Cloudron is a platform that I always wanted to look into, because it has a unique approach for hosting apps (and WordPress). In this Cloudron Review, you’ll discover why this is unique.
But before we dive into the nitty-grittty details, it’s good to see what Cloudron actually is.
Cloudron is a control panel that helps professionals to host applications on their own servers. It makes it very easy to manage your own server and add applications and website to it.
Cloudron supports the hosting off many applications, such as WordPress, Discourse, Gitlab, Matamo, Minecraft, Rainloop and Rocket.Chat.
The unique aspect is that Cloudron puts each application in a container, which is basically a tiny system on it’s own. This is great from safety and administration perspective.
For all the reviews that I write (including this Cloudron Review), I have a summary for those who are lazy to read the whole batch. So, how well does Cloudron do?
- I think Cloudron is great if you need to host multiple kinds of open-source apps including WordPress and also need email. If you’re a small organization, business or even individual, you can cover many of your IT-related needs with Cloudron.
- Cloudron is not optimized for running WordPress only so be prepared to do some manual tweaking. Loading performance is poor to mediocre, and common things such as WordPress multisite do not work out of the box.
- On the free plan, support is limited to the community (which is quite active though). Paid plans have better support, but are much more expensive.
- If you need a WordPress only control panel and manage multiple WordPress websites and servers, GridPane is a great (but more expensive) option. You can also try WP Cloud Deploy, which is a WordPress plugin that acts as a control panel.
- If you need a multipurpose control panel and want to host other apps with it, Ploi or Runcloud are good alternatives with better pricing and performance although app installation is not as straightforward as Cloudron. You can compare all the control panels here.
- If you don’t want to manage your own servers, consider Cloudways.
Who should use Cloudron?
Now when you’re reading this Cloudron review, you may wonder if you’re the correct audience for Cloudron. For whom is Cloudron actually meant? I’d use Cloudron if:
- You like to set up your own servers and are technically oriented
- You want to host multiple kinds of apps on a server
- Are not afraid of doing some occasional command-line work.
Therefore, Cloudron is mainly meant for professional developers although if you’re a digital native, you can catch up quickly.
What I look into for this Cloudron Review
Each review (or at least each hosting review) is examining five criteria:
- The Features: what does it offer?
- The Performance: is it fast and can it handle many visitors?
- The User Experience or Usability: is it easy to use?
- The Support: what if I need help?
- The Pricing: what’s the value?
The average rating of these criteria makes up the final score.
How do I install Cloudron?
You may have one final question before we get to the body of this review, and that’s probably how to install Cloudron? The above video will show the process in detail, but it’s not that hard (I assume you know how to login to a server):
- Spin up a server at a Server Provider, such as Vultr and choose for Ubuntu 20.04 as the OS.
- Pick a server from a location as close as the majority of your visitors. For a couple of small websites, a 1 core 1GB server is often enough.
- Login to this server using SSH or Password login.
- Paste and execute the command:
chmod +x ./cloudron-setup
- Wait for some time, and then follow the wizard.
- Subsequently, go to the IP of the server in your browser and you’ll have another wizard that guides you through the process.
- This will install and set-up Cloudron and configure the correct domains. Once it is set up, you can add WordPress from the ‘Apps’ tab. Use WordPress (Managed) if you don’t want to do custom development, or WordPress (Developer) if you do.
- And that’s it!
A great set of features
Cloudron has a great set of features although developers may wish for better integration with Git and more monitoring features.
Now that we’ve dealt with Features in this Cloudron review, let’s move on to performance!
What Cloudron can do for you
In short: Cloudron can host apps (websites) for you, and WordPress is one of the applications supported. Now, to manage apps you need a couple of features and this is what Cloudron offers:
- Hosting (unlimited) apps and websites on your server
- Connecting multiple domains to (multiple) apps
- Adding users and restricting access to certain apps
- Limiting the resources an app can use
- Mounting apps to external storage
- Monitoring the resource usage of apps
- Back-ups to local or remote destinations (many providers are supported for remote backups, such as Amazon S3, Backblaze, Wasabi, Digital Ocean Spaces, custom SFTP, etc).
- Cloning of apps (using the backup feature)
- Support for email inboxes and transactional email
- A file manager, terminal and log feature for every app
- An API, through which developers can make their own applications interaction with Cloudron.
- Easy to setup SSL for all the apps hosted on Cloudron.
- Server firewalls, SSH access, WP-Cli installation and application isolation by default.
- SFTP access for every application.
