Interview – Creating your own managed WordPress service, and keeping all the margin with Patrick Gallagher
Today on the WP Builds WordPress podcast we have Patrick Gallagher from Gridpane, which is a new option for hosting your WordPress website.
We chat about this past with technology and how he developed a passion for working with WordPress, building hundreds of site over the years. Like all of us, he hunted around, trying to find the best hosting solution for his needs, but in all cases he found that there was something missing. So he decided that he was going to roll his own solution which he could then maintain and control himself, his own WordPress managed hosting company.
I’ve kind of oversimplified the story somewhat. In 2015 Patrick (and much of the internet) got hit by a Christmas day outage at Linode, a popular choice for offloading your hosting. Patrick was having a nice day with his family and suddenly the ‘site down’ emails began to arrive en-masse. So he had to go into work mode and get in touch with his clients to inform them that their sites were broken and there was no real way that he could fix them right away! A horrible moment, but worse for the fact that it was Christmas. This was the day that he decided to solve this problem once and for all.
So he started Gridpane with the idea that it would develop over time, and he began speaking about it in some online communities. As luck would have it a chap called Jeff Cleverley picked up upon Patrick’s message and then hit it off and Jeff has become the backbone of Gridpane.
They’ve been working on the stack since then, trying to perfect it, and we dwell for quite a long time on this…
This primarily revolves around building an automated platform for deploying your own WordPress install no matter what 3rd party service you’re using as the host.
Although it’s not true to say that Gridpane’s stack is aimed at developers who know their way around web hosting and how a server ought to be configured, you’ll get the most out of it if your are a competent server admin. They have hundreds of new customers and are more than happy to help them, but the bleeding edge performance is going to be open to those who know what they’re doing.
The other main feature of Gridpane is the speed with which you can get a WordPress website up and running. If you install WordPress manually, you know that this involves multiples steps – create a database, download WordPress core and get that onto the server, link WordPress to that database. This is the famous 5 minute install, and once you’ve done it a few times it’s really easy to do. However, even that can be a pain, and so managed WordPress hosts make that much easier – you will out a few fields, click some buttons and they create everything for you and email you a handful of minutes later to say that it’s all up and running.
Gridpane go a few steps even further, making it even more efficient. So it’s things like removing the need to create a username and password for your WordPress install, instead they just use the one that you use for logging into Gridpane itself. Less to write down, less to remember, less time to create the website!
They try to make as many assumptions as they can about how you’re going to want to set up your WordPress website, so that you don’t have to jump through that hoop each time you create an installation.
So it’s little steps like predefining bundles which tell Gridpane that you want your install to include this SEO plugin, this theme and the DNS ought to be set up in a certain way. All you need to do is name the site, say on which server you want it to reside and hit ‘go’. That’s it, you’re done.
So, time saved. But what about all the other things that you’d hope for… Security – check, backups – check, updates – check. They do all of that too.
We have not yet got onto the what Gridpane actually links up with. So as of the release of this podcast they allow you to host your site on any of the follow servers:
- Digital Ocean
- AWS Lightsail
- Google Compute
If you don’t want to use any of the above and have a server on your own hardware, so long as you have root access and know the IP address, you can use Gridpane. They have a script to enable their services.
Should you want to move your WordPress installs from one of the services mentioned above to another, you can do that. Patrick recommends that you get the smallest server that you think that you’re going to need and only beef them up at the point that you need that, but moving from Google to Amazon is really simple with Gridpane.
In terms of backups, they started out in the usual way doing daily backups, made available for 30 days. They now perform incremental backups, only backing up the changes that you have made recently. This saves a ton of space on your server, but should you want to connect to a 3rd party solution for maximum redundancy, you can do that too. Things like Dropbox, Wasabi etc.
It’s a really interesting chat about a new service that could save you a how load of time and hassle. Go check it out and see if it’s a fit for you and your business.
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Transcript (if available)
These transcripts are created using software, so apologies if there are errors in them.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:00:00] Welcome to the WP Builds podcast, bringing you the latest news from the WordPress community. Welcome your host, David Waumsley and Nathan Wrigley.
Welcome to the WP Builds podcast. This is episode number 165 entitled, creating your own managed WordPress service and keeping all the margin with Patrick Gallagher. It was published on Thursday the 6th of February, 2020 my name's Nathan Wrigley, and we don't have David Waumsley with us today because we alternate between an interview and a discussion episode, and this week it's an interview, as I just said with Patrick Gallagher.
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Go to WP Builds dot com forward slash advertise a bit like Elliot Condon from advanced custom fields. Did. Want to build anything with WordPress, with the advanced custom fields plugin by your side, you can take full control of your WordPress edit screens and custom field data with a few clicks. You can add extra fields to all sorts of admin pages, including post taxonomies, users, and now even Gutenberg blocks.
They also provide an intuitive PHP API, which makes WordPress development a dream. Never tried it. Well, now's the time. Visit advanced custom fields.com forward slash pro and we do thank all of our sponsors for helping us to put on the WP Builds podcast. So let's get onto the podcast proper. Today I'm talking to Patrick Gallagher.
He's the founder of Gridpane, which is a new option if you are looking around for ways to host your WordPress websites. The whole point of grid pain was kind of conceived on a day when. Patrick was just really finding it too much to cope with all of the things that were going wrong with his WordPress websites.
You'll find that out within the episode, and he said, enough is enough. I want to build a company that can solve all of these hosting problems, and so he did. We talk about the problems that it solves, why it's different, and it all comes down to one word, really time. The idea is to save you as much time as possible and get you up and running with a WordPress install.
Few clicks as possible. They are making waves. There's a lot of high profile people talking about them. A lot of websites being hosted on them now. So I thought it was time to bring him on. So without further ado, here's Patrick Gallagher. Okay. Thanks for making it to the, to the interview part of the podcast.
Today I'm joined by Patrick Gallagher. Hello. Patrick.
Patrick Gallagher: [00:03:35] Hello, Nathan. Thank you for having me.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:03:37] Where you've, we've had many, attempts at doing this and largely we've been prevented by speaking to one another. I would, I would say through our children, I'm blaming the children.
