The correct answer to this question, for any WordPress agency, is that, it depends. Running an agency which delivers quality products and services can be daunting.  While many are looking for the answers to be able to balance both, very few agencies actually can manage both successfully.

A good example in the Indian WordPress community is rtCamp. Asia’s first WordPress.com VIP partner agency has two popular products: EasyEngine and rtMedia. It is interesting to note that, both these products were born out of requirements the company had at those respective times. The statement by Rahul Bansal, “You should only develop on platform which you use,” rings true here it seems.

rtMedia was born when Bansal, suggested that his college use BuddyPress to build their own social network. His professors pointed out that a popular social network at the time- like Orkut, had images and videos and without that students might be bored. BuddyPress didn’t have the option to add media at the time and rtMedia was born to solve that problem. While the plugin was released 2 months after rtCamp was formalized, the product was being worked on before the birth of rtCamp itself, Bansal recollects.

In the case of EasyEngine, Bansal used NGNIX to reduce the budget for hosting his blog network which at that time used to get half a million page views. He found the solution to be efficient. However, being the only one in the company at the time to offer this solution, he refrained from making it their USP.

Over time, requests from Bansal’s friends in the blogging community resulted in moving their sites, over NGNIX, one by one. To avoid repeating the same task EasyEngine was created.

The success of both these products, coupled with the recent success of rtCamp as a WordPress.com VIP partner agency may paint a rosy picture of a company balancing both service and products. However, Bansal, would be the first to dispel you of such a notion.

There cannot be greater proof of the difficulty in delivering quality on both fronts; products and services, than when Bansal says that if he could travel in time, then he would kill either products or services on day one of rtCamp.

His reasoning is simple: unless a company has a manager dedicated to ideation, and development of the product, life can get very tough. As Bansal states that being the only person to head both products and services means that person may end up becoming a bottleneck in their own company; as all the approvals have to go through one person.

It may not be a satisfying answer but smaller or younger companies will do well to take note of the experiences of Asia’s premier WordPress company. Running a WordPress agency can be stressful at most times. Learning from each other’s experiences extends the feeling of community which is so inherent to WordPress, while helping us make smart choices too.

Let us get the common question about Asia’s first WordPress.com VIP agency out of the way. What does rtCamp stand for?

RT, as the founder Rahul Bansal himself explained to us, stands for ‘Round Table’ after King Arthur’s famed table in the Arthurian Legend. Camp, refers to the whole circuit of bar/blog/php camps in which, Bansal, as a successful WordPress freelancer, actively participated.

Two factors influenced the name and the culture at rtCamp. One factor Bansal says was his “hunger for equality”- the desire that everyone must have a say and contribute by taking initiative instead of just taking orders. The other factor was the unencumbered, open-source loving, community-driven culture around WordPress; which was represented by bar camps and so on, which he had come to appreciate.

These values he says got reflected in their work culture and while he adds that such core values cannot be altered according to the balance sheet, he can also trace the foundation of rtCamp’s growth to these values.

At rtCamp, their core values, have resulted in them building an agency where they love open-source, contribute back to the WordPress community, share the spotlight, and celebrate the contributions as well as exits of their team members.

A reflection of this is Bansal’s description of how, the now VIP partner WordPress agency, landed their first big client; when they were much smaller and younger.

Bansal is quick to attribute credit to the then Marketing Head, Gajanan Sapate; who is no longer with rtCamp and has started his own social media agency, SocialChamps. Sapate had approached Bansal with the idea of creating a company profile on LinkedIn- a popular professional social networking platform. Bansal, admittedly, was not too keen on the idea. Sapate made the choice to create the company profile on LinkedIn without his approval Bansal recollects, appreciatively.

When the ‘big client’- Geometric, went searching on LinkedIn, rtCamp had an advantage, as they were probably the only company to be listed as a WordPress agency in India at the time; around 2012.

This is only one example of how Bansal, and rtCamp set up a platform for many to take initiative and grow. Many of them have left the agency to carry on to big projects while continuing to make contributions to the WordPress community.

