Episode 356

Managed WordPress Hosting, Open Source Software Innovation and Community with Robert Jacobi From Cloudways

Learn about managed WordPress hosting, open source software innovation and community with Robert Jacobi From Cloudways in this episode of the LMScast podcast hosted by Chris Badgett of LifterLMS.

Robert’s role at Cloudways is to run the WordPress business unit. Cloudways is a hosting company that can support multiple platforms. They started out with sort of PHP and Magento as the initial two major business units and they added WordPress as a major business unit. And Robert is the director of that entire business unit and all things WordPress. His role involves marketing, events, product, podcasts, and making sure that Cloudways succeeds in the WordPress arena.

The hosting landscape over the past 20 years has changed dramatically. From about 2000 to 2010, people were rolling up their own servers. They were attaching them to whatever network connection they could find, getting a stable IP address and a domain name and getting stuff to run. As the ecosystem evolved, as developers, agencies, product creators evolved, there was a need to have more than a Dell box in a closet running our business. And over the last 20 years, the hosting industry has come in to fill that void to make sure that hosting is reliable, it’s safe, and secure.

That’s the pure infrastructure side of the story, the software aspect over the past 10 years has evolved greatly as well with the concept of shared hosting migrating to managed hosting. And managed hosting really means we have to worry less about all the little bits and pieces of the software infrastructure and automatic updates. Aspects like automatic firewalls, bot protection, all those features start being expected. It’s great that with more advanced technology these things keep improving. Performance is always getting better for the same price point and support is always getting better for the same price point.

To learn more about Robert Jacobi and the develpoerments he has going on at Cloudways, be sure to head to Cloudways.com. Over the past couple years, Cloudways has really come up in the ranks as a popular host for LifterLMS projects. People raving about the support, the entry point, the affordability, and all the options and customizability and choices they have.And at LifterLMS.com you can learn more about new developments and how you can use LifterLMS to build online courses and membership sites. Subscribe to our newsletter for updates, developments, and future episodes of LMScast. Thank you for joining us!

EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

Chris Badgett:
You’ve come to the right place. If you’re looking to create, launch and scale a high value online training program. I’m your guide, Chris Badgett. I’m the co-founder of LifterLMS, the most powerful learning management system for WordPress. Stay to the end, I’ve got something special for you. Enjoy the show.

Chris Badgett:
Hello and welcome back to another episode of LMS Cast. I’m joined by a special guest. His name is, Robert Jacobi. He’s from Cloudways. You can go to cloudways.com. It’s an awesome hosting company doing a lot of great things in the WordPress space. First, welcome to the show, Robert.

Robert Jacobi:
Thanks so much, Chris. Great to be here. I’m so excited.

Chris Badgett:
Yeah. I’m excited to talk tech and WordPress and open-source and community and all these things with you that we have a shared passion for. But first, when I came across you, I noticed your job title was director of WordPress at Cloudways. What does that mean? It’s a cool title, but I’m, I don’t know what that means. What does that mean?

Robert Jacobi:
It’s a very all encompassing title. So my role at Cloudways is to run the WordPress business unit. So we are a hosting company that can support multiple platforms. We started out with sort of PHP and Magento as our initial two major business units. Obviously, pivoted and added WordPress as a major business unit. And I am the director of that entire business unit. So that involves marketing, events, product, podcasts. But really, at the end of the day, there’s a P&L at the end of my name. And it’s making sure that we succeed in the WordPress arena.

Chris Badgett:
That’s awesome. Every WordPress freelancer, product creator, just regular user creating content, websites, and blogs and whatever, they have to get hosting. And it’s like a part of the stack. It’s part of the freedom to own the platform. You still need to put it somewhere. Most people don’t want to put a server in their closet. Could you give us a tour of how the hosting industry has evolved over, let’s say, the last 10 years? What happened between 2012 and 2022? How is it different today than it was in the earlier days of WordPress?

Robert Jacobi:
Well, I’m going to just briefly touch on the super early days because you can’t get to the last 10 years without the last 20 years. And let’s make the numbers even and easy. So 2000 to 2010, people were rolling up their own servers. They were just attaching them to whatever network connection they could find, getting a stable IP address and a domain name and getting stuff to run. As the ecosystem evolved, as developers, agencies, product creators evolved, it was like, we need to have more than just some kind of Dell box in a closet running our business. And over the last 20 years, the hosting industry has come in, sometimes slowly and weird spurts, but has come in to fill that void to make sure that hosting is reliable, it’s safe, secure.

