WordPress as a Solution

WordPress has long been known as the most popular content management system around, and it is 100% open source, to boot. It is the force behind 27% of the web, including personal, business, and government websites.

As a platform for small-to-medium businesses, it continues to reign as the preferred choice. One of the main reasons for that is because it is often marketed as a DIY-friendly option for those on tighter budgets. It is presented as a platform with a plugin for anything. As such, many small businesses utilize it in just that way: a features bundle that they can tweak to their liking.

While this is not necessarily a misrepresentation of this content management system, it is a rigid undersell. At it’s baseline, WordPress is capable of getting a simple site up-and-running fairly easily — providing more nimble and budget-limited entities a shot at a decent web presence.

However, at it’s best, it truly provides a full-scale solution for business entities that extends far beyond simple plug-and-play functionality. Let’s breakdown the how and why.

Retain the Ability to Run Code

While many WordPress users are intrigued by the ease of use and availability of plugins for pretty much everything under the sun, they still have the option to run code. It is truly dealer’s choice. WordPress allows developers to drop in fully functional code in the form of a plugin or to tinker as they see fit. The bottom line is that functionality is not behind lock and key, but is truly open source to anyone who has an idea.

On the other end of the spectrum lies the proprietary platforms that do not afford users the same flexibility. These platforms lock away the ability to run code behind different pricing tiers, if they even offer them at all. WordPress and its community provides detailed documentation on every area of the platform. Whether you have a specific problem or just want to become more knowledgeable, there is a library out there with the answers you seek.

Open Source Community Support Yields Endless Options

One of the most valuable elements of WordPress is the community upon — and through — which it’s built. User groups, meetups, Facebook groups, and classes abound. The community is truly supportive in that the endgame is the same for all: to realize the full potential of WordPress and continue expanding its capabilities.

So while WordPress and plugin and theme creators may offer customer service and support, WordPress users are also afforded global support of the other users in the trenches. This is an integral asset for anyone using the WordPress platform. This spirit of generosity is what makes open source projects and platforms like WordPress thrive and improve.

It’s also what makes it a viable and preferable solution for business users. Because open source software is open to all, vulnerabilities are rare. The sheer number of developers with their hands in code means that any vulnerabilities and security threats that surface are detected and patched within hours. Not so with proprietary software solutions. The bureaucracy alone can significantly slow response times to days or weeks.

All Your Business Challenges — One Solution

We’ve established that WordPress is flexible and backed by an excellent community, but it’s important to not overlook the more granular ways that this platform works to bring one solution to the many challenges businesses face on the day-to-day.

  • Responsive - WordPress offers a library of themes and customizations, most of which are totally responsive and mobile-friendly, if not mobile-first designs. As mobile growth continues, an omnichannel approach is essential for businesses, which means providing an optimized user experience across all channels and devices.
  • Publishing-Friendly - As the original blogging platform, WordPress cut its teeth on enabling users to push out content efficiently and effectively. While its capabilities have extended farther, that core functionality is still the best-in-breed. Businesses that rely on inbound marketing have a treasure trove of functionality to help position their brand as professional publishers — and to increase conversions.
  • Search Engine-Friendly - This is a point that should not be taken for granted. Many of the proprietary platforms out there simply do not offer the ability to be competitive or findable in this area. A word to the wise: pre-packed, one-size-fits-all solutions can stifle your rankings in SERPs. WordPress, on the other hand, enables highly technical SEOs to get their hands dirty and affect real change for their rankings. Even beginners have access to an array of SEO plugins that can significantly bump up a site’s visibility in search engines.

WordPress is a content management system that truly offers a full-scale solution for business needs. From novice small business owners to enterprises with teams of developers, this open source solution is a fit for anyone. As an open source platform, it provides flexibility and customization that you just can’t come by with proprietary platforms or software. For those just dipping their toes into a new content management system, the community support and plugin library makes customization simple and straightforward. So while the appeal of simplicity may be the draw at first, don’t sell WordPress short. Get comfortable with the basics and then dive into the world of opportunity that this powerful content management solution offers.

Koen Stegeman:

HostingJournalist.com had a great time with the people from Perfect Dashboard (and 1&1) during the ‘VIP Kitchen’ event in hotel Bell Rock in Europa-Park where CloudFest was held. Later on we had this interview with Perfect Dashboard’s Robert Jacobi, who also happens to be the President of Joomla.

That's an understatement, we had Randy Club rocking the house too, funk, soul, and group sign-a-longs. The CloudFest crew does an incredible job of managing this enormous conference.

