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Network Dynamics and Cloudways: A Match That Benefits Everyone

Updated on September 25, 2021

13 Min Read
Network Dynamics

Network Dynamics started out in 2005, with a team of specialized technicians with more than 35 years of total experience in computer networks and project management in Greece and England.

Today, they offer solutions and technical support in real-time, and at a very competitive cost (when compared to maintaining a technical support department by the client themselves).

Let’s dive deeper into Network Dynamics’s story.

Cloudways: Hello George, tell us a little bit about Network Dynamics. How and when did you start? What are some of the projects that you are proud of?

George: Network Dynamics started over 15 years ago in Greece as an IT company with only a couple of network engineers, catering to the needs of small and medium companies that wanted to maintain an internal IT infrastructure without the costs of an IT department.

We have been able to retain and get new clients because of our core philosophy and business values

  1. To approach each client as a unique entity with a unique problem providing bespoke solutions.
  2.  Building trust and friendly relationships with our clientele
  3.  Providing transparent pricing to our services

Many of our clientele started asking for more services that were outside of the original scope of the company. Thus around 6 – 7 years ago we started a new department offering web and marketing solutions.

15 years later and we offer a variety of services to our customers from IT support, cloud services, project management to custom software solutions, online marketing, and of course website and ecommerce development using WordPress and WooCommerce, with over 30 employees in Greece and around the globe.

I don’t want to sound corny (I’m not actually allowed to discuss any of our customers) but the project we are all proudest of is our own company, succeeding in a country during a time of deep economic crisis with no safety nets, using our hard work and passion for what we do to propel us.

Cloudways: Why did you choose Cloudways? Describe your selection process and what criteria you were looking for. What made our solution stand out over others that you researched?

George: Our selection process was a huge and long project that spanned around 6 months. Prior to Cloudways, we had our own dedicated server which had 2 major deficiencies, it cost a lot more than what we were using it for, and we had to maintain it ourselves.

When we started looking at a new solution it corresponded with a cultural and commercial change that we wanted to introduce to our department for quite a while. Most agencies focus on the design and user experience of the website or e-shop, so wanting to diversify from a very competitive market we started looking into ways we could provide alternative sales opportunities.

Over the years there were a lot of cases where our team was hired to fix broken and abandoned websites, improve the performance of poorly built websites, or clean hacked WordPress sites. So, we decided to build our service around security, performance, and constant maintenance.

Thus, began the research for a new hosting solution that would provide a managed environment (so we wouldn’t have to do it ourselves), that was secure, fast, reliable, scalable, and last but not least cost-effective.

We looked and tried every possible solution, there are a lot of good hosting companies out there but none of them ticked all the boxes in our checklist.

For example, we looked into the big three, AWS, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure, they have almost everything, security, speed, scalability, etc. but it was not a cost-effective solution especially for small websites.

We also investigated managed WordPress hosting solutions like Siteground and WP Engine, but we weren’t happy with the hardware specs of their solutions or their pricing. They are the opposite of my previous example, they are only good for very small websites with no flexibility for bigger projects. see siteground alternative

After extended research and a lot of disappointment, it was like arriving in the promised land when we first tried out Cloudways. Concept wise it was everything that we were looking for, but we had to test it first. I still remember it like yesterday when I copied a website from our web server (a monstrosity of 12 cores and 48 gigs of RAM) to a small Cloudways managed server and ran a speed test on both of them to see the difference. The first impressions were stunning, the website was almost twice as fast with very little optimization.

Cloudways: How long have you been with Cloudways? What sort of things does Cloudways help Network Dynamics with?

George: We have been working with Cloudways for over a year now and we are looking forward to many more years to come.

At the highest level (without delving into technical stuff) Cloudways helped us in two major ways.

1) Improve productivity, from handling all the technical stuff regarding the infrastructure to the easy migration process, so we can focus on what we do best, writing code. Since we switched to Cloudways we have seen a positive increase in our productivity. The numbers speak for themselves. When we first started with Cloudways we migrated our existing active projects from our old server, which were around 20 – 25 websites, and a year later we have almost doubled that number.

2) Improve the service quality provided to the end client. In our line of work, it is easy to convert new leads to customers but it is difficult to keep them coming back because it is a highly competitive market, customers jump from agency to agency without a second thought. So, providing an overall good service plays a major role if you want your customers to come back for their next project.  

Cloudways: How did Cloudways help you resolve your problems? What do you think about the performance, speed, and security offered by Cloudways?

George: I could ramble on for hours on how important performance speed and security are for a website, but I will try to keep it short.

Starting with security, I cannot stress enough how vulnerable and exposed any website/server actually is on the internet. While running our own infrastructure for about 2 years, the number of attacks our hardware and software firewalls had to push back every day was just staggering. And not being security experts ourselves, we were always concerned that we might have missed something, or something could go wrong and compromise the entire system.

By switching to Cloudways we resolved two major problems at once. The first major problem was that now the security of the system was managed by a skilled team that knows what they are doing. And second, because of the cloud infrastructure, we can easily sandbox each website on its own server without having the fear that one mistake from a client’s user could become a problem for the entire infrastructure or our entire clientele.

