2020 was and continues to be a difficult year for many. We’re happy RAIDBOXES has still been able to grow. And that we can give back some of this success to society. We’d like to say a huge thank you to our customers and to our employees, without whom none of this success would have been possible.
Any small or medium-sized business wanting to survive in 2020 needed to have a professional website or new online shop. That’s one reason why the WordPress and hosting markets are still thriving.
We support our customers who’ve not been as fortunate. Efforts this year have included our #supportyourlocals program and our offer of free hosting for customers from badly affected industries. More on that later. But first, it’s time to reflect: what has 2020 meant for RAIDBOXES? What’s our outlook for 2021?
Yippee! 10,000 customers
In mid-November we were able to celebrate - virtually, of course - an important milestone: more than 10,000 customers from around the globe rely on RAIDBOXES! The demand for Managed hosting for WordPress and WooCommerce continues to rise sharply. There are several reasons for this:
- Worldwide, almost 40 percent of the web runs on WordPress (according to W3Techs)
- If you only take websites with a recognizable CMS into account, this share rises to almost 64 percent
- Up to 18 percent of WordPress installations also use WooCommerce as an online shop or booking system
- In contrast, other content management and shop systems like Joomla, Drupal, Shopify or Magento are lagging far behind
- This trend has become more and more pronounced in recent years.
Not all WordPress hosting services are built equally and our customers know that. One reason why RAIDBOXES has been so successful is because our hosting makes agencies and freelancers significantly more efficient. With centralized WordPress management and a dashboard developed especially for the leading CMS.
It doesn’t matter if you manage 5, 50, or 500 WordPress projects. Or whether you manage them for yourself or for a client: you'll love our features.
RAIDBOXES rocks - and continues to grow
Having more customers means we need more help in support, technology, marketing, sales and administration. In other words: we need more colleagues! We’re proud to grow domestically with permanent staff and not via outsourced or low-cost solutions from overseas. The RAIDBOXES team already got a lot bigger back in 2019. Here's what's changed in 2020:
- From 20 to 31 team members: We now have a total of 31 employees as well as a network of freelancers for, for example, translations.
- Diversity: Ten of our 31 employees are female. This is still a long way from where we want to be and we'll be working even harder on our diversity in the future.
- Remote work: In addition to the employees in Münster and the local area, we have colleagues working remotely from Hamburg, Düsseldorf, Potsdam, Berlin, Hanover, Wuppertal and Freiburg.
- Holacracy reloaded: Independent work with flat hierarchies is very important at RAIDBOXES. That's precisely why we use the concept of roles from Holacracy. In 2021, we’ll adapt this concept to the growing team - and report on it here in the magazine.
RAIDBOXES makes a conscious effort to invest in professionals from within the WordPress community. This is an essential factor in keeping our customer satisfaction high. Just take a moment to consider what the hiring process for a “mass host” might look like. If the annual cost of your web space is only in the double-digit range, can such a hosting company afford to provide excellent support? With staff who also know the ins and outs of WordPress? And are available to help within minutes without customers having to wait hours - or even days?
From support to sales, these are the eleven new faces at RAIDBOXES in 2020:
- Birgit looks after administration and HR
- Marten and Niklas help product development
- Christian and Chris assist our customers in support
- Laura and Navid are new to sales
- Jacob takes overs the role as
- Caspar takes care of internationalization and our cooperation partners
- Lucy and Elise join the marketing department in the area of international content
- Tim starts this month as a student trainee in sustainability
Not all companies fared as well as us in 2020. The RAIDBOXES mission is principally oriented towards doing our bit as a company - for our customers, for our team (more on that in a moment) and also for society. We don't want to be just another soulless and interchangeable web hosting company that shies away from responsibility.
Local retailers and traders are in crisis because of the coronavirus pandemic while platforms like Amazon are raking in huge profits. This is another reason why we support the #supportyourlocals initiative with free hosting for portals bringing local stores online. One such portal is that of the Rhine Heroes. (Rheinkreishelden). You can read all about how they help local businesses in our interview. We also talk about what each and every one of us can do to ensure town centers and the diversity they offer don’t die out.
It’s important to stick together in a crisis. Another way RAIDBOXES is trying to give back is with our offer of free hosting for customers from sectors that have been particularly hard hit by the pandemic: culture, gastronomy, hotel industry and events. Find out more about our program.
