5 Questions about DevOps and Why It Matters for a Stable Website

by | Aug 10, 2022 | DevOps | 0 comments

DevOps is anything that fits in the category of code development and deployment operations within a company. Every company, large or small, that creates custom software of any kind has a DevOps person or team. Even if it’s a sole proprietor who is doing everything by themselves.

At some point, the development of code gets too big or too complicated for a single person to handle. That’s when a DevOps team often gets hired, whether permanently or temporarily, to come in and handle the project. 

And, that’s also when things can get quite out of hand. If the DevOps team doesn’t have structure, processes, procedures, and policies for rolling out new or updated code, it will begin to feel like herding cats. Either nothing gets done, or everything is happening at once with no order imposed on anything.

1. What does a DevOps engineer do?

The main person on a DevOps team is a DevOps engineer who works with IT development and operations teams. They supervise the regular rollout of code and apps across activities like development, deployment, and infrastructure management. DevOps engineers write code, test, manage hardware, and configure networks. They handle log files and do diagnostics as well. 

It’s also not uncommon for DevOps engineers to create and retool automated processes that communicate data between operations and development so that code releases run smoothly. You’ll hear DevOps engineers talk about things like Docker, Git, task runners, and build tools.

Obviously, DevOps engineers have some sort of background in software engineering. They have to be familiar with a wide range of tools and technologies. They also have to pick up new ones rapidly and integrate them into existing systems. Like air-traffic control at a busy metropolitan airport, DevOps engineering can be a very high-stakes, high-stress job.

With that comes high-stakes, high-stress pay. DevOps engineers earn a national U.S. average full time wage of $56 per hour or a salary of $9,706 monthly according to a 2022 study by ZipRecruiter. So, if you’re looking to hire a DevOps engineer, be sure that your human resources budget is ready for that kind of commitment. Because once you hire one, you won’t want to let them go!

2. Do you need DevOps for WordPress?

Yes. Every WordPress website needs someone who understands the software, how it works, how to develop for it, how to update it, how to test it, and how to deploy it. 

Without DevOps for WordPress, your initial site may be successful, but over time it can fall into disrepair. A WordPress website needs care and maintenance every time a new plugin version is released, a new theme update is available, or when Automattic, the company that develops WordPress, pushes out a new core update.

Some might advise you to just turn on the auto-update feature in WordPress and let it update itself automatically. Or they might tell you to use ManageWP, MainWP, or GoDaddy Pro to handle the updates automatically. 

But those only address the updating part of a larger process. You also want to include visual regression testing and manual testing of high-impact features. This shouldn’t be done on your live site, but in a controlled staging environment away from the customers visiting your site.

WordPress maintenance cycle

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3. What other reasons are there for having a DevOps engineer for WordPress?

There are other reasons to have a DevOps engineer for WordPress. There are times when your site may need a new set of functionality. 

For example, let’s say you own an eCommerce website and in addition to offering sales of single products, you also want to allow customers to subscribe to a special surprise box of curated selections of your products. 

Your engineer will be able to research the requirements, find and recommend a plugin, install and configure it to your exact needs, and then test and deploy it for you. Or, the engineer could decide to build a solution entirely from scratch for performance or security reasons. Or simply because there is no plugin available to address that need. Your engineer can do this all while you continue to concentrate on getting more customers, shipping purchases, and running the business.

4. Does DevOps include Continuous Integration?

Yes. As your website solution evolves, and as plugins get updated, the DevOps engineer will add a process of Continuous Integration (CI). That means iteratively testing and releasing small changes over time in a coordinated manner. This is preferable to waiting for everything to be perfect and dropping a bunch of functionality onto your users and code onto your server all at once.

And, let’s not forget the backup and restoration of your WordPress website. Occasionally, despite everyone’s best efforts, disaster can strike even the most carefully managed site. When that happens, your DevOps person or team can quickly restore the site back to its “last known good” state from a carefully curated set of backups.

5. What is Visual Regression Testing?

Visual Regression Testing or VRT is the process of ensuring that your website’s front-end design doesn’t break as the result of code being changed over time. The time to perform VRT is each time a change is made to the website, especially before new code is launched on the live or production version of your site. 

Without VRT, you’re really taking your chances that something could break without knowing it. And manual VRT, or visiting and visually checking and comparing every page of an updated site to the current site by hand, is no fun for anyone. That’s why DevOps engineers prefer to automate VRT tasks as much as possible. Letting “the robots” do the visual checking frees up everyone’s time for revenue-centric work.

Conclusion

Every organization seeking to ensure a successful and sustainable website should consider having some sort of DevOps capability. Whether it’s hiring a DevOps engineer directly or contracting with an external company that specializes in DevOps as a service, the benefits, compared to the alternative of having no coordination of code during launches and updates, could mean the difference between a perfect launch or a disastrous one.

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Rob Watson is the CEO of Webidextrous, a web consultant, and a developer. Beginning in 1996 as a self-taught web designer, he has created websites for everyone from small business owners to multi-national companies. He is the co-organizer of the West Orlando WordPress Meetup and a WordCamp speaker.

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