Patrick Gallagher: [00:03:47] Exactly. It's, it usually, I mean, I guess if you're going to miss something work-related, it probably should be for your kids. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I can't remember what it was, are different or different conflicts.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:03:58] You had a, a, I had a concert. You had a, I don't know what it was, but anyway, so, so we're here today. Patrick has, I would say is kind of like writing a bit of a wave at the moment. We seem to have a real interest in the service that he and his colleagues have put together, which you may have heard of, called Gridpane, which is hosting bots. They've got a really different sort of like UVP, which we'll find out about in a moment. but I just want to take the conversation back because when I put these podcast episodes out. I send all of the guests show notes and you know, you get a mixture of responses.
Some people put a very small amount and that's fine. Other people write much more. Sometimes it's very business like and and other times it's very, very personal. And, and Patrick went for the, I'm going to write a lot of really personal stuff angle, which I just think is great. So that. But for a start, and I'm really pleased that you made the effort that kind of speaks volumes about, about where you're at and the effort that you've made to come on the show.
So let's rewind the clock. Let's go right back to the beginning of, how on earth you've got yourself involved in technology hosting, any of that. You can go back as far as you like cause the, so many lovely little stories going to crop up here.
Patrick Gallagher: [00:05:10] Sure, sure. So, I originally worked for a real estate company and I was pretty much their entire it department and I, I was offered a PR. I was offered a job that was really too good to be true and ultimately ended up dropping out of college. I was going to Michigan state studying computer science and, and just. I had an opportunity to take a fantastic job. And, the only downside was that I had to literally be this entire it department for this company that had five offices and 200 people.
And, so that was a really good experience. and then through all of that, I basically decided that I never wanted to work in a corporate environment ever again. And, so I started my own consulting business in around 2006, I guess, and I ran that for, No, it would've been 2004. Yeah. So I ran that for 12 or 13 years.
and I worked with a lot of real estate agents, a lot of commercial real estate brokers, doctors, lawyers, really all over the map. And. I built hundreds of WordPress websites. I lost count of how many I built. And I, and during all that time, I hosted with basically every single host in the world.
Certainly all of the really bad ones. As, as, as, as you still often do, you know, you started, what's the cheapest possible thing that I can do here? And you work your way through the, through the muck. And then eventually you, you, you tell yourself that your time is really valuable and your, and so you end up at a, at a WP engine or similar.
and ultimately, I think it was the second time that I canceled my WP engine account. reasons are not super important, but the, the biggest problem was that. If I needed to reach out for support, their tech was probably not sharp enough to, to be super helpful. And so it was like a really slow Google search was the, the response I would get back.
and so I just figured, well, to hell with it, I'm going to, I'm going to solve this problem once and for all for my customers. I'm going to build my own managed WordPress hosting company and discovered that none of the tools to do that job correctly existed.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:07:17] Do you have a background in, I mean, I know you said you run the it department for a, you know, for a real estate company and what have you?
Well, when I hear that I'm, I'm kinda like thinking tech support. You know, you're the guy that runs in with the, as it was CDs and updates the windows, with patches and things like that, and make sure that the monitors don't get burned out and, you know, clean out the mouse and all that. But no, presumably there was an element of kind of hosting or intranet or whatever it might be.
Patrick Gallagher: [00:07:43] Yeah, it was, I mean, it was from, it was interesting. I was expected to wear suit and tie because I would be meeting with, I would be meeting with the vice president and the president of company, and we'd be talking about pay per click advertising. We'd be talking about SEO, we'd be talking about big level strategy stuff, and ultimately ended up building sort of a division that was just.
lead capture various traffic in an inbound marketing that was lead generating and it, and it ended up adding something like $20 million to the bottom line in terms of their total sales. And so I was doing all of that stuff, but I also had to crawl around underneath the desks and unplug things. And she, you know.
Turn it on, turn it back off, you know, to changing printer cartridges. So I really was the , the it department, all the way from the lowest level tech to to high level sort of CTO type position.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:08:34] It really is. It grounds you, doesn't it? That stuff I guess. You know, on the one hand you've got these $20 million strategies going on. On the other hand, you've still got a. Switch the computer off by getting on your knees and crawling under the desk.
Patrick Gallagher: [00:08:47] Yeah, yeah. And after like shredding or like getting, you know, the tent tie stuck in it, you know, in the back of a, of a desktop or whatever and tear and something was like, I'm not wearing suits and ties anymore.
Like I'm wearing cargo pants and a golf shirt, you know, that's what you'll get out of me. I don't get paid well enough to just keep wrecking suits underneath desks. So, so yeah. So, And that was just me as a kid too. It's just pretty much from the simplest stuff for the most interesting. you know, back then it was AI and now it's really called machine learning. I was just always interested in, in the entire range of information technology out there. And so I've always been. Always been nerding out. I guess
Nathan Wrigley: [00:09:31] The interesting thing though is that most people face that the dilemma. So you mentioned that, you know, you'd had a couple of crises with, various hosts and what have you, but most people have that crisis and regardless of their technical background, even even the most astute of us, don't decide to set up their own company offering hosting.
They simply go and, you know, they find the next one that they haven't tried. That that was quite an interesting moment in your life. I presume the way that you've just described it, it sounded literally like you decided at that moment that this was going to happen. Is that how it was or is that kind of like painting in the painting in the numbers, looking back in time?
Patrick Gallagher: [00:10:08] No, it, it actually, it, there was a specific event around 2015. There was a big distributed denial of service attack that, that hit a company called , infrastructure provider called the node and it knocked the whole bunch of hosts down and it, and it, it ended up knocking down what I had started to build.
You know, I'd started to kind of dabble with VPs servers and figuring out how to provision things by myself. But I still had some sites with, with WP engine, and they got hit really hard. I mean, every single data center globally for Linode was down for like 10 days, and it was. That event just happening on Christmas day.
you know, trying to try to go and meet my wife's family and just like my watch pinging 50 times, like all your sites are down. it was that that day was the day that it was like, okay, enough's enough. I have to solve this problem. I have to, I have to create a high availability solution to solve this problem.
and, and it was just like I was stewing about it that Christmas night and decided, yeah, okay, I'm going all in on this thing.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:11:15] Wow. That is it. I do like that story. The fact that it's got the Christmas day angle in is just even better. So it literally literally was Christmas day. You sort of sitting down to eat your Turkey and all that on the phone or the watch or whatever it was, is just kind of, you know, I can imagine the gut wrenching anxiety that it causes. It must've been a pretty unpleasant day that,
Patrick Gallagher: [00:11:35] yeah. Well, and it was, it was in between, you know, you've got young kids. It was in between the, destroyed the house in the morning and open all the presents and then go over to the in-law's house.