Lastly, we considered how we ourselves deal with online giants like Facebook, Google & Co. RAIDBOXES is to a large extent dependent on Facebook. The social media platform attracts a lot of criticism, especially in terms of data protection. Ultimately, our ads convert amazingly well on the social network. Put simply: without Facebook, we probably wouldn't have reached the 10,000-customer milestone.
We don't want to simply accept this conflict of interest, however. RAIDBOXES has therefore decided to donate a large share of the budget we’d normally spend on end-of-year marketing activities. A total of 10,000 euros is being split equally between the following two organizations:
- atmosfair: this initiative contributes to active climate protection by, for example, offsetting greenhouse gases with renewable energies. This fits perfectly with our green hosting.
- Step by Step Münster: the association from our hometown supports those social projects at home and abroad who fall under the radar of government agencies or large aid organizations. At present, the projects are largely helping people and groups suffering hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic.
You too can follow our lead and donate a portion of your online marketing budget to social or environmental causes.
Team spirit at RAIDBOXES
One positive side effect of these difficult times is that more and more companies are making efforts to support the mental and physical health of their employees. Several roles are responsible for this at RAIDBOXES. One of them is the Mental Health team which was expanded in 2020 with the backing of our managing directors Torben and Johannes.
It goes without saying that many things work well at RAIDBOXES. Each and every member of the team can - thanks to Holacracy - seek out areas of work that they consider particularly meaningful and that match their individual strengths. At the same time, we know stress factors are present in every company. The tasks of the Mental Health team include the following:
- Serving as a point of contact for anyone overwhelmed with professional or private matters.
- Training of mindfulness towards a diverse team and new colleagues.
- Establishing a mindful and open culture of communication in the office and on Slack (we're increasingly Working Remotely).
- Respecting introverted needs and ensuring opportunities for retreat, e.g. for concentrated work.
- Supporting people to achieve a good work-life balance.
We strive to reach these goals in many different ways. For instance, through internal training, being an anonymous point of contact, employee surveys and offering conflict resolution, such as Mediation. Moreover, we strengthen personal responsibility and personal growth by motivating everyone in the team to speak up as soon as a conflict arises. This applies with each other as colleagues and also towards management.
Another important element RAIDBOXES promotes with monthly training sessions is nonviolent communication (NVC). NVC is a methodical approach to solving conflicts together as a team. Trainer Marianne visits us in our office in Münster on a regular basis for guided practice sessions. This is currently done remotely due to the pandemic.
At first, this approach felt unfamiliar for some of the team as it demands a certain willingness and courage to speak your mind. For both the more introverted personalities who work with us as well as for the more extroverted employees. Using concrete examples from everyday work in the training, we learn how to identify conflicts using NVC, how to address them and ways to resolve them.
Tips for agencies, companies and teams
Do you want to learn more about our approaches to improving team satisfaction? Or how the methods mentioned work in detail? Check out our in-depth article on Mental Health & Nonviolent Communication.
Sustainability and green hosting
RAIDBOXES has been a pioneer in "green" WordPress hosting for many years now - our hosting being not only climate neutral, but climate positive. Our competition is also increasingly jumping on this bandwagon and we couldn't be happier about it. Because we can only tackle the challenges of climate change by working together for the cause.
Thanks to our 10,000 customers, we were once again able to increase our environmental contribution in 2020. Here are the current figures:
- For every WordPress site or WooCommerce shop you host with us, we plant a tree for you. Multiple campaigns, including our autumn pledge to plant five trees for every new subscription, have helped us increase the total number this year. In 2020, we will have donated over 100,000 trees!
- Our goal for 2021 is ambitious but we’re sure we can reach it together: 200,000 trees for climate protection from RAIDBOXES.
- On top of our reforestation efforts, we began supporting the Get Mads initiative in 2020. This organization invests in climate-positive projects selected according to strict criteria. Through this partnership alone, RAIDBOXES has offset over 320 tons of CO2 in 2020 - in addition to trees we've planted.
Our team is already making a difference in terms of sustainability and social commitment. But there are still areas where we want to improve in even more. For example, in choosing suppliers who work sustainably themselves and stand by their corporate responsibility.
WordPress and sustainability
WordPress and WordPress hosting consume a lot of energy. How environmentally friendly can such a content management system be? How authentic are sustainable approaches? You can find an overview of the current discussion in our article on WordPress and sustainability.
But what about issues like precarious working conditions and intrusive employee monitoring? For example, at the many online delivery services popping up like mushrooms and who are often criticized? Or at Amazon with its programs for monitoring employees, as recently documented in VICE magazine?