Robert Jacobi:
And I’m just saying that from the pure infrastructure side, I’m not even getting into the software where all of a sudden, over the last 10 years, you get this shared hosting migrating to manage hosting. And manage hosting really means we have to worry less about all these little bits and pieces of the software infrastructure, automatic updates, maybe there’s some automatic firewalls, bot protection, all those kinds of things. Those start being expected, the commoditized aspect of, do I have an ethernet connection to my server? Died years ago. So what are the new commodities that everyone expects? Everyone expects everything to be up all the time, to have a level of serviceability, protection, support. And that baseline as a former agency owner, I think is great that it keeps improving. Your performance is always getting better for the same price point. Your support’s always getting better for the same price point.

Robert Jacobi:
Yeah. In a nutshell, there’s been a trajectory that most markets follow and it’s, okay, we got early adopters, we’re doing stuff, now we’re getting some stuff commoditized. Now there’s an expectation at the level of end users who don’t typically deal with technology. And they’re, well, yeah, I pay my electricity bill so my electricity’s on. I pay my hosting bill so my site should be up. Unfortunately, a site being up involves a lot more things than just making sure power gets to your house. It involves, yes, the servers being up, that they’re performant, that they haven’t been hacked or they haven’t crashed and things like that.

Chris Badgett:
I love that. I started in WordPress in 2008 and I’m actually not a developer. I can’t write a line of code. I’m a power WordPress user. I have a business partner at LifterLMS who’s a hardcore developer. But I remember when I first got started in WordPress, there was something called the famous five-minute install and FTP this and that. I’m like, I don’t know if I can do this, but this little Softaculous thing where I can get WordPress going. I’m, I got this. So I just barely squeaked in at just being a regular user. And now just looking at platforms like Cloudways, where you have all these layers of benefits stacked on top of the hosting in terms of security and backups and making it easy for people like me, even before people who are just beginners, it’s awesome. But make no mistake about it, there’s a lot of magic to make that feel easy. I know that a lot goes into that.

Robert Jacobi:
It’s not magic. It’s a lot of hard work.

Chris Badgett:
Yeah.

Robert Jacobi:
I’m just glad that you see that it’s magic.

Chris Badgett:
Well, I know there’s a lot to it. I just remember having my mind blown when I was, “Wait a second, I can create this website. And anybody anywhere in the world can see what I have to say.” That was mind blowing to me. And that’s the moment I fell in love with WordPress, in not only what I could say, but I could start consuming content and building businesses and interacting as a global citizen. It’s just awesome. I know you’re a big open-source guy, what’s special about open-source? I mean, WordPress is open-source software, whereas like a closed content management system, I don’t know, like a Wix or Squarespace or something is not open-source. But what makes open-source special in post 2020?

Robert Jacobi:
That’s great question, Chris. I really appreciate it actually, because yeah, I’m going to talk your ear off about it. Back in the day, and when I say back in the day, I mean like back, back in the day, open-source was free as in speech, free as in beer.

Chris Badgett:
Yeah.

Robert Jacobi:
And that was the mantra and free as in speech meaning you can share it with everyone. And free as in beer, as in it doesn’t cost you anything. Today’s open-source is slightly different, but it still tackles the same problems that existed 25 years ago that we’re dealing with today with like Squarespace and Wix and these proprietary CMSs. Part of it is you really want to own your data. And your data is literally everything. So it’s your code, it’s your traffic logs, it’s your funnel logs, I’ll just call them log. But all that funnel information, how people are going through your site, data that’s been submitted. And proprietary CMSs on the whole, make it very difficult to take that information and do what you want with it. I feel if I’ve done all the work and I’ve paid you $5 a month, well, you only get $5 a month of all the work I get. That doesn’t mean you get to keep all that information and monetize that information. And then not pay me for all the work I’ve done to create an e-commerce site, to create whatever site and take advantage of it.

Robert Jacobi:
That’s the trick. And what people aren’t realizing is that they’re helping those other companies make money that they’re not getting paid back for. And it like Facebook. Facebook is free, but there’s a monetization effort that obviously Facebook takes advantage of through advertising. They make billions. Okay. Well, how much of my time spent on X, Y, Z platform is worth to you? Maybe that should be kicked back to me. In open-source, I own the whole thing. Can I screw it up and make my life miserable doing that? Absolutely. It’s not easy. It’s not cheap. It’s not free. But if I take it seriously and I commit to the process, if I commit to the open-source ecosystem as a whole, it will benefit me in the long run.

Robert Jacobi:
It’s not a short term gain, it’s about making sure I own everything, I can do whatever I want with it, and then monetize it, give it away, whatever I want to do with it. That includes the code, that includes having a CMS with themes that I’ve created and can send them out and just let everyone take advantage of. And so part of that is the financial side where I own all of that, that money comes back to me. The other side is I give back to all the developers who’ve committed to the open-source side of the universe and that iterates and makes better product at the end of the day.

