We have spent years in our agency perfecting our project management processes for app and web development. There are so many potential failure points during the project lifecycle that can lead to a breakdown of the client relationship. We’ve got a responsibility as the service provider to ensure that we provide as smooth and stable delivery process as possible.
We want to help the client achieve their goals, and we want to develop a long term relationship with them beyond the first contract. The lifetime value of your clients need not stop at a web build. If done well, an effective team and excellent delivery will put you in good stead to develop the relationship further supporting them beyond their initial brief.
Disclaimer: I fell in love with Cloudways some time ago, so please accept this as my rose-tinted, heavily biased view of a two-year honeymoon. I will share the frustrations I had to highlight just why I wear their branding nearly every day!
Potential Failure Touchpoints
Many agencies work online through a low-cost host to develop and test their applications. The key touchpoints in our experience with online projects include:
- Unreliable development servers
- Lack of consistent backup
- Poor user interfaces
- Limited security options
- Slow support
- Host restrictions
- Poor documentation
Unreliable Development Server
There is nothing worse than deploying to a slow server or having the quality of your work questioned by clients who are frustrated with how long things take to load.
Lack of Consistent Backup
Despite using Github, there have been times we need to quickly roll back the website to a previous restore point where we have a clear snapshot from that time including database. Many hosts expect you to look after your own backup, and the manual backup processes we’ve experienced on control panels have been slow, clunky and unreliable.
Poor User Interfaces
Digging into fully loaded control panels, trying to work out how to set up SSH, or finding where I can control the PHP versions may seem trivial, but they add delays and stress to the workflow. Documenting an unintuitive interface is also a challenge to both create and to follow.
Limited Security Options
Working on public sector projects, we have to do our due diligence. Without the option to add team access with security levels or activate two-factor authentication, limits the hosts that we can work with.
There is nothing worse, mid-project when something is not working. The last thing you need is a slow response via a support help desk platform. 24-hour response SLAs don’t meet our business needs.
Whilst no host can offer you completely unrestricted access to a managed server, we’ve hit many brick walls set my overzealous system admins. Limits such as packages that can be installed, or configuration options have to lead us to move development server mid-project holding us up several days.
That being said, you should consider using our hassle-free WordPress hosting for agencies.
As a team of developers, we have a very good understanding of the inner workings of a server environment, as well as the options available to us. We like to be able to dig into documentation to find what we need to continue with our work rather than having to rely on submitting countless support questions.
How Cloudways Changed the Cloud Hosting Game?
So these few touchpoints may at times seem trivial, yet multiply the projects, deadlines, and stress and these can very easily blow up out of proportion. Running two agencies, these issues build up to a lot of pressure and have led to me making detrimental mistakes.
On prior platforms, my team and I have had to deal with the loss of data, security breaches, support frustration and so much more. I was at a loss for a solution.
Over the years, the cloud has taken over, and I recognized that a cloud server could answer my speed and resource issues, however, the process of firing up and managing the servers was complex. We’d require a specialist to support us and manage the servers so that we could focus on what we do best.
Control panels that some cloud offerings provided attempted to offer a simpler interface but we still hit the problems of being restricted, or receiving little to no support due to the “unmanaged” clause. Where it was “managed,” we had little power or control to add what we needed.
The Game Changer
We’d nailed our speed issues, but other problems still existed. Then Cloudways came to my attention and rocked my world! They had created a central system to allow me to spark up servers across multiple cloud solutions, that would answer most of my project woes.
I could choose a service provider to suit different project types. There was a simple interface to manage everything, and fast access to support via live chat and documentation. Nothing is perfect, Cloudways included, but from putting up with platforms that are not fit for purpose, Cloudways is close to perfect for our business.
Fast forward a few months and our project workflow have completely changed and for the better.
Our Project Setup Workflow
We’ve got a very clear workflow now with our development stacks as well as our live servers, all of which reside within the Cloudways eco-system.
First, we select either an existing server or create a new one depending on the specs and capacity that we need. Being able to create a server on leading cloud services in nearly any location in the world is a very satisfying experience.
Now we spark up our application(s). With Cloudways, we can select from a wide range of application templates with pre-packaged setups such as WordPress, ecommerce and more. We are careful to adopt a naming convention so that our applications can be easily identified.
Set up the Project
Next, we create a new project using the Cloudways interface. We can select what applications (sites) that are related to that project. For example: “Client X – Dev” and “Client X – Staging”. This is important for fast access to the relevant servers but also allows us to control who can access what. Associating apps with a project really unlocks the power of team management for us.
Establish the Team
Now we review who will be a part of the project and add them as a member of the project. We also configure what level of access they will need. For example, some of our developers need to be able to change the server settings and packages but do not need access to backups, scaling options, security settings, etc.
For version control, we now link our private repository to the relevant application ready for code deployment. This allows us to protect the codebase from adventurous but well-meaning developers who want to “give something a try”.
We’ve set up our Cloudways Bot to send out specific notifications. This can be pushed out via their API either through email or Slack. However, we love the API and based on the naming convention that we set up in the “Application Setup” we are able to internally create rules of who should be notified of what per application. This means team members are not inundated with irrelevant updates. They are more likely to pay attention to the bot.
I like to be safe. So when we are ready to start, I like to have a backup of where we were from the beginning of the project before we then continue to build everything out. We allow certain members the ability to take an on-demand backup also during the development process.
We now have a setup process that matches our processes. We are aware that during a project, we will likely experience issues that we will need to resolve. These could be missing packages, not enough resources, a bug and so forth. Cloudways have made it very easy for us to work things out.
Here is how we do it on Cloudways.
Often our question is not really relevant to Cloudways as it is perhaps a command we need to use in terminal or packages that need to be installed. So our first port of call is to grab that sort of information off the internet. Personally I’m a fan of Bing :).
Next, we check the support documentation. Cloudways do not shy away from developer-focused content. For example, they deep dive into managing WP-CLI or how to manage Git via the command line. We have more often than not found the resources we need here saving us any further steps.
It is very likely that someone has asked a question that we have before. So if we don’t find it in the documentation, our next step is to search the Cloudways Users group. We will often find someone reporting an issue, then a range of comments from the wonderfully supportive community. It is very likely your solution is in one of those helpful comments.
If we find nothing, we also post the question although if our issue is time-sensitive, we will now go to Cloudways support.
Rather than jumping straight into a support ticket, we’ve first made sure we’ve exhausted the previous avenues. First, because it rocks to solve things yourself and learn from it! Secondly, because this arms us with much more information about our problem when we bring the issue to support.
We can now jump on live chat and give a detailed issue statement along with what we have tried. I’ve had a technician on live chat within minutes, and at that point, they have enough information to assign your issue to the relevant support team or to point you to something in the knowledgebase.
Most of my support upsets, the event with Cloudways have been when I’ve skipped all the previous steps and in a blind panic, I lay my burdens on the unsuspecting support technician on the live chat. Not my proudest of moments.
Wrapping It Up!
Don’t settle for systems that could set you up to fail. Whilst I would, of course, recommend Cloudways, take some time reviewing your processes then find a platform that will match your workflow.
Finally, review and iterate. Processes can be flawed, and when you discover a weakness, you can evolve and compensate for it in the future.
Customer Review at
“Great performance for the price, and plenty of control”
Sean P [SMB Owner]
Lee helps thousands of agency owners across the world fall back in love with their agencies. He runs a membership community for agency owners, Agency Trailblazer, and hosts the Agency Trailblazer Podcast, which has over 12,000 downloads a month. He’s the go-to expert when it comes to removing the stress out of running an agency, and has spoken at conferences and events across the UK.