Increase ARPU With Existing Clients and New Customers

“Growth hacking” has been the buzzword of the past several years. As annoying as it may be for a headline in about 34.2 MM online articles, it’s popular for good reason. Growth is a top indicator for success with software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies (and hosting companies, in particular), and without a solid growth strategy, many won’t live to see another day.

SaaS companies are reliant on a repeatable business model and recurring revenue. Once that foundation is in place and proven, the next step is to scale.

It’s a big step.

The easy answer is to boost Customer Acquisition Rate (CAR) by beefing up the sales team, but it’s also an incomplete answer. Winning more customers is great - if they’re sticking around. But if your SaaS churn rate is through the roof, you’re missing the mark. The other half of the equation is increasing Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) to continue growth.

So how does a hosting company increase CLV and continue to scale? One surefire way is to increase Average Revenue Per User (ARPU). Let’s look at some of the surefire ways to boost ARPU and grow.

Tinker with Pricing

As a hosting company, you should be constantly innovating and seeking out ways to update products and services in ways that provide unique value to your customers. This means new features, improved functionality, enhanced usability, and more. As you roll out these new updates, your current customers are receiving additional value in real-time. It also keeps you at pace with the market and (if you’re doing it right) ahead of your competitors. As additional capabilities get rolled out, you need to revisit pricing. It may make sense to do a quarterly pricing review. When you do adjust pricing, there are right and wrong ways to do this. Do your homework. Figure out what makes sense in price increases and keep an open line of communication with your customers.

Up-Sell

If you’ve invested in building your sales team - along with customer success representatives - you’re in a good place to focus on up-selling. Enabling your customers to upgrade or add-on to their current offering is a great way to increase CLV and ARPU. First, however, you need to have a solid strategy in place to increase adoption and usage, so that customers can clearly see the value you provide.

This also ties into tinkering with pricing in that you need carefully defined pricing tiers that make up-selling seamless and that make upgrading an obvious choice for customers. With hosting, this can be as simple as usage limits that require an upgrade. Make it as easy and streamlined as possible for customers to take that next step.

Leverage Bundles

Bundling can be a highly effective way to support an up-sell and cross-sell strategy. Offer new products and services that seamlessly complements the value customers already receive from your core offering. It makes upgrading an easy choice. 

Being able to clearly identify the added benefits of bundles will make marketing easier. Also be sure that your overall objectives are tied into how you are creating bundles, as this will inform how you market them, too. 

One example is Perfect Dashboard’s Secure WordPress Updating. The problem for hosting companies is clear: WordPress sites get hacked all the time without appropriate (and constant) updates. The benefit is clear, too: Perfect Dashboard prevents this by automating WordPress updating for customers. 

This is a no-brainer for hosting clients who are looking for an end-to-end solution that can also update, test, and fix WordPress sites seamlessly.

This is baked into the overall messaging for the Perfect Dashboard offering, strengthening the core value proposition. This type of positioning helps to reduce churn and increase ARPU in the long-run.

The endgame is really about adding value. Any approach to growth should always be customer-centric. It seems intuitive, but your goal should always be about what you can do for your customers by way of providing additional value. Delighting your customers with the value you provide reduces churn and unlocks additional cross-sell and up-sell opportunities. Make yourself your customers’ #1 problem solver and many of the strategies outlined above will become second nature.

 

“Full technological sovereignty” has a nice ring to it. It happens to be the reason that the city of Barcelona is opting to move away from proprietary technology solutions from the likes of Microsoft and into open source, according to the Barcelona City Council.  

The city will continue running Windows through the next year, but the long-term goal is to move to Ubuntu or another Linux distribution. As the City Council points out, open source provides more transparency and accountability. 

Really, that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the possibilities of open source. But if an entire big city choosing open source as its technological playground of choice isn’t reason enough to explore open source, you’re probably farther behind the times than you think. 

Benefits of Open Source for the Enterprise

Enterprise technology continues to evolve and businesses continue to transform alongside and with it. Choosing the right technologies for business requires significant foresight, planning, and education; a bad decision now could mean higher costs and lower agility in the future. 

As open source continues to gain momentum for mainstream use, enterprises have taken notice. This is mainly due to the plain and simple business advantages that open source solutions offer - many of which are not available via proprietary solutions and platforms. Let’s look at some of the primary advantages and benefits now. 

Community 

The community is probably one of the top benefits of open source solutions. Since it has gained momentum and popularity in the enterprise space, open source is supported by robust communities, all of which are filled with people on a common mission: to improve a solution that benefits the collective. Because many of these solutions are global in nature, their communities are as well. This opens up the solution and the people around it to new ideas they may not have otherwise encountered. It introduces a country-agnostic innovative edge to make new technologies faster, cleaner, and more effective than traditionally silo’d and private proprietary solutions.