Robert Jacobi:
You didn’t ask, maybe it’s on the list, I’m a huge Gutenberg fan, huge. I love it. Thank goodness it exists. It has elevated, in my opinion, the experience of utilizing WordPress that wouldn’t have happened without good competition iteration in the process. And we keep giving it back to each other. X, Y, Z company does something in open-source. They create some little code snippets. That comes back to the project. Someone else is, that’s a great idea. Let me see what I can do with it. It’s not some weird hippie free for all. But people are really enjoying doing the work and taking advantage of it in multiple ways, intellectually, professionally, commercially, and that’s fine. And you can’t do that when you’re locked into a single platform. I can’t do that with Wix. I can’t do that with Microsoft Office. I can’t do that with a lot of things. And those communities are strong as those companies let them be, whereas we get to make a choice about how strong we want our communities to be, our ecosystems.

Chris Badgett:
That was my next question was really around community. In some ways it seems like the closed companies that are not open-source, they still have a lot of power and influence a lot of times. But then the community aspect of this giant WordPress ecosystem is also really powerful, but they’re powerful in different ways. Where does the open-source community, especially in WordPress, really excel? You mentioned all the innovation on Gutenberg, the ecosystem of products, but speak more to the community aspect.

Robert Jacobi:
I like people. So I think what happens in a community like WordPress, for example, is that you really get to know each other and you’ll have people in all sorts of businesses, all levels of expertise, hanging out together, exchanging ideas, building real relationships. I do want to say that think companies like Microsoft and Wix and Google, they do have very strong professional communities. They’re purely professional. They’re huge, they’re successful, but there’s a singular focus. What I see in open-source is that you have a community with multiple aspects. It’s one of those beautiful Venn diagrams with circles everywhere. And community is at the center as opposed to an outlier. So community in open-source sits at the middle and you have commercial over here, social over here, political over here, developer is over here. They’re all touching on it in different ways, whereas in proprietary communities, community is adjacent to the big circle in the middle, which would be that company. So that would be Microsoft or Google, or Wix. That’s that big circle, whereas it’s inverted in the open-source space.

Chris Badgett:
Could you explain that whole Cathedral and the Bazaar analogy? Do you know what I’m talking about?

Robert Jacobi:
I do know the analogy and I absolutely cannot.

Chris Badgett:
I think it’s similar to that. Yeah, like the Cathedral, it’s really top down, but the Bazaar is like the streets-

Robert Jacobi:
[Crosstalk 00:14:16] Very flat.

Chris Badgett:
You have all these people that show up with their wears and there’s free samples flying around and bartering and all kinds of stuff going. It’s a different feel.

Robert Jacobi:
I don’t think it’s as chaotic as the Bazaar.

Chris Badgett:
Yeah.

Robert Jacobi:
Depending on the project, but if we’re speaking about WordPress specifically, I think it’s a little bit in between. There’s strong influence and management from the WordPress core team, whether that’s the core events team, whether that’s core technology team, all the core facets of it. And money does flow into that, obviously, mostly from automatic, that helps decisions that things get done. But there’s enough opportunity to come in as a third party and say, wait a minute, can’t we do it this way? So it’s not as Cathedral, it’s not as Bazaar. And I think that’s fundamentally what’s made WordPress very successful is that it’s open to the Bazaar, but there’s enough of a structure to make things happen.

Chris Badgett:
Where do you think it’s going? Can WordPress keep getting bigger? Will it ever cross 50%? I mean, of course, they’ll always be different players, but how much room does this open-source software of WordPress have to run? Are we like halfway? Are we in the first inning? Are we going to hidden max? I know that I’m asking you to just guess, but where do you see the future going here in terms of adoption and open-source in a commercial kind of, existing within this world of closed networks as well?

Robert Jacobi:
And hitting that 50% mark is one of those, are we going to hit it? Are we going to get it? Are we almost there? And great if we do, great if we don’t, what do I care? What’s important to me is the overall ongoing interest of implementing WordPress. 50% of online market share is great, but a lot of people to actually… You need to look deep into the numbers and I used to actually run the Jumla project. So I know how to dig deep into some of these number. And it’s, well, how many of these are trial sites? How many of these are zombie sites? What really matters? So seeing that it runs 50% of the internet, okay, sure. Could also only run 30% of the internet for all I know.

Chris Badgett:
Right.

Robert Jacobi:
Focusing on that metric, I think, is at the end of the day meaningless, it’s like, how strong is the community? How excited are people about implementing projects around WordPress, everything from learning management to e-commerce, to whatever, what is that interest level? And it’s really high. And that fundamentally is much more important than, is it 50 or 40%?

Chris Badgett:
That’s awesome.

Robert Jacobi:
Yeah. We have to do our job of making sure we build the best solutions around WordPress for it. And people will come because they’re already looking for that. They’re already looking for online solutions for all sorts of problems. And I is the momentum around SaaS providers, is it around hosting providers that let you be more open and flexible? Those are the questions that need to be either marketed to, or just answered.

