Cloud Hosting for PHP Applications
Table of Contents
- Best Cloud Hosting Solutions for Startups
- Best Cloud Hosting Solutions for Growing Apps
- Best Cloud Hosting Solution for Large-Scale Enterprise
- Cloud Providers
- Managed Cloud Services
- Classic Shared & Dedicated Services
Comparing the Major Cloud Providers
Amazon Web Services
Google Cloud Platform
Serverless App Services
Configuration provides excellent pricing at large scale. Lack of expertise leads to high cloud bills
GCP is the least expensive on service level but lacks granularity of AWS
Azure pricing is best for enterprise level applications. Startups and smaller apps will better with other clouds
Best Cloud PHP Hosting Solutions for SAAS Startups
Google Cloud Run, App Engine & AWS App Runner are all excellent solutions for setting up your PHP startup app directly into a large cloud provider. GCP gets the nudge for the quickest to setup as you don’t have to worry about VPC & networking. On the other hand, you may still end up using AWS services. App Runner & Beanstalk are excellent choices for startups in AWS. Personally, I’m not a fan of Azure for startups as its not their primary market.
Winners for Startup Cloud Hosting
Sample Cloud Hosting Options for Startups
- Containerized: AWS App Runner, Google Cloud Run, Azure Container Apps
- Traditional: Digital Ocean Droplet, AWS EC2, GCP Compute & Azure VM
- Containerized + Infra Managed: AWS + WSP-AWS
- Laravel Containerized + Infra Managed: AWS + Laravel Vapor
- Traditional + Infra Managed: AWS Elastic Beanstalk
- Laravel Traditional + Infra Managed: AWS + Laravel Forge
Best PHP Cloud Hosting Solutions for Growing PHP Web Applications
Mid-size PHP applications can probably use a service like AWS ECS, GCP Cloud Run, or Azure Container Apps if they use containers. Traditionally deployed PHP apps will probably be best in AWS Beanstalk, GCP App Engine or Azure App Services. I do think I’d recommend Azure over AWS at this size if not using container services.
I do think that managed/productized services are a great fit for mid-size applications. Cloudways, Kinsta, and WPengine are built to really fit the needs of these size organizations. They are able to handle the scaling without the necessary human resources.
Winners for Mid-Size Cloud Hosting
- AWS (with containers) Azure (without containers)
- Azure (with containers) AWS (without containers)
Sample Cloud Hosting Options for Mid-Size Applications
- Containerized (any framework): AWS Elastic Container Service, Azure Container Apps, GCP Cloud Run
- Traditional: AWS EC2 + Beanstalk, GCP Compute Engine, Azure VM
- Traditional + Infra Managed: AWS or DigitalOcean + CloudWays, GCP + Kinsta
- Containerized + Infra Managed: Terraform + Service Provider
Best PHP Cloud Hosting Solutions for Enterprise & Large-Scale Applications
Enterprise & Large Scale applications can require a high level of configuration. Companies may have in-house platform teams or outsource to a managed service provider. They will be using infrastructure as code tools like Terraform to manage the environment and then probably deploy into a Kubernetes cluster or servers with autoscaling groups.
AWS & Azure are the clear winners in this category. AWS has such a large ecosystem and scale. Microsoft has built Azure to compete at this level. I wouldn’t recommend GCP at this scale unless you’ve grown inside their ecosystem.
Winners for Enterprise Cloud Hosting
Sample Cloud Hosting Options for Enterprise Applications
- Containerized (any framework): AWS Elastic Kubernetes Service, Azure Kubernetes Service, GCP Kubernetes Engine
- Traditional: AWS EC2 + Autoscaling Groups
- Infra Management: Terraform and/or Service Provider
Difference between Cloud Hosting vs Shared / Dedicated Hosting
The difference between Cloud hosting vs other options is the server & infrastructure management. You get partitioned space between many servers with cloud hosting vs either shared or full space on a single server. This model gives you near-limitless scale & flexibility in pricing.
- Server Management
- Flexible Pricing
Shared Hosting: Shared space on a single server for the cheapest costs
Shared hosting means that your PHP app will live on the same single server as other websites. This provides the cheapest available costs and simplest configurations. It also
Dedicated VPS Hosting: Single dedicated server to provide desired security & configuration
Dedicated virtual private servers (VPS) hosting offers you the most control outside of owning your own server. You are very much renting a full server in a data center. This became a really popular option in the late 90s & early 2000s before the popularity of cloud hosting became abundant. The benefits of dedicated hosting are that you’re not dependent on someone else configuring the server & you don’t have to worry about another website taking all of the resources.