It was right in between that moment. And I was trying to get the house sorted out because we were going to have yet another Christmas dinner back at our place later in the afternoon. And, my brother-in-law left a package of rice on the counter and, it looked like it was, it looked like it was sealed and it was not.
And I picked it up and it was just like real rice, you know, it's really like light. And so I just totally blasted the entire kitchen. And I'm like, Oh my God. And then right at that moment I get site down, site down, site down, sit down, sit down, sit down. And so that I sorted out the rice problem and then I emailed all of my customers and I said, Hey, I'm really sorry about your sites are all down and I can't do anything about it.
And I did not like having to say that part. I did not like having to say, and I can't do any . And, a couple of them emailed me back and were like, what are you doing? Go have a beer. Like, this is not a problem. You know, this is not a big deal. And, and, and it was to me, and it was not something that I was gonna ever have happen again.
And so that was the day that it was like, okay. I've got to build, I've got to build the right tool for the job.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:12:50] Yeah, that's such an interesting story. And the rice is just an added, is the icing on the rice. Sing on the cake, if you like a, to coin a phrase. and then one of the things that you wrote in the show notes, and I don't know if that
This is coinciding with the ma with the story that you've just told her. If, if we have to rewind a bit further, you, you mentioned, a friend of yours who became a colleague of yours. I don't know if you were friends first or what, but, tell us about Jeff cleverly and your relationship with him and how he became a crucial part of everything that we're going to talk about today.
Patrick Gallagher: [00:13:23] Yeah, absolutely. So once I launched Gridpane officially, like started talking about it in a, it would have been the WP hosting group. He was one of the very first people to see it. And he, I think he was probably maybe the third or fourth person that signed up that wasn't somebody that I had directly invited.
And at the time he was doing some consulting and strategy work for run club, which is sort of a competing product, but I don't really consider them to be a competitor of ours because they, they just do a very different thing very well. And we're super focused on WordPress. But he and I sort of just hit it off.
I'm just just messaging Facebook messenger chats, and then we just had a lot of affinity. We had a lot of similar backgrounds. I think his, his dad had just recently passed away and that, that has obviously hit me, because my own dad passed away around the same time of the year or whatever. And so it was just like.
For whatever reason, the stars just aligned. And we got along really well, and we had, we had similar political beliefs and we just, we just jelled really well. and so I asked him to start doing a little bit of part time work, like on documentation. And within just a couple of weeks, he goes, you know, I can't really create this documentation on that function because you know, that functions currently on fire, right?
And I'm like. Yeah. And so he, more than anything, Jeff, I've never met anybody in my life who takes ownership the way that he has. And I can say unequivocally that, if it was not for him, if I had not been able to, to keep the wool over his eyes and keep him engaged in my company, my company wouldn't exist today because there were, there were times over the last two years where.
You know, my kids are sick and I just have to drop everything. You know, like that's the focus, you know? And he's still, so he went from working 90 hours to 110 hours, you know, and and it, he just, he just took ownership and, and really, unfortunately, I've gotten spoiled. So now when I try to hire new people, I just think, You really got to step up.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:15:34] Yeah, you've got it. You've got to measure up to the, the cleverly standard. Even the name sort of says it all. So, so what, what did he do during those, during those few months, you, you, you mentioned, well, we'll probably get onto the, the sort of stack of things that you've piled on top of each other to make your platform what it is.
Is that what he was busy? you mentioned documentation, but did you quickly move them on to. Okay, let's, let's get you as an equal partner in this and working out what it is that we want to build and actually building it.
Patrick Gallagher: [00:16:04] Yeah. So I mean, very, very quickly he started getting involved in the stack. So at the time I was outsourcing kind of the UI and the application side of things, to a really good agency in the Ukraine.
and so they're handling, making it look a certain way. And then I had up to that. I was building all the backend server side scripts to make the sites fast and you know, get backups working. And he got involved in that. And very, very quickly he had, he, he knew enough, to, to hit the ground running quickly, but he I mean, he just taught himself bash. He just taught himself microservices. If he didn't know it, he would go and get a course, consume the course in a single day. And then the next day, he, now I know about my sequel. And again, just the way that he took ownership of, of the entire, really the company. And, And so he now, I mean it within, I would say six months, I was ready to get on a plane and fly halfway around the world to Shanghai, and I hate flying. just to shake his hand.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:17:09] Oh, so he lives in, he lives in, in, in China. Does he? Okay.
Patrick Gallagher: [00:17:13] Yeah. He lives outside of Shanghai, in Woochie. Okay. I think it's the way it's pronounced. Yup. I'm just a small town outside of Shanghai. There's only a million people there as opposed to the 27. Yeah, yeah. And I live in a town that's literally like population 7,000. I'm near the university here on my offices, but it's just like, it's nothing, it's nothing like, like it is over there, but he's originally from the UK
Nathan Wrigley: [00:17:39] Saw a video on the home page of your website. And I assume that was him. And, looking back there was a reference to. China or the East stuff. Yeah. That was it. The great firewall is what he said. and I detected the English accent. Oh, that's fascinating. So he's, okay. So let's pivot a bit I suppose, and talk about the stuff that you've been building, the stack that you've been building.
Let's just sort of go back and let's have a, like a philosophical. A thought about it. You know, obviously at the beginning you want to set up a hosting environment. but anybody can do that. It could be, it could be poor quality. It could be cheap. You could be going for, you know, your, your attitude could be, let's just pile in as many as we can make a ton of money.
Or it could be, let's charge the maximum and give, you know, shave as much out of that as we possibly can. What was your, what was your approach? What are you trying to serve that's different.
Patrick Gallagher: [00:18:30] Yeah. So I think early on, once I saw that it was resonating with people like me, you know, again, I'd started to build a managed hosting company and then started working on the tools and get really interested in that.