Now regarding performance, even if you write the best and most optimized PHP code ever, you can only be as performant as the underlying infrastructure allows you to be since much of the work is done on a  web service level. This is a huge problem in general since most of the hosting solutions are not configured for performance by default, and some cheap shared hosting cannot be configured at all.

Unless of course, you are using Cloudways with the whole stack optimized for performance by default. I have worked with many different hosting solutions over the years and Cloudways is the first one I have encountered so far that has preconfigured PHP-FPM as the default PHP handler. Well, the second actually, the first one was a small web server a friend of mine was managing but that does not really count. Also, the one-click CDN installation is a nice touch since you can offload a ton of workload from your server in a few seconds without any extra configuration.

Finally, let us talk about speed. Speed matters over the internet, even nowadays when we have left the days of 33.6k and 56k far behind us with fiber optics and 5G. With most of the modern world leaving their desktops and their laptops behind and using the internet over their phone constantly on the go, speed is more relevant than ever.

Every major research has shown that the conversion rate of a visitor to a customer on an e-commerce website is tightly correlated to the response time of the service. Also, search engines really push for fast websites, it is a huge factor in your website’s SEO, even regarding paid promotion. If your website is not responding fast enough you will not get the best spot on Google ads or the best time slot and you are practically flushing money down the drain. So, in conclusion, time speed is money.

Optimizing an open-source CMS like WordPress for speed can be done on many layers and in many different ways and most of the time, it takes a little bit of trial and error to fine-tune everything. I really like Cloudways approach on speed optimization because it is really simple in contrast with most speed optimization plugins, Cloudways Breeze may not offer a ton of customizability and depth but it is lightweight and can optimize the website in just a few clicks. For me personally, it is a great timesaver to have a more than decent speed boost on a website without having to spend hours tweaking properties and settings until you reach a working solution.

Cloudways: Share your experience with WordPress, PHP, & WooCommerce. How challenging it is to optimize them for performance? How many of your clients are hosted on Cloudways?

George: Right now, I think most of our active clients (around 50 websites) are hosted in Cloudways with only a few exceptions (around 4 – 5 from the top of my head) from customers with their own infrastructure.

About PHP and WordPress, well, that is something we could talk about for hours, days even.

I think PHP is a very misunderstood and underrated programming language. Many argue that it is a poorly optimized language but in reality, the problem lies in the developer because in PHP it is very easy to write bad code. Don’t get me wrong we’ve all written really bad code in PHP. I don’t exclude myself. After a long day at work when you just want something to work and go home, it is very easy to write lousy code that just works.

On the other hand, if you know what you are doing, PHP can be a powerful tool for your work and you can optimize your code in great depth.

Another issue with PHP optimization is that on some level you need to have an under the hood knowledge of the PHP stack because much of the optimization process is done at the webserver and the PHP handler layer and not in your code. This is an issue because most developers do not really want to dig deeper than what they need to in order to write code.

Now regarding WordPress, at the early stages of my career, I used to work with Joomla before switching to WordPress and I really loved it back then. The clean MVC design, the out of the box customization of the user, menus, and modules, the clarity of the database architecture, etc., was a great tool for a developer to work with. When I first encountered WordPress, I was really confused with the loop thingy and the simplistic approach of the CMS. I was laughing at it regarding myself as a “superior being ” for working with Joomla, but I was completely wrong.

Now that I am older and wiser, I can see clearly why WordPress is so popular and it is the most used CMS on the internet. From a developer’s perspective, its unique approach might be a deficiency and may sometimes restrict you on how you can do certain things but for the average user, blogger, shop manager, it is much easier to work with and without convoluted menus, properties, options, etc.

Regarding WordPress and WooCommerce optimization as with any open-source CMS in the market, there are pros and cons.

In my experience, it is really easy to optimize WordPress on the code level to extreme lengths (without even writing a single line of code, there are great plugins out there both free and premium). But even if you want to write it yourself you can do great things without much work. For example, on a project we are working on right now we scored 99/100 in a speed test without even turning on any cache or using CDN for static resources.

On the other hand, it is almost impossible to do it on the database level because every major aspect of the CMS, content, settings, properties, etc., are cramped in 4 – 5 tables which in a medium or large website,  size-wise gets out of control really fast. Plus, even though under the hood WordPress executes complex queries to get the data requested, it still needs multiple queries for every single page, especially if you are using plugins like ACF Pro or various page and form builders.

I know you can overcome these issues using database optimization plugins and query caching like Redis, or by writing all the queries yourself, but the perfectionist inside me would prefer a cleaner approach like Joomla for example where each component has its own tables to work with.

Ok, I think it is time for me to stop blabbering and move on to the next question.

Cloudways: Which hosting company were you using before Cloudways and what limitations made you switch? When did you first come to know about Cloudways?

George: Before Cloudways we were running our own dedicated server on Hetzner. It was a great server and having complete access to the infrastructure allowed us to tweak the system on a deeper level than having a restrictive terminal to work with, but it came with a lot of problems and a lot more responsibilities.

