The start of 2020 has started pretty much how 2019 finished, with constant development taking place on the ‘WP Cloud Server’ plugin!
Those of you who are following the releases will spot that I didn’t post about the version 1.2.0 release! I’ll hold my hand up and admit that we had a few teething problems, so all our efforts were directed on to version 1.2.1 – which I am pleased to say was uploaded to WordPress last night!
I’m sure that you’re wondering what the teething problems were! Well. It all hinged around what users expect from the plugin, and how it’s going to be used.
‘WP Cloud Server’ was originally intended to make life easier for users who want to automate the process of connecting DigitalOcean servers to ServerPilot. In addition to this it piggy-backed on the ‘Easy Digital Downloads’ plugin to allow users to sell hosting plans.
Once we launched the plugin around October last year it became clear that there are many different scenarios that users see this plugin being used for;
- Connecting to ServerPilot on it’s own.
- Connecting to DigitalOcean on it’s own.
- Not selling anything, so no need for the ‘Easy Digital Downloads’ plugin.
- A request for other Cloud Providers e.g Vultr, Linode, etc.
- ‘Shared’ Hosting using ServerPilot
- ‘Dedicated Cloud Servers’ using ServerPilot with WordPress installed.
The list went on and on!
This is what led to our problems! Not enough time was spent testing the different scenarios, so we got bitten! But I am very pleased to say that version 1.2.1 makes up for this.
It has been tested and tested and every little problem and bug that we could find has been fixed! Now. I’m not stupid! I know more will show up as you guy’s start to play but it’s a sound base to build from.
What makes this release even better is that it isn’t just bug fixes. There are many new features that have been added which I’ll take a look at below in more detail;
Before we start let me just list the main changes so you can get a feel for the improvements;
- Numerous bug fixes
- Improved the software architecture to allow add-on modules to be used
- Added Checkbox for enabling/disabling AutoSSL in ServerPilot Templates
- Added Checkbox to allocate a New ServerPilot Server for use as ‘Shared’ Hosting.
- Ability to select ServerPilot ‘Economy’, ‘Business’ or ‘First-Class’ Plans for a new server.
- Improved selectable server location at checkout’ for both ‘Shared’ and ‘Dedicated’ Hosting.
- Improved reliability of de-activating modules without problems occurring.
- Added more versions of Ubuntu Linux – new Linux Distributions coming soon!
- Added new Easy Digital Downloads’ Email Tags for Hosting related settings.
- Added ability to disable Hosting Plan options in Downloads page.
- Removed ‘No Download Files’ message in the checkout and emails.
Enabling/Disabling the AutoSSL Facility
ServerPilot provides an feature known as AutoSSL which when launched was a first in the hosting industry. When enabled it indicates if a Let’s Encrypt SSL Certificate is available and allows it to be automatically installed and configured. It’s a powerful feature that I really appreciate.
The ‘WP Cloud Server’ plugin takes this further by providing an SSL Queue. If you create a WordPress website in ServerPilot then the AutoSSL feature won’t work if the DNS for the Domain Name isn’t configured yet. This is often the case if the client hasn’t updated their settings with the Registrar and it then takes up to 72 hours for things to propagate properly.
So. We add the sites details to a queue which then attempts to use AutoSSL twice a day. If it doesn’t succeed then it waits, patiently, until the DNS works. It then uses AutoSSL to add the certificate.
We all know that today a website should have a valid SSL Certificate. But maybe you don’t want to use Let’s Encrypt Certificates, preferring instead to use another type. Now you can enable or disable the AutoSSL feature and Queue on a server-by-server basis.
When we first created ‘WP Cloud Server’ it only had the option of creating a dedicated cloud server, connected to ServerPilot, with WordPress installed. This option is still at the core of the plugin, but we realised that automatically creating a server connected to ServerPilot could also be used for hosting numerous websites.
The ServerPilot Module has a page where you can create a new server which now has a checkbox to use it for ‘Shared’ Hosting.
This option adds the server to a ‘Server Group’ which can then be selected when creating a Web Hosting Plan inside ‘Easy Digital Downloads’. If it’s a single server then all new websites will be added to this server. If there are many servers, say in different locations such as London and New York, then at the checkout the customer will be able to pick a location for their website!
When the ‘WP Cloud Server’ plugin is first installed it defaults to activating both the ‘DigitalOcean’ and ‘ServerPilot’ modules.
But what if you don’t need both? Maybe you just want to manage servers created with DigitalOcean, or browse the servers that you have with ServerPilot.
The lates version of the plugin has a much more robust framework for controlling modules. Deactivating a module now ensures that everything related to that module is put into hibernation!
No tabs, no alerts, no logs, no visibility in Easy Digital Downloads, it vanishes until you choose to activate it!
Better Easy Digital Downloads Integration
When we started out developing the ‘WP Cloud Server’ plugin the use of the ‘Easy Digital Downloads’ plugin was mandatory. You had no choice but to install it! But we gradually came to realise that that idea was daft! Yes. I admit it! It was not a good move!
Why? If you weren’t intending to sell Web Hosting Plans why would you want EDD installed? Obviously you wouldn’t. So. Now it’s an option. If it’s not installed and activated then the ‘Template’ menu items are not displayed, after all you only need a ‘Template’ when selling hosting plans.
Once we had the basic functionality sorted we then wanted to improve the user experience when setting up ‘Easy Digital Downloads’.
Up to this version the ‘Hosting Plan Settings’ displayed in the EDD Downloads Page were always there. It was assumed that if you had the ‘WP Cloud Server’ plugin activated then you would want the settings.
Not anymore! You can now offer Hosting Plans, alongside downloads only, or even a combination of a Hosting Plan and a download. You can now enable or disable the Hosting Plan settings with a checkbox.
We also realised that there were two problems using ‘Easy Digital Downloads’.
The first was a lack of email tags for the Web Hosting Plans preventing customer emails including server details, user name, and passwords, etc.
The second was that at the checkout or in emails if no download was included then a ‘No Downloadable Files’ message was included. This was a nuisance!
I’m pleased to say that in the new version of the plugin that both of these issues have been fixed.
Loads of Improvements & Bug Fixes
As I said earlier we have been very busy making small improvements and bug fixes. The most noticeable is that we have added a lot of notifications and alerts.
These are particularly noticeable when you first install the plugin and have a click around before adding the API credentials. You will find that you now get a warning if you try to create a template or create an App with no connection to ServerPilot or a Cloud Provider.
Anyway. I hope you enjoy using the ‘WP Cloud Server’ plugin. It’s still early days and we are still getting an understanding as to the possibilities and how we will implement all of our ideas. Let us know what you think, or any features that you want to see added? The chances are we have already thought about it!