Adding A Safety Net To The Web

I have worked with web clients for coming up on 23 years now. The web is constantly changing: applications are getting smarter; more interconnected; more powerful. In 1997, I started building custom content management systems in a language called Perl. Thing new thing PHP came along. I adapted to that. It soon became my programming language of choice. In the 2000s, content management systems moved being $500,000 products used by large publishers. They became open source. They dropped to free. Communities of developers grew up around new products. At the same time, this adoption drove development. Their sophistication exploded. An offshoot, B2 emerged and in 2003 it became the primordial version of WordPress. Fast forward 16 years. WordPress runs over 35% of the Internet.

WordPress is a content management system that began as a blogging platform. It now serves a variety of uses from publishing through e-commerce and into other specialty roles. I have kept up with WordPress: developing plugins, rolling out websites and evangelizing its merits. I have helped people get away from the increasingly unapproachable Drupal option. I am familiar with a number of technologies including Drupal, but I have been building up skills and capacity in WordPress. I’ve backed a horse, and that horse is WordPress.

As my client list grows, answering calls for aid as they come in is good, but not good enough. It's reactive. Over the last two months, my partner and I have come up with a solution. We have an approach that promises an array of services. These services will keep client sites updated, secured and maintained.

The current partial list of services we’re going to offer in our middle tier plan:

Weekly core, theme and plugin checks & updates

We manage key updates to your WordPress install, keeping your site bug-free, functional and safe from security exploits.

Visual Validator plugin updates

Visual Validator takes screenshots of up to 20 pages of your site before updates are applied. Visual Validator then takes new screenshots and compares them to see if anything looks different. If changes are detected, we are alerted and will resolve the issue.

Off-site backups for 90 days

Access to 90 days of backup history. If you need to restore a previous version of your site, just let us know! We can recover your website with just a few clicks, so if something happens, we’ll get your site back up before anyone even notices.

Free SSL implementation

SSL is important for protecting your website, even if it doesn't collect sensitive information like credit cards. SSL provides privacy, critical security and data integrity, both for your website and for your users' personal information.

Unmetered mitigation of DDoS attacks

Without protection, DDoS ( distributed denial-of-service) attacks can overwhelm the available bandwidth of your website, knocking it offline. When an website faces an especially large attack, nearly every DDoS mitigation service will charge extra to block it. Unmetered mitigation gives you unlimited DDoS attack protection - regardless of the size of attack.

Inclusion in an industry-leading CDN

A Content Delivery Network, or CDN, is a network of servers linked together with the goal of delivering content as quickly, cheaply, reliably, and securely as possible. A CDN enhances your website (and your users’ experience) by improving website load times, reducing bandwidth costs, and improving website security.

Uptime monitoring

Once a minute, our uptime monitor pings your website and instantly notifies us of service interruptions. It also notifies us of any SSL errors which can compromise your website security.

Domain name renewal date tracking

We’ll keep tabs on the renewal date for your domain to make sure you know when it’s coming up.

All-in-one support dashboard

This user-friendly, custom dashboard plugin gives you the details of everything being done behind the scenes to keep your site performing at its best. Check out how your site performs with Visual Validator, see a running record of your backups, or view a full history of each daily security scan and its results.

Security monitoring & malware cleanup

Deep automated scans detect malware, anti-viruses and malicious code that may be on your site - and if it finds something, we’ll make sure it’s removed immediately. In addition, a powerful firewall and WordPress “hardening” tactics keep would-be hackers and bots out.

We have a plan for how to maintain clients and keep all of these services in play. We were approached to make a budget account plan to keep things safe. We have that. I also have clients who need some TLC- more than the middle plan. We offer that as well.

In pricing the plans, we struggled to find a balance of services and economy. Web developers charge $60 to $200 per hour. Extrapolate that out to the concept of daily monitoring and mending, and you get to a point where the price is prohibitive or the service offerings are too little. Too often did I hear the woes of web site owners who jumped for the $50/year hosting only to find that the service provider offered something too cheap and too unsustainable.

We did the math of how much work could go into a maintenance plan. We found a suite of automation tools. We found a way to staff the support systems to allow for frequent monitoring. More than that: we found a way to allow for little tweaks.

Why are these named after three canines? We needed catchy names. “Middle Plan” is really boring. You don’t deserve boring. I’m Shawn DeWolfe. My name has a canine in it. So: our support plans are named after three canines from my native British Columbia. The plans go up in size and power:

The Fox Plan covers off the basics. It keeps plugins up to date. It's the small plan with a small price tag.

The Coyote Plan is the mainstay product: it’s in the Goldilocks zone of pricing and service delivery. We think this will satisfy most small businesses who need web support to keep surprises at bay.

The Wolf Plan is the biggest of the bunch. It encompasses everything the Coyote Plan offers, but it allows for more frequent monitoring. It give clients access to premium WordPress plugins to add to their site. These plugins range from $60 to $150 per product. On top of all that, it includes three hours of web development per month. Three hours can cover a lot of ground.

By organizing these plans and formalizing the service offerings, we can better serve our clients. Beyond that, we can stay in more frequent touch with our clients. I like the people I work with. I want them and their web ventures to succeed. By inking in how maintenance and management occurs, we feel we can keep them well supported.

What's Next?

Drupal

We are going to begin work on a support plan system for Drupal. I already maintain several Drupal sites, some for some very high profile clients. The plan is to develop a suite of services to keep their sites remain well maintained. I want to see my clients well supported in a systemized fashion. The last thing I want to see if a client with a screen full of red notices and dire warnings.

We are working with two partner companies to develop new product support systems: one in content marketing and one search engine optimization.

Content Marketing

Through a partnership, we connect you with the leaders in content marketing. Their community managers specialize in building your social media network into a fan base. They help to craft marketing plans that are engaging, compelling and, relevant. You choose a package that suits your needs. Get results reports with metrics and details. Work from your marketing wins to tackle more important strategic issues.

Search Engine Optimization And Search Engine Ranking

In order to meet the SEO needs of small businesses, the best minds created packages with price ranges tailored to suit businesses of different sizes. Services are broken down into affordable monthly plans. Small business owners access high quality SEO, like their competitors, at a lower monthly price point. Rather than create a “cheap-o” SEO package, our partner company found a way to create a high value at a lower cost: it's a win-win. They make sure your website is optimized and ready for search engine indexing. Two key factors will position your site for success: a properly structured website with relevant content for the topic of your expertise; and quality inbound links from relevant websites related to your business focus.