Chris Badgett:
You mentioned the phrase, best solution. One of the really interesting things about WordPress, both at the hosting level and the application layer with plugins and themes and whatnot, is this kind of usability by beginners and advanced users alike. What’s your take on that? It’s always fascinated me. I kind of have this philosophy that, okay, well, we’re going to take care of the ends, like the power user, developer with this advanced API and all this stuff, and then we’re going to make it easy for just a first time user. And then the middle will just figure itself out. But it’s really hard. How do you think about the challenge of advanced users and beginners in this community together?

Robert Jacobi:
It’s honestly one of the things I think about all the time. I’m a geek freak dork nerd, all that. I started an agency that built our own CMS back in 2000. So I’m all about, how do we enable, there’s probably a nice politically correct word to say, the super geeks to take advantage of all the best APIs, the best content management, all that kind of stuff? So I love supporting that really technical end of the universe or the new user. No one’s going to like what I want to say.

Chris Badgett:
Okay.

Robert Jacobi:
For the new user who doesn’t care about anything. And this is actually how I think about when I… My wife does all of our, what kind of car are we going to get, decisions. I’m, all I need to be able to do is get in the car, turn it on and get somewhere.

Chris Badgett:
Yeah.

Robert Jacobi:
So there’s a large group of people on the internet who are the same way. They want to turn on their website, get their stuff on in there, and call it a day. And that’s fair. And that’s great. And some of them will grow to be all sorts of things. A lot of them will just be driving in their car every day and it won’t really matter much. What’s nice about, again, an open-source WordPress project is that providers can start building out solutions, our magic word, for those folk. Things that say, hey, it’s not going to cost you a lot, you’re going to be online, we’re going to call it a day. Obviously WordPress.com has a great edge in that just because of the brand name, but everyone’s doing it. You’re going to see a level of commodity WordPress website available to everyone everywhere.

Robert Jacobi:
I mean, yes, I’m going to say come to Cloudways and do it, but everyone’s doing it. I mean, Elementor, a page builder now has their own Elementor cloud. I mean, you’re going to see it everywhere. You’re going to see it at SiteGround. You’re going to see it at Bluehost. You’re going to see WP Engine. You’re going to see it at Kinsta, A2. Every host will have a baseline, very consumer focused on ramp. And it’s going to be cheap and you’re going to get what you pay for. And that’ll be fine for 99% of the people who just need to get something online. There are millions of people who need to go beyond that. And that’s where I think every host starts to look to differentiate themselves with.

Chris Badgett:
That’s awesome. You mentioned being a big Gutenberg lover, the block editor for WordPress, which I am as well. And I just find it so powerful and just the potential there of this kind of modular block approach is awesome. But what’s a counterintuitive insight or maybe just as a technologist with a lot of history yourself, what do you see in Gutenberg that may not be as obvious to everybody out there that you’re really excited about?

Robert Jacobi:
Well, I’m excited about Gutenberg because I’m lazy. And it does like 99% of the issues I would normally deal with on a day to day basis. What I really like from the tech perspective is… Let’s dig deep into WordPress architecture. The database is a mess. The architecture’s a mess. And please, feel free to argue with me. But what WordPress has done very successfully has been backwards compatible for about 15 plus years. That’s crazy. There’s a lot of legacy mess in that code.

Robert Jacobi:
What Gutenberg, I feel, can eventually allow to happen is that we finally get to things like actually creating atomic data for parts of content, actually being able to expand our tables. So when a Gutenberg or a block, let’s say, maybe there are certain types of blocks that actually when you install them, start creating separate tables that are actually database compliant tables, not a bunch of JSON, semicolon comma delimited madness that no one can parse except WordPress. That means you need to make API calls, everything gets slowed down and it’s nightmare. No, things can actually be made atomic for much more different usage.

Chris Badgett:
[crosstalk 00:24:07] Could you clarify that atomic piece? Like what does that mean?

Robert Jacobi:
Okay. So super dorky, coding, nerdiness, atomic, data should be atomic. That means that a bit of data in a table should not be able to be parsed out. So typically, let’s go with something that’s not atomic, name. My name is Robert Jacobi. If I put Robert Jacobi as a full name into a table, that’s not atomic because I can actually parse that out into a first name and last name. So it should be Robert and Jacobi. So creating useful reusable data is critical in the long run for whatever we want to do on the internet because it’s more meaningful. We can start pulling those pieces together.

Robert Jacobi:
WordPress has a lot of legacy database graft that doesn’t allow you to do that. So I think that Gutenberg is a step in the right direction where you can start looking at things, blocks that are very atomic. An atomic block in a post might be the lead, it might be the synopsis. And now you can actually start with smart blocks. You can actually start creating tables that take that stuff. And now how do you reuse it? Now you can put it into an email newsletter. So you have, what was it? Plugin…

Chris Badgett:
Newsletter Glue?

