When setting out on a journey of finding what is your calling, vocation or purpose in this life, you will definitely need some tools to help you along your path. Having tried and tested a handful of tools and systems over the past 5 years, I have reached the conclusion that thinking outside the box is a good thing. I will have to give credit to my wife for that.
The overwhelming amount of guides and tutorials online make your head spin. People are promoting systems they've used and worked for them and other systems that create good affiliate returns. I am not against promotion and marketing but promoting something for the sole purpose of getting a commission is a waste of everybody's time.
As my background is in IT Security, I wanted to approach this topic from a different perspective. Building your brand these days is something that requires business and marketing knowledge, IT systems and a strong enough WHY.
As Robert Kiyosaki mentions in his book Cashflow Quadrant, when starting your own business you have to master 5 areas. If you don't, you are bound to fail.
In this post, I will be focusing on Systems but will touch upon the other areas as well. As most systems online incorporate elements of the other 4 areas or can communicate with other platforms to accommodate these functions.
However, these days Systems are becoming the foundation even before you have an actual product.
If you are just starting out and building a business on the side while working a day job, you are most probably figuring out your voice and whether that comes through you in the form of writing, speaking or staring down a camera. Whatever the form, a blog is essential as part of building your online brand and occupying more real estate on the interwebs.
As a natural consequence, if you are not building your brand online, Google will do it for you, with what is being discovered from your Facebook, Twitter and other unconscious online activities that you don't regard as branding.
Although, Facebook and Twitter are an easy way to get started online and build an audience, you have no control over your content and your intellectual property. A change in policies or algorithms can have a major impact on your brand. Thus, to have an online presence with a system that you have more control over is preferred. However, striking a balance between control and Security is essential, otherwise your will be in a full-time job of protecting your site from 24/7 cyber attacks, as in the case of a VPS.
When it comes to CMS, Wordpress is the market leader. Wordpress powers 48% of the online CMS world and has been growing steadily over the last 12 years as you can see below.
Squarespace, which I am currently using is also on the rise and is my new favourite platform for reasons I will explain later.
Ghost is following along closely the footsteps of Wordpress and is gaining popularity but in my opinion a long way to go before it appeals to the masses. It is simple and fast, but If you are not into markdown, it can shut you off.
Wix is another drag and drop platform similar to Squarespace.
As Wordpress is the dominant platform and is mainly being used with self-hosted servers, I will be focusing on it in this post. Ghost can be self-hosted as well, but at the moment the managed solution offered at Ghost is more reliable.
Squarespace and Wix are managed services and remove many of the headaches that accompany Wordpress which explains the increased adoption, which is mostly ex-Wordpress users like myself.
As I have been in the information Security industry for a few years now, I can clearly see an increasing interest in Wordpress by cyber criminals. Yet most internet marketing advice even today does not cover this topic. The most common advice is on how you can start Blogging Online in 5 Minutes and be on your way to building your business.
It is understandable that when starting out to set up a blog or online business, a budget is a determining factor for most people, but Security should be one of the decision points these days.
12 years ago a CMS (Content Management System) called Wordpress emerged and it is slowly taking over the internet. As it is open source, thousands of people have been developing themes, plugins, and new functionality, making it so versatile that can be customized to accommodate just about anything you see online. Some of the most popular examples are the following:
- Podcast sites
- Membership Sites / Communities
- E-Commerce Sites
- Event Planning
- Physical Business Online Presence
- Book Authoring
It has allowed people with a minimal budget to have a website that looks great and just about anyone to start a business in any industry with some or all of the above components.
Wordpress is currently behind 48% of all CMS sites online. That is huge.
That also means that it has to keep up with the Security challenges that emerge.
In the words of Spider-Man or Voltaire,
One of the most common problems with Wordpress apart from core vulnerabilities is 3rd party plugin vulnerabilities. I remember the days when Wordpress issued a version upgrade every few months. These days it is once or twice a month due to Security vulnerabilities being discovered.
As you can see there are various versions online at the moment that are prone to very easy attacks.
To translate this into business-related impact, that means that a cyber criminal can have access to the administrative side of your website in order to either delete your site or most importantly these days to route traffic to other destinations or mask criminal activity.
Nobody wants that, but the stats are shocking.
It is dead simple to see what is the version of a WordPress site by typing in your browser http://domain/readme.html
That is not only dangerous for you as a consumer but as a business owner, as you are not safeguarding your customers' personal data and violating Data Protection laws.
What impact is this going to have to your business and ultimately on your brand?
Every minute of every hour of every day, there are people trying to guess your credentials for your site. This graph from Sucuri, shows the increase in Brute-force attacks over the last few months.
Something that I recommend you do straight away if you are on Wordpress is to scan your website with the Sucuri Free Website Malware and Security Scanner.
Sucuri offers a paid service that doesn't come with entry level hosting plans.
Another issue as mentioned above is the Wordpress version upgrade. If you are interested in blogging or setting up your business, it is not necessarily something that is on your mind. Most hosting providers these days, have an option on the control panel to auto upgrade your Wordpress installation as soon as an upgrade comes out.
The only caveat with that is if you are using Themes and plugins that are not being maintained by their developers and can result is broken functionality on your site.
Disabling and deleting plugins that you are not using is best practise.
