The idea is simple – instead of using a dedicated WordPress host such as WPEngine, you can create your own sites on cheap VMs provided by Digital Ocean, AWS, Linode and others.
Large WordPress hosts are using those same cloud companies anyway. By deploying your own servers you can save on the insane markup that those companies are charging.
The idea is compelling. You can spend 120 dollars a year on just a single WordPress site at places like WPengine and Cloudways. Yet, with a WordPress management panel, you can host multiple sites on a single VM for five dollars per month plus the cost of the panel.
If you’re an agency selling hosting and have a lot of clients, the cost savings to you could easily be thousands of dollars per month.
The downside to this is that you’re ultimately responsible for your own servers. So if the management panel company doesn’t want to or can’t help you out with a problem you’re the one ultimately on the hook to fix things.
But as a WordPress user or agency, you’re the one on the hook anyway – its just that the “hook” is sooner in the process rather than later.
So, for many agencies and power users, the WordPress management panel value proposition is very very compelling.
And that is before you even throw in the benefit of flexibility you get with these panels. Since you are using your own servers you can add things to them or use unique configurations in ways that standard WordPress hosting services simply can’t allow.
Sounds great, right? So what’s the downside?
For me, the downside is security.
The two biggest players in this space (gridpane.com and spinupwp.com) happen to be tiny companies – just a few employees each. And many of those employees have full access to YOUR servers – without any formal training in operational security.
At least one of those companies have a full time employee working in Asia-Pacific with other employees remote or traveling regularly.
Which means that they are easy targets for hackers and spies looking for an easy foothold in a lot of servers, especially servers located in western countries or that belong to western corporations.
Another consideration is that these companies are using software stacks to manage your server that haven’t yet been fully vetted for security flaws.
A third, albeit, minor consideration is that these companies go out of business and you’re left without a management panel and possibly proprietary software running on your servers.
Wouldn’t it be great to have the functionality of these panels in a WordPress plugin that YOU own and control and where you can look at the source-code at any time?
If you had this, then no matter what happens, you’re the only one with access to your servers (along with the cloud-company of course). And you can see and modify the code that runs on your servers.
You get the benefits of SAAS WordPress management apps – along with security and even more more flexibility in controlling what’s deployed to your WordPress sites and servers.
I think there is an opportunity here. Its not a multi-million dollar opportunity but probably a good life-style company size opportunity.