Aelia.co is an ISV (Independent Software Developer) founded in 2013 that specializes in the development of solutions for WooCommerce and Easy Digital Downloads. Its founder, Diego Zanella, started his career in software development in 1998.
After developing solutions in a variety of fields, ranging from chemical plants to steel factories, to wineries, to social networks, Diego Zanella spotted a gap in the ecommerce market in 2013.
The lack of a solution to cover that gap became a challenge, then an opportunity that led to the creation of Aelia.co and the release of ecommerce plugins that would bring significant innovations to WooCommerce shops worldwide.
Mansoor: Could you please tell us how did you come across Cloudways and what was your first impression?
Diego: I came across Cloudways after seeing one of their ads. When I saw that they offered a choice of providers with additional management tools, I decided to take advantage of their trial period (and discount coupon). The first impression was very positive, in fact, we moved our site to Cloudways several months ahead of the planned date.
Mansoor: Oh, this seems you had really an amazing experience when you moved to Cloudways. What were the reasons you chose Cloudways in the first place?
Diego: At the beginning of 2021, I was looking for a new “home” for our website after having encountered serious technical difficulties with the hosting provider we used at the time. To give credit where credit is due, the previous hosting provider did a good job for a few years, but their reliability had sharply declined, and so did the quality of their customer service.
In some ways, Aelia.co is not the typical Cloudways customer. Unlike others, we develop plugins and custom solutions that plug into an existing website. Due to that, most of our clients come to us when they already have an ecommerce store up and running. Hence, they already have a hosting package.
Another aspect that makes us more “peculiar” is that we are the first users of our own products. Our main plugins, the Aelia Currency Switcher, Aelia Tax Display by Country, and Aelia EU VAT Assistant were initially developed for our own use and became commercial products at a later stage. We don’t just deliver our solutions to our customers, we are our own customers.
This gives us a deep insight into how our products perform and what’s needed to offer an optimal experience to our customers, i.e, the merchants who own the ecommerce stores and the customers who will actually buy from the ecommerce stores. This is where a good hosting provider plays a critical role.
On average, WooCommerce stores are more complex than a simple portfolio or brochure site. The core ecommerce features are extended with payment gateways, external integrations, such as catalogs, or dropshipping, and plugins like the one we develop at Aelia, to handle multi-currency sales and taxes. Due to that, the hosting provider must offer a package that covers several critical areas:
- Fast processing, via the proper allocation of CPU and memory resources, as well as caching.
- Easy yet flexible management, via a user interface that allows but doesn’t require command-line tools.
- Troubleshooting tools, such as logs, or preferably debugging tools like Xdebug (a must for developers).
Our tests indicated that Cloudways covers all of the above.
The performance turned out to be excellent, even on the cheapest plan (yes, we tried, because some of our clients have a small budget). The caching system they use (Varnish) is practically an industry standard. Not only is it fast, but via their Advanced Support Addon, the Cloudways Team can help configure additional modules and rules. This is of crucial importance for multi-currency shops that receive a high volume of traffic. A properly configured Varnish server can serve country-specific and currency-specific content to customers all over the world with minimum latency.
It took some time to get used to the Cloudways control panel for servers and applications, but we got up to speed fairly quickly. In fact, I’m a good example of what happens when a platform is so easy to use that one gets carried away.
I like “hands-on” work, so I experimented with Cloudways Platform personally. When I tried to spin up the first server and application instance, I thought I could just rush through the setup, and ignored the fact that some key steps must be completed sequentially (i.e., you MUST wait for one to finish, before starting the next one). This was clearly explained in the documentation, but, as we all know, developers don’t read manuals. Plus, I might be related to Peregrine Took – I have to tinker with everything!
As a result, I started a couple of tasks in parallel and ended up losing track of what I was doing. Despite that, I didn’t have to restart the setup, nor “wipe” the server. The control panel made it really easy to undo all the tasks I performed incorrectly, and bring the server to a normal status.
After my error (perfectly avoidable, if I had followed the instructions), I simply repeated the same steps, one at a time, and everything went smoothly. I was able to migrate the Aelia website to Cloudways, with all its media (images, files, etc) in less than 3 hours. That time includes the learning phase, my unnecessary tinkering 😅, the time to fix my mistakes, and finally, performing the migration.
Since Cloudways offer a site migration, service so that you don’t have to worry about any of the above. I highly recommend taking advantage of that service to save time. In my case, I did the migration myself because I wanted to get familiar with the manual process, in case I would have to help our customers with it.
Our website is stable and we didn’t need to troubleshoot any issue on it. However, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Cloudways offers the possibility to easily enable Xdebug on their servers. That’s a powerful debugging tool, which can save hours of debugging by allowing developers to inspect the behavior of a site, step by step. I haven’t seen such a feature being offered by many hosting providers, I’m really pleased to have it available.
Mansoor: What other possible solutions were you considering before choosing Cloudways?
Diego: Before choosing Cloudways, I evaluated other hosting providers. There are a couple of them who offer good packages, but the prices are significantly higher due to the presence of services that Aelia.co would not require.
Mansoor: How did Cloudways help you to get the outcome you wanted? Did “faster website, more conversions” work for Aelia.co?
Faster website, more conversions. You can’t get this with entry-level features
Cloudways puts you in the driver’s seat, so you get the website and results you want
Diego: After the migration to Cloudways, I immediately noticed that the website got faster. We are still measuring our increase in the conversion rate, but leaving that aside, the management of the website became much easier due to faster response time.
Mansoor: What are the features or services you like and how they help you during your business peak hours?
Diego: Fast performance, flexible caching, and again, the presence of a troubleshooting tool like Xdebug were strong selling points. I also liked the interaction with the Cloudways support team. I contacted them several times before getting a hosting plan from them and also during the migration process. They were always polite and ready to help.
Our customers are spread around the world, therefore, the traffic reaching our site is fairly homogeneous throughout the day. We could say that “every hour is a peak hour”. After migrating to Cloudways, our site has been running strong without slowdowns or reachability issues.
Mansoor: What business processes did Cloudways enhance for Aelia.co and how much it saved your time and cost?
Diego: As mentioned earlier, we run a multi-currency WooCommerce store, through which we sell our WooCommerce plugins. Our site performs operations such as geolocation, currency conversions, software license management, and more, 24/7. Thanks to the powerful servers, flexible caching options, and easy scalability, all these features run faster without any downtime.
In terms of cost, even factoring in the additional fees for frequent, off-site backups (a must, when one runs an ecommerce), we are now spending less than half of what we were spending earlier. That’s an excellent deal!
Mansoor: What would you tell others who might be considering Cloudways? Why would you recommend the services we offer?
Diego: I will definitely propose Cloudways to any of our customers who are looking for a reliable and flexible hosting provider to run our solutions. If I were to choose only three reasons for that, they would be performance, manageability, and flexibility.
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Passionate about technology, entrepreneurship, and marketing, Mansoor Ahmed Khan is in computing since he knows how to type on a keyboard. His daily life is rocked by his family, projects, and his screen. Probably in this order, he likes to be convinced at least. You can reach out to him at [email protected]