And what I, what I saw happening was when I would go way down a rabbit hole to find a particular answer to how do you make this a little bit faster. There were people there that were, you know, commenting in blog threads and so on, and they were asking questions and I was able to answer those questions because I was just working my way, kind of swimming upstream to get as close as I could to providers like Pagely and Kinston, who I think have some of the best technology stacks, in, in the entire managed WordPress space.
And, and so as I was trying to figure out how to climb on top of their shoulders and replicated a lot of . Things that they had done, I was able to help other people. And that's when it sort of clicked to me that it was like that there was a lot of people out there like me that I was not some special snowflake.
You know, that there's tens of thousands of people who want, who wants some of this same capability, and don't necessarily want to pay, kind of the access, what can be seen as excessive fees of the cost of infrastructure. They wanna be able to bring their own infrastructure and have this kind of automated platform.
And so. What I realized is that if I made the best tool for the job. And I kept serving people really, really well, that they would stay and, and that they would talk about us in a positive way. And, and that sort of became the virtuous cycle, the virtuous feedback loop of improve the platform, listen to what our customers are saying, deliver on what it is that they're asking for, and then let them spread the word, you know, and, it's taken a lot of time.
It's taken a lot of investment. I won't, I won't, Get into the actual numbers, but enough investment that my wife doesn't like me as much as she used to.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:20:19] That's all the numbers we needed. Yeah.
Patrick Gallagher: [00:20:22] Yeah. but, but yeah, I mean, it was pretty much if I can, if I can build the right tool for the job, I know that there's tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people who build WordPress websites that operate in this space, whether they're agencies, their developers, their SEOs, their marketing people.
there's a lot of them out there. And I, and I knew that, that some of them at least wanted something like this. And if I keep iterating on it, then we wouldn't be good, you know?
Nathan Wrigley: [00:20:50] Did you, or have you gone down the kind of like, you know, generating interest via things like advertising or what have you, you mentioned, you know, Facebook groups and things like that. Is that the, is that the way that you've grown so organically and through word of mouth and things like that?
Patrick Gallagher: [00:21:05] Yeah, so we, we ran ads for two weeks last October, and then Jeff got mad and said, don't run ads anymore. because we had things that were blowing up at the time and we didn't, you don't really want to be filling up your pipeline when there's flames shooting up through the funnel and so yeah, we've done 100% of our growth. And we're, and we're growing pretty much every month in 2019 we've grown more than 25% a month over month. And that's all been a byproduct of people just out in these Facebook groups talking about us, you know, are making direct referrals. And so before, before I launched grid pain.
I had been contributing in a lot of these places, especially the hosting and just answering questions and just providing as much value as I could. and even like, you know, people would ask about our competitors and somebody would bad mouth them or whatever, and I would get in and say, no, no, no. There, that run cloud is actually a really good product.
It's a better product than C panel. And we would talk about our competitors. And so I feel like, I feel like sort of that operational integrity. and the transparency, that we've tried to push is, has been big for us. And, and so now we don't have, we, we effectively have no affiliate program. You know, we barely have a referral program.
It's totally Apple together and people just keep referring to us every single month. and it's really humbling, you know, to, to hear what people are sharing in these groups.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:22:26] Oh, that's so nice. I always, always relish the underdog story and the people who kind of do it themselves. And, you know, obviously at some point all businesses started that way, but it's nice to chat to you at the point where.
You are still, enjoys enjoying that experience. so just to be absolutely clear, you are totally 100%. You are laser focused, if you like on WordPress. You're not, you're not, you're not dealing with Drupal. You're not dealing with any other PHP framework or whatever it might be. You're just all about the WordPress.
Patrick Gallagher: [00:22:56] Correct, correct. And we have had people ask, you know, if can, can I do, can I install modic? Can I install Drupal and the, and the answer is yes, of course. It's your box, you know, you own the server. So. Do whatever you want with it, but we're not gonna support that. And so, we may, in the future, something like Drupal would be a natural pivot for us because the stack is so primed for that capability.
but I figured we have at least two or three solid years of, of aggressive growth, that we look forward to in just the WordPress space. And so. What started really is kind of a hosting control panel. you know, an alternative to server pilot or run cloud, or C panel just laser focused on WordPress.
As we've continued to iterate the product and as we've continued to take feedback from our customers, we're really more in the direction of kind of fully managed WordPress where we're now. you can, you can use our dashboard and if you want, if you want us to be very hands off, we can be very hands off.
But, but we're really kind of moving in this direction of sort of fully managed WordPress where you have control, you have access to your own infrastructure, which is something that nobody in this space does, you know? And, and they do it with good reason. You know, kids that doesn't allow you to have root because some of you are going to go in and break things, make their job very, very difficult and so it's a lot easier to just say, Nope, you don't get, you don't get access to any of that stuff. but we feel like our core customer is just a little bit more sophisticated user. they have higher traffic sites. They have higher. You know, higher transaction load codes and they don't want to get stung on the cost of infrastructure and they want to be able to see things. They want to be able to see inside their box. I know what's going on. And so that's what give them,
Nathan Wrigley: [00:24:41] okay. So just to be clear, if, if for example, I was brand new to WordPress, never installed anything before, are you kind of ruling me out as a customer? You sort of say. Probably give it a little bit of time, you know, learn a little bit more and then come to us a little bit later or, or can you cope with those people as well?
Patrick Gallagher: [00:24:59] Well, so we've had, we've had the full gamut. I would say the people who will get the most value out of our platform are people who are more technically proficient and people who have lots of sites. you know, our, our, our best customers, our developer level customers and above. and these are people who manage dozens of sites.
They had, some of them have. Hundreds of sites, dozens and dozens of servers, they will get the most value out of our platform. but I literally was just speaking to someone yesterday that was interested in us. They'd heard about us. They wanted to build a, a website as a service using WP Ultimo, but they were, they were really confused on this sort of separation.
Where will I have to go and get a server from digital ocean? How does that work? And I just explained, you know, just go and sign up there if you want, here's a coupon code to go and get 60 days free or whatever. Just add that API key into our platform. And then you're going to name the server and you're going to pick how much money you want to spend on it, and then what, which data center, which location, but then you're never going to touch it again.