If you need an example of the extent to which rtCamp’s contributions to WP core has had an impact, you only need to look at the citation they received when becoming WordPress.com VIP partners. It was consistent contributions to WordPress Core which was mentioned as the main reason for being chosen as Asia’s first WordPress.com VIP partner agency.

Another aspect of the agency that Rahul takes pride in, is the  involvement of rtCampers in the WordPress community itself- participation in WordCamps and publishing of tutorials. He says that the company encourages team members to make such contributions.

The culture of sharing the spotlight and getting better at one’s job, while contributing back to the community in combination have produced a team which today boasts of only enterprise clients or funded clients. While rtCamp was not born as an enterprise level WordPress agency, the core values as described by Bansal certainly seem to reflect in the work and now in the client base the agency has developed over the years.

It is no mean feat for a WordPress agency in India to have become Asia’s first WordPress.com VIP partner. The partnership means that they are in contention to land some of the biggest projects in the world. Today, as Rahul Bansal, the founder of rtCamp states that, their client list contains only ‘big clients’- enterprise level or companies which are funded.

Many young WordPress agencies might be wondering what is the road-map to achieving such a feat? No company starts out big though. Just like every other venture, rtCamp’s story too has an arc to it.

They landed their first enterprise level client, Geometric, much before they were aiming for it, or much before they were ready for it. At a time when they were very much the size of a young startup. However, their success today must mean that they did some things right along the way.

Here are some takeaways for WordPress agencies just starting out.

 

A WordPress Agency by any other name?

Absolutely not! Here’s why

The beginning is always about being in the right place at the right time. rtCamp created a company profile on LinkedIn. On the profile they identified themselves as a WordPress agency. This was the first point of contact between Geometric and rtCamp; and as it turned out a crucial one.

As Serendipitous as this find may seem, it was anything but that. Planning is key to earning any stroke of luck. When the Marketing Head of rtCamp at the time, Gajanan Sapate had suggested building a presence on LinkedIn, Bansal was not keen. The profile though, was created without Bansal’s approval and it proved to be a vital move.

Geometric had decided to use WordPress to build their site. When they were looking for a WordPress agency on LinkedIn, then they found rtCamp. Bansal suspects that the company’s search on LinkedIn for a WordPress agency yielded rtCamp as the only  result.

The conviction to clearly state their specialization meant that the agency could not go after projects based on other platforms. It also meant that it set them apart and established their expertise; this worked in their favour.

 

With Big Clients come Big Challenges for small WordPress Agencies

The beginning is just that. With enterprise level clients, come many demands. As Bansal himself admitted, the combined value of all their clients at the time was much less than that that of Geometric.

He recalls how they were required to fulfil many procedures and adapt to a long sales cycle. In this case, it was around 6 months. In the case of enterprise level clients this is not unusual; with a sales cycle lasting anywhere between 3-6 months. However, for a company which had only experienced maximum sales cycles of 2 weeks, 6 months seemed like a long, long time.

Not only did the entire process take more time than what they were used to, all the steps were new too. For example, Bansal admits that they were new to the idea of purchase orders. Apart from these challenges, they also failed many of the checks; like not having access control (such as  magnetic stripe cards and so on), which did not help either.

It was clear to Geometric that rtCamp was not familiar with enterprise level processes and practices. All these points raise the question- “how did rtCamp eventually land the project?” and “Why did both rtCamp and Geometric stick with each other?”

 

Honesty is the Best Policy

Bansal mentions instances during his freelancing days as a web developer when he readily admitted to clients that he offered WordPress as platform because he did not work any other CMS.

This policy about being upfront with the clients extends to rtCamp too. Having displayed their prowess with WordPress(more on this below), he remembers not hiding from the clients rtCamp’s need to learn about about dealing with enterprise level clients. Both these factors allowed Geometric to make a fair assessment and help rtCamp catch up with the business processes side of the deal, as a slightly amused Bansal now recalls.

 

Contribute Back To The Community

Bansal points to a combination of factors which contributed to their success. The combination of factors being, his famous blog, an extensive WP portfolio, open source projects like rtMedia, and knowledge of content, and analytics.