First of all with a dedicated machine you usually pay much more than what you actually use, because physical machines are not as easily scalable as cloud servers. You have to plan ahead and reserve resources that you may need later down the road, or may never actually need at all.

Also, one big caveat with a dedicated server is that you have to build and maintain it yourself, from monitoring backups and disk spaces, checking for updates to fixing OS-level issues, system incompatibilities, etc. This is a hard task for a purely dev-oriented team to keep up with. We had to spend many sleepless nights reading and experimenting on how to set up and configure services like Varnish and NGINX, how to create automation, how to create firewall rules and security configurations etc.

Finally and most importantly, when everything goes wrong and your server goes down (and it is not a matter of if but when), you are on your own, with no real technical support, just your own skills and helpful strangers on the internet to help you.

Cloudways: In terms of a client + agency experience, is there a particular customer who faced a challenge that Cloudways helped to resolve?

George: From the top of my head, one recent example is regarding a client with a small e-shop who hired an Instagram influencer to boost its sales and all hell broke loose. Before the influencer campaign, the shop had around 800-1000 visitors per day which suddenly reached  300 – 400 simultaneous visitors per minute for an entire week.

Because of poor communication, we had to scale up the server while all these users were online shopping. As a result of the very high traffic and the simultaneous scaling of the server to correspond with the demand, it crashed and went offline with our entire team going into panic mode.

Thankfully Cloudways live support took over and fixed the issue within a matter of minutes, saving the customers’ campaign and our mental health.

Cloudways: What are the three most used features on Cloudways that help increase productivity or that you find very useful?

George: Besides all the major issues Cloudways helped us overcome, for me personally in my daily life what matters most is the small things that make your work a little bit easier.

For example, the ability to create a clone of a running website just in a few clicks, test something, and if it works push it back to production without any downtime or strange conflicts between dev – staging – production environments.

Another example of a relatively recent addition is the ability to view each website’s error logs directly from the terminal without the need to open an FTP or SSH connection.

And finally, the one-click backup and restore, which I don’t think I need to explain why everyone needs something like this that just works because in difficult situations can really save the day.

Cloudways: It sounds like the service and support you get from Cloudways has been instrumental in helping your business grow?

George:  Definitely, as I mentioned before since we migrated to Cloudways we have almost doubled our active projects. Besides the technical upgrade of our service and the increase in productivity, it also helped in shaping our overall approach to each project. We made performance, speed, and security the cornerstone of all of our projects and included all of Cloudways’ available features in our development process.

Cloudways: What are five things that you think we do better than any other WordPress hosting provider and why would you recommend your customers to use Cloudways?

George: First of all, I think right now Cloudways is the most value for money hosting platform you can find. Most clients have no idea how important good hosting is and they always go for the cheapest solution possible. By providing a good solution at a reasonable price it is a win-win situation that keeps the client happy and the developer sleeping better.

Then there’s the live support service, whenever a problem arises there is someone there with the appropriate background, who can help you fix it. Every time I needed someone to help me with a problem or answer a simple question I didn’t have to wait for more than a couple of minutes.

Another great feature is the instant vertical scaling, it is something you don’t usually think about until you need it, and instead of being a few clicks away, you have to contact a sales department or wait for a physical migration of your system. One of the features I would really love to see at some point in the future in Cloudways is horizontal scaling (sometimes multiple instances are better than beefing up a single server) or regional replication to provide the closest version of the website to the user’s location.

Also, the overall design of the infrastructure is very stable and secure, and most importantly out of the box. As a developer or user, you don’t have to worry about anything regarding the underline system.

And last but not least all the extra goodies that come with Cloudways like the easy to integrate CDN, the automated offsite backups, the cloning of websites or entire servers, etc.

Finally, I would like to mention that it is great to have the ability to host other CMS or custom projects, which most managed WordPress hosting providers do not allow or simply do not have that capability.

  1. At some point in the future, I would also love to see the ability to host .Net core projects

Cloudways: It would be great if you can share some pictures (Stats, performance, team, etc)

George: Here are a few mockups from some of our latest projects, some of them are online some of them are still in production.

bioergex

humana

 

vaslands.

vogmarket

 

Cloudways: To increase the credibility of the case study, can you please provide statistics and examples.  

George: The following example is from 3 different websites which are built by roughly the same template, plugins, functionalities, and sizes. The first one is on the client’s dedicated server, the second is on a shared hosting package and the last one is on a Cloudways server.

comperision

Also, right now we are developing our own plugins and templates so we can optimize the loading times even more, by reducing the requests.**

cache comperision

*The data is provided by Pingdom.com with speed tests from pingdom’s server in Frankfurt Germany and all of the examples are also hosted in Germany.

**The following data are providing from work in progress and from a small testing server without the proper hardware for a production environment.

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Saud Razzak

Saud is the WordPress Community Manager at Cloudways - A Managed WooCommerce Hosting Platform. Saud is responsible for creating buzz, spread knowledge, and educate the people about WordPress in the Community around the globe. In his free time, he likes to play cricket and learn new things on the Internet. You can email him at [email protected]

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