Next to already available solutions like Watchful.li and MyJoomla there is a new star on the horizon: Perfect Dashboard. I recently tested it out and it has some great features that can make it really easy to maintain your websites, both Joomla and Wordpress. And with coupon code JOOMLASEO you get €25 in free credits to try it out!
If your credits are used up, you can subscribe for a fixed price of €2,99 per site / month and add as many sites as you want. You will probably see that the dashboard is really easy to use. One thing that is especially unique about the dashboard is that it has some very sophisticated checks to see if the upgrade went fine or not (read on below). Rolling back to the before situation can also be done automatically. All this means that you should never have to worry about issues with your site after updating. But let's simply go over all the possibilities.
What does Perfect Dashboard offer?
In short, Perfect Dashboard is a solution for:
- Update your Joomla or Wordpress CMS
- Update your extensions (including PRO subscriptions)
- Run integrity tests to test your sites after updating them
- Run automated backups and upload them to the cloud (native Perfect Dashboard or Amazon S3)
- Roll back your updates if something goes wrong (!)
- Security: detect core changes in your files
- Remote development environments: create an off-site copy of your site and update it. If tested allright, publish to live
- GIT integration
You see, quite a list of options. I will guide you through the process of adding your sites and show you what you can do with them.
Add your sites to the dashboard
Once you have acces, start from the My Websites section. You will either see a list of your sites or just a button to add a new site. By the way, you can also play with a Joomla demo if you just want to play around first:
Adding a website is easy: Click on the Connect a new website button and then simply follow the instructions: Simply provide your Joomla backend's URL the system will detect it's a Jooma site and provide you with a URL to use in the Install by URL field of the Extensions installer. After the install, click the Finish configuration button and your site will be automatically connected to the dashboard. After this, you can enter the details for your website:
You immediately see the available updates for Joomla and your extensions, which is usually what you will check most on a day-to-day basis. However, make sure to check the additional tabs as wll. Some of these contain some important settings to check and review first.
Review site settings
Especially the Local Settings tab is worth reviewing first, as many actions are based on the settings in here. Most are pretty self-explanatory, like a checkbox for whether you want backups created befor every update or not, where you want to store your backups (locally on the server, Amazon S3 or on Perfect dashboard, which requires a small fee), whether you want to exclude certain files or database-tables, etcetera. By the way, you can either set a global backup schedule or set it per site specifically.
One of these settings I want to discuss in a bit more detail is the Test Engine Settings section. This lets you specify a sitemap-file (so that the tool can crawl these for it's test scenarios) plus ways to configure the CSS to check:
Based on these settings you can create a testing schedule from the Automated Testing tab of your site. Also, you can indicate how thorough your test should be. You can choose to check all pages (not advised for large sites) or a random 50 pages that the dashboard selects from the sitemap location you entered in the settings (the advised setting). Once set, the testing scenario is run after your updates (unless you uncheck the option of course). If differences are detected, it will offer you to roll-back. This seems pretty sophisticated, not just a simple check on the homepage!
Note that the CSS selectors to exclude may often be necessary to set things up correctly and allow for comparison of the views. In one of my cases, I had an Adsense ad that made the system think there was a difference in the before- and after-view, which of course was correct, the Adsense-ads constantly change.
By the way, before you proceed, beware that some extensiosn like Akeeba AdminTools sometimes may need to be specifically configured to allow the dashboard to perform functions as the one we will be discussing. How to do so is explained in the knowledge base, no worries.
Of course there is one thing to do before actually starting to update, which is to create an initial backup, from the Backups tab. The system will also ask you to set an initial backup-schedule. Once set, the initial backup is kicked off and the files are stored in the location you entered when you set the Site settings:
The backups you create can also be restored from within the dashboard, including older ones then the latest one.
By now we are all set to start performing updates. Note that the system can also upgrade your Pro-extensions like Akeeba, Regularlabs, JCE, Yootheme Pro, etcetera. No need to add the subscription keys in the dashboard, it uses the ones stored in your site.
Then, to start updating, click on the Joomla update for your website. This first allows you to review the individual steps in the process, as you can see in this screenprint:
Then simply click the Upgrade now! button and the process will start, giving you the details for the individual actions as you go. In the details, you can see how the system works:
Due to all the various integrity checks that are built in, the upgrade takes some more time that a simple upgrade within Joomla, but that should be a small price paid for hassle-free upgrades.
After the upgrade, you are prompted to review the update process. In this case, obviously there are some small differences in the visual comparison that need to be reviewed, but you can also ask the system to perform the test again:
If you want to see the details for the comparison, click the See details link for every page listed. It will show you how thorough the checks by the Perfect Dashboard actually are. It not only does a visual check, but it also checks a number of other parameters, like the Page Title and some more SEO and Social tags and the images:
If you think all is indeed fine, simply click the Finish update process button and you are ready with an updated site.
However, if something appears to be incorrect, it is very easy to go back to the old situation: simply click the Roll back button and you will simply go back to the situation as it was before the upgrade. This will prevent you from having to perform cumbersome looking up backups, FTP-ing them and restoring them.
Remember though, that like with any backup tool you use: make sure to test the procedure: never rely on tools to work, however good they are: always test it first! In my tests, no issues were encountered in either the upgrade nor the roll-back feature.
As you would expect, the dashboard also comes with a Security Audit. It performs checks within a few area's:
- General checks
- Server security checks
- Joomla security checks
- Presence of recent backups
- Outdated software
Custom Change Detector
Also the dashboard is capable of checking changes in your Joomla core files. Usually you should be aware that they are there, but especially if you are not the only one working on your site this can be a very useful check. I created a core change to see if the tool discovered it and it nicely did so:
Overall I am quite impressed by this solution. The dashboard looks very clean and sophisticated and is a pleasure to work with. Especially the integrity checks are a big plus over other monitoring solutions: no need to visually check your site after every update, just let the dashboard take care of that.They even allow you to white-label the dashboard for an addition €1 per site / month.
And if you want to have a look first, the Perfect dashboard guys let me hand out some extra free credits worth of €25 euro (on top of the €10 that you always get) if you use the button below to sign up. Have fun!