Among all of these factors, Bansal recognises the role his blog and rtCamp’s community contributions played, in making people aware of his agency. They also, according to Bansal, were the reasons the client was convinced regarding his agency’s prowess on WordPress. This is why he highly recommends, for those involved in open-source communities to contribute to the community.

Bansal states that these factors combined with a willingness to learn and grow along with the demands of project, has now led to a fruitful relationship with Geometric

 

Improve Before the Need Arises

Apart from all of these factors a willingness to deliver better quality now, rather than waiting for later, seems to have paid off in the case of rtCamp. A couple of years on after Geometric, rtCamp shifted its focus entirely to preparing for big clients  and becoming VIP partners.

Part of the road map to achieve their ambition of becoming VIP partners, was to deliver code which adhered to VIP standards. Implementing such quality standards when the clients were not asking for it was important. When rtCamp finally got their first enterprise client, which was to be verified by Automattic, it was approved in the first round itself recollects Bansal.

The success story of rtCamp is a good example of how positioning yourself in the right manner, willingness to learn on the go, participating in the community, and playing the game with foresight pays off.

Rahul Bansal, the founder of rtCamp; Asia’s first WordPress.com VIP partner agency, began his career as a freelance WordPress (WP) developer. The success of the company today can be traced back to ideas that were born during those days.

Being a freelance, WordPress developer in 2007-08 India is an interesting story for many reasons. Among the lot, the reason why it stands out the most is the choice of platform itself- WordPress. The platform was barely popular in the country at the time.

Asking him about the beginning of the journey and his success as a freelancer will quickly assure you that doing what you enjoy, taking up challenges and learning as you go, will take you a long way.

Right from starting a blog (after watching friend do the same), to taking up freelance projects based on WordPress for the sake of learning more on the platform; which he not only enjoyed using and but also afforded him the freedom to express himself, Rahul Bansal’s choices reflect that enjoying your work and sustaining a hunger for learning can lead to good things for WordPress freelancers.

 

http://https://youtu.be/4-aP7Od5QrM

 

Enjoy What You Do: Blogging, as the beginning of WordPress Development

The beginning was fairly innocuous. Bansal started a blog in his final year of undergrad. The idea itself emerged as a result of following the work of a friend; who he often copied. Regardless, he began to enjoy the blogging experience. The blog had thousands of subscribers and used to garner half a million page views at it peak. Safe to say Bansal was running a successful blog.

You might wonder- Why start off with the blog, when we are telling you the success story of a freelance WordPress developer?

The reason lies in an anecdote that Bansal recollects. Once, he bid on a project, and to his surprise the client awarded him the project before the details were finalized. Upon inquiring he learnt the client’s reasoning. If Bansal was running  such a successful blog, then he must be doing something right.

 

http://https://youtu.be/j3dzEm-0ufY

 

Showcase Your Work

This might be a good lesson for young WordPress freelancers, or freelancers in all fields. Create a platform to display your skills and work, and the right projects may just find you. As Bansal himself says, “It’s not your academics, [but] it’s your skills [which count] on the Internet.” The blog, which made this possible was Devil’s Workshop. Although it is no longer updated, you can still find the published works posted there.

During this period he chanced upon an opportunity to monetise the blog. This opportunity came in the form of Google AdSense. Having installed it out of curiosity, Bansal realised by the last year of post-graduation that the platform was earning him enough revenue to consider taking up blogging professionally.

However, the task of convincing parents and family members that this was a viable career choice remained.

Bansal drafted an answer for the impending questions, which was simple and for that reason brilliant- His solution was to draw an analogy between his profession and news agencies. While newspapers are distributed to the public at subsidised rates, the revenue is earned through ads. Much the same way, he explained that his blog was like an online newspaper earning revenues from ads. As convincing an answer as this might seem to us, Bansal himself believes that the point which convinced his parents was that he was earning enough from his blog to not take any money from them right from the final year of his M.Tech.

Enjoying the blogging experience led him to a revenue stream through AdSense. The desire to take it up professionally and have more control over the blog and content led him to WordPress.

 

http://https://youtu.be/iHv9LiM4nOA

 

Learn While You Earn

He had begun to customise his blog and found the coding experience on WordPress easy and enjoyable. Finding work enjoyable was again sufficient for the professional blogger to add freelance WordPress developer to his CV.