Robert Jacobi:
Newsletter glue, yes.

Chris Badgett:
[crosstalk 00:25:49] You know what’s funny, she was the interview right before this. That’s awesome.

Robert Jacobi:
But that’s the thing, but you can start being able to extract that data and make it more meaningful. And that’s the key. Yes, Newsletter Glue is great, but even just social media, now you can start tagging bits of atomic data, again, the most meaningful bit of data in a post and say, that’s social media post. And maybe that’s not automatically going out there, but at least could be repurposed and re-utilized. And instead of having a whole bunch of fields at the bottom of your post that you fill out for SEO and all that, start tagging it and saying, okay, this is… That it can be all of a sudden more smartly processed.

Chris Badgett:
I love that. And correct me if you don’t agree, my business partner and co-founder, Thomas, is developer. He’s really big on the end of short codes. Like we’re using blocks now. But what I notice is the market is a little comfortable and used to short codes and expects them. Can you kind of speak to that, that kind of, how do we help people turn transition to blocks instead of short codes or think about them differently? And do you see what I’m talking about, why there’s some tension in the market?

Robert Jacobi:
Boy, I might be the wrong person for this one, because I’m all about just cut them off.

Chris Badgett:
Yeah. [crosstalk 00:27:17].

Robert Jacobi:
Sorry, short codes are no longer supported.

Chris Badgett:
[crosstalk 00:27:21] That’s what my business partner says, but I have to represent the user. I’m, they love short codes, what do we do? Yeah.

Robert Jacobi:
Stupid short codes. No, and it’s funny, every CMS that I’ve dealt with in the last close to 20 years has had a version of short codes, because it was a way to inject content into an editor or a user experience where you just wanted to throw that in there. At the end of the day, I see most short codes, literally just turning into blocks because that’s what they are. I mean, a short code-

Chris Badgett:
[crosstalk 00:28:02] what’s the options?

Robert Jacobi:
That’s really what it is. I mean, a short code is really just like put something here. So I mean that block could be something tiny. It could be my phone number. But you could easily run some kind of crazy script and just take care of all the short codes and trim into blocks.

Chris Badgett:
How about Full Site Editing just to get people who aren’t really understanding what that means yet? Where are we going here? And what’s going away, what’s changing? And how do you communicate Full Site Editing to the regular user who maybe has built some sites, but they’re, what? What does that mean?

Robert Jacobi:
I think there is no regular. The current, I’m going to go with current end user probably won’t think twice about Full Site Editing. They’re used to their infrastructure. Full Site Editing is not getting rid of their workflows or whatnot to make things happen. New users and users that are going to rebuild their sites and whatnot, they’re going to be looking at new themes, new page builders, will these naturally support the newest tech and WordPress? Full Site Editing is part of that. If you are a small business, it means nothing to you. If you’re an agency, you should know how to take advantage of that. But that’s about it.

Chris Badgett:
Cool. You mentioned being responsible for the P&L in WordPress, which is, another way to say that is we got to figure out how to be profitable in an open-source community where a lot of things are contributed or free or whatever. If somebody wants to get involved in open-source and have a living at the same time, and I know there’s lots of layers from agency owner, to I have my own online business, to I have a SAS that integrates in this community, what would you say?

Robert Jacobi:
And not at all. And frankly, for most people, that’s the beauty of open-source is that there are ton of people doing a lot of work just so you can take advantage of it. I mean, a lot of developers, a lot of community folk, a lot of open-source peoples, they literally just want to see someone just using it, building something else with it. So do you have to reciprocate one for one? No, that’s not how it works. Should you reciprocate at some point, if you can? If you can.

Chris Badgett:
Yeah.

Robert Jacobi:
I mean, if life and time allows you to, yeah, that’d be great. And you should give back somehow. I talk a lot about the fact that one of the simplest things is to not poop on the people. Yes, poop, I said, There’s so many other versions of that. A lot of open-source developers really get pooped on for things that are beyond their control and the people doing the pooping aren’t really aware of how much effort has gone into what they’re getting for free.

Chris Badgett:
Or at an incredible value. Yeah.

Robert Jacobi:
601.

Chris Badgett:
Yeah.

Robert Jacobi:
There are tons of folks who are able to do amazing things for themselves, for their families, for their businesses, for their communities, with open-source. And when something goes wrong, a lot out of these open-source communities, there’s only a handful of people who, day in and day out, committed their lives to doing the work for it. And they don’t need to hear, you suck. Why is this broken?

Chris Badgett:
Right.

