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Recently we embarked on an evaluation of three Joomla! website management tools, with a view to offering managed website maintenance to our clients in 2017:

Our requirements, in order, were as follows:

  1. Primarily, to automate Joomla! core and 3rd-party security updates for multiple websites more efficiently.
  2. Automation of backups.
  3. The ability to run site audits as required.

We settled on Watchful.li, but thought it might be beneficial to others to document the evaluation process.

watchful

We started by setting up accounts with all 3 providers, and doing what could be done for free/evaluation purposes.

  • Watchful allowed us to run a free trial for 30 days for up to 5 websites.
  • MyJoomla and PerfectDashboard both allowed us to install one site for free.

We chose to run each platform for a week at a time.

We started with PerfectDashboard and ran into a snag fairly quickly - the website hosting account ran out of bandwidth! In Australia, almost everything internet-related is disk- and bandwidth-limited, and PerfectDashboard runs it's own internal backup service which seemed to be continually doing its thing, which ramped up the bandwidth numbers quite dramatically. We didn't realise this at first so it's possible the product could be configured not to do this, or to at least do it less often, but it seemed a little problematic to be running backups to the other side of the world so we uninstalled the test website and moved onto the next platform.

MyJoomla had a similar type of interface to PerfectDashboard, with the left menu sidebar. Unfortunately we couldn't test the Updates section without signing up so it was a little hard to evaluate our primary requirement. On the plus side, the initial audit was very comprehensive and produced some surprising results which we were able to go off and fix, although we couldn't then re-run the audit to make sure we got it all without signing up.

Watchful has a different layout, and the focus is different - the main login screen shows all sites and their update status. We could test the Updater with the 5 sites we'd set up, and were quite excited to see how fast it was compared to manual updates. We also configured automated website backups (using Akeeba in Joomla!) and tested that and it all worked nicely. Lastly we ran a site audit, which was far less comprehensive than the MyJoomla one - it basically just showed if the site was infected or not, without identifying all the things that could potentially cause an issue.

Our view, which may or may not be correct, is that Watchful was initially about updating and then added audits, and MyJoomla was initially about audits and then added updating, and over time they're getting a little closer together in terms of functionality. PerfectDashboard is newer to the scene and looks very promising too. Watchful and PerfectDashboard both work on Wordpress sites, which can be handy if you work with more than one CMS.

Pricing:

  • Watchful.li is US-based and advertises as $1/site/month.
  • MyJoomla is UK-based and advertises as £5.00/month for a single site, £19.99/month or £199.99/yr for unlimited sites.
  • PerfectDashboard is EU-based and at #JWC16 was quoted as "$1-$2/month", but has no public pricing on the website at this time**.

To compare apples with apples, we converted to Aussie dollars and came up with this (numbers correct as at January 2017):

Watchful (https://watchful.li/pricing)
30 days free trial
25 sites US$215/yr (approx AUD$292.39)
50 sites US$421/yr (approx AUD$572.54)

MyJoomla (https://myjoomla.com/is/priceless)
First audit / add first site free
Unlimited sites £199.99/yr (approx AUD$283.60)

PerfectDashboard **
Add first site free

So without knowing exact PerfectDashboard pricing**, MyJoomla is definitely the most cost-effective option.

We're not suggesting that any one product is better than the others - it all depends on your requirements. The main reason we settled on Watchful was because our primary requirement was monitoring and fast updating across multiple sites, and we found the Watchful interface the simplest for our needs. It also helped that we could see it fully functioning for 30 days before making a decision. The MyJoomla audit is much more comprehensive, and less expensive than Watchful. But we're going with the theory that if we keep all the sites updated and backed up properly, we shouldn't need to do repeated audits. #fingerscrossed :/

We also set up fully automated offsite backups, using Watchful, Akeeba Backup Pro and Amazon S3 - which will be the subject of another blog post.

** Updated 29 July 2017

PerfectDashboard now lists pricing (https://perfectdashboard.com/pricing.html) so we've added the calculations for reference/comparison:

€2.99/month per domain
ie. for 25 sites €897/yr (approx AUD$1272.85)

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