Cost Effectiveness

The cost benefits of open source over proprietary solutions are pretty straightforward. Some report savings of 20-55% over commercial solutions. You essentially get the same functionality and capabilities at a fraction of the cost. They are easier to scale at a lower cost as well; businesses can start small and grow as needed without blowing the budget. In fact, many organizations opt to start out on free or low-cost community versions of open source solutions and then scale up to commercially-supported versions as needed. There’s no one-size-fits all because the flexibility of open source makes it customizable for each business’ needs – all at a more reasonable price than proprietary solutions.  

Talent Magnet

It’s no secret (or surprise) that open source solutions and platforms are a magnet for the best and the brightest in technology. Flexibility and freedom make up the cornerstone of what most good developers are seeking. Forward-thinking technologists understand that open source is where the future of technology lies – and they want to be there, participating. In fact, 70% of developers say learning new technologies is important to them. Additionally, open source allows great developers to create their own projects – outside of the box – and collaborate with others that are doing the same. This think tank of great technology and brilliant ideas is where new enterprise innovations are born and thrive.

Innovation

The culmination of all these benefits is really the fostering of true innovation. We are increasingly seeing web, mobile, and cloud solutions that live within open source infrastructure. Other solutions are following suit, and businesses that want to stay ahead of the curve and bank on the future are finding themselves investing more time and resources in open source options. 

As advanced technologies like machine learning and AI take hold, we will see the conversion with open source. As open source solutions leverage AI and become more intelligent we’ll see applications spill over into things like chatbots, autonomous vehicles, and immersive experiences. 

With technology advancing as fast as it is in 2018, it’s no surprise that open source will be at the forefront of some of the grandest innovations. The community aspect - which fosters rapid testing - facilitates more reliability than proprietary solutions as it’s supported by a global team of experts. This thorough vetting by a variety of sources also makes it more secure. The bottom line is that open source is in it for the long-haul. Where proprietary solutions may come and go and die, open source is constantly reinvigorated by vast communities filled with expert developers that thrive on innovation. If that doesn’t sound like a compelling reason to begin investing in open source, I’m not sure what is. 

 

#StopThink: The State of Political Discourse in America

A quick snapshot of political discourse in 2017: 

  • “Fake News”
  • Far Left
  • Right-Wing Extremism
  • Deplorables

It’s no surprise that political discourse is as toxic was as toxic as it was in 2017. Many blame it on one of the items listed above. Those who do wouldn’t be wrong - but they would be over-simplifying. The real culprit behind America’s divided and toxic discourse is this:

The inability to not launch into a knee-jerk jeer or cheer reaction at every single utterance labeled as “news” that gets published online, in print, or on the back of your neighbor’s 1998 honda civic. 

Instead, one knee-jerk reaction triggers one thousand more. Millions of personal (and biased) diatribes flood the ether, determined to smash opposing viewpoints. It’s the Gremlins of misinformation - one ill-informed response pops out a trail of misinformed responses behind it. 

The Forces Behind Ignorant Discourse

These baseless rants are the result of the cyclic division our country has been undergoing for ages. There are powerful forces driving this conversational unrest and toxicity and each contributes to the fractured state of discourse in America today. Some of the most potent are listed below.

A Radicalized Two-Party System

The extremist factions on both the left and the right have been marinating for centuries. The tips of both these wings aim to oppress the people on the opposing side. These poles are often where misinformation originates and gets passed along the lines through to the center, where it gets stamped as factual information. It’s a game of telephone with the majority of Americans getting the final, mangled message at the end of the line. Since our busy bee culture doesn’t leave much time for people to do their own research, they trust the divided powers that be and take party representatives and mouthpieces at their word. The lack of middle ground - both in political parties and in ideologies - makes rational discourse a struggle for the average person. 

FUN FACT: In a psychological study where participants were offered the option to read and answer questions for entry into a raffle pool. If they chose to read about an opinion they agreed with, they had a chance at winning $7 or they could read the opposing viewpoint for a chance to win $10. Of all the participants, 63% chose to stick with the opinion they agreed with. 

Blurred Lines Between News & Entertainment

As a result of the two-party telephone system above, misinformation easily makes its way to everyday Americans through every channel and medium available. Add to that the convergence of media and entertainment, and things are as confusing as ever. 

It can be difficult to turn on the news or flip through a local paper without knowing for sure whether what you’re digesting is opinion or fact, OpEd or Breaking News. A limited number of voices get unique access to platforms from which they can amplify their narratives. On the other side of the coin, any unfounded opinion can go viral if the right number of people and influencers bite (and share). This dissonance makes drilling down to facts difficult. Storylines and narratives are woven across T.V., social media, radio, and print like rich tapestries, but no one has the time to untangle truth from conjecture. 