Robert Jacobi:
It’s open-source, they’re not the ones who run your company. If this is a problem for you, jump in and say, “Hey, I found this is an issue. Here’s what I suggest.” Let’s look at you, Mr. Badgett, you already said you’re not the technical guy, but I bet you’ve seen issues and problems in open-source projects because we all have.

Chris Badgett:
Yeah.

Robert Jacobi:
So just identifying it and say, “Hey, I’ve been able to reproduce this problem three times. This is great software. This is a problem I found, I’m submitting it.” That’s it. That’s all you have to do. It takes five minutes and you only get 500 years of great software back at you because it’s fixed. That’s better than saying, “My God, WordPress sucks because I couldn’t run an NFT off of it.” Well, yeah. No, yes, fine. You didn’t get to run an NFT. If you’d like to run NFT, how about you help and contribute to the project to do WordPress NFTs. And it’s horrifying in my head, but yes.

Chris Badgett:
You brought it up, do you have any thoughts about digital assets, NFTs, cryptocurrency in the future of the web, like Blockchains and decentralization? And how does that jibe with your open-source worldview? And do you see these worlds colliding at all? Maybe they have already?

Robert Jacobi:
I’ll just say, you’re just too chicken to say the word Web 3.

Chris Badgett:
I’ll say it. I just like to elaborate what I mean by that. Because I remember when I heard Web 2, I’m, what are you talking about? I don’t know what that means.

Robert Jacobi:
For giggles, I still code pages in HTML like hardcore bracket HTML. The whole point of the internet was supposed to be that everything’s decentralized, there’s redundancy, failover built into it. I would love to see all of that in regards to content and other assets and whatnot. On my personal blog, I actually commented on this a couple days ago. And the issue is that you still have silos that engineer all of that communication and that’s sort of the problem. So it’s yes, in a perfect world of everything you just talk about, all this Web 3 would be decentralized and open and accessible and-

Chris Badgett:
Peer to peer

Robert Jacobi:
Just as open-source as open-sources.

Chris Badgett:
Right.

Robert Jacobi:
But it’s not because it requires resources that I may not have at home. If my only computing device is a tablet or a phone, no, I really can’t participate in Web 3. I need to have a server or a server farm or something or other that can support a lot of that interest. I’m going to go with that. I’m going to go with inter SAS communication. Copyright. And there are silos being built around that. And I don’t think Web 3 is technologically as open as the vision for Web 3 wants to be.

Chris Badgett:
Solid points. Where’s hosting heading? What do you see at Cloudways? I know Cloudways has recently been working on some starter bundles to be easier for people to get rolling, get going. You guys have been rolling out free trials so people can get in and try it out, which is the opposite of how most hosts do it, which I think is really cool to like, hey, try it out, see what you think. Let us earn your trust. I think it’s super cool. Where do you see where’s hosting going? Where’s Cloudways going? How do you reduce even more friction in hosting?

Robert Jacobi:
It’s incremental at the end of the day. Again, 10 years ago when Cloudways started, 20 years ago, when we all discovered we all needed hosting, it’s got a lot easier. Now I’m not worrying about building up my own DNS server on my server, most of that is taken care of. “You remember?” “Yeah.”

Chris Badgett:
Or SSL certificates. I mean, you’re just…

Robert Jacobi:
Figuring out which mail server platform you’re going to run, just so you can get one email a day. But we’re taking slow incremental baby steps following the market. What can we make easier? What is your biggest pain point today? For a lot of our customers, it’s, we want our sites to be up and we’re based out of Australia or we’re based out of Italy or we’re based out of Brazil, not all hosting providers can do that. So we’ve taken the idea of, let’s work with the big cloud infrastructure providers and build a platform on top of that to make it really easy to be, yeah, we’re going to get rid of all this sysadmin voodoo. And by the way, you can build your site as local as you want to do it. If you want to be in DigitalOcean, or AWS, or Google Cloud, Volter or Linode, there are reasons for each one of those platforms. Yeah. And there are geographical considerations we can deal with. That’s awesome.

Robert Jacobi:
And I think that’s one of the first bits of friction to get rid of is, why do I have to host this in the US? Or why do I have to host this in Europe? Well, you don’t. So we’ve removed that, now everything’s much more local. So now you feel like you own it a bit more. So there’s that sort of neighbor tech aspect of it. We’re here with you in your region. Great. We’ve gotten rid of the sysadmin nonsense. And in fairness, in a lot of hosting companies, everyone’s trying to get rid of that sysadmin madness. Most people, either they’re very techy or very everything else. So if you’re very techy, you’re running your own AWS server, VPs somewhere. That’s great. Have fun. I’m very techy, I don’t want to do that, too much work and a headache for me. I want a lot of that stuff just automatically taken care of.