Under usability, I’ll also dive into a couple of the above features in more detail.
What apps does Cloudron offer?
As I said, Cloudron does not only support WordPress but many other apps. But how many apps? A lot. It’s best to go to their App Catalog and see what it all can host. There are apps for live chat, CRM, invoicing, project management, fora, and so forth.
Cloudron does support email inboxes and transactional email. Moreover, you can install Rainloop or Roundcube, which is an interface for your email so you can easily send and access email.
Limiting resource usage and more
If you are a professional and setting up your own hosting business, you may find it interesting that Cloudron also allows you to limit the resources used per application. Well, at least the RAM and CPU used by an application.
Developers and professionals may also find it interesting that you can view the Disk, Memory and CPU usage on the server. Cloudron does automatically send you an email if usage is high, or if an app crashes.
You can do some administration tasks for a containerized app in the terminal that is available through Cloudron, something that may come in handy for system administrators.
A couple of shortcomings
There are a couple of features that Cloudron hasn’t that may be useful for developers. Let’s list a few of them:
Advanced application analytics are not available, and you can connect notifications to Slack and Discord for example. Also, you can’t integrate applications with a custom Git repository which is a miss for developers.
At last, you can’t manage databases via a database manager such as phpMyAdmin in Cloudron.
Dynamically updating DNS
For Cloudron to function, you need a domain. If you have a domain registered with a known domain registrar, such as Cloudflare or Namecheap, you can automatically integrate it with Cloudron.
Cloudron will then automatically update the records of your domain if you add any app or connect any domain so that everything works well. And you don’t need to manually link domains to your server.
Now, the feature part of this Cloudron review is over. Let’s move on to performance!
Average loading is okay with Cloudron, but out of the box cached and uncached loading performance for WordPress is poor. Cloudron is not able to handle as many visitors as some competing control panels.
The Performance Test
For each WordPress provider that I test, I do the same test. First, I set up WordPress with WooCommerce and a bloated WordPress theme. Second, I import the exact same demo which reflects an average WordPress site well.
At last, I run various benchmarks on this site using tools such as Loader.io, Pingdom, Sucuri and GTMetrix. You can find the results further down.
The most important test is benchmarking how many users the host can handle before response times will pass the 2-second mark. These are the first two results you will see below.
This test was executed with a 1GB/1 Core High-Frequency server from Vultr.
Maximum users (with caching): 150
Cloudron, in combination with the Vultr High-Frequency server, could handle up to 150 concurrent users when caching was turned on before response times exceeded the 2-second mark. In one minute, the test was firing almost 9000 requests with an average response time of 372ms.
This is a lower amount of simultaneous users than most other control panels.
Maximum users (without caching): 5
Testing without caching is important, as it reflects situations such as where users are logged. The most obvious example is webshops with users accounts.
In this test, Cloudron could handle a maximum of 5 users, firing 268 requests with an average response time of 1312ms.
Again, this is a lower amount of simultaneous users than most other control panels.
Time to the first byte: 112ms / 635ms
The time to the first byte from the closest location was 112ms, while the time to the first byte worldwide averaged 635ms. Most other control panels have better values.
WordPress Benchmark: 1066 queries/second
Cloudron performed well in the WordPress benchmark, being able to handle 1066 queries per second with an execution time of 0.938 seconds and a server score of 8.075.
Average Loading Time: 0.61 seconds
The average loading time with Pingdom was 0.61 seconds with cached turned on, and 0.80 seconds with caching turned off. This is slower than most other hosting providers tested.
Results for Other Benchmarks
Here are the results of a couple of other benchmarks:
- Webpagetest averaged 6,43 seconds which is slow.
- GTMetrix averaged 3.9 seconds which is good.
- During the testing period, the uptime was 100%, which is great.
This is how Cloudron compares to other control panels (you can select a metric from the dropdown and subsequently, a chart will show):
Unfortunately, the (out of the box) loading performance of Cloudron is worse than most other control panels with differences up to 600%. The WordPress Benchmark scores are good though.
Now that we’ve dealt with performance, let’s see how easy Cloudron is to use!
Fine usability, but not the best
The interface of Cloudron is clear and easy to use while looking slightly outdated. Adding support for additional domains is a bit odd and while setting up something like staging is possible, it’s a bit clumsy in my opinion.
Another aspect is that you have to manage Cloudron per server. While you can see all the connected servers in your Cloudron account, there is not a single place to manage all apps and servers.
Managing applications and server
User and access manager
Cloudron offers an access manager for each application that is hosted on the platform. You can either limit an application to a certain user or to a certain group (of users).
