as specific features like Server Sync.
Hands-On With WPCloud Deploy
One of the funky things with WPCloud Deploy is that you need a WordPress install before you can start provisioning new servers for your other WordPress sites. This is kind of a chicken and the egg thing – which comes first, your hosting control panel or your host?
The WPCloud Deploy docs give you some suggestions for how to do this.
I realize I used the same chicken-and-egg metaphor from the WPCloud Deploy help docs – but I swear I thought this up independently before reading those docs.
Once you’ve installed the WPCloud Deploy plugin on a fresh install that you’ll use as your hosting control panel, you’re ready to start spinning up sites and servers.
To make it easy to create servers, you can add the API key/connection details for the cloud provider that you want to use. This will let you easily fire up new servers as needed from your own dashboard.
Setting Up a Server
To provision a new server, you can go WPCloud Deploy → Provision A New WordPress Server.
You can then choose the:
- Region (location of your physical server)
- Name (that appears in your dashboard)
Once you provision a server, you’ll be able to manage all of its services. For example, you can restart Nginx or MariaDB. You can also manage the firewall and install Redis or Memcached for object caching:
Another useful feature here is the ability to configure a server-wide email gateway, which will let your sites reliably send emails without needing to configure SMTP for each individual site.
You can also run SSH commands right from WordPress. And, with the Server Sync add-on, you can automatically sync this server with another at whichever interval you prefer.
Finally, you get some organization tools. You can:
- Assign server groups – e.g. “Production” vs “Staging”
- Add teams to control who can access the server
Creating a New WordPress Site
To set up a new WordPress site, you can go to your server list and click Install WordPress. You’ll be able to enter your domain name and admin credentials, as well as choosing a specific WordPress version:
Once the process finishes, you’ll see a success message:
Managing WordPress Sites
To manage all of the sites on your servers, you can go to WPCloud Deploy → Applications. As with servers, you can also create groups to help you manage WordPress sites and use lots of filters at the top:
Once you edit a specific site, you’ll see tons of options to manage it divided across different tabs:
There’s a lot that you can do here, but let me hit some of the high points.
In the Backup & Restore tab, you can connect to Amazon S3 and set up backup policies. For example, how often to back up and how long to store them for:
You can also restore from a backup.
In the SSL tab, you can enable a free SSL certificate from Let’s Encrypt with a single click. There’s also a tool to force HTTPS on all pages.
In the Cache tab, you can manage caching services and also purge the cache.
To create staging sites, you have two options:
- Clone Site – create a copy of this site to a different domain on the same server.
- Copy to Server – copy this site to another server.
You’ll also get other tools to manage SFTP access, your database, Linux Cron, PHP settings, etc.
Controlling Teams and Permissions
If you need to give other people access to your control panel, WPCloud Deploy lets you manage access with teams and permissions.
You can define your own permissions (in addition to some default ones). Then, when you create a new team, you’ll be able to define the permissions for each member:
You’ll also get different WordPress user roles.
You can assign teams to both servers and individual applications.
Final Thoughts on WPCloud Deploy
As a non-developer, I didn’t find WPCloud Deploy to be quite as beginner-friendly as some of the SaaS WordPress server control panels that I’ve used.
However, I also don’t think that WPCloud Deploy is necessarily going after the “newbie” cloud hosting market – it seems more like a tool targeted towards WordPress developers or agencies who are trying to manage their own websites or client websites and like the idea of a self-hosted, open-source solution.
In that respect, I think that developers will really appreciate the flexibility, customizability, ownership, and open-source nature of WPCloud Deploy.
With the self-hosted dashboard, you can really dig in and customize everything to your exact needs and workflows.
The price point is also very good, especially if you’re planning to fire up multiple servers. At just $149 for one year of support and updates and unlimited servers, you can get a lot of value for your money.
If you want to learn more and get started, go to WPCloud Deploy.