Robert Jacobi:
That’s that huge first friction point that everyone’s trying to tackle. Then the other one’s start creeping up on the software layers. What applications are you using? How can we make that easier? Are you a pure content provider in WordPress? And that’s where those bundles come in that you were talking about. If you are in a specific space, if you’re in learning management space, do we have a bundle that can ramp you up quicker than anyone else can? Awesome. Great. If you’re selling pet supplies, is there an e-commerce bundle that takes care of that? If you’re into photography, if you’re into blogging, if you’re into social media, so one of our goals is just take little bits of those friction points out of the whole decision process and get you ramped up to where you want to be quicker than you could anywhere else. And those are going to happen across all sorts of software layers. WordPress certainly, but you’re going to see them in other platforms as well.

Chris Badgett:
I love that. For someone who’s not super technical out there, I know with Cloudways, one of the first things you have to do after you get in there is to choose your server. And by the way, I just want to reiterate what you just said, one of the worst mistakes I ever made was hosting our own website on Amazon. And we hired sysadmin to help us and it was terrible, in 2014. And it gave me a huge respect for managed WordPress hosting. I know Amazon’s back there, but even with our technical skills in-houses, I don’t want to mess with it. We got too much stuff to worry about at the application layer, the content layer, the marketing layer, the business layer, whatever. But if somebody goes into like Cloudways and you’ve got like Digital Ocean, Amazon Web Services, Linode, Google, Volter, what’s the difference? How does somebody choose, which one if they don’t know, if they don’t already have an opinion?

Robert Jacobi:
We’re trying to make that easier. With Cloudways, we probably tack to a more geekier crowd that knows exactly what they want and why they want it. I mean, there are certain benefits to each platform. Baby steps. A lot of it is just, okay, we’re finding what are the points of friction for certain types of customers? To just take that that question out of the equation. Yeah. I mean, Volter has great reputation, very high frequency stuff. It’s a bit more expensive and that’s fine. And do you really need to be running your blog on Volter? Probably not. DigitalOcean probably takes care of that just darn fine. And DigitalOcean’s standard. I’m not even talking about DigitalOcean, I mean, you can go to the cheapest DigitalOcean on Cloudways and your blog’s going to fly because DigitalOcean is toward that. Volter is doing different kinds of connections if you’re using APIs and things.

Robert Jacobi:
So if you have a WordPress site that’s got an open API for other folks to connect with, that might matter a lot more. And then AWS and Linode and Google Cloud have similar tweaks and percentages of differences where it matters for certain kinds of applications. So it’s really about knowing, this is why I always talk to your agency or agency knows best. Go to your agency, they know what they have been successful with for what types of projects. We’re here to support those kinds of agencies to make that happen. That’s the short term. Long term, that’s slowly going to get cleaned up. So people can just say, “I want to create training on LyfterLMS. And I expect 500 people to be on a day.” Done.

Chris Badgett:
Yeah.

Robert Jacobi:
That’s it. And then, obviously, you’re ramping up. But there’s just all little tech hurdles and just making sure everything’s that it’s done well. And it takes time, nothing happens overnight

Chris Badgett:
As a technologist, one of the last pieces that you don’t really keep in-house on the hosting or in WordPress or in your LMS is video. And I recommend, okay, give Vimeo Pro or Wistia or some third party video service. But do you have any thoughts on hosting your own video? Is it good idea, bad idea? If you are going to do it, expect to pay for more bigger hosting package or whatever? Any thoughts around video and how to deal with it? Especially since video is so big and it’s just growing exponentially in terms of usage.

Robert Jacobi:
My personal opinion is very much dump video to someone else.

Chris Badgett:
Yeah.

Robert Jacobi:
Let the third parties take care of it. I mean, I’m not a big fan of just throwing it up on YouTube and throwing an eye frame in with your YouTube video or in bed or whatever. But for all intents and purposes, YouTube, Vimeo at all, they are video CDNs. So yeah, take advantage of that. And it’s going to be cheap. A monthly video account for, is probably insignificant to how much you would have to pay to manage all your video on your own local install, wherever that is, and the performance. Those guys have built SASs around video. That’s really all they are mean. Yes, we can say YouTube, social media, blah, blah, blah, blah. Really? It’s a video SAS. That’s all it is. It just happens to have comments at the end of it. But you can have comments on your WordPress website. You don’t need to live in YouTube world. So that’s sort of the short thought of about it that it probably should be cut out and edited out before I get banished from Google.

Chris Badgett:
No, that makes sense. I think Vimeo Pro as of this recording is around $300 a year. So call that like $30 a month or less 20, $25 a month. It’s just worth off loading that to somebody who does that. Same for podcasting, I would say, too, but I don’t know if you-

Robert Jacobi:
Yeah. I love SASs. I use a billion of them for a billion different things. And when they focus on a certain thing like, okay, we’re going to do video. Well, the best part of that is not just hosting the video, it’s that they’re going to deploy and display it in different formats for you. You don’t have to worry about it. How much is your time worth? If you’re paying $300 a year, okay. So let’s call it $50. No, not even 50, what are we at? [crosstalk 00:47:08].