Social Media 

Combined with the two realities above, social media propagates misinformation at lightning speed. What’s more, it feeds misinformation to younger generations, priming impressionable minds to think a certain way about our political system, political parties, the media, and America as a nation. Aided by the peer pressure behind social media, misinformation is touted as factual headline by those who don’t want to appear out-of-the-know by friends, family, and coworkers. This trickle-down tricked-out news cycle often becomes news itself as lies spread like wildfire and hashtag headlines grip the nation with bold untruths. Just ask any celebrity who’s been killed off on Twitter. 

#StopThink Movement: Breathing Facts Into Media Maelstrom

Discourse without facts is as useful as a dog barking at a cat. If we don’t stop and think to consider the facts - and the opposing viewpoints - we are not doing any debate or discussion justice. We’re also not using our heads to facilitate meaningful discourse on important topics. 

I don’t believe there’s one right answer to improving the state of political discourse in this country. I do know this: it's not screaming louder and it’s certainly not silence. The only way to course correct is to Stop and Think. The goal should be to contribute opinions grounded in fact. Eliminating bias is nearly impossible and, frankly, unnecessary. What we need instead is a way to sieve the information we take in until we have the granular truth. Then we need to adjust our motives from opposition-smashing to truth-promoting. 

This two-part recipe can aid a more fruitful discourse within our nation. By stopping, we can cut down on emotion-driven reactions and instead focus on finding facts. By thinking, we can use the data and tools at our fingertips to gather fact-based and rational information. The result can be conversation geared towards true education rather than slander and mudslinging. When we #StopThink before responding, we have a shot at creating discourse that can make a positive difference - a change that impacts everyone. 

 

Net Neutrality Showdown: What it Means

If you’re paying attention, you know that a vote on unraveling Net Neutrality is looming with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). 

The proposal up for the vote seeks to reverse the Title II classification of internet providers, replacing it will an old “information service” classification. The former allows the FCC to strictly limit the behavior of internet providers while the latter is limited and weakens consumer protections.

As commission chairman Ajit Pai puts it:

“Instead, the FCC would simply require internet service providers to be transparent about their practices so that consumers can buy the service plan that’s best for them and entrepreneurs and other small businesses can have the technical information they need to innovate.”

Unfortunately, the FCC’s plan will likely actually squash innovation, censor content, and limit access.

Its plan is to toss anti-competitive disputes to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to take action against ISPs that violate their published policies. It’s a silly and roundabout way to “handle” ISPs. It does nothing for consumers but give them a front row seat to getting robbed.

Published policies and terms of service offer no consumer protections - but are rife with legalese shielding the companies. They are also fully controlled by each company and apt to change at any moment. A company could simply pen a new set of policies that is more aligned with what it feels like doing that day. So long as it remains “compliant” with its own policies, it doesn’t have to worry about the FTC.

That works out well for ISPs.

What a Rollback Looks Like

This isn’t your local Walmart’s Rollback, unfortunately. If the Net Neutrality protections are rolled back, ISPs will have free reign to charge extra for “premium” websites like Twitter or Facebook. They also have the ability to throttle speeds or even block other sites and apps. ISPs (Comcast, AT&T and Verizon), of course, favor the measure and are asking customers to “just trust us.”  

Sure. Ok.

The repeal would essentially enable ISPs to do whatever they please, so long as it is transparent. So if they provide faster streaming to certain websites or apps for a premium, that’s ok. They just can’t hide it.

What’s more, many ISPs also own content distribution platforms. Ending net neutrality gives ISPs the power to prioritize their own platforms. Oligarchy, anyone? The ability to compete for smaller, less powerful entities will disintegrate. ISPs can charge the little guys more for bandwidth, which will ultimately get passed along to customers, along with increased latency and reduced performance.

We’re already seeing this happen in several ways. First, there is the AT&T-Time Warner merger, a bid currently under attack by the Justice Department for raising antitrust issues. If that deal were to proceed, the result would be a telecom & media mammoth. Combining one of the nation’s biggest internet and telephone providers (and television distributor via its acquisition of DirecTV) and the world’s third largest entertainment company would make it nearly impossible for others to compete in that arena.

Then there’s the issue of zero-rating, where ISPs remove data limits for certain platforms/content providers. So customers can consume content from those platforms and it doesn’t count against their data plan. Case-in-point: AT&T practices zero-rating with its own DirecTV. On the flip side, ISPs can use that power to line their pockets by allowing content creators to pay wholesale prices for zero-rated content.

