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Shikhil Sharma, Founder of Get Astra, on WordPress Security

September 27, 2019

5 Min Read
Shikhil Sharma
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Today, in WordPress Experts’ Interview Series, we welcome Shikhil Sharma, founder of Get Astra WordPress security. He talks about his career, WordPress hosting, and security related issues.

Cloudways: Hello Shikhil, and thank you for joining us today. Tell us about yourself.

Shikhil: Thank you, Saud! I must say that I’ve not seen any company manage the community as Cloudways does, kudos to you guys for that.

I’m Shikhil, founder of Astra Security and I really care about the problem of making web security super simple for businesses. When not working towards making Astra have a massive impact in the world of cyber security, I enjoy a game of soccer and ping pong.

Shikhil founder of Astra Security

Cloudways: What’s Get Astra all about. What problems does it fix for the customers? 

Shikhil: Astra is a security suite offering rock-solid security without any ifs & buts to website owners. Under Astra’s suite, we offer a WAF (firewall), Malware Scanner, Security Scan and ability to run your own bug bounty program all under one roof! Essentially, Astra is about three things, which all of us tend to repeat in our mission and talk about daily. These three things are:

  1. Rock Solid Security: 40% of our team is hardcore security engineers who breathe web security. This helps us in making our core notch.
  2. Super Simple: Everything we do starts from the customer and is thought backwards from there. This helps us in delivering a solution that they absolutely adore.
  3. ‘Fans’, not customers: We believe what separates good companies from great companies is their ‘Support’. This is one thing that can single-handedly make or break a business. We treat support as the most important ‘feature’ of our product.

Cloudways: What was the biggest challenge in getting Get Astra to market? What and how did you overcome development challenges?

Shikhil: WordPress security is a space where amazing security plugins like Wordfence exist. And in this market, making a name for Astra was something that required a well thought out strategy. We definitely knew there were gaps based on our potential customer surveys. All we had to do was serve those pain points of customers which aren’t being served well yet. However, in markets like Magento, Prestashop, Drupal, etc., the market was quite wide open and we were able to capitalize on that rather quickly.

My co-founder Ananda and myself have been in the Cyber Security industry for quite a while now. Whenever we used to talk about security with agencies and CXO’s, one consistent feedback used to be the difficulty in using security tools, and we knew we had to address that.

Cloudways: What is your development flow? What tools and services do you use for maintaining Get Astra?

Shikhil: Our development flow is highly agile. Our development sprints are two-week-long which means the rate at which we push updates/features is absolutely amazing. We do not believe in ‘developers’ but rather go by ‘product owner’ mindset where each person developing a particular feature is the owner of that mini-startup within Astra. This works like magic and everyone thinks beyond the scope.

There are only a few tools that we use, including GitLab, Sentry, Trello, Wiki.js, CodeCommit, etc.

Cloudways: Security has always been a hot topic in the WordPress industry. From your experience, please share a few most common reasons why WordPress sites are attacked and give the top five tips to secure a WordPress site.

Shikhil: WordPress is massive, and anything of that scale is bound to attract the bad guys. I can say that the top reasons include un-updated codes, vulnerable plugins etc. but I feel that it’s not the case. Simply because I’ve seen even updated WordPress websites with best security practices get hacked! It’s the nature of internet / WWW – it wasn’t made with security in mind and WordPress being 34% of the web takes the beating just like the remaining 66%.

Top five tips to secure WordPress sites include:

  • Some WordPress updates are very critical to security, don’t ignore them
  • Plugin developers, a lot of times, do not take security seriously, be sure of the plugin before installing on your WordPress
  • When on a shared hosting, please containerize otherwise your website stands a chance to get infected with malware from other lose sites on the same server
  • WordPress security is evolving on a daily basis, use a firewall+malware scanner
  • Why not take this video course on WordPress security!

Cloudways: What are some of your most exciting projects on WordPress that you have done in the past and recent? What are the challenges you face and how did you deal with them? Any interesting memory you would like to share?

Shikhil: Well, this answer comes from nostalgia. It might not be the most interesting project for you, but I met my co-founder through WordPress! Back in the day, when I was trying to set up a blog for our website I got stuck somewhere and asked Ananda (who was my batchmate in university) for help. Well, that led to we developing Astra and doing what we’re doing now. This definitely trumps other projects we did on WordPress as this simple setting up of a blog led to all the other projects!

Cloudways: Many associate the success of WordPress to its vast community. Do you agree with this comment? How do you see the future of WordPress? 

Shikhil: I definitely agree with this. The power of community is second to none! Time and again, businesses with massive communities have disrupted the ones where there wasn’t any community.

Glad you asked, Automattic (WordPress parent company) has just announced getting a $300m funding from Salesforce. From here, the open-source WordPress definitely seems to be getting more and more features, followed by the evolution of Guttenberg too. In general, this round reasserts the fact that WordPress will now focus alot on enterprises (WP VIP an example). The managed WP space has been evolving, and it will continue to do so. With recent Tumblr and ZBS acquisition, I definitely see WordPress going up-market. I predict that WordPress will have around 42-45% market share in the next two years.

Cloudways: For achieving the optimal performance with WordPress, it is essential that users deploy their websites on the cloud, as it offers reliability and security. What are your views on hosting WordPress on Cloud? Do you think the next generation in hosting is Managed Cloud Hosting as the one offered by Cloudways?

Shikhil: Haha, I just wrote that above as the future of WordPress hosting without realizing this was the next question. Yes, I 100% agree on this! Cloud+managed is THE way ahead!

People pay for convenience and cloud hosting service that Cloudways offers is the way forward! When given everything at one place, with a seamless experience – people do not hesitate even paying for a premium.

Cloudways: Shikhil, you’ve worked very hard throughout your life. Would you like to tell about your interests other than professional work? What do you do in your free time?

Shikhil: I sincerely believe the fact that creative ideas come when you’re not trying to get them! Indulging in sports or other hobbies is the time when I get my best ideas!

I love to play football, ping pong, read biographies and binge watch on Netflix once in a while. Watching tiny house videos is one of my guilty pleasures. I just can’t get enough of how much one can fit in such a tiny place and yet make it look big!

Cloudways: Finally, here’s your chance to freestyle :). Write anything you think could be interesting or useful to our readers.

Shikhil: Haha, this is the difficult part!

Okay, so I’ve been thinking about this a lot these days. Sometimes we underestimate what we are capable of by creating boundaries based on what others think. If you are still reading this, then know that you are only limited by your own imagination and not by your friends’ or your parents’ or that random influencer’s Medium article you read! Have confidence, take that big leap! If you fail, you’ll fail big – how many of us get to fail big? Not many!

Cloudways: Can you please share an image of your workstation?

Shikil Sharma workspace

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Saud Razzak

Saud is the WordPress Community Manager at Cloudways - A Managed WooCommerce Hosting Platform. Saud is responsible for creating buzz, spread knowledge, and educate the people about WordPress in the Community around the globe. In his free time, he likes to play cricket and learn new things on the Internet. You can email him at m.saud@cloudways.com

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