5 Reasons to Try MODX Cloud—Even if You’ve Tried it Before

by Jay Stephen Gilmore

Published on September 26, 2014

It is just over 2 years since we launched the beta of MODX Cloud. Since that time, much has changed. If you’ve never tried MODX Cloud or it’s been more than a few months, it may be time to give it a (or another) go.

And, if you might be thinking that MODX Cloud is just awesome MODX-optimized hosting, you’re missing out on a whole pile of features to help you work smarter, save time, and make more money. I wanted to share just 5 reasons you should (re)consider trying MODX Cloud.

1. Keeping DRY in Cloud: Reuse Previous Work

If you’re building many websites each year, it’s likely that you have to repeat the same steps in starting sites every time. In software development there’s a concept of DRY (Do not Repeat Yourself), where you build something once and reuse it as a foundation or component of an application later on.

Design frameworks such as Zurb Foundation or Twitter Bootstrap, are built on this notion: have reusable components from which to speed site development and production. But what about applying that same concept to your CMS site development in MODX?

A Typical Scenario

Let’s take a look at a typical scenario for many of your sites. You may have found that many of your clients’ sites have common requirements such as: a news section, staff directory, a blog, product pages, contact pages and contact forms. By starting out building one of these projects but keeping it somewhat generic, you could use a basic layout and design (even if you planned on doing a full custom design) and install and configure all the Extras you typically use. Once you’ve gotten it to the point where you would normally start the heavy customization, take a Snapshot that captures this site as a starting point for new sites. Then proceed to complete this project.

Next time you need to start a similar project, you just Inject this starting Snapshot into a new Cloud and save hours, if not days, of effort you used to spend getting started.

The only thing you need to consider though is how you charge for these projects. If you used to do everything hourly, you don’t want to penalize yourself for being more efficient. On the other hand, you could certainly increase the number of projects you may wish to take on, thus making up the difference that way.

Take this reuse even further, you could build out sites for different markets, such as startups, restaurants, retailers or portfolios and sell volume.

In the near future, we’re planning on enabling you to sell site Snapshots trough the MODX Cloud Marketplace by offering complete site Snapshots.

2. Quick and Safe Upgrades

MODX Upgrades are fairly straightforward, though on remote servers, the process can be time consuming; backing up your data, uploading the new files, run the setup and review the site. If you have more than a handful of sites to manage, this process could eat up days or weeks.

In MODX Cloud, upgrades can be done as simply as clicking the Upgrade Cloud button. On most sites, clicking Upgrade will work without incident or issue—especially patch releases.

Safe Upgrades

If your site has many custom Extras or you don’t like the idea of upgrading the live site directly for fear it may break, you should consider a more safe alternative to just clicking the Upgrade Cloud button.

Safe upgrades let you perform the upgrade on a test environment before upgrading the live. The process takes a few more steps than a single click, however, it ensures that an upgrade and it’s impact is tested before making it public. Here’s how:

  1. Take a Snapshot of your live/production site
  2. Create a new Cloud from that Snapshot.
  3. Upgrade the newly created Cloud to the version of MODX you’d like, ideally the most recent of 2.2 or 2.3.
  4. Test the site both on the main pages and in the manager to ensure everything is working. If everything worked without incident, you should be fine to upgrade the live site directly.
  5. If you found issues you needed to resolve, fix them on the Cloud you tested the upgrade on, once finished, take a Complete Snapshot of that site and then backup your Live site and finally, Inject the Complete Snapshot of the upgraded and fixed site into the live site.

3. Site Management Work Flows—Hands Off of Your Live Site

For many database-based CMSs, a long-standing challenge has been to preview major changes to your website before making those changes public. Going through a review and approval process before putting those changes onto the live site is a good practice and not just one for big organizations with sysadmins. In the past, this often required a server admin and developer to sync multiple installations and databases, however, in MODX Cloud most members of your team should be able to easily manage this work flow.

With databases and files needing to be moved, ensuring nothing gets missed is a hassle and error prone. Therefore, it’s quite common for people to just make changes on the live site. Sometimes minor changes are fine, but if you’re launching a campaign or rolling out a major redesign, it’s a really bad idea. With MODX Cloud, you use a multi-stage work flow and keep your hands off your live site until everyone has pre-approved your tested changes live.

For the MODX Cloud website (which is hosted and managed in—you guessed it— MODX Cloud) we follow the practice of making development changes on a development Cloud, previewing them and making content and design changes on a staging Cloud and never touching the sacred production Cloud: which is at modxcloud.com.