And so for, even for beginner users, I think that our platform, if anything, it's almost too streamlined. We get people who come from like, C panel or other, other control panel backgrounds, and they're, and they're asking us like, okay, now that I've set this up. Where do I add the database settings? And it's like, you don't, that's, that's all done already, you know?
Okay. But where do I, where do I set it up? It's done, you know, three clicks and it's done. And so, yeah, I mean, I think that definitely, even beginner users are welcome on the platform. but the people who will get the most out of it are the ones who have, have tried a lot of other options out there, you know? yeah. And so it's, it's the most valuable to people who this is a really serious business for them.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:26:43] Okay. so WordPress professionals, which is handy cause that's basically who our audience are. So it's ideal. The, if you go to the website and, I should refresh. I feel pretty bad now. I haven't said it until this point.
It's Gridpane.com. So G, R, I, D P, a N E, a.com on there pretty much just beneath the fold, you will see a video, which is a video put together. It turns out by, by Jeff and, in that video, which is about a minute and up, it's about two minutes long. Jeff kind of chose to kind of lay out what it is. I guess you're trying to say is the most valuable thing about grid pain and it, and it all boils down to time.
The amount of time it takes you to, well, you know, you've paid for the account, you've done all the billing aspect, I guess. And, and here we are, we're sitting looking at the grid pain control panel, and we want to set up a WordPress site. And Jeff manages to do it in just shy of one minute 30 and, and I think if Jeff was being honest with himself, he probably could have shaved a few seconds off that as well.
So is that kind of the primary. Thing. Just no messing you. You've, you've understood the platform, you've, you've familiarized yourself with it. You know what you're doing. You've got these multiple sites. You can come in within two minutes, boom, you're done. Everything is provisioned, everything's set up.
Anything that you want to switch on is a simple toggle switch on, off, on, off. That's it. is that kind of like the point.
Patrick Gallagher: [00:28:08] Yeah. Yeah, it really is. I mean, so before, before I knew that I was gonna, the grip pain was gonna become what it was. I had a project manager, and she was outstanding. Like she, she was way more organized than I was.
She was, she could sell, she was great customer support. She knew WordPress, but she. B, couldn't build a server, she couldn't configure an ax and optimize things. And so really, I just needed a tool so that I could kind of automate some of the things that I was having to do in the process. And I wanted, you know, I wanted fewer steps.
I wanted zero minutia, you know? And so you get some of these platforms where you've logged into the platform. You know, with your username and password and then you go to build a WordPress site and they ask you for your email, your username and your password, you know, for the, for your administrator account.
Well, shouldn't that just be default plugged in? You know, like if you have one set password that you always want to use or you just want a randomly generated password but you want it to go to your email address, you shouldn't have to put those things in. And so. It's many areas where we can make assumptions about where people are going to go.
we, those are the steps that we try and shave off. And so the idea of this five minute famous five minute WordPress install, it's like, well, why? Why does it need to take five minutes? It should take five seconds. You know, it's just, we've got things like WP CLI, we have all of these things that can be automated.
You know, pretty much you need to indicate what the URL is and. Which box you want to put it on, and then click go. And, and in his example. He actually was using our bundles feature, which is similar to like flywheel calls it blueprint. Other people have similar kind of packages, but basically you can say, Oh, I'm building a site for real estate.
I have my themes, my, you know, my exact plugins. I want you Yost in there. I need this, this, and this. You know, basically you can select your, your bundle right from the build process, and then you click go and then. It's all just done. And so, and then if you have DNS connected, the DNS settings are updated.
And so the whole thing goes live literally in seconds. And, and, and, and so, yeah, we want the platform, you know, we, we want all the core tenants of managed WordPress. You get security, you've got speed, you've got backups, you got updates, you've got, you have all of these things. But more than anything. You know, I, I want time back with my kids.
I wanted to, I want to be able to go golfing. You know, I want to be able to, I want, I want more of those moments back where previously I was having to, you know, do repetitive tasks that I think you shouldn't have to do. And so we eliminate those things as much as we can. And so it was, it was actually.
Jeff had been working with me for about a year and he, when he made that video, and I'm like, Oh my God. Like I've been trying to kind of annunciate what, what crude pains like for all this time. And, and he just, it's just, it's about time. It's about us giving time back to our users. And, and so everything about the platform is built around that bias it's not enough to just be fast. It needs to deliver the results fast.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:31:10] Yeah. It's interesting. I was watching the video and it didn't even occur to me that he hadn't put in emails and all of that kind of password stuff, but now that I'm thinking back, I don't remember seeing him do it. It just, you
Patrick Gallagher: [00:31:21] know, because you can't,
Nathan Wrigley: [00:31:23] it just kind of click, click buttons and a couple of places where you had to maybe type the name of the, the main that he wanted and so on and so forth.
The bundle things interesting to me. So can you, can you, can you pre-configure any amounts of . Bundles. So, so for example, if I've got, I don't know, a, a, a real estate site that I typically build or a a wine merchant site that I typically build and I want these things, woo commerce over here. No, WooCommerce over there.
You can build those and are, or are they all repo plugins or can I bring along my, like premium plugins for the ride as well?
Patrick Gallagher: [00:31:53] Yes, both. and so if you, if they're all just kind of in the standard catalog, so word fence is just, you know, wordpress.org/plugins/word fence, like that last little carrot. if you drop that into the bundle editor, it just automatically knows that it's talking about a regular, catalog plugin or domain, or excuse me, plugin or theme.
But for all of your premium plugins and themes, if you put in the full URL, it's just, say a Dropbox link or an aesthetic. Yeah. Any, any, any premium plugins and themes, you just drop in the install level, download link, and we reach out and grab it and, and, and add that in.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:32:29] So again, it's a one time deal. You can put it into the bundle once, set it and forget it and, and you're good to go. So, okay. So I guess a lot of people are going to be saying, okay, grid pain. Fabulous. I've, I've, I've not heard of that infrastructure before. That's what, what, what are they using? You know, are we, are we talking about Amazon AWS? Are we talking about the, you know, you heard you had an accident with Linode, but maybe it'd be bad to them, Volta or what, how, how, how's this working?
Yes. So we right now natively inside of our dashboard, you can connect to a digital ocean, Vultr and Linode. And we're actually for our developer level users. By the end of this month, you'll be able to connect, AWS slight sale, and then by the end of the year, you're going to have. Full, the F not the entire to, catalog because they have, they have boxes with like graphics cards in em and stuff, you know, like Bitcoin mining that you don't, you don't need to build WordPress sites on those.