Incumbent giants will continue to accrue power, and the possibility for innovators to break into the market will get smaller and smaller.

How To Take A Stand

The fight isn’t over yet. There are still some things you can do to voice your opinion and take a stand:

To have an internet tomorrow, we must not burn the internet today. Help put the fire out!

What is the Future of Content Management?

There are some certainties regarding content management that are inarguable:

  • Content management strives to navigate the intersection of people, processes, and information.
  • The complexity of people, processes, and information continues on an upward trajectory.
  • Content management must simplify this complexity.

Additionally, there are some forecasts about how the enterprise will move ahead as it relates to content management. Some of the projected trends include:

  • Privacy and security will be at the forefront of content management efforts, with an increase in effort and spending in these areas.
  • Regulations and restrictions regarding the cloud and privacy will increase.
  • As analytics become more sophisticated and AI and machine learning become intertwined in content management, making laser focused and accurate content suggestions will be a primary focus of content management systems.

How do organizations make sense of the certainties alongside these predictions about the future of content management? Let’s take a look.

Technology at the Convergence of People, Processes, and Information

Technology innovation has a way of disrupting content management and impacting best practices on a regular basis. Currently, we are amidst a user-centric IT era that largely utilizes cloud and mobile to facilitate access and engagement anywhere and anytime. This is being fueled by the Internet of Things, which is propagating massive amounts of new data and expanding the opportunities of content management.

This new norm of virtual and distributed networks makes access easier, but it also presents the challenge of information organization. Unprepared organizations can easily become buried under a barrage of information and processes, stifling their ability to adequately serve customers. Key problems include:

  • Too much information
  • Poorly organized information
  • Silo’d information
  • Information leaks
  • Privacy and security issues around information

Businesses need to rethink the foundation of their content management systems. With an influx in data comes the need to organize that data into usable information. From there, that information needs to be synthesized into knowledgeable insights. Finding a cost-efficient way to leverage technology in this process is critical.

Technology will be a way to forge past simple information governance and transactional content management. The key will be finding a fluid way to enable knowledge synthesis, engagement, and collaboration that goes beyond the implementation of social tools and analytics add-ons.

Technology as a facilitator of improved privacy and security will need to be a consideration in that fluidity.

Privacy and Security Concerns Amidst New Risk Models

Finding effective and legal ways to manage information in this era of emerging technology has proven to be difficult for businesses big and small alike. The sheer volume of data and information circulating makes risk management a tall order.

Managing information assets and business content from creation to disposal in this environment can almost seem like anarchy as information flows in and out from an endless number of devices and systems. One school of thought posits that the best way to proceed is to prioritize critical content assets and ensure they are controlled, stored, and secured properly. This enables businesses to cut through miscellaneous content and focus on the heart of the matter.

Others think that is a recipe for disaster and that a hierarchy is paramount when it comes to content management and security. Internal teams that do not adhere to existing processes and structures are adding to the silo problem, increasing business risk, and rendering technologies and systems useless. When information is not managed as it was meant to, core processes cannot function as they were meant to. It’s an expensive problem. It also puts the organization at increased risk.

Moving Forward in Content Management

While privacy and security issues are non-negotiable considerations, businesses must also take into account how to use technology to their benefit in content management. This means exploring the various applications of machine learning and AI for intelligent content management.

Revisiting core architecture to facilitate interoperability and seamless exchange of information is where content management of the future lies. As the cloud focused on opening up content to anyone, anywhere at a lower cost, AI and machine learning have the ability to shift core processes and to increase the scalability of existing and emerging platforms. The result will be improved user experience, increased opportunities for collaboration, and more organized content management. It will change the way people work with content and facilitate better, more advanced and faster insights from information.

Open Source: The Final Frontier of Free Speech

Open source security doesn’t have to be rocket science. That said, cleaning up the mess after a breach or a hack or another vulnerability is exploited can be more expensive than sending someone to the moon. Ok, that might be a stretch, but the costs can be astronomical no matter which way you look at it.

Since it’s officially National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM), now is a good time to discuss the steps companies can take to secure and protect their open source initiatives and projects.

Open source systems are used globally across a number of projects. This popularity also earns open source systems extra attention from hackers, which in turn, causes developers to jack up the security of these systems. That doesn’t make them perfect. In fact, the extensions and add-ons that supplement core code to allow for additional features can make for a sticky security situation.

The silver lining is that many open source organizations (Joomla!, WordPress, Drupal, etc.) are constantly releasing updates to patch, fix, and guard against security vulnerabilities. The rub? Developers must stay on top of these updates or risk a breach.