We have a few tasks ahead of us in terms of end-to-end suppliers and sustainability chains. Concrete plans have already been drawn up for 2021. Our plans include the newly expanded sustainability role in which we’re currently investing additional personnel resources. We're prepared to absorb these extra costs in order to do our part for a better working world.
You may also be asking yourself how fair global online companies can be. Do you want to strengthen your local business with an online shop? Then we recommend our e-book Online shops with WooCommerce. This guide isn’t just aimed at professionals, the information in this book will also benefit end users.
In 2020, our technology team focused on improving our RAIDBOXES Dashboard and how we can best scale the functions in a more targeted way in the future. Important features were added such as:BOX status. How high are the CPU load and RAM usage of your site? How much memory is actually still free? Which cron jobs are running and what do your log files look like? Our advanced website monitoring tool gives you insights into these questions and much more.
The focus was also on making our WordPress hosting even more performant and efficient. After moving to RAIDBOXES, our customers’ WordPress sites run up to 400 percent faster. All thanks to our special WordPress functions and sophisticated technology in the background.
More speed for your website
Do you not already host your WordPress projects at RAIDBOXES? Or not all of them? Contact us and test our dashboard with no obligations. Based on your website or WooCommerce shop, let us show you by how much percent we can increase the performance of your projects.
An important milestone for us internally was the introduction of Scrum. Scrum is a method in project and product management that promotes especially agile software development. This is exactly what we need to properly scale our product development in the future.
Our Product Owner Jacob introduced Scrum at RAIDBOXES. A lack of consistent transparency over feature development, multiple stakeholders with differing priorities and somewhat undefined processes that frequently led to disruptions in the engineering team were just some of the reasons we took this step. Looking back, Jacob says:
The biggest challenge in introducing Scrum was setting up new communication channels. It was a learning curve for everyone involved, for the stakeholders as well as the development team. The detailed evaluation and description of requirements before submitting them for development also took some getting used to.
The new communication channels and improved requirements analysis significantly increased efficiency and focused work within our tech team. As stakeholders, we notice this through more transparency on the progress of projects.
Better prioritization means we can now focus on implementing the "right" and important topics. We'll continue to expand our Scrum implementation in the coming year. This will involve, among other things, switching to a new project management software (Jira).
New magazine and multilingualism
Our new RAIDBOXES Magazine wp unboxed was first published in the spring of 2020. With a completely new design, the magazine replaced our existing blog. And this is what it looks like:
At the same time as the relaunch, we started having our magazine articles and older content professionally translated into eight languages:
Danish will follow shortly. Swedish can be selected as a language on our site but only automatic translations of the articles are available at the moment.
Professional translations from our "own" freelancers (no agencies) are a considerable investment in resources but they're worth it. Quality takes priority here. Furthermore, Multilingualism in WordPress brought with it a great deal of challenges that we're still only some of the way to solving. Our current solution with the tool Weglot gave the team quite a few sleepless nights at the beginning.
But the efforts have paid off. After an initial hesitant assessment by Google, more and more of our visitors come from other European countries and beyond - an important basis for the later internationalization of RAIDBOXES. We're pleased with the positive feedback from Google, users and from the comments section. Our entire team including our guest authors focus on content quality. When you compare it with our old blog, the magazine wp unboxed was not just a milestone in terms of design:
Here are the key points from our Content strategy for the magazine wp unboxed:
- Conscious focus on the magazine format, as opposed to a purely linear blog - even if the two technical terms do somewhat overlap. By prominently displaying the categories, we achieve even more visibility for the various topic areas such as hosting, security, web design, online marketing and Agency Business.
- A fixed rotation of topics guarantees we speak to all target groups on a regular basis. This ensures no category gets neglected over time, as is often the case with corporate blogs.
- Three permanent employees write for the magazine and/or edit the guest articles. This includes a workflow for timely translation into other languages.
- Targeted secondary and third-party use of our content: in the RAIDBOXES newsletter, in our e-books and on social media channels (organic and paid). As a result, more readers have started paying attention to individual pieces of our content.
- Renowned authors from outside RAIDBOXES, including Jan Tissler, Sonja Hoffmann, Maddy Osman, Sven Scheuerle, Mario Steinberg , Dominik Stein.
- Contributions from the WordPress community written, for example, by Stefan Kremer, Felix Brodbeck, Daniela Sprung, Torsten Landsiedel , Johannes Mairhofer.