Not happy with tinkering with the CMS and learning about it on his own time and money, Bansal came up with an unique approach to help him learn and earn at the same time. He listed all the things which he wanted to learn on WordPress and signed up on sites for freelancers; like freelancers.com.

He says that he chose projects with realistic deadlines and possibilities which required him to learn and work on the list of things he wanted to know on WordPress. This approach ensured that he continued to grow more knowledgeable about the platform which he had grown to appreciate more and more. Besides the extra money didn’t hurt.

A key thing to note here is that the love for the platform led him to the job. Bansal mentions that he was already earning money from ads on his blog. “It was due WordPress that I became a web developer, not the other way around,” he says.

 

http://https://youtu.be/xgzJu0FkA5Q

 

Upfront About the Uptake: Why WordPress

If you ask Bansal why WordPress was his focus in 2008-2009 when the platform had not yet even reared its head in India, like always he has simple and convincing answer. He says that you should develop on a platform which you use. Since WordPress worked for him he worked on solely on this open-source CMS. He was always upfront to the clients about his reasons and motives.

The tactic seems to have paid off. This ensured that most of his clients returned to him. So much so that the workload was starting to expand beyond the capacity of an individual and shortly after his M.Tech, in  few months, he would register rtCamp. He didn’t know then but the agency would go on to become Asia’s first and so far only WordPress.com VIP partner agency.

However, Rahul Bansal’s choices and practices, seem to indicate that the seeds for rtCamp’s success were already sown during his freelancing days. The success story, is a tale of being guided by one’s interests, making good; but difficult, choices, and finally making the more difficult choice of sticking by one’s decisions. Freelance WordPress developers and agencies across the country would find good clues to planning their way forward from these ideas.

BlogVault has developed, and in collaboration with Pantheon created Pantheon Migrations. Pantheon is the world’s largest website management platform, delivering Drupal and WordPress as a service. Pantheon’s multi-tenant, container-based cloud platform enables web teams to build, launch, and run all of their websites from a single dashboard with ease. 

You can now migrate your WordPress sites to Pantheon with ease. Just input your SFTP credentials, email, and the destination URL, and you’re good to go. Pantheon will notify you when the migration begins and completes via email. You can also track the progress of the entire process on our website, via your BlogVault dashboard.

For us, at BlogVault this is the latest partnership for migrations. Previously we have partnered with other companies like WP Engine, Savii, & Cloudways. Now you can enjoy the convenience and expertise we strive to bring you while migrating to Pantheon as well.

easy WordPress migrations
BlogVault partners with Pantheon for easy WordPress migrations

You can always enjoy easy migrations with our backup plugin, BlogVault too. Apart from backup, and migrations, the plugin also offers, auto-restore, test-restore and security settings to improve your WordPress website security posture.

While the partnership adds an exciting page to BlogVault’s story, we’re also looking ahead. Our mission of developing the best in WordPress backup and security has led us to our next product. It’ll launch shortly and promises to change the way users deal with WordPress security issues on their sites. Until then, stay safe and don’t forget to backup!

Photo Credit: Sandeep Kelvadi
Photo Credit: Sandeep Kelvadi

After a considerable break, Bengaluru WordPress– the official WordPress meetup group in the city, met last Saturday- 23 June 2016.

Just a general shout out to all who are a part of WP community in the city: Bengaluru does have a WP meetup and you are welcome join.

At BlogVault, we’ve been actively involved in organizing the meetup group; along with being a venue sponsor, and with Bengaluru WP community in general. We were excited to gather again with the community.

The meetup was organized by Sandeep Kelvadi, Pixelmattic, and was attended by a good mix of people in different ways. Hardcore developers, amateur developers, WordPress plugin developers (like ourselves), enthusiasts, and newcomers; both to the WP platform and meetups, made up the group.

 

WordPress Themes: How to build a WordPress theme, the right way

Keeping the mix of people in mind, the topic was generally to do with an aspect of WP that almost everyone would have interacted with in some fashion or the other- WordPress Themes. As Sandeep put it, “We’ve all either developed a theme from scratch, customized a commercial theme, or downloaded and installed a free one.”