So how do you stay on top of open source security? Let’s look at the three most popular open source CMSs and explore general security for each.

Understanding Open Source CMS

Joomla!

Joomla, accounting for 6.9% of all websites whose CMS we know, provides greater content and structure flexibility than WordPress, but remains just as intuitive. It’s sweet spot as a CMS is as a community platform, offering strong social networking features that make it ideal for ecommerce and social networking sites.

Joomla’s core is highly secure, but as with any CMS, the weakness lies in system components that haven’t been properly configured.

WordPress

WordPress is the most popular open source CMS, accounting for about 28% of the internet. It’s a top choice for blog websites since it’s flexible and friendly for non-developers and can be used to create fairly complex sites. This popularity also draws it into the sites of hackers.

The CMS offers WordPress VIP -  a paid services offering enhanced security by a dedicated group that executes in-depth code reviews to find vulnerabilities. This group also provides best practices to help developers avoid undue maintenance costs or other major issues.

Where things get shady is with plug-ins and extensions, which account for 56% of known vulnerabilities in WordPress. These entry points are hard to monitor and require frequent updates to protect against bad actors.

Drupal

Drupal is a developer-friendly CMS that tends to require more expertise to manage. It offers powerful taxonomy, making it ideal for companies that need to be able to organize complex content with tags and categories. This scalability makes it preferential for government sites, which is also a nod to its level of security. That said, it can often be overkill for developers or users who may not need complex data organization.

Securing Open Source CMS

The core step any business owner or developer can make to ensure their site is most secure is to remain up-to-date with the latest updates and security patches. This includes updating any plug-ins, extensions or other components that have released newer versions.

Instructions for Joomla updates here.

Instructions for WordPress updates here.

Instructions for Drupal updates here.

There are some preliminary considerations that go into effectively updating your open source CMS.

Schedule Backups

You should be sure to have a regular backup schedule. Having regularly scheduled backups ensures that you won’t lose any data during an update. Some CMSs offer memberships that streamline this entire process - from running backups and audits to updating - by automating the process. This paid maintenance option is highly desirable, especially for agencies who may be managing multiple sites. Most updates automatically happen without 24 hours of the newest release.

Also consider backing up your site to a secure off-site location regularly. If your site goes offline or you need to switch hosting providers on the fly, you need to be able to quickly recover your website. It’s a general best practice, especially for businesses like e-commerce sites that rely on the website as a core function of the business.

Stay Up-to-Date

If you aren’t paying for maintenance updates, you’ll have to keep up with them on your own. It can be helpful to set google alerts or use social sites like Twitter to follow extension and plug-in developers for news on new releases and updates.

Some sites offer the ability to subscribe to safety notices. These CMSs publish safety instructions to their website for new releases or other security-related information. Subscribing keeps you informed of new information relevant to you site’s security.

Restrict Access to Admin Portal

Another step you can take is to see if your administrator portal is accessible to the public. For Joomla, browse to www.mysite.com/administrator to see if it’s accessible. For WordPress, go to www.mysite.com/wp-login.php to check.

Most systems offer a way to restrict access to this page. For Joomla, you can use a secret word. Users must append the secret word to the admin URL to even access the admin login screen. Blocking the login page is an extra barrier to nefarious characters fishing for an easy target to compromise. An additional option is to download Admin Tools Core (or Pro), which automates maintenance, protection, and optimization of your Joomla! site.

A holistic approach to security is the best approach. The bright spot in open source projects is that you essentially have a global team reporting issues and security risks, which can then be addressed quickly and efficiently. This level of transparency that is often cast as a downside actually facilitates a proactive and effective approach to security for the entire open source community.

Open Source: The Final Frontier of Free Speech

Funny anecdote*: 

I have a friend who is the founding partner of a law firm. Business is booming and he decides it’s time to invest in a new website. He’s had a partnership with a marketing group that caters to legal professionals, and they pitched him some ideas on a new site. He took the bait and proceeded down the rabbit hole up until they send over a preview of the site. Having employed the help of an SEO agency for years, he sent the preview to them for a quick review. 

The response he received was, well, not what he expected. 

“Not even sure where to start. For one, the site-wide footer link to their site with spam anchor text is bleeding SEO value from every page and sending it to them. A little surprised an organization of this caliber would even try that.”

The rest of that email continued to pick apart every piece of sloppy code and injection of new issues into the “nicely packaged” site. 

The final point was stark: “Was there even a strategy phase as a part of this rebuild?”