Articles from the community? Yes, please!
We'd love to have more content from WP professionals. It doesn't matter if you're a developer or a user - we especially welcome articles from even more diverse teams. Become a guest contributor for RAIDBOXES now and get paid fairly for your articles. You'll also get the opportunity to introduce yourself to an international audience. Find out more on how to become a guest contributor.
We're going to refine this approach even further in 2021, for instance with extended performance analysis. In the future, we plan to measure Conversions down to the level of the individual magazine articles.
Wonderful illustrations by Annie keep the wp unboxed magazine modern and fresh in terms of design. An example of Annie's illustrations from our article on PHP 8:
Due to time constraints, it's not possible to create illustrations for every article. But we're delighted to finally have a more personal alternative to stock photos, Unsplash & Co.
Most popular posts of 2020
As in our review of 2019, we've collected the most popular magazine articles from the past year based on the number of page views. The results are once again surprising and show us two things. Firstly, that we can only predict the success of an article to a certain extent. Secondly, that our main target groups, i.e. WordPress agencies, WP pros, and developers, are not just interested in technical topics.
Here are the top ten articles from wp unboxed from January to December 2020:
- Web Design Trends 2020: which aesthetics will we have to say goodbye to in the future? And what trends will shape the design world in the coming years? Many readers found the predictions from web designer Sonja Hoffmann particularly interesting.
- Optimize Images for WordPress: why is image optimization so important in WordPress? This article includes recommendations for five popular WordPress plugins that optimize your images for you.
- The 4 Most Common WordPress Errors: we help our customers resolve error messages and issues on their WordPress websites every day and know the typical problems. This article gives step-by-step instructions on how to solve four of the most common WordPress errors.
- WordPress Hosting Comparison 2020: featuring results from 250+ web PageSpeed Insights tests. This article is packed with our best tips for WordPress performance, efficiency, security and support.
- Remote Leadership: how do you run a location-independent agency? How digital nomads and agency heads can best master the trend towards working remotely.
- Basic Principles for Harmonious Web Design: it's incredibly difficult to objectively analyze your own creations. Fortunately, in this article Sonja Hoffmann explains some tried-and-tested design principles you can use as a guide.
- Yoast vs Rank Math: two SEO plugins that polarize the community. This is obvious in the interest sparked by Dominik Stein's article and the ensuing discussion in the comments.
- Improve WordPress Performance: the web is full of tips and tricks on how to optimize your WordPress performance but the relevance of the various measures is often neglected. We show you the important starting points and where to start pulling levers to produce results immediately.
- Create Your Own WordPress App: made possible by the three app builder plugins for WordPress discussed in this article. But how effective is the app channel anyway?
- ECJ Ruling on the Privacy Shield: the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has declared the Privacy Shield invalid. This affects, among others, all websites that use the services of US companies. Expert layer Mario Steinberg explains what you need to do now.
Some classics from previous years that we update on a regular basis were also among the most popular articles. What topics would you like to see in the future? Feel free to give us feedback, we look forward to your suggestions.
Do you have questions about WordPress, WordPress hosting, WooCommerce and online marketing? We'd love to hear from you in our magazine - and we'll respond personally to your feedback.
We were able to publish two major e-books in 2020. Both publications provide our customers and agencies with additional tools to optimize their processes with WordPress. An overview of the two books:
13 advantages of managed WordPress hosting
The book already came out as a "Christmas gift" to our customers at the end of 2019 but the publication was updated again in 2020. Managed WordPress hosting can give your websites a big boost but you need to consider the following points too:
- What do you have to watch out for as a freelancer, agency, or blogger?
- Which WordPress hosting provider is the best fit for you?
- How does shared hosting compare to a virtual private server or managed server?
- What about security, performance, time savings, cost reduction, support, functionality and usability?
With the success of WordPress and WooCommerce, the availability of suitable web hosting is also increasing. Nearly all hosting providers claim to offer "WordPress hosting" but their packages don't always deliver what they promise. Our e-book tells you what to look out for when choosing WordPress hosting.
How to Manage 5 to 100+ WordPress Projects Efficiently
It doesn't matter if you manage 5, 50 or 500 WordPress projects or whether you do it for yourself or for a client: administrative processes quickly take up a large part of your working day. Week in, week out - these processes put a strain on both your resources and your patience. They include everything from plugin and theme updates for WordPress and WooCommerce to backups, setting up SSL, installing extensions, security settings etc.