So we're going to kind of have a curated list, of both AWS and Google compute engine. And so all the major infrastructure providers, you know, we probably will get to Azure, maybe Q1 2020. And, but then also you can just choose to connect any custom server. So if you've built a box at OVH or you've built a box, it had snare, really anywhere, so long as you've got a, a vanilla 1804 install, and you have root access on that box, you can just plug in the IP address.
We have, you run one script in it and it functions exactly the same.
So can you kind of, you sort of flip and flop between the way that you want to set them up. So let's say for example, I want to set up 10 sites this morning. So I've, I've allocated myself about 15 minutes. It turns out, and I want to put one over here on AWS.
Well, okay, let's go for Vultr and I want to do one on lineage. It's all Alica. I can do anything as I like. Can I kind of roll them back and change them from time to time? Should I prefer to use this particular service over this one?
Patrick Gallagher: [00:34:27] Yes. So we make it, we make it well. So unfortunately you can't really size things down at any of those providers.
and so we normally recommend, because our, our stack is super efficient. We know that you can handle thousands of concurrent users even on their tiny $5 boxes. So we normally recommend start small because they don't make it easy to go to go down. But, but our platform makes it easy for you to clone full servers over from point a to point B.
And so we absolutely encourage our users to have an account at all three providers. And then in the long run, when we have AWS and GCP in there. Have accounts at all of these places because we'll see things that happened where I went, I, it was just a, it was a testing process. It wasn't, it wasn't a production workload that I needed to do, but the, I think it was Vultrs, data center in London was down and, and I wanted to build a box in London.
And so I just switched over to DigitalOcean, you know, and that, and that fast. yeah, I mean, you can, right now there's something like 35. Native data centers that we connect to, and you can just one by one by one, just build. 30 30 servers all around the world, and then you have kind of a global hosting footprint all in the span of minutes, you know, and then you're spending sites on those in seconds
Nathan Wrigley: [00:35:43] and things like backups and what have you. You T take care of all of that. I'm assuming you give us the option to, well, how does all that side of things work as well?
Patrick Gallagher: [00:35:51] Yeah, so backups is actually has been an interesting evolution. What we, we started with just kind of simple what everybody else does, which is just, okay, we'll do the daily backups and we'll keep them for 30 days, but then we rode in on a deduplicated backups and incremental.
Interesting. And so there's some really interesting packages out there where, the amount of stuff that's actually changing, even across dozens of sites is actually really small. It's usually just whatever images you're adding and whatever data is going in for new content posts, because a lot of developers.
You know, they have one or two themes there. They're always using oxygen, or they're always using divvy. And so the way that our backup repositories work is it looks and says, Oh, I already have a full copy of Devi backed up from this, from over here. I don't need to do it 50 more times. Right, right. If you have 50 sites on a box, and so what we end up seeing is that you can have, you can have sites that might have like 50, 50 gigs worth of site data on them, but you can keep tons and tons of backups of those sites in much less space than that.
You don't need to have multiples of that original space. And so we allocate 20% of the box to, to the local incremental backups. And then we're actually rereleasing a remote access to allow you to push off to wasabi, to backways B to, to Dropbox. Like all the major players out there. Amazon has three.
so that you can have that same thing offsite as well. So if Godzilla levels New York city and the whole age center gets crushed, then you're still, you can get back in business very, very quickly. And so, that's actually one of the really cool features that we're going to be rolling out, in the next six weeks or so is the ability to pretty much have.
Point in time restoration of, of a box that maybe, oops, you accidentally deleted your boxes in Silicon Valley and, but you, you might have a backup that's just an hour old and you can just now restore that back up in a different place, in a different data center. You know, just in sense
Nathan Wrigley: [00:37:51] it sounds like, despite the fact that you're, you're sort of very happy with where you are and you know, you've been at this for several years and it sounds good.
It also sounds like you're, you're thinking about the things that you've still. Would like to have, cause you, you mentioned a couple of things that that are obviously kind of roadmap features. Is there any particular roadmap feature that you kind of wet our appetites with? Something that you think people will be interested to?
You know, I've not heard that before or that's interesting. I didn't know they did that.
Patrick Gallagher: [00:38:16] Yes. So, I mean, I think that the point in time backups when, when that's done right. I think that that's going to be really, really interesting. And we're also looking at doing that in a way so that we could have our own managed backup service where.
Like you can go to Google compute platform and you can look and see what they charge for object storage. And it's something like 2.6 gigabytes, a 2.6 cents per gigabyte. And our goal is to build something in into our platform where we can say, okay, that's what it costs. So you just, that's what you pay, you know, as opposed to, Oh, you want us to do your backups for you?
Okay, we're good. It costs us 2.6 cents cause you can just go and see that that's what we're using and we'll charge you 25 cents or we'll charge you some nonsense. Some of money, like we, we didn't build the internet, you know, AWS and GCP and digital ocean, all these big infrastructure providers, they're building really amazing infrastructure and it's all pretty much become kind of commodity.
And we feel like our users should get access to that. We make our money on. On the service that we provide and we don't feel comfortable with the idea of, of tacking on a bunch of extra money for infrastructure. And so. so that's something that's interesting. we have people asking about, Lightspeed, open Lightspeed and enterprise Lightspeed.
that's inevitable that, that will just have to come. not because what's interesting about it is people tend to fall in one of two camps, where it's, Oh, it's definitely Lightspeed, or it's definitely engine X and there's no in between. And it's like. Yeah. If you actually just do the testing, you ultimately find out that, if they're built correctly, they're, it's kind of a wash.
and so, but, but our users are power users and some of them, you know, if they want to use OLS, then okay, cool. We'll allow them to do that, you know? And so that, and things like. Docker and Kubernetes and clusters, sort of the next, the next direction, for us. And we're also really interested in, in sort of the static WordPress static deployments.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:40:14] That seems to be taken off, doesn't it?
Patrick Gallagher: [00:40:15] Yeah, yeah, yeah. And, and it's, specifically through like CloudFlare, they've got this worker's platform now, which, we just started horsing around with and it's, I think it's the way that. That at least 90% of WordPress websites could go, is you've got kind of your hidden back in or your, your changes in your edits and then you could publish.
