Interview with Cloudways Director Robert Jacobi

Robert Jacobi Interview

What are the advantages of getting a cloud hosting plan? And, why is Cloudways my top choice? Back in 2017, I had the pleasure of interviewing Robert Jacobi, who was then the president of Open Source Matters, sponsor of Joomla. Fast forward to 2022, and I found out that Robert is now the Director at Cloudways. Cloudways specializes in Managed Cloud Hosting services.

At this year’s WordCamp US conference in San Diego, CA, I was thrilled to get the chance to catch up and chat with Robert about his new role at Cloudways, and to get the scoop on how cloud hosting and Cloudways provides some huge benefits for website owners.

Web Hosting Cat: Talk about your transition over to Cloudways. What do you like most about the company?
Robert Jocobi: This is a fun question and answer, honestly. I sold the company to WP Engine, was taking some time off, writing a blog and news. Cloudways reached out to me in early 2021 and said we need someone who knows WordPress in the open-source content management space. And I was like, “Okay. You guys are a hosting company, but hosting is commoditized. What makes Cloudways special?” The leadership team, the C-level team are phenomenal people, first and foremost, but we have a much greater vision for what it means to be hosting in the cloud.

We don’t have infrastructure. We work directly with our cloud providers, DigitalOcean, AWS, Google Cloud, Linode, and Vultr. We have a managed cloud platform to help small, medium-sized businesses easily access the cloud. And if you’ve ever tried to utilize AWS on your own, that’s a pain in the rear end and involves a lot of technical know-how, certification, all that kind of crazy stuff. We’ve spent 10 years building out a layer that obfuscates all that technical nitty-gritty and really just makes it accessible to everyone.
WHC: What are some of the benefits of cloud hosting over traditional VPS and dedicated servers?
RJ: Cloud hosting is great because it really allows a number of critical components for end users. Obviously, there’s performance that’s been highly tuned and tweaked for certain applications in the cloud. We roll out WordPress cloud application instances that have been tuned for performance across multiple cloud providers. With that, you also get the beautiful aspect of geography. If you pick a dedicated provider somewhere or a shared host provider somewhere, you’re stuck in the US east coast or Europe western region. Whereas with our multiple cloud providers, we’ve expanded globally to have regions in Asia, Middle East, Europe, Africa, South America, North America. So, it really does expand reach, improves performance because of latency so now you’re closer to where your customers are. And that’s a huge advantage unlike other WordPress hosting companies. Because we utilize multiple cloud providers, you can really pick and choose what’s best and closest to your business and your customers.

On top of that, what I really like about cloud services in general is that because they support so many end users, they’re able to look at security and mitigation vulnerabilities, mitigation of vectors of attack, because if you see something, say in Eastern Europe or in western US, you can now deploy those security options to everyone instantly, and it happens transparently in the background and you’re not paying anything more for that. It’s just a great benefit of cloud in general, redundancy, backups, multi-location, so you can actually serve out of multiple geographical regions, which if you have a more robust web presence whether you’re in North America and Europe, now you can kind of separate that traffic. And again, you’re going to get performance benefits from being in multiple locations.

Load WordPress Sites in as fast as 37ms!
WHC: Now, is cloud hosting appropriate for both, say business owners that have their own website as opposed to agencies and freelancers?
RJ: I would say, first and foremost, any agency should be looking at cloud hosting because you can really get the benefits of scaling very quickly. If we’re looking at one of our partners like DigitalOcean, you can start at a pretty inexpensive level to get into the cloud, which has a ton of value. If you’re hosting a hundred or thousand blog sites, you’re looking at one kind of server launch on Cloudways and that’s going to cost you less than a couple cups of coffee a month. I mean, you go to Starbucks twice in a month or you can host a hundred websites. And so, there’s a lot of those opportunities, value and scaling with our cloud providers.
WHC: You mentioned the different cloud providers that you work with, Google Cloud, AWS, etc. Is there an advantage to using one over the other?
RJ: It’s really application specific. A lot of folks on the SMB side are going to be looking at DigitalOcean because there’s a value proposition that makes sense. You can deploy DigitalOcean droplets with Cloudways as the management infrastructure really easily. Dollars for value, it’s going to make a lot of sense. You have an enterprise kind of application and we support WordPress, Magento, PHP, Google Cloud. Just makes a lot of sense. We’re going to roll out a Kubernetes stack for you and your application will be on there and make it grow with your Google environment and your needs. We always ask our customers to really look at what’s your bandwidth, what’s your sort of, I’ll say, technically CPU utilization. But how complex is your application? If you just have a form,
well, it’s not that complex. If you have a form with AI and spitting out, generating new content after you submit a form, okay, you might need a service cloud provider that has the bandwidth to support all that.
WHC: Now setting up the server in Cloudways, is it easier than traditional VPS or dedicated servers or about the same?
RJ: Oh, my goodness. That’s almost like a layup question! Yeah, it’s one click. You log in to your Cloudways account. You need a new server. You pick your provider of choice. Click, yes, I want a DigitalOcean instance in Amsterdam with WordPress. You’re done. That’s it. It’s all taken care of for you. You don’t need to make sure you have your shell account, go in there, and set up your MySQL, set up your Apache or NGINX or LiteSpeed. It’s done for you. That’s the beauty of managed services.
WHC: Can you talk a little about the customer support that you get with Cloudways?
RJ: We actually have a number of levels of customer support. We’ve always been 24/7. We’re an 11-year-old company. We’ve had 24/7 support. On the platform level like, “Okay, I’m stuck at Cloudways. I don’t know how to actually click the one button that tells me how to launch a server,” that’s always there. We have advanced support that once you’re in the mix of things and you have a question about your PHP version, or how much memory should I allocate to something, what should I do with my database, there’s that on the platform side as well.

We also secretly have a VIP program that we’re launching in Q4 of 2022, called lightning program, specifically focused on WordPress. And with that, we do an accelerated onboarding completely white glove. We talk with our agency partners. We also do a performance review and evaluation. We’ll go through your sites that you’re onboarding, make sure that they’re performing right, that they’re all fully updated right. We’ve actually had customers on that program who have outdated plugins or plugins that are completely not even supported. And we’ve said, “Okay, this is great. You’re going to be fine.” But because it’s not supported anymore, you might want to be looking at other providers for whether it’s forums or shopping, cart access, or anything like that, because we do work WordPress and WooCommerce all the time. So that’s sort of our secret program.
WHC: Okay. Cool.
RJ: I don’t know when this is going out. You might hear it here first.
WHC: It’s coming. Good!
RJ: And we already have agencies and customers on who started beta testing, making sure everything works out. It’s been a lot of fun.
WHC: If someone’s interested in Cloudways, is there anything they need to do as a prerequisite before they migrate over?
RJ: No, not at all. I mean, we’ve been a self-service shop since our inception. So just go to Create an account. No credit card required. But that’ll get you onboard. And if you’re interested in the lightning program, feel free to reach out to me personally. We’ll make sure you have that conversation and we can help you get onboarded, accelerate your project, and make sure you’re as satisfied, robust, and performing as possible. And ironically, we’ve actually brought down a lot of the costs for a lot of folks coming from other service providers, and increased flexibility. One of the things that we do at Cloudways, we don’t have any firewalls on what kind of plugins you can install. So, you have all the flexibility to create the best WordPress site you want with the support and the performance that you would expect anywhere else.

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