Last updated on August 27th, 2022 at 03:48 pm
Even though every agency is unique, there are still tools every Wordpress agency should be using.
If you’re running a WordPress agency of your own, you know how quickly the work can pile up. Whether it’s new builds for clients, or handling the day-to-day maintenance of their websites, it’s easy to quickly find yourself running out of hours in the day.
Luckily, there are a number of great tools out there to help you with all of this. Because keeping sites updated is one of the most important things an agency is responsible for, most posts that talk about managing a collection of WordPress focus on tools that allow you to keep all your sites updated. I’m going to touch on that in this post with my first recommendation, but I’m also going to discuss other tools that might be overlooked by those other posts.
Here are four of the best tools every WordPress agency should be using.
1. For Daily Site Maintenance: MainWP Dashboard Plugin
This post isn’t a plug by any means for MainWP, but I truly believe they have the best self-hosted WordPress site management system. I’ve used several other management tools and MainWP always came out on top for me.
MainWP offers a ton of free & premium extensions that help you keep your management site as clean as possible. You won’t have to worry about being cluttered by features you don’t plan on using. It handles more than just updates. MainWP can handle your backups, security, activity logs, and a whole bunch of other important things.
Like most free WordPress plugins, MainWP has a collection of premium extensions you can purchase to suit your needs or you can simply upgrade to their pro bundle which includes every paid extension. MainWP is one of the few developers (at the time of this writing) that still offers a lifetime deal for their pro bundle and for the time you save, it’s well worth the investment.
2. For Task Management: A Ticketing System
Another tool that every WordPress agency should be using is a ticketing system. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the work that needs to be done and the little time you have to do it in. A good ticketing system will help you organize and prioritize tasks while keeping a detailed record of everything you have done for your clients, and who on your team performed the work.
There are several ticketing systems available to small agencies using various platforms. Some systems such as SupportCandy or Awesome Support are self-hosted plugins you can install on your own WordPress site while others are self-hosted non-WordPress options like Handesk. Still others are 3rd party hosted systems such as Zendesk.
Which one you use really depends on your budget and needs, but starting with a WordPress-based plugin ticketing system is generally a good way to begin since they’re on a familiar platform and most self-hosted systems are at least free for the base functionality.
Which Option Do I Use?
I have tried every ticketing system mentioned in this post and have fairly deep experience with all of them and my favorite is SupportCandy. It’s simple to use and is really intuitive. It has a great interface and it’s easy to customize.
The free version comes with a lot of features and I also pay for the email piping extension that allows my clients to create a ticket simply by sending an email. The base plugin and their free extensions have everything else I need.
3. For Data Management: Cloud Storage
I was recently perusing the support threads on my preferred backup plugin and noticed a support thread where someone was essentially complaining about how a server crash caused them to lose all their backups. I was floored that an agency owner was storing their client backups on the same server as the website. Even more shocking is the backup plugin they used integrates with several cloud storage providers and the agency owner never took advantage of that because they didn’t want to pay for cloud storage. I find this ludicrous.
Having a cloud storage provider such as Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive, or Amazon S3 is beneficial for more than just website backup storage. I use mine to keep copies of documents, contracts, media, media licenses, and anything else related to my business and my client profiles. I keep everything organized by client for easy and quick reference. Everything related to my business is synced to cloud storage.
Which Cloud Storage Do I Use?
I use Dropbox Professional and I also use Microsoft 365 which comes with OneDrive. Dropbox is basically just a bunch of storage space that I have been using for many years and all of my client website backups automatically go to Dropbox. I also send all the backups to OneDrive as well. This way, I have 2 copies of every backup on separate and independent cloud storage providers.
Microsoft 365 also comes with a bunch of other features besides OneDrive. High quality Exchange-based email, MS Office apps, SharePoint, and a host of other tools are available for use. I use SharePoint lists to track each client profile and Microsoft Teams to communicate with clients via chat & online video meetings.
4. For Auditing: A Log Storage & Analysis Solution
One frequently missed task by many WordPress agencies is site auditing and log retention. Did you know that most backup plugins don’t automatically backup your website log files? That’s because they’re usually stored outside your WordPress installation and the location varies based on your hosting provider. Did you also know that most hosting providers don’t save your website logs for longer than a month or two?
If you had a security breach, or simply need to determine when a particular error started on a website, there’s a good chance you might not have log files going back long enough to isolate the issue.
At the bare minimum, you should be saving your raw website log files for at least 3-6 months. I save mine for an entire year. I also have PHP logging to a file on every website and this file is backed up and retained for 1 year. This allows me to really cross reference the time an error might have appeared on a site with the actions completed on the site when that error ocurred.
What Log Analysis Solution Do I Use?
While simply storing the log files in a safe place is suitable, analzying them by hand can be daunting. For log analysis, I use Splunk Enterprise. And before you start screaming about how expensive Splunk is, it’s important to know that Splunk has a free version! If you are ingesting fewer than 500MB worth of log files per day, Splunk is completely free – and 500MB is a lot of data. You can install Splunk right on a Windows computer.
With Splunk, I am able to visually chart out where all of my website traffic comes from, and filter based on response code. For instance, I can determine if a particular IP address has generated an excessive amount of 404 errors likely indicating the IP is a malicious scanner looking for vulnerabilities – I can then head over to my host to block the IP.
Splunk also has a ton of free add-ons including ones that allow it to ingest email messages. This is a great tool because if you have a security plugin that generates email alerts, you can send those alerts to Splunk and parse them for information to get a very high level view of what’s happening on your websites.
In my use case for Splunk, log management is used as a tool to take proactive steps rather than just digging through logs after something bad has happened.
Tools Every WordPress Agency Should be Using: Final Thoughts
While it’s true that every WordPress agency is unique and has different needs, they all have plenty in common as well. Using the right tools can help make your WordPress agency successful and allow you to onboard more clients without running yourself into the ground.
Sharif Jameel is a business owner, IT professional, runner, & musician. His professional certifications include CASP, Sec+, Net+, MCSA, & ITIL and others. He’s also the guitar player for the Baltimore-based cover bands, Liquifaction and Minority Report.
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