Along with this, the meetup was modeled on the leancoffee.org model to encourage participation. Taking off from here some talking points and discussion developed organically. Points touched upon were:

  • Various options available today to build a theme
  • Child themes
  • functions.php in theme.
  • Page builder: Boon or Bane
  • WordPress theme guidelines
  • Design considerations
  • Contributing back to community

Additional points that grew from the discussion::

  • The state of marketplaces for themes
  • Building a theme from scratch vs using a template/page builders: use contexts for both?
  • The scope for translations into Indian languages

A key concern raised during the meeting were to ensure that themes do not become a burden for the end user. With this is in mind the points that were raised during the discussion were:

  • It is important that only theme specific functionalities should go in theme’s functions.php, whereas site-level customizations should be made using plugins.
  • Only developers should be in-charge of making changes to a parent theme. Clients can work with child themes. Child themes may slow the loading time of the site.
  • The debate of market places for WordPress themes saturating vs the growing scope for India specific WP theme marketplaces being huge was touched upon too.
    One idea mentioned by Sandeep; as an example, in this regard was a plugin to account for the changing rates of goods and services on e-commerce sites after the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax.

Along with these some other points were discussed and the lean coffee model seemed to have done the trick as it encouraged most people present to contribute to the discussion.

The meetup ended with renewed commitment to develop more active participation and grow the WP community in Bengaluru into a more visibly active and organized force.

Being the unofficial tech hub of the country, Bengaluru has an array of people from different domains working with WordPress. These may range from developers/agencies who work solely with WP to others who work with WP only as a part of the range of services they offer. There are also many who may have started out as enthusiasts and carved out careers from it. Apart from this end users like bloggers, & the business community are also part of this community.

Organizing to provide a focus point for people from all these walks of life to network, share, learn and grow can only be a good thing. The group decided the third Saturday of every month as the official meetup day. To know more and join the group go Bengaluru WordPress at meetup.com. See you all at future meetups.

By now you most probably would have come across this story which has taken the internet by storm recently, especially the programming community. The story reads:  How a hosting company lost its entire business because of one line of bad code. Any person even vaguely familiar with command prompt can guess that one line:
rm -rf

(well the actual line of code as per its author was rm -rf {foo}/{bar})

 

The issue first came to public notice when the person responsible for this catastrophe asked for help on ServerFault (question now removed). As per the question and followed thread of comments author intended to run a script that did a few task along with deleting all files/folders inside certain folders passed as variable. Due to an error in the code, the variable got wrong value which resulted in wiping everything on the machine. Unfortunately he ran this same script on all his machines which led to deletion of everything. A complete annihilation!

 

Add to that he ran a web hosting company. He not only deleted his entire company code and data but also wiped clean all customer data. This affected some 1535 customers who were using his service (figures provided by him on serverfault’s thread).

 

Did he take backups?

Whenever a person read such stories, first thing to come across mind is – why didn’t he take backups? Well as per him, he did. He made backups on separate disks, however these disks were mounted to the main machine and hence the contagious script managed to wipe them too.

 

He posted a comment that read:

“All servers got deleted and the offsite backups too because the remote storage was mounted just before by the same script (that is a backup maintenance script).”

 

We often come across users who are trying our service and tell us at the end of trial period, while they really loved our service their hosting company provides backup and hence they may not need our service. It’s difficult to explain why you cannot blindly rely on backups done by your hosting provider but this certainly is a good example to start with.

 

We understand it’s a rare case scenario coupled with human error and probability of something like this happening with your premium managed hosting provider is equivalent to probability of discovering extraterrestrial life. But the important thing to notice here is there is still a probability. There are over 1 billion websites on the internet today, even mere 0.1% accounts to 1 million websites and that’s a huge number. You definitely don’t want to be one in this million group.

 

If something similar happens with the managed hosting provider you are signed up with, your included backups will do you no good. This hosting company just lost all its data. Yes it was because of the carelessness of the system admin but human errors can happen anywhere. There can be another similar case, where a hacker somehow breaks into your hosting company’s server and run similar script intentionally. That will affect you equally. Not only your production site is gone, also the backups.