Browser-based terminal and file manager
As mentioned and shown before, Cloudron offers a terminal inside the browser. For example, this makes it very easy to do some system administration using WP-CLI.
In addition, Cloudron has a browser-based file manager to quickly manage and add files. Again pretty useful if you just want to change some things and don’t want to use SFTP.
Cloudron supports hosting applications on multiple domains, although it is not that straightforward. You may expect that you have to add domains to certain applications.
But before you can do that, you need to connect the domain under your user accounts, Domain and Certs settings. In addition, multiple domains are only supported by paid plans.
After adding another domain to your account, you need to move over to the application and can now select it to use that domain for hosting the application (or select it when adding a new application).
Backups, cloning & staging
As I said earlier, Cloudron does support local and remote backups. You can set a custom backup interval and also make backups on demand.
Moreover, the backup functionality can be used to clone applications. And with a bit of creativity, you can use the clone functionality as a staging functionality. Clone an app, do some changes on the cloned app and test it, and finally clone it back to the original app (although I’m not sure if that works).
It’s kind of staging, but not as nice as other platforms where you even can indicate to only push files or a database.
Know what is happening
Both on the application level, as platform level, Cloudron logs what is happening. You can also see the latest events, such as new application installations or changes in settings in Cloudron itself.
I’ve already spoken about Features, Performance and usability. Support is next for this Cloudron Review!
Okay support, especially the community
So what are my conclusions on support from this Cloudron review?
I contacted Cloudron support for a couple of WordPress related questions but was referred to the Forum. I’ve experienced much better support with other platforms, but the community is actually quite active and the documentation is great.
Email/ticker based support
I submitted a ticket and got an answer in 172 minutes. It’s not a really bad response time, but not very fast either.
However, the response directed me towards the community forum for answering my questions and did not solve my issues (and the issues were not discussed on the form either).
One of the issues was that Cloudron does not support WordPress multisite out of the box, which in my opinion should be supported. Unfortunately, no solution was given for this.
Don’t expect any support on the free plans outside of the community.
Great community forum
Cloudron has a very active community forum with a load of interactivity and users helping each other. Most of the topics I checked had multiple replies and/or solutions, which is a great indicator.
There is also a specific section for WordPress related questions.
Good and clear documentation
Personally, I think Cloudron has extensive and clear documentation. It’s easy to navigate through and covers most things you need to know when using Cloudron. There’s also some in-depth information on security practices.
Now that we’ve reviewed the support, let’s move to the last criteria: pricing!
Good (or okay…) pricing
The Cloudron free offering is excellent and very interesting. However, if you want to host more than 2 applications on a server, it gets much more expensive.
Having said that, Cloudron is still infinitely cheaper than most Managed WordPress hosting providers for what you get. But obviously, you’re responsible for managing your apps and servers.
Pricing Plans for Cloudron
Cloudron offers three pricing plans:
|Free||Premium ($15 a month)||Premium Plus ($60 a month)|
|2 apps||Unlimited apps||Unlimited apps|
|20 users||Unlimited users||Unlimited users|
|20 mailboxes||Unlimited mailboxes||Unlimited mailboxes|
|Forum Support||Email support||Priority support|
The biggest caveat in terms of pricing is that you pay a license per server, which makes Cloudron expensive if you run many premium servers.
Top 5 Cloudron Alternatives
If you consider the sheer amount of apps Cloudron can offer, there are not so many alternatives that I reviewed. The closest alternatives would be CyberPanel or other panels such cPanel.
If you use Cloudron for solely hosting WordPress (which this site is about), there are a couple of good alternatives. Here’s the top 5:
Cloudron Review Conclusion
Phew, how did you like it so far? I have come to the end of this Cloudron review. Hopefully, I could convince you (or not) to try out Cloudron and inform you if it would be a good fit.
I do think Cloudron is a great platform for hosting multiple kinds of open-source apps, including WordPress. One of the biggest strengths of Cloudron, in my opinion, is that it offers so many apps that you can install that it covers almost any IT requirements an organization would need. Moreover, it is built solidly in terms of security.
However, in this article, I also consider Cloudron from a WordPress perspective and I think a couple of competitors are better suited towards hosting WordPress, providing better support, pricing, performance and features.
So, do you need to host multiple kinds of apps as provided by Cloudron? It’s really something worth trying. Are you focusing on WordPress or custom (PHP) apps only? There are some other good alternatives that I mentioned earlier in this article.