PHP Cloud Hosting Options Ranked
Winner: AWS Cloud Hosting
AWS is an excellent service to host your PHP web application. They are generally considered too complex for simple web applications but this isn’t actually true. You can host a PHP app on AWS in as little as 15 minutes with App Runner (Docker container) and Beanstalk (traditional server) and it can scale to very large use cases. You also get the benefit of easily integrating into the large AWS ecosystem
Cloud Hosting PHP Options on AWS
- Standard EC2 (server) with autoscaling groups: The most complex
- AWS Elastic Beanstalk: Good for getting started
- AWS Elastic Container Service (ECS): Good for growing & complex applications
- AWS Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS): Good for scaling with open source
- AWS App Runner: Simplest & Fast serverless solution
Reasons to Choose AWS
Market Size & Breadth of Options.
AWS is the big giant gorilla when it comes to application hosting. They have been around as a cloud provider before the other big 2 Microsoft & Google. They officially launched in the mid-2000s & are significantly larger in market share than the other 2. This headstart means that they have more services, regions, data centers, offerings, and more.
You won’t have to worry about finding developers or resources in this cloud provider as they are everywhere. They have a very successful ecosystem & partnership network. There is definitely something valuable to be said about working with the biggest name in the game.
Reasons to Avoid AWS
You can do pretty much anything in AWS and fit this environment to your desires. Ok, I know. that sounds like a positive. Why wouldn’t you want that level of configuration? Well, it is a double-edged sword. What you’re gaining in configuration, you’re also getting significant complexity. You can’t just “launch an app” inside of AWS. You have to spend significant amounts of time setting up IAM roles, VPC subnets & other ‘gotchas’ before you’re able to even connect to a SQL database. It’s pretty insane.
Why We Rank AWS as the Best Cloud Provider for PHP Apps
- Scale of Services
- Availability of dev resource experience
- Leader in technical innovation
- Everyone supports AWS
- Plenty of documentation & training resources
- The total amount of available regions & data centers
- Market leader
Ok. You may wonder why I recommend AWS =after I rant about its level of complexity. It’s 2 simple reasons. 1. There are so many managed service providers built on top of AWS that you don’t even have to really worry about it. Use one of the services mentioned in the upcoming managed service sections and you get the power of AWS with the ease of just managing your code.
Want to learn more about AWS? We’ve written many articles on the cloud provider. Click here to see our full article on hosting web apps on AWS
Runner-Up: GCP Cloud Hosting
PHP Cloud Hosting Options on GCP
- Compute Engine: Baremetal server experience
- App Engine: Managed app / Heroku-style experience
- Google Cloud Run: Containers
- Kubernetes Engine: Open-Source Cloud-Native
Reasons to Choose GCP
Ease of Use & PHP Dev Friendly
We’ve found that GCP is the easiest of the big 3 cloud providers to get running for your PHP applications. They have plenty of services that make PHP development easy. Their App Engine is a Heroku-style service that makes deployments and hosting simple. In addition, they provide container-based & more traditional hard-metal style hosting options available for you.
It is also much simpler to use than AWS. You don’t have to worry about VPCs, subnets & various networking concepts to just get your application to run. You can just select the best service for you and deploy. It’s a service that “just works” to deploy applications.
Reasons to Avoid GCP for cloud hosting
Smallest Market Share
While GCP does make it easy to host & deploy your web applications, it is the smallest of the 3 large cloud providers. Both Azure & AWS are major revenue generators for their parent companies. GCP, on the other hand, doesn’t feel like a core Google service in this same way. They will always be playing catch-up to the other cloud providers. Almost all 3rd party applications launch first in AWS followed by Azure and finally into GCP. Google does have many great APIs in GCP, but it does lack the overall large development services in the other cloud providers.
Why We Rank GCP Second in PHP App Cloud Hosting
- Fewer services & resources than AWS
- Friendlier PHP dev environment than Azure
- Easy to use & deploy services
Honestly, I would love to rank GCP as #1. It is by far the easiest to “just use” and offers a very friendly PHP dev environment. They have solid services and you can build a good PHP app on it, but they are just the smallest & youngest player in the space. GCP doesn’t get the love it needs to keep up with the other players. You’ll find fewer providers, fewer online documentation resources, slower tech resources, and more. We still feel comfortable ranking it above Azure because it does offer many PHP-friendly services.