And then it's just blasted out to 194 different pops all around the world. And you have your DNS kind of intelligently going, Oh, I've got a visitor from Singapore. So point them to the Singapore workers and. And that's, that's just a natural evolution again, of where I think this space is going. And so when we see that kind of stuff, we, we, we stay up at night thinking pretty much what we're always trying to do is think about what's the company that we would build that would kill us.
And so if we just keep doing that, then, then probably we'll be able to stay in business because we're not worried so much about. About who's coming after us. We're, we're trying to make ourselves obsolete every single day. So
Nathan Wrigley: [00:41:17] one of the things I think that, you know, I'm guessing the audience are going to want to know, you know, when we're talking about, managed WordPress hosting, which I suppose you would.
Consider yourself that too. Is that a fair summation yet? Manage we're processing.
Patrick Gallagher: [00:41:30] Yeah. I mean, well, certainly I would say that our customers feel that way. but, but the way that our pricing, if you are on our website today, you would not really see pricing that reflects kind of a traditional per site model.
But before the end of the year, that will absolutely be part of the product. Part of the lineup, is, is just people being able to go and get, you know, a 10 site plan where they, they, everything would be very similar to a Ken sta or a P engine. The biggest difference though, is going to be that they're, they're going to get tons, three, they're going to bring their own infrastructure or they're going to get really, really solid infrastructure allocations.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:42:07] Yeah. maybe we'll come to the pricing in a moment, even though it may well be obsolete by the time this goes out. But w w where I was going with that was, a lot of these companies, they, they, they talk about the support, the level of support that they give because, you know, manage WordPress, they, they hope to have people in their data centers who understand WordPress can give a fairly quick response and a turnaround.
And, and that, that I think is sometimes. What you're hoping to pay for and hoping to get in return. is that the case for you? Have you, have you sort of heavily invested in your support? Is it you and is it Jeff cause he's in Shanghai and you're an America? That could kind of work. but
Patrick Gallagher: [00:42:42] yeah, in the beginning it did, it did work really well because, he's exactly 12 hours off. Yeah. And so all we had to do is just work 84 hours a week. And we were, we were 24 hours a day. and so when we started, we actually, you know, we knew that we wanted to have a really, really amazing experience for our customers. We want, we knew we wanted to build a great platform, but again, we started as a very minimally viable product.
And so if a ticket came in, we knew that it was likely impacting every user. You know, it wasn't just that one user who had, who had something go down, it was going to probably have a ripple effect. And so we started to just jump on everything as quickly as we possibly could. And, and that sort of created this reputation about standing support.
And, and certainly for the first six months to six to nine months when he was helping with support, it was literally, he and I, 24 hours a day, just, I'm on 12 he's on 12 seven days a week. but now we have, we've gone a slightly different direction. He's not nearly in tickets as much. and I'm not in tickets any, any more at all, other than if there's some kind of novel, you know, a customer has feature requests or whatever.
but now we've just super over invested with dollars. and so now we have people, we have people here in the United States on the East coast and West coast. we have people in the Ukraine. Jeff's still in, Shanghai, we have people in Kenya. we're, look, I think we're going to be adding somebody in New Zealand soon, which is good cause that'll give us that coverage on that third sort of third shift in traditional, American timelines, you know.
but yeah, so now we have 24, seven support. The, that averages something, that neighborhood, it may be three minute response times and you're getting a live engineer, 24 hours a day.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:44:23] So it's chat, chat widget kind of thing or email backwards and forwards though.
Patrick Gallagher: [00:44:27] Yeah. So some plans are on email and even our free plans, they, you know, they obviously get prioritized behind paid users, but we have free users that end up getting their things, getting issues solved in no time.
And the biggest reason that we do that is that as a traditional freemium software as a service company, you know, we want to be able to demonstrate that value to them so that they go, Oh, this is, this is why people pay for this. You know? But yeah, for developer users, certainly, they've got, you know, they can click on chat 24, seven and they're going to have a live body in like a minute.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:44:59] That's good. Yeah. Yeah. Well done. Yep. I'm going to go to the pricing page, even though, even though you said that the pricing is, is under review, and it may well go towards a, you know, like a, like a ramp, you add a little bit more and a little bit more in a little bit more, you know, even if you get to this page and everything that we say is out of date, it'd be interesting to make the comparison between where it was and where it is now.
So currently we've got three plans being touted. We've got the pro plan, which is. At this exact moment in time, it's saying it's $30 a month, a developer at $100 a month, and there's the enterprise, at $1,000 a month. And, you know, it's, it's a typical pricing table. It's got some, some ticks and some blanks and what have you.
I'm sure. Is it? Is there anything, is there any point at which you say, okay, let's go from this one to this one. In other words, what turns a pro into a developer? Is it simply the number of sites or is there like a killer feature which you think, okay, that's the one thing you really need. If you're going to step up and pay a little bit more.
Patrick Gallagher: [00:45:56] Yeah, so I mean, it's a, it's a, it's a higher level of support. it's a chat. so you get instantaneous chat support by bumping up. There are some very specific features that, things like high availability, things like, the three firewall there, you know, just more granular controls that are available to developer level users.
Hmm. but I think the biggest reason that people move up to developer is that they know that they get just a better level of access to us. And we literally, we end up going really far down the rabbit hole with people in terms of site optimization. You know, we have people that, they have large, woo commerce, product catalogs.
For example, we've got one guy that has 300,000. and then he has. 300,000 products, and he has like four other sites all in the same box, and they all, they all have tens of thousands of sites. Yeah. Yeah. And so at, at the developer level, you know, you're getting access to an engineer that knows how to use elastic press, for example, and knows how to actually help you configure it.
and all of those, all of those features are sort of hidden there at the pro level, but you have to know how to get in there and horse around with them. And so those, those prices are going to be good pretty much through, certainly before the end of the year, those prices are going to be changing.
And I think right around, black Friday, cyber Monday, which we'll probably have come and gone by the time people are listening to this. Those, those, those prices will have gone up or they, or they will have slightly shifted in terms of, the pro, the, the dash board is never going to go away. We're just going to be adding the ability to have fully managed WordPress as sort of a, a separate product.