However, the best option hands down will be to move to a Managed Wordpress provider that takes cares of these issues.
Managed WordPress Self-Hosted Solutions
Over the years, I have used a number of Wordpress hosting providers and have decided for the reasons mentioned above that they satisfy baseline requirements of speed, security and scalability.
There is nothing more painful than signing up with a hosting provider on an entry level plan only to find out months later that you have to manually migrate your site to change plans. Insane.
The hosting providers mentioned below offer Managed Wordpress services and take away most of the headaches that you didn't sign up in the first place and most internet marketing gurus will not talk about.
This is a relatively new service offered by Godaddy and it is called Godaddy Pro. Godaddy has been at the bottom of online marketing world as the support is almost non-existent. However, they have recently built new infrastructure that is specifically optimized for Wordpress and offers brute-force attack protection and malware detection and removal through Sitelock similar to Sucuri.
The Ultimate plan that offers Security additional security protection is 8.99$/Month and is a great place to start your blog and you can run 2 Wordpress sites.
Pros: The great thing about this new product is that is hosted on SSDs and that significantly improves speed and performance and also the fact that is quite cheap. I would go for the Ultimate Plan as it offers the Sitelock protection, though.
Cons: The ongoing dilemma as mentioned has been the consistency on support. Talking to support the other day while testing their Ultimate Plan, they mentioned that they will not offer any help with anything on your site, like plugins and design issues.
Overall, if you are just starting out and have to use Wordpress, this would be great to get started with. Remember though that Google is going to become your best friend.
The next hosting company on the list is WPEngine, in terms of cost and support. The hosting investment start at around 29$ with the Personal Plan but the support is phenomenal. You can have 1 Wordpress installation but can upgrade if required. Over the years, I have heard great feedback about WPEngine and it is highly recommended.
Pros: WPEngine is fast, support is excellent and security is great.
Cons: They only concern is the number of visitors per month, which is 25K on the Personal Plan, which might something to watch.
Another company I've used briefly but was very impressed is Pagely. The backend of Pagely is on Amazon Web Services, which makes it really scalable.
The pricing starts at 64$ and you can host up to 3 Wordpress sites with automatic updates and backups to Amazon S3. Wordpress Security is also included, as well as a caching service for faster loading times.
Pros: The fact that Pagely is using AWS to host your Wordpress site makes it a very reliable and secure option. They offer support through their ticketing system and their plans offer a lot of the protection discussed in this post, as part of their plans, without requiring additional plugins or subscriptions.
Cons: The only downside I could find was the pricing as they are only offering as minimum 3 sites plans, which you might not necessarily need or utilize when starting out.
New Rainmaker Platform
My favourite platform however on managed Wordpress has definitely been the Rainmaker Platform.
Their plan offers so much value that I don't know where to start. They offer 2 plans, Rainmaker Standard and Rainmaker Pro. The difference being that the Pro plan allows your to create courses and improve your marketing through Marketing automation tools. As I have been using Studiopress Themes for a few years now, Rainmaker provided the best of both worlds, Studiopress themes and managed hosting based on Synthesis. Some of the things you can do on Rainmaker Platform.
- Mobile-responsive, HTML5 themes
- Attractive, flexible landing pages
- Simple, built-in A/B testing
- Digital commerce made easy
- Protected member content
- In-house affiliate management
- Powerful podcasting tools
- At-a-glance traffic and conversion reports
- Customizable forms
- Redirect links
- Unlimited forums
- Dynamic, responsive design elements
- Intuitive editorial calendar
- Superior, managed, high-performance hosting
- Perpetual, proactive security monitoring
The rainmaker platform eliminated the need for so many plugins that I was left speechless. The fact you can host your podcast and your video on their platforms without sacrificing speed is worth it alone.
To be able to provide the services above, they don't allow the installation of any plugins and use a custom version of Wordpress which you don't have to worry about in terms of Security.
It is a higher investment and it makes a lot of sense if you are looking to consolidate and minimise your expenses. It is very liberating to know that you can host your blog, your podcast your courses and have a membership site on top of everything.
Another feature that I found invaluable was the Landing Pages. You can create stunning landing pages on the fly with minimal effort.
If you are already running a blog, a podcast and courses, I can't think of another platform that can handle all that and many more.
However, it is important to know that it is a heavily customised version of Wordpress and will take some time to get used to but nothing scary. The fact that also integrates with Infusionsoft makes it a great foundation for your business.
A point I wanted to make was that they also offer courses on how to improve your content and become an expert in your field.
I really enjoyed the Free 14 Day course on marketing as It gives your a different lens on how to create a successful business online by improving your content, which is not talked about much online.
Pros: Out of all the other platforms I have tested, Rainmaker offers speed, support and security while focusing quite rightly on online marketing education. Something you won't come across elsewhere.
Cons: A few points that could be prohibitive for some people is the upfront investment and the locked down nature of the platform. Also, the membership site needs some tinkering around to setup but support is amazing and they are there to help you along the way.
I am currently writing this blog post on Squarespace. I have been a big supporter and fan of Wordpress for the past 5 years but I found myself one day spending hours on end updating sites, changing CSS and anything else that comes with it, apart from writing.
Squarespace allows me to do just that.
It offers podcast hosting, e-commerce and gorgeous templates and landing pages and an array of suprises.
I don't need mention typography.
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