Third Place: Azure Cloud Hosting
PHP Cloud Hosting Options on Azure
- Virtual Machines
- App Services
- Container Apps
- Azure Kubernetes Service
Reasons to Choose Azure for PHP Cloud Hosting
Simple to use. Mature provider. Integrated with Github
Hosting a PHP app inside Azure is an interesting experience. The services are similar to GCP in that they are simple to setup and use. You don’t have to be a networking engineer to get a web app running. They are also very mature and targeted to the enterprise. You can feel confident that you can efficiently scale your app inside of Azure with high availability.
Reasons to Avoid Azure for PHP Cloud Hosting
PHP Lacks Native Support
There is a major negative with Azure to hosting your application. They have deprecated their PHP SDK. You can still use the REST API, but this makes developing and debugging that much more complicated. Microsoft is doing a better job of integrating open-source technology over the years, but it still is behind. They do appear to push applications to migrate to more Microsoft native technology.
Why we Rank Azure Last in Major Cloud Hosting for PHP Apps
It was difficult to rank Azure last because in many ways it should be first. They have very dev-friendly environments and make hosting simple. Their GitHub integrations are excellent, but they can’t overcome their lack of native support. This isn’t a minor issue in my opinion and comes across as just completely ignoring a large portion of the web development. In the end, Azure is an excellent service for enterprise apps that build within the Microsoft ecosystem.
Worth Considering: Digital Ocean (our favorite)
Digital Ocean is by far the smallest of the cloud providers. They don’t have a Goliath technology brand raining cash into its services, but they are definitely a well-placed David. They don’t have the service offerings that the other larger cloud providers offer but they do have a very loyal & dev-friendly environment. Many small PHP saas & web apps start on Digital Ocean before moving into the bigger cloud providers as they grow in scale.
Reasons to Choose Digital Ocean
I love Digital Ocean and have hosted many applications through this provider for years. I even still have a few services through them. They are dev-focused and are a really good service for many startups and simple saas applications. They don’t have the size and scale that the other service providers do.. but not every app needs an incredibly large scale. Sometimes, we like to overcomplicate just because we can which is silly.
Digital Ocean is an excellent cloud hosting service for many small & mid-size simple PHP applications.
Reasons to Avoid Digital Ocean
Lack of services & resources
DigitalOcean managed services are growing but still are significantly smaller than the other providers. You want get the high availability and integration that you do with the other larger players. Sadly, they do seem to be struggling to keep up on the infrastructure level with the behemoths of Microsoft, Google and Amazon.
They also recently acquired CloudWays which is a managed service for multiple clouds. It makes me wonder if they are going to be transitioning in the same way as Rackspace to get out of the infrastructure game in the coming years. This is just a hunch but worth keeping an eye on.
Using Managed Cloud Services for PHP Apps
Managed cloud services are an excellent way to maximize resources so that you can focus on building the features of your PHP applications. They do all of the heavy liftings of cloud management. There are expensive managed partners at the enterprise level but plenty of services are available for smaller & mid-size applications as well.
Hosting Apps in CloudWays
CloudWays is a very popular cloud-managed service with plenty of documentation & tools to make deploying and hosting PHP apps easy. They integrate directly with Github and other git providers and you do get to choose the cloud provider under the hood that you want.
Owned By Digital Ocean
They were recently acquired by Digital Ocean so I am very intrigued about the future of this service in relation to the large cloud providers. Does Digital Ocean stop offering the other providers or do they put more resources into this service? It will be interesting to see.
Good for Mid-Size Applications. Poor for Containers & Scaling
This service does seem difficult to use when you need to scale. They manage single-instance servers. This can get expensive as it leads to just increasing the size of the server. It also isn’t conducive to container applications. I think this is an excellent service for applications that will keep a fairly consistent level of traffic.
- Clouds: AWS, Digital Ocean, more
- Pricing: $12 / month – $270 / month per server
- Single server management
- Available for any PHP framework
Managed PHP Cloud Hosting with Kinsta
Kinsta is a really interesting Service Provider. They started like many providers as productized WordPress hosting and have grown to include other PHP frameworks.
