Liquid Web Cloud Sites Review

Liquid Web Cloud SitesWondering if Liquid Web Cloud Sites is right for you? I had been using the Rackspace Cloud Sites service since late 2012 and wrote a review back in May 2013. Since then, Rackspace sold Cloud Sites to Liquid Web and fully transitioned to them in early 2017. The service is now offered as Cloud Sites powered by Liquid Web. I still use/pay for this service and below is my Liquid Web Cloud Sites Review. This is not an endorsement and I’m not being compensated. I hope it will help you make an informed decision — maybe it will save you a bit of time and frustration.

First, accept that your website will “go down” occasionally.

Before you make a drastic move and incur the increased web hosting costs, you need to be realistic and accept that websites “will go down” from time-to-time for many reasons. Generally there can be a:

  • Problem with the domain name server pointing to your web hosting.
  • Problem with the web hosting — hardware, software, dramatic traffic spike, etc.
  • Problem with the connection between the name server resolving to the web hosting.
  • Or sometimes it can be a human error — misconfigured setting or incorrect character in a line of code.

The point is there isn’t any perfect solution for small business website hosting. All you can do is try to find the right combination for your needs.

I was frustrated that the hosting company I’ve been using for three years had at least two serious outages per month for a year and a half. Keep in mind that VPS hosting starts around $40/month and up depending on the configuration. Finally I got super angry and started a search for a new web hosting provider. There are so many affiliate link “review” websites and biased reviews that make it difficult to find authentic opinions from real business owners and website managers.

After much research, I settled on Rackspace Cloud Sites back in 2012. Used it reliably for several years with as many as 80 websites. At $150/month it’s actually not that much more expensive than what I had been spending collectively. Stability/reliability is what I’m after. Then, Rackspace sold the service to Liquid Web. So far no problems. The final transition in early 2017 went smooth from my perspective.

Liquid Web Cloud Sites Positive Features

Cloud Sites powered by Liquid Web

  • You can setup sub-Accounts to manage your Clients and websites separately. If you have multiple clients, create a sub account for client. Within a sub account you can set up multiple websites.
  • You can configure a website for either:
    Linux / Apache / PHP 7
    Windows / IIS 8.5 / CLR4 (.NET 4.7) or some prior versions
  • They have a one click install ready to install the latest build of open source Content Management Systems (CMS) / applications: WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, MediaWiki, phpBB.
  • If you plan to install and run WordPress, the default database is MariaDB 10.1 (a suitable alternative for the typical MySQL).
  • You have the option to use Liquid Web’s Name Servers, in case you don’t want to use your domain registrar or a service like CloudFlare.
  • Creating a Cron job is easier to link to a script rather than recreating the same script in each website you set up.
  • Liquid Web offers an easy to enable Backup solution. Free for first website, tiered pricing for additional websites and databases.
    Personally, I use the paid BackupBuddy WordPress plugin, make local backup copies and automatically send copies to another online data storage solution for redundancy and peace of mind.

Liquid Web Cloud Sites and WordPress

WordPress Open Source Content Management System (CMS)Most of the websites we develop are based on LAMP (Linux/Apache/MySQL/PHP). The majority use WordPress as a Content Management System (CMS).

Some important things to keep in mind about managing WordPress websites on Liquid Web Cloud Sites:

  • There’s no comprehensive cPanel like you might find with a VPS.
  • Generally no easy way to make backups. You’ll need to install a WordPress plugin like BackupBuddy. Or set up a Cron Job and Perl script if you have the skills.
  • No web-based file manager, which is frustrating because…
  • …unzipping/uncompressing a file is a hassle. You’d have to create a script or contact customer support to do it.
  • Speed has always been a problem, both on the Liquid Web Cloud Sites Dashboard and when the WordPress websites seem to load/render slowly. You should test with a performance monitoring tool and try to optimize your WordPress settings, images and content.
  • Rackspace used to have detailed config instructions for popular caching plugins like WP SuperCache or W3 Total Control to speed up website performance for more complex or heavy traffic WordPress websites. You’ll have to test for yourself. You could also use Cloudflare.
  • Compute Cycles (CC) is something to monitor. I’ve had problems in the past with unexpected surges and Rackspace would charge me for overages. Haven’t had that problem yet with Liquid Web.

If you intend to install WordPress website on Liquid Web Cloud Sites, be sure to review the current WordPress technical requirements.

One more thing about speed… it is so critical to serve up pages quickly. Google expects it. Users expect it.

Our WordPress websites are running much faster on PHP 7 and haven’t had any problems using MariaDB in place of MySQL. If you are currently having slow WordPress website problems, you may want to first check if your hosting is still running PHP 5.x or earlier. Updating to PHP 7 is a requirement for WordPress and more advanced frameworks/themes. You should see a significant speed improvement after updating to PHP 7.

SSL

One thing I have not yet done is to successfully install an SSL Certificate on Cloud Sites. Encrypting sensitive user data is increasingly important. An SSL Certificate is often $70-100/yr or more depending on the issuing source. There are solutions like Let’s Encrypt that are making it more economical but the learning curve is high. I had a difficult experience with getting a third-party cert functioning with Cloud Sites, so I gave up and hosted that particular website on a VPS instead. Since then, anytime I’ve needed a similar setup, I take the easy way out and host/install on a VPS because I save time and know the process. Doesn’t mean you can’t do it on Cloud Sites. I just haven’t put sufficient time towards it again. Perhaps I will some time in the near future; and I’ll update this when I have something new to report on that topic. Meanwhile, you can check up on Liquid Web SSL here.

Liquid Web Customer Support

So far, the Liquid Web phone and chat support I’ve used has been sufficient. Their online Help section has many articles that solve my questions first without the need to talk to anyone.

How to make sure your website is live.

You should have some sort of website monitoring to alert you in case your website goes down or is inaccessible. There are many solutions available to fit your needs and budget. Here are just a few to get you started:

  • My favorite, Pingdom offers an annual flat rate fee for monitoring websites or IP addresses. They can ping your website from servers around the world. I set it up so that if a website fails to respond after 2 consecutive pings five minutes apart, an alert is sent to me.
  • Monative offers a similar solution and is worth checking out.
  • Rackspace offers a solution called Rackspace Cloud Monitoring, but I haven’t used it. I haven’t seen a similar service offered by Liquid Web.
  • A free solution is to set up a daily Intelligence Alert in Google Analytics to notify you by email or text message if your website traffic falls below a standard norm. But you’ll only get an alert once per day.

How to move a WordPress website to Liquid Web Cloud Sites

I use BackupBuddy to migrate each WordPress website from one host to another — it saves me an enormous amount of time and hassle. It’s user friendly and also has a built-in database find/replace function.

In conclusion:

$150/month for Liquid Web Cloud Sites is considerably more expensive than $40+/mth VPS/VDS, or super cheap, poor performing Shared Hosting. But if you host many websites and don’t need cPanel administrative access, Cloud Sites may be an excellent solution for you.

So far Liquid Web (since being purchased from Rackspace) has been a reliable solution for our specific needs — hosting multiple WordPress websites. It has served well. Like all services, it isn’t perfect and has had an occasional hiccup. Their support seems to be proactively on top of problems. I still use other tools proactively to cache web content and monitor uptime.

Hope this Liquid Web Cloud Sites review was helpful. Please share your experience with Liquid Web in the comments below. Thanks.

-Roland

About the Author:

Roland Reinhart is a Digital Marketing Consultant in NJ specializing in digital marketing for your business/organization. Contact Roland about Website Design, Search Engine Optimization, PPC Advertising, Email Marketing, Video and more. Call (908) 344-5688.

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