The drama continued to unfold from there. As the conversation between the SEO team and the web agency continued, it became apparent that what the latter had offered was a pre-packed, one-size-fits-all solution that didn’t really have any room for true customization, lacked ability to scale, paralyzed growth, and came with more issues than solutions.  From a dollars and cents perspective, it’s ingenious: set up a closed source, bundled-up website with a bow on top, and nickel and dime clients for every single little change that needs to be made. From an ethical and dollars and sense perspective, it’s a nightmare. 

From any small-to-medium business owner’s perspective, it’s a warning to be heeded.

Proprietary, closed source solutions and the epidemic of “one size fits all”

The illustration above is not uncommon. In fact, the rate at which these proprietary, closed solutions are multiplying is astounding. You can’t swing a cat cable without hitting a new closed source solution catering to businesses looking for an easy fix. Wix, Weebly, SquareSpace and the like all offer “easy” solutions to build a website using “advanced technology.”

What they don’t advertise is the truth: this type of proprietary “solution” will cripple your ability to build a custom, robust website. What is really offered is permanent paralysis: an inability to manage your content outside of their closed systems, needless dependence on commodity hosting at premium prices, hindrance of flexibility and scalability, and more. All for the low, low price of $5-$25/month. Forever. Or at least until you get hit over the head with some common sense and opt-out of the limiting, dystopian world of closed source web hosting. 

Let’s dissect these realities one at a time to get the true sense of what it all means. 

Infrastructure & Hosting - With proprietary solutions, you have zero control over infrastructure. Many of the solutions claim to use backup servers and employ disaster recovery systems, but you’ll never know for sure. Also, if you add content on your end that doesn’t get successfully saved to their servers, it can’t be restored. Oops. 

Content - You don’t own it, pure and simple. The content is hosted exclusively on their servers. Want to transfer your site content elsewhere? Too bad. The content created using their proprietary editors cannot be exported, embedded or transferred anywhere else. Once you opt-in to the closed source world, it appears you’re there to stay or you’re leaving with nothing. 

Flexibility - In many cases, unlimited bandwidth or file storage is non-existent. So some SMBs may get sized out from the start. For those that don’t, there is an easy drag-and-drop functionality to help you build the site you want - fast! Except it’s never easy or fast to build a quality website, and while pre-built templates may offer some guidance, you’re really on your own when it comes to making your site presentable. My dog can probably create a drag and drop website; that doesn’t mean it’s going to look awesome when it’s done. 

“But the apps!” you say. What apps? Most of the apps offered through these sites are glorified iframes. Sure, it’s easy, but it also skews your website analytics and present a whole slew of accessibility issues.

Then there’s the technical SEO. Sure, many of these pre-packaged solutions offer bare basics for SEO, but for businesses that really want to get competitive, the options are limited. Dig enough into what you can and can’t do with closed source platforms, and it becomes clear that any businesses where SEO is integral to the long-term marketing strategy should steer clear. 

Pricing - Pricing for some of these closed solutions start as low at $4/month. Sounds awesome until you realize that you’ll be hosting random ads on your website with the lower price tiers. The total cost over the long-term of using a closed solution adds up to much more than you would spend on building and hosting a site elsewhere.

Open Source is the New Freedom of Speech

It’s clear there is a trade-off here. Businesses trade ease and convenience for control. Is the real cost worth it? Is opting-in to a closed platform limiting your website’s freedom of speech?

Open source offers a refreshing alternative to proprietary, closed solutions. It enables the creation of both dynamic and static sites without breaking the bank on software licensing and without relinquishing control of your infrastructure, content, and flexibility to a third party.

Unlike proprietary providers, open source increases agility and flexibility, allowing businesses to create custom websites and implement fixes and changes on their schedule and on their budget. 

You might be wondering what happened to my lawyer friend. The good news is, he got out before it was too late. The bad news? He had to start from scratch. His initial investment with the legal marketing agency disappeared into thin air. At least he was spared the pain of finding out after it was too late and the site was etched in internet stone. 

Cold, hard, closed source internet stone. 

*In retrospect, this is not funny at all. No lawyers were harmed in the making of this story. 

 

The Future of Hosting with Open Source

Open source hosting quickly continues to rise as one of the most popular hosting solutions available. Why? It enables the creation of both dynamic and static sites without breaking the bank on software licensing. There’s an angle for every business type - whether personal, small, medium, or large. 

It also goes hand-in-hand with open source content management systems, which are quickly becoming the backbone of digital transformation and an essential tool for the enterprise.

Customer Lifecycle Amidst a Digital Revolution

We’re at a stage where companies and enterprises are reevaluating customer lifecycle marketing through the lens of digital transformation. That envelops every aspect of marketing, from content management to the technology behind it - including hosting. Your brand’s digital experience is tethered like a web across various media and channels - from your website and blogs to apps, social media, and more. 