Okay. And so people who don't need fully managed WordPress and don't want us to be worried about the uptime of their sites. The dashboard will always exist. we're just really building out this higher level of managed WordPress to just kind of eat our own dog food and validate the power of the underlying dashboard.
And so, we're actually in, you know, Kevin O Hashi hashies review signal benchmark.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:47:55] I've heard, I mean, it's not something I've played with it yet.
Patrick Gallagher: [00:47:58] Yep. So he does, he does an annual benchmark where he goes all the way up to the tippy top. You know, the tip of the spear, the WordPress VIP of the world where they charge $5,000 a month for a single website.
and we're actually going to be competing at that tier, with our new, Apollo product. And so we've, we've basically decided to go all the way to the top end so that we can show people, yeah. Like if you want to, you can spend thousands. And we'll build you massive high availability clusters and we'll be able to handle, you know, millions of users on your WooCommerce sites.
But ultimately, we're using just the same dashboard, adding in engineering excellence. You know
Nathan Wrigley: [00:48:34] what? You can go and find out about the pricing at gridpane.com forward slash pricing. As I said, it's likely to be in a state of flux. you know, it's a growing company though. You have to be able to make, you have to be able to fiddle with your pricing.
It's totally fair enough. Just the last one segue and completely and utterly, but stay in on WordPress. WordPress currently hovering around 35% of the internet. Obviously you've, you've hitched your wagon to WordPress, you're feeling unhappy about that. You're feeling like the 35 could go up into the forties and 50s and and provide room for growth, not just for you, but all of your competitors as well.
Patrick Gallagher: [00:49:08] Yeah, I mean, I feel like it is a, it's a massive space. When you know, when people talk about some of the other competing products out there, when people talk about really good companies like Kinston, Pagely, I'm confident that all of them, if they continue to execute for their customers, I'm confident that there's going to be a lot of room for really big revenues across, across this entire industry.
You know, and so all, I think all website hosting is something in the neighborhood of $150 billion a year. And, and if you look at different, specific segments, you know, manage their saying managed WordPress is somewhere in the neighborhood of two and a half to $3 billion a year. I suspect that that will more than double, in, in a short period of time because people, people see the value, they understand the, the, the difference between kind of shared bottom of the barrel stuff.
and, and the high end options that you see from a, from a page lit, I feel very comfortable with it. interestingly enough, I've talked to over the last six months, I've talked to various like investors who are like, well, yeah, but, but maybe word press is going to lose steam to like a Squarespace, you know?
Or like the, the Wix is in the Weebly's of the world. They're going to come and, you know, eat, eat, WordPress. And it's like, they just really don't understand, the massive economies of scale and, and the, and the number of developers that are proactively working in this market. I think that. The, the state of the art and word press in 2020 is going to be so much better than it was in 2019 that I just don't see how businesses can't look at it as, as a serious option.
and so certainly you see ma, you know, faster growth rate out of a company like a Squarespace, but the overall number of sites that are being added to WordPress, it just drawers pretty much everybody else out there. And so. Will the will the fad that is the internet wear off maybe? I don't, I don't, I don't really worry about that one.
I don't worry about total addressable market, because it's just so massive and, and unfortunately, there's so many players. I would say, again, unfortunate, there's so many players that just really aren't bringing it to the level that I think, is due to, to, to what I see. It's our customers. they're, they're not being served.
And so we are going to aggressively go after that, you know, and I think that there's a lot of other people who will, and I think that there's room for everybody to win.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:51:31] Well, you and me both, we both hitched our bandwagons me, me with podcasting, you with hosting income. I'm fairly fairly confident that in five years time you'll be, you'll be a very large hosting company and I, well, I'll still be a small role in the middle podcast, but that's the way the cookie crumbles.
a trick. Absolute pleasure talking to you today. for sure. We're sort of running out of time. We, we don't want to let the podcast go on for too long. so thank you for joining us today. If there's any. Quick Twitter URLs that where you didn't mention that might be like, you know, something you feel is important.
Patrick Gallagher: [00:52:03] Go for it. Sure, yeah. Yeah. So pretty much you can find us, facebook.com/Gridpane or Gridpane.com. G, R, I. D, P, a, N a. And that's the fastest way to get us. again, there's a chat widget, a bottom right. You can catch us there. 24, seven and, and again, in any. We're more and more prolific in Facebook groups every single day.
That's where we tend to congregate. and so you can S you can go and just read reviews from, from our users. They're not incentivized. They don't, they don't get paid by us to, to, to talk about us. and again, it's really humbling. and so yeah, I invite you to just reach out to us there and, whether we're the right fit for you or not, we'll, we'll try and point you in the right direction.
You know, because there's, again, there's tons of great companies in this space and we want, we want everybody winning, because it just helps the overall, WordPress ecosystem.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:52:52] Thanks very much indeed. Have a good day.
Patrick Gallagher: [00:52:54] Yeah. You too. Take care of Nathan.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:52:56] So there we go. Patrick Gallagher talking about grid pain and all of the disruptive technologies that he's bringing to bear.
Really interesting as a whole lot of stuff in there that I didn't know and I'm finding out for the first time. I do know they've got a lot of satisfied customers in our Facebook group, so if you've got any questions, maybe you could tag Patrick. He's often in there and see if grid pain is for you. The WP Builds podcast was brought to you today by WP and UP.
One in four of us will be directly affected by mental health related illness, WP and UP supports and promotes positive mental health within the WordPress community. This is achieved through mentorship, events, training, and counseling, so please help enable WP and UP by visiting WP and UP.org. Okay. We'll be back next Thursday for a podcast episode.
Likely a discussion between David and myself and also we'll be back on Monday for the two bits of content that we produce. We do a WordPress summation of the weekly news, which I bring out very early on, a Monday morning. You can get that by subscribing to our podcast on your favorite podcast player, WP Builds.com forward slash subscribe.
You'll find some links there, and also 2:00 PM in the WP Builds Facebook group. As well as on WP Builds.com forward slash. Live you'll be able to join me and some notable WordPress people having a chat about that news. It's a load of fun, so come and join us 2:00 PM UK time. All right. See you at some point during the next week.
I hope. Cheesy music. Fading in. Bye bye for now. .