What separates Kinsta from some of these other providers is that you aren’t bringing your cloud choice into their ecosystem. They are built on top of GCP and you can’t choose anything else. There are pros and cons to this decision and I think it is definitely a good business decision for Kinsta. They remove the headache of worrying about another provider.
I haven’t personally worked with Kinsta in a non-wordpress environment. I did manage a customer a few years ago that were migrating to Kinsta. They did make deployment and environment management easy. I do think they seem to be fairly pricey, but they do seem to scale very well.
- Clouds: GCP
- Pricing: $20 / month – $480 / month per server
- Single server management
- Available for any PHP framework but focused on WordPress
PHP Cloud Management through Laravel Forge
Laravel Forge is a managed hosting service built by the makers of Laravel. It is targeted to & loved by Laravel developers. It is a similar service in many ways to CloudWays in that it’s single server management where you get to bring your cloud to the service.
The pricing of Forge is really straightforward. It’s a monthly standardized cost that is separated from your cloud cost which makes it ideal for startup and mid-size organizations.
The goal of Forge is to make Laravel hosting easy and it does an excellent job of it. This and the simple pricing is very attractive in the Laravel ecosystem as a large portion of Laravel apps are bootstrapped and very profitable SAAS-based companies. They don’t need complex requirements. They just need cloud hosting made simple to focus on their project.
- Clouds: AWS, Digital Ocean, Linode, and more
- Pricing: $12 / month – $39 / month (not including server cost)
- Best for Laravel Apps
- Manages server infrastructure
Using Laravel Vapor for Managed Serverless
Utilizing Serverless technology has traditionally not felt native to PHP. The cloud providers tended to just skip over the language and go straight to other preferred languages. But Vapor has filled this whole. The team behind Laravel has created a service to make it easy to host your PHP applications in a serverless environment. It is built ontop of AWS Lambda and again has a very straightforward pricing structure.
Using Vapor you get the optimization, cost & other benefits of using Lambda while still taking advantage of PHP and Laravel. The service makes deployment and management easy for you. You can get significant cloud cost savings when using Lambda services as you can scale to 0 when your app isn’t being used and scale up to infinite size for the few moments that you get large utilization.
- Clouds: AWS
- Pricing: $39 / month + AWS Cloud Costs
- Only available for Laravel Apps
- Deploys to AWS Lambdas
- Needs to run on containers
Heroku – The Leader of the Managed Cloud Platform
How could I talk about managed services without talking about the leader? I couldn’t. Heroku is the largest and possibly oldest platform as a service provider on the market. They are owned by Salesforce and have many services built into them to make deploying, hosting & managing your application really simple.
I had a hard time figuring out how to label Heroku because they offer significantly more than the above services. They are almost a step between native cloud providers like AWS and platforms like Kinsta. They have a full marketplace where businesses have been built on top of Heroku.
Heroku is a great and easy-to-use service but I do think there are several drawbacks to it. It can become pricey very quickly as the models are confusing and the costs are high. Many developers get lured by the free-tier and then get caught not being able to switch as they become locked in.
I also personally believe that they’ve lost some of their mojo since being sold to Salesforce. Other providers are catching up and passing them in the platform service. Native cloud providers have services that directly compete with Heroku at a much cheaper rate. You also tend to get into what I call 3rd-party service hell when using Heroku.
In other words, I think Heroku has a worthy place in history as a platform provider. I also feel like that place is best served in history.
Cloud Hosting for PHP Applications
Selecting the right cloud host can be challenging. A few factors that impact your decision is pricing, services, market size and ecosystem. I believe it’s a double-edged sword in the state of infrastructure management we find ourselves in today.
Cloud infrastructure has brought near-unlimited scale with efficient service integrations. It has removed the burden of managing complex services in our own Linux servers. We can maximize our costs and prevent any server downtime.
But we can’t also deny the risk and seemingly philosophical incompatibility with the centralization of a few major cloud providers. The success of the Internet was among the largest historical achievements in decentralization. We proved that we can connect the world together that was universally disconnected. The transition now has occurred where we might be physically disconnected as individuals but we’re all being directed to the same servers.
What is the solution?
Cloud-native & multi-cloud environments are an interesting choice for disrupting the monopoly. You are able to get the benefits of scale & ease of service without the vendor lock-in. There are also other decentralized technologies that are beginning to emerge. I believe the next 10 years will inject some real competition and change in the cloud hosting landscape.