As consumer behavior continues to evolve, a brand’s digital experience must match each step. According to the Adobe 2016 Digital Trends Report, 76% of those surveyed thought “that Marketing had changed more in the past 2 years than in the previous 50.” That’s an eye-opening statistic. 

It’s one that smart businesses will look to as a nod toward digital transformation as a competitive opportunity. 

Why Open Source is Key to Remaining Competitive

A recent Future of Open Source survey by North Bridge and Black Duck highlights the fact that 90% of respondents say open source improves efficiency, interoperability, and innovation. 

Also noted in the study: more than 65% said they leverage open source software (OSS) to speed application development and over 55% said they leverage OSS for product infrastructure. 

Among the advantages of open source, ability to customize and fix ranks highly. Again, OSS comes out as a leader in remaining strategic and competitive

Open Source Hosting 

Open source hosting is a key component to keeping pace with the digital transformation age as well as effectively managing open source projects. Major hosting providers like Bluehost and SiteGround offer open source web solutions to support businesses actively engaged in open source projects. 

Developers dedicated to open source (whether it’s Joomla!, WordPress, or Drupal) value open source hosting for the agility, speed and scalability that helps open source projects soar. The number of developers actively engaged in open source projects is on the rise. Looking back to the Future of Open Source survey, 67% of companies surveyed reported actively encouraging developers to engage in and contribute to open source projects. 

Open Source - The Next Frontier

It’s clear that open source isn’t going anywhere...except up. Among the top key insights from the survey, the most prominent is the fact that open source is the architecture of today. It is the foundation for almost all applications, operating systems, cloud computing, databases, big data, and more. 

But open source isn’t perfect - and enterprises aren’t, either. 

There is plenty of room for improvement, which is where the focus will need to be for businesses to continue to reap the benefits of open source. The survey notes only 1 in 3 companies have a full-time resource dedicated to open source projects. We will need to see more dedicated resources in the open source realm for it to really sustain growth and efficacy.

Companies also need improved ways to handle known open source vulnerabilities. Almost a third of companies from the survey reported having no process in place to identify, track, or remediate known open source vulnerabilities. Given the recent rash of breaches (looking at you, Equifax), we know how that story ends. 

 

 

We need to serve

My name is Robert Jacobi; over the past 11 years you may have met me attending or presenting at a JoomlaDay, Joomla! World Conference, or J and Beyond. You may have met me advocating for Joomla! at Sunshine PHP, Web Summit, a local meetup, or other industry event. I may have had the honor of serving with you as a teammate on the former Production Leadership and Finance teams. Joomla is part of my personal and professional heart and I am thankful that a project so important to the internet has a community that is equally vital.

One of the questions I am often asked is "what is Open Source Matters (OSM)?" It is a legal and dry description, bureaucratic in nature. OSM on paper is meant to protect the legal interests of the Joomla! project, and manage the financial aspects of the project. But OSM is much less: OSM is a servant, a servant to legal requirements, and a servant to the departments that create, educate, and evangelize the project known as Joomla.

The role of president is to lead in serving. The president must be able to fulfill all legal requirements, be accountable, be transparent, and serve the community. I believe that the president must be able to communicate with the community, advocate for Joomla globally, and serve departments towards specific goals.

We need goals

Without end users, we have no community; without a community, we have no support for Joomla; without Joomla!, we have no need for contributors; without contributors, we do not exist. The overall organization and leadership structure have been overhauled for greater transparency and accountability, and now the OSM board must work together to take the next steps towards furthering these goals:

  1. Improve financial reporting and budgeting
  2. Set Departmental and OSM metrics (e.g. increase number of contributors by 5%)
  3. Identify and plan for intellectual property
  4. Increase transparency and collaboration
  5. Aim for Joomla growth in sites, JUGs, etc.

We must set goals to succeed and be accountable for their success. I believe that planning, setting defined goals, and a great team will improve Joomla for all stakeholders.

We need to build

We need to recognize the immense contributions of Joomla community members from the past, but our legacy is not our future. We must encourage, grow, and advocate for new contributors. Technology, users, requirements, and people change. Understanding and managing tomorrow is the challenge and opportunity the OSM board has today.

I believe that we will not always agree, I believe that we come from different points of view, I believe that we have different needs: I believe that at the end of the day we must listen, be patient, acknowledge each other and strive for technology that solves problems today and tomorrow, as well as a community that supports listening, different points of view, addressing a variety of needs, and welcomes each other.

I am honored to be a part of Joomla and through service I believe Joomla has a bright and growing future.

Robert Jacobi