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Tips For Managing Multiple Websites

Discussion in 'Guest Articles' started by chris, Oct 13, 2012.

  1. chris

    chris Administrator

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    If you have lots or websites or your job involves managing lots of websites for your company or clients, you probably know how hard it is to keep track of everything. You have to manage credentials, backups as well as a constant stream of updates. A good web hosting provider will help you with some of this, but definitely not all of it. So in this article I thought I'd pass on a few tips that have helped me, as well as some from my colleagues.

    Thanks to the DN Trade members who also gave feedback ;)

    There are lots of tools and processes we can take advantage of to make life easier, hopefully this will get you pointed in the right direction.

    Clear Separation

    One of the things that I often come across is shared credentials, be it FTP/SFTP/SCP, software licences or analytics accounts. Always keep these accounts separate if you can. Whilst it takes a little longer initially to set things up with separate accounts, it's much more secure and easier when it comes time to handover management to someone else, outsource development or especially if you ever sell a website. Also, many platforms such as Google Analytics allow you to easily give someone access as a client, so use that option rather than giving them Administration level access.

    This point highlights the needs for something to help you manage your credentials.

    Managing Credentials

    Password management is a topic all of it's own and I know some of the old schoolers think centrally storing passwords online is a bad idea. However, if you're managing a high volume of usernames and passwords amongst a team of people (especially if they're remote) it's a much safer option than emailing passwords around every day. There are numerous desktop password managers (such as LastPass, KeePass etc.) and it's worth noting that some of these applications such as LastPass can be shared across a network and offer 2 step authentication (also called 2 factor authentication) using your mobile device. If you have access to 2 step authentication on any platform, I'd recommend taking the effort to turn it on. There are also several password management applications that offer team-based features such as granular access control and auditing. If this is important to you, take a look at the hosted service PassPack and self-hosted Thycotic's Secret Server.

    Tools To Manage Your Platform Of Choice

    Most modern web platforms and frameworks have tools to help you keep your system updated. Again, a little time spent up front will save you lots of time in the long run. Take the time to learn these systems well. I'll be using WordPress as my example since it's what I mostly use.

    I'll cover both free and paid services, as with anything your mileage may vary.

    • WordPress Multisite
      Formerly called WPMU, WordPress Multisite is a feature built into WordPress. It allows you to run lots of WordPress sites from one install. It has been used on lots of large blog networks and now quite mature. You need a dedicated IP address to use WordPress Multisite and occasionally you may come across plugins that haven't been developed with Multisite in mind. WordPress Multisite is also referred to as WordPress Network.

    • VaultPress
      VaultPress is a hosted service from Automattic. The focus of VaultPress is backup and security. I'm incredibly impressed with VaultPress and highly recommend it for anyone who is serious about the integrity of their WordPress systems. With VaultPress you have 11 copies of every piece of data and file - synchronised in real-time.

    • ManageWP
      ManageWP offers another world of WordPress management features. ManageWP is a hosted service and something I refer to as WordPress management on steroids. Some of ManageWP's features include backups, post to multiple sites, uptime monitoring, SEO and rank tracking, centralised statistics, security scans (via Sucuri.net), site cloning as well as being able to upgrade WordPress, plugins and themes across your network. ManageWP also has a nice mobile app so can keep an eye on things when you're on-the-go.

    • InfiniteWP
      InfiniteWP is the community favourite amongst hardcore WordPress users and has many of the features of ManageWP. However unlike ManageWP that is a hosted service, you download InfiniteWP and run it on your own server, this can also be localhost for added security. The core InfiniteWP application is free, however there are premium add-ons that you need to purchase if you want extend functionality. The scheduled backups to Repository like Dropbox or Amazon S3 are the most simple backup system for offsite backups you can hope to find. While there is currently a limit to the size of site you can backup (around 300MB) they are working to build a way to break up larger sites for transport offsite.

    • Worpit, WPSiteStack and CMScommander
      Worpit has many of the features of the above systems and along with InfiniteWP. It is probably the closest contender to ManageWP and with a lower price tag. WPSiteStack still seems to be a work-in-progress. CMSCommander is different in that it can also manage other systems such as Drupal, Joomla and phpBB. It's currently in open beta, so worth a closer look if you're running more than a few of the other supported systems. Please note that I haven't used these, I just came across them during my research so I thought I'd point them out.

    Conclusion

    The tool you choose ultimately depends on the volume and types of sites you manage, but regular maintenance is a prime candidate for automation. Even if it means creating a few basic scripts to help with your routine tasks, it will be time well spent. There is a real push within the WordPress development team to make sure that updating WordPress is as pain free as possible so watch this space.

    If you have any feedback, tools or ideas to share please comment below.

    Cheers,
    Chris
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2012
  2. Suzabro

    Suzabro Administrator

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    ManageWP

    Hey chris, great article. I've just started using ManageWP seems to be very slick. I'll check out the other ones too.
     
  3. ScottNugent

    ScottNugent Membership: VIP

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    Great article, Chris!
     
  4. Blue Wren

    Blue Wren Membership: VIP

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    Thank you Chris for the write up.
    I've been using InfinteWP for a couple of weeks now and I find it quite helpful.
     
  5. atom

    atom Administrator

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    Great stuff Chris, thanks!
     
  6. niiiiiiiiiik

    niiiiiiiiiik Archived Member

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    Chris, you know i hate WP Multisite... for 2 reason only, i keep posting on the wrong page... and its a bit of a process to leave it... BUT LOVE ManageWP, i recommend this to everyone. Especially that you can use it for free up to 5 sites. It makes managing your sites easy. If you go with their paid version, you get a lot of goodies too... I love the ease of multi sharing plugins and the ease of installing across sites, backups, website cloning, google analytics integration, one click updates of site and plugins... oh, i could ramble oh forever... LOVE MANAGEWP!!!! If you dont have it...Get it!

    Thanks for the article Christos! :)
     
  7. johno69

    johno69 Membership: VIP

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    My vote is for InfiniteWP.
     
  8. chris

    chris Administrator

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    Thanks for the feedback :)

    I'd be interested if anyone is using a shared password manager that they recommend.

    Cheers,
    Chris
     
  9. ScottNugent

    ScottNugent Membership: VIP

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  10. hearyourself

    hearyourself Membership: Community

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    Im a big fan of lastpass for passwords.
     
  11. findtim

    findtim Membership: VIP

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    great post chris, ManageWP i think we had another thread where it had problems so i haven't gone done that path, WPMU is something that i am CURRENTLY very interested in so i think i'll do a new thread about it so not to hijack this one.

    tim
     
  12. chris

    chris Administrator

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