While MODX Cloud, doesn’t do complex comparisons (i.e., diffs) between versions of a site, it is straightforward to move sites around and ensure that you’re keeping your production site closed to editing and unreviewed changes.

This work flow relies on backups and the ever-magical MODX Cloud Snapshots to capture parts or all of the 3 versions of the site and move them around.

Here’s an edited flow of how we manage changes to the MODX Cloud website:

  1. We edit content and alter designs on the our stage Cloud
  2. Request review of the changes from the Cloud team
  3. Once approved, it’s time to move the changes to the production site at modxcloud.com, as follows:
    1. Take a Complete Snapshot of the staging Cloud
    2. Take a backup of the production Cloud, in case anything goes wrong.
    3. Inject the Snapshot we took of the stage Cloud into the production Cloud
  4. Now the production site has the latest changes and you’re ready to start your next set of changes on your staging site.

4. Ditch Your localhost

If you maintain a local dev environment to build websites in MODX, and then you transfer them to your server for preview, there’s no reason you can’t skip the local development environment and work directly in MODX Cloud. You have full ssh access including command line tools like git, crontab and mysql. For you front end developers, MODX Cloud includes modern development tools like Sass/Compass including being able to install Bourbon and Neat for more Sassiness.

We’d be remiss not to mention that MODX Cloud is designed and optimized for MODX. You don’t need to worry if MODX will work; it will, and pretty fast, too. Sometimes upgrading local development environments, or installing new software, can lead to unexpected hiccups in your work schedule from burning hours patching up your dev environment.

Unlike your localhost, you can use Snapshots to capture a point-in-time version of your site before you start trying something new. If you don’t like any changes later, you can quickly revert to the Snapshot state if you wish to jettison your last round of updates.

Or, maybe you want to build a new foundation site—a site with all your favorite basics in place and ready for starting new projects hours ahead. Using Snapshots of partially built sites can really save time, especially on smaller sites with common features, and you’re really just customizing design, organization and content. Snapshotting often lets you make variations of your foundation sites quickly and easily. Doing this on your localhost would mean new installs, and copying files and SQL exports for each new version—a lot of work and less profit.

In MODX Cloud you can also bring in colleagues and contractors and give them access to individual projects or groups of projects on which to collaborate—much more productive than a group of devs and designers fighting for control of the keyboard and mouse attached to your local dev environment. With Snapshots, manual backups and 7-day rolling backups, even if they were to make an error, you can always roll back.

And what about previewing in progress work for client approval? In Cloud you just send them a URL. With localhost-based development, it almost invariably requires external hosting, meaning exporting databases, syncing git repositories and deploying your work to date.

Admittedly, where localhost wins is when you’re not connected to the internet, and sadly we’ve not yet figured out how to put MODX Cloud on a thumb drive. So if you must build a site on a plane or deep in a forest somewhere, you’ll probably need to work on your local environment. Or better yet, we suggest alternative activities for such times like books or enjoying the scenery.

5. Unlimited Projects (Well, as Many as Can Fit)

With our current plans the only limit on the number of MODX projects you can have is related to your Vault storage which includes the site backups and Snapshots. If you’re projects and sites are small, you’ll be able to have many, many, many sites—be they live/production sites or just projects in development.

Clouds and New Plans: No More Dev/Production

If you tried out MODX Cloud before, we’ve made many changes since the early days, especially related to Clouds/instances. On our original plans, there was a concept of Dev Clouds and Production Clouds. The distinction was that Production Clouds were live/public websites to which you would point a domain.

Earlier year, we launched new plans that eliminated Production and Dev Clouds; there are just Clouds. If you wish to turn any of your projects into a live site, you add the Custom URL option to that cloud and point your domain(s) to it. This is not only simpler but it makes going live that much easier. And that’s our mission: to help you build, manage and deploy your MODX sites faster and more easily than ever before.

Getting Started with Cloud is Easier than Ever

In the recent weeks we’ve made it even easier than ever to try out MODX Cloud. We’ve talked to many of our customers and their clients and drastically improved the sign-up and first-steps in getting started with MODX Cloud. And, if you have any questions at all before you sign up, just send an email to win@modx.com and we’ll help you out. Even if you’ve tried it before, you can sign up and try it again.

Millions Rely on MODX

In 2005, MODX could power a fully mobile-responsive website using HTML5 and CSS3, even though those technologies weren’t invented yet. And with MODX today, you’re ready not only for what you need now but also what comes next.

Try MODX Right Now