You should never completely rely on backups by your hosts

Though there are many managed hosting companies that provide quality automated backup to their customers, one should not completely rely on these backups especially when the site in question is your main source to bread and butter. If their system is compromised, so are you and your sites. We cannot emphasise enough how important it is to have backups completely independent from your hosting servers.  


Let’s assume another case where your hosting company is hit by a major DoS attack and it went completely down for 3-4 days. Your site data may be safe but there is no way to access it. There is no certainty how soon they will recover and you cannot let your site just hang around like that. Since your backup belongs with the same hosting company, there is no way to access them either. Like it or not, you’re stuck. If only your backups were independent, you could have hosted them somewhere else meanwhile.

 

These are real world examples and can happen to anyone. A good backup needs to be offsite, robust, completely independent from your main servers and most importantly something you can access and deploy anywhere within minutes. We have seen enough number of times people despite having zip of their backup, running over various tech forums desperately seeking professional help to get their site restored because just unzipping it won’t bring the site back. There are various server configurations that may require fixing/updating in wake of recent disaster. Similarly a good robust backup should have an easy way to validate itself. Consider a situation where you are relying on a backup which is corrupt and you only learn this when you needed it. It’s a nightmare! While most managed hostings do provide decent backup service, these are a few scenarios where they fall flat.

 

Our post is not aimed to scare our readers, we just want to educate people about the importance of an independent automated backup service. One can never take their system for granted. As per the very nature of machines they are bound to crash, hacked, wiped out, melt down etc. One need to have sound backup system not just for their sake, but also for the sake of their users. And we just happen to provide one 🙂

PressNomics is a 3-day conference for the renowned creators of third-party products and services for the WordPress community, organized by Pagely. It’s all set to take place this week, starting from the 2nd of March till the 5th, at the Tempe Mission Palms, Tempe, Arizona. Our founder, Akshat Choudhary, will be representing BlogVault at this event.

PressNomics

More About PressNomics

The PressNomics conference will cover topics pertinent to WordPress entrepreneurs like community considerations, growth hacking, and customer relationship management. Some remarkable speakers attending this event include (but are not limited to)

and many more…

BlogVault at PressNomics

Well, we’ll not be presenting at PressNomics, but we’ll definitely be around to discuss WordPress security and backups (and anything else you might want to talk about). So guys and gals, if you’re there this week, feel free to catch up with us for a chat or drinks. We would love to meet you all!

As the usage of WordPress continues to grow on the global level, the need for multilingual sites is on the rise too. Having your site’s content available in multiple languages is good for your business. With a multilingual site, you can eliminate the risk of losing potential customers just because you haven’t provided content in their native language.

WPML is the WordPress Multilingual plugin that helps you build multilingual sites. It is the first plugin of its kind that has been created by a translation company who know the works like none other. With an excellent support team backing it, the plugin already powers over 4,00,000 sites around the world. It is available in blog and CMS versions and the default install comes with over 40 languages. It is compatible with most WordPress themes and hence doesn’t require special handling to make themes multilingual-ready. You can also use it to build multilingual ecommerce sites along with wooCommerce.

Now for the best part, WPML is compatible with blogVault. You can now use it seamlessly with blogVault to ensure that your data is 100% safe. Irrespective of how many languages are supported by your site, blogVault backs up your entire content.

 WPML  +  blogVault

 

heartbleed_50The latest security threat doing the rounds is the Heartbleed bug. This bug is a vulnerability in the OpenSSL cryptographic library. OpenSSL is used by majority of the sites on the Internet to transmit sensitive information such as passwords and credit card numbers in a secure manner. The Heartbleed flaw makes it possible for hackers to trick systems into sending over data stored in their memory. It is even possible for hackers to get hold of encryption keys using with they can decrypt information moving to and from a given site.

Heart BeatsAs blogVault uses OpenSSL to safeguard your data from attacks, it is quite normal for our customers to be concerned. But we are here to assure you that your data is under NO threat. blogVault uses a version of SSL that is not affected by the Heartbleed vulnerability. So no worries there, your data is absolutely safe with us!