This holds true for agencies, developers, web designers and other freelancers alike. We also tend to underestimate how much time is spent mindlessly repeating the same tasks over and over again. Written especially for agencies and freelancers, our new e-book shows you how to centralize your WordPress management. And which tools and tricks you can utilize to speed up your processes considerably.
Both publications will soon be available as e-books in English. Are you looking for the content in another language? Would you prefer to read the content as a blog post instead of a PDF? Our two new guides are available here in nine other languages:
Top marks in support
Recent reviews - like the ones below on trusted shops - don't just fill us with pride. They also motivate our heroes in the support team every day:
In 2020 alone, four more colleagues have joined our support team. Thanks to the combined efforts of the whole team, we currently have a rating of 4.89 from 5 stars on Trusted Shops.
At RAIDBOXES, you're dealing with "real" WordPress experts at all times. I'd like to emphasize the "real" aspect here because it's not something you can take for granted on the hosting market. You can reach our support team in Live Chat every day from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Even at weekends and on public holidays.
New partner program for agencies
We believe that people can make a big difference when they talk to each other, network and share their resources. That's why we launched a Partner program for agencies in 2020 that includes a Partner directory.
The RAIDBOXES partner program is aimed at agencies who want to develop and centrally manage their WordPress projects with us. Our agency partners profit from exclusive services such as special rates, an agency profile in our partner directory, commission for referrals, direct and personal contact persons in sales, joint events and content partnerships.
Affiliate program for WordPress freelancers
Are you a freelancer? Take advantage of the FREE DEV Partner program from RAIDBOXES. With free development of your WordPress projects and attractive affiliate commission.
The new partner program gives you direct and transparent access to our hosting expertise. At the same time, you become part of the growing RAIDBOXES community and can expand your network:
- Personal contact persons: Your contact in our sales team will support you in all matters relating to the partnership. You'll implement measures together to scale your projects and ensure their success.
- Focus on your customers: RAIDBOXES was born from an agency business. That's why we know exactly what you need to make your WordPress business even more successful. Is saving time the most important thing for you? We have your back with our WordPress features and valuable advice.
- Advanced dev tools & support services: Our partners don't have to worry about hosting basics like speed, security and ease of deployment. We work closely together with them on our dashboard and new feature requests.
Two challenges: remote and corona
RAIDBOXES employees have been using their home offices for some time now. Nine of us already work fully remote. And this number is growing. It's made it much easier for us as a company to manage a crisis like the coronavirus pandemic. Tools such as Slack, online meetings, Google Cloud, project management software and Aircall have been part of our everyday work from the very beginning.
Tools for distributed working
Do you work in agency or as a freelancer and are still looking for the right infrastructure? We have a lot of experience with home office tools. We share our tips with you in our magazine article Tools for distributed work. We also speak openly about the advantages and disadvantages of remote work- for employees and businesses.
We've all become accustomed to the benefits of working from home:
- Flexibility in terms of work life balance (but not everyone is happy bringing their working lives into their homes)
- Concentrated work - an important factor especially in creative jobs
- No commute means we see family or friends sooner after finishing work
- Cost savings - working remotely can save you money on expensive public transport tickets or countless kilometers by car
Moreover, most jobs at RAIDBOXES can be done remotely. Of course, this working model can't be applied to all industries. Despite the advantages, being completely remote is starting to become a little bit "too much" for all of us. The coronavirus pandemic has meant that many employees don't see each other in person for weeks or even months at a time. This can quickly affect the mood within a team.
This makes the measures from Mental Health, such as those I mentioned above, all the more important. At the same time, we try to maintain contact through online events. For example, with a weekly virtual "after-work beer" where the teams can chat amongst themselves and away from work topics. Or at our first online Christmas party this year. Such events can't completely replace what we miss from meetings in person but they do bring us together.
WordPress community 2020 and 2021
It was great that WordCamp Europe in June didn't have to be cancelled completely and an online event could be held instead. But the same applies here too. The virtual format is no substitute for the valuable meetings in person. The situation is similar at the numerous WordPress Meetups, some of which have switched to online meetings. The WordPress community is usually extremely lively - so we miss all the old and new faces at the camps all the more.
Like many people, we too hope to return to a sense of normality in 2021. With first encounters that extend beyond computer screens. We want to send the following message out to all our customers and readers: take care, have a happy holiday and a good start in the new year. See you all soon!