Chris Badgett:
Yeah.

Robert Jacobi:
25 a month. Yeah. You should be able to be pay $25 a month to have someone manage and transcode all your video.

Chris Badgett:
Your own TV station. Sounds like a good deal.

Robert Jacobi:
Because it is.

Chris Badgett:
Yeah. Do you have any thoughts on email, too? Is that something we should offload, in your opinion, to a Google Workspace or G Suite deal? Or we should host our own email? What do you recommend?

Robert Jacobi:
So email is my favorite form of online communication. It’s great.

Chris Badgett:
Okay.

Robert Jacobi:
Because I can snooze it. I can archive it. I can do a million things with it. I can come back to emails from 20 years ago. It’s great. No, God forbid, don’t run your own email server. Are you crazy? Do you not have enough free time in your life? What a pain in the rear end. It’s no. Find someone who does it well. I’m a big fan of Google Workspace. They keep changing names. I guess that’s what it is now.

Chris Badgett:
$5 a month, or I think that’s what it is. And not only do you get the email, you get the docs and the spreadsheets and everything else, analytics.

Robert Jacobi:
It’s a stupidly great deal. I don’t know what they’re doing with it at the moment. Theoretically, if you’re just doing Gmail, theoretically, they can still scan it or whatever. But in the Workspace, my understanding is it’s completely private. So yeah. So what? The spam protection they have, I don’t care who you use, use Office 365, use Rackspace, use Google Mail. No, we’re all too old to be running our own email servers. I’ve done this. I’ve run my own email server. That is a giant nightmare. Are you kidding me? My goodness! No, stop. Just stop. It’s just like video. I mean, certain applications have been perfected in their SAS model. And yeah, $5 a user per month? Okay, depending on where you live, that might be barely a cup of coffee for one day, but it covers all your email a month and email is one of my most valuable communication methods. Yeah, I’ll give you $5 a month for that jeepers creepers.

Chris Badgett:
I like your point. You do need some SAS to run an online business of some kind. Maybe you got some WordPress and plug in some themes, maybe 10 really SAS companies you rely on that are mission critical. That’s what it takes. That’s what’s in the bag of technology.

Robert Jacobi:
Well, one of the things, I’m just not religious about it.

Chris Badgett:
Yeah. That’s tool for the job. Right?

Robert Jacobi:
I’m religious about open-source insofar as I think that’s the best way to get code out to people and make better products. I think that’s really important. And I don’t want anyone to miss out on that. Open-source has done more for the internet, period! End of conversation. Open-source has been the driver, creator and be all and end all of the internet. So being part of it, if you’re listening to this, and contributing back is something that a simple action can affect billions of people. And that’s amazing. And it’s power. And it’s one of the greatest creations, certainly, in my lifetime that every single individual could have immense impact.

Robert Jacobi:
Doesn’t mean I don’t like a good SAS, and I like my Google Workspace, I like my Zapier. And there are a couple others that really just make my life a lot easier. But yeah, I mean, what we’re doing, even on the on this Zoom, Facebook, however, this is being spread out madness, I guarantee you 99% of it is based on open-source. And how many of you have actually thought about what you’ve given back to make that happen? How much have you gotten from it and how much can you give back? You don’t have to give back a lot. That’s the irony. You can give back so little and the magnification of that is huge.

Chris Badgett:
That’s awesome. That’s Robert Jacobi. He’s from Cloudways. You can find cloudways.com. I’ve been seeing in the LifterLMS community. Cloudways, over the past couple years has really come up in the ranks. People talking about it, people raving about your support, people raving about the entry point, the affordability, yet amazing customer support and all the options and customizability and choices they have. So you’re doing a good thing there. Any five final words for the people before we say goodbye today?

Robert Jacobi:
For the people, boy, I got a bunch of final words. Don’t stop learning, take advantage of it everywhere, online, offline, wherever. I think being excited about that will be really helpful. Open-source is really the fuel of the internet. And it’s easy to forget about because you see products with fancy brand names and marketing around them. But each one of those products I guarantee is 99% open-source.

Chris Badgett:
Awesome. That’s Robert Jacobi, go to cloudways.com. Thanks for coming on the show and we’ll have to do it again sometime and perhaps connect in person at WordPress event.

Robert Jacobi:
If they allow me after this one. Thank you, Chris. I really appreciate it.

Chris Badgett:
And that’s a wrap for this episode of LMS Cast. Did you enjoy that episode? Tell your friends and be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss the next episode. And I’ve got a gift for you over at lifterlms.com/gift. Go to lifterlms.com/gift. Keep learning, keep taking action. And I’ll see you in the next episode.

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