A “Whodunnit?” that (almost, but not really) rivals Jack the Ripper
The Sevenoaks Bookshop in England is about as far from a Barnes & Noble or Amazon as you can get.
This diminutive shop was founded just a few years after the end of World War II. Located in a quaint village town of rolling hills and wetlands 20 miles south of London, the Sevenoaks Bookshop has been a center of learning, community, and bookishness ever since. The shop publishes a quarterly magazine created by local children, puts on an annual literary event, hosts a writer’s group, and even runs a cafe in the shop where locals can socialize.
(The shop’s emblem — a charming woodcut of an open book framed by seven oak leaves — was designed by a printmaker named Robert Ashwin Maynard. Robert was the student of a famous artist named Walter Sickert, who may or may not have been Jack the Ripper! But that’s neither here nor there.)
This is the story of Sevenoaks’ webmaster, Oli, who uses Jetpack for the shop’s WordPress site. And while this tale may not be as famous as Jack the Ripper, it’s still good stuff.
Eight years ago, when Oli first joined Sevenoaks to do all-around tech support, they had a one-page HTML website that was made on FrontPage. “It was gray on gray on gray with a little bit of blue,” Oli said. “We eventually got them onto WordPress about five years ago.”
A former DJ and sound technician, Oli came across Jetpack while helping some of his musician friends build a site (a high-energy, alternative Celtic Gypsy band, in case you want to have a listen). But it was only during the relaunch of Sevenoaks that Oli decided to get Jetpack Backup.
It was the first site he worked on for which he licensed and paid for Jetpack. But because Sevenoaks was the most high-profile, highly-trafficked site he managed, he decided to spring for it. “I kind of had this panic when we went live with the site. We’d had hosting issues previously and I’m an infrastructure guy — you need backups that you can restore quickly. Jetpack was having a sale and I just thought, you know what? For a year, I’m happy to buy that. I can prove to Sevenoaks how useful it is and then they can take on the payment next year,” Oli said. “It was one of those safety net-type things and within a couple of weeks, I found a reason to use it — the site broke.”
While it wasn’t a whodunit on the level of Jack the Ripper, the investigation into the crash did yield a culprit: a previous developer who’d written a suite of extensions for WooCommerce.
“The extensions weren’t created with the most modern coding technique, shall we say,” Oli said. “It had breaking changes and incompatibilities with other WooCommerce extensions, which caused the site to go down.”
It was time for a restore, but Oli joked that it wasn’t quite the calm, easygoing situation he would have liked to describe to us. “It was quite amusing. There was a moment of panic. But after I settled down, it took just one click to restore. It was a great interface and it did the job,” he said. “Backup saved my bacon really quickly.”
The incident gave him a great first use case to convince Sevenoaks to renew the plan the next year.
“Real-time backups absolutely give the client the peace of mind that no matter what, they can get out of jail. And it gives me peace of mind that no matter how many technical changes I’ve had to make, I can revert back to the last major thing.”
Oli’s biggest worry was losing an order. Sevenoaks sells tickets to literary events on the site and recently launched a new eCommerce store to sell books, digital gift cards, and subscriptions. The stakes were high because the shop is a true center of community in the town.
“They’re really invested in the learning of the next generation,” he said. “They’re trying to be forward-thinking. They’re a little shop putting up a fight against the Amazons of the world.”
Oli, who manages several other sites and has a full-time job in Fintech, said Jetpack offers a toolkit of features that gives him confidence that the site is safe and secure. Asked which features he rates most highly, he mentioned the WordPress.com dashboard, which gives him the ability to keep his eyes on multiple sites at once.
The Stats feature is also a plus — Oli uses it instead of Google Analytics.
“The client is traditionally anti-“Big Three” — Amazon, Facebook, Google; we try not to give them too much free data. So to have an alternative to Google Analytics is nice.”
He’s also a fan of automatic plugin updates and uses brute force protection to stave off hacks and attacks. And Oli mentioned the benefit of notifications that keep him up to date about vulnerabilities and site downtime.
At the end of the day, Oli chose Jetpack because the toolkit is managed by Automattic, “In the back of my head, you guys are a trusted name. I know there’s a proper development team behind Jetpack. It’s not just one or two guys making up their minds about what they’re going to work on. There’s a proper product roadmap and it’s a proper company, so I trust the services it delivers.”