Watchful’s 7th Anniversary

Published by Vic Drover on

When you’re building a company, nothing comes quickly or easily. This week, we celebrate Watchful’s 7th anniversary.

Watchful was built on top of an existing extension called jMonitoring that dates back to 2009, so this project has been going for a decade now.

I’m deeply grateful to all our customers and team members. Watchful’s growth has not come quickly or easily, but we’re here and we’re growing.

Let me give you a quick recap of Watchful’s first seven years and where we’re going next.

How Watchful got here

I’ve been deeply involved in Joomla (and Mambo) since 2003. My first successful business in Joomla was Anything-Digital, where we managed popular extensions including sh404SEF and JCal Pro. Here’s a photo of me with Yannick from sh404SEF back at JoomlaDay New York in 2011.

When we started Watchful, we used the lessons learned from the JMonitoring tool and applied them to a hosted service. We sponsored our first event at JoomlaDay Switzerland in 2012. Here’s a picture our very first conference booth:

This next photo shows me delivering sustenance to the bug squash session at the J and Beyond conference in the Netherlands. Francesco Abeni is standing in the back-right corner. He was working on Watchful at this time. He left Watchful for a few years and came back in 2018 as CTO.

When we launched, Watchful only supported Joomla 2.5 and did not have support for backup management. Here’s our first dashboard design. I hope you’ll agree we’ve made a lot of improvements since then!

There have been a lot of challenges over the last seven years, but many successes too. I have really fond memories of Joomla’s JandBeyond conferences. I’d love to give a shout out to John and Linda Coonen who ran CMSExpo, a hugely influential conference.

Me and Linda Coonen at CMS Expo in 2013.

We won the best Joomla app award in 2013, but beyond that, it really introduced me to many people outside of Joomla and helped me see opportunities in the WordPress world. Later that same year I attended the Joomla World Conference in Boston and met the founder of WordPress, Matt Mullenweg. We added WordPress to Watchful in 2017.

Me and Matt Mullenweg.

We’ve been adding features regularly:

  • 2013: Updates for commercial Joomla extensions.
  • 2014: Google Analytics support, uptime monitoring and a RESTful API.
  • 2015: Single Sign on for Joomla sites, plus our Joomla best-practice and security audit tool. We also re-wrote the Watchful dashboard using AngularJS.
  • 2016: Yubikey support, Site audits and SEO analysis.
  • 2017: WordPress support.
The first Watchful Summit in Switzerland in 2015.

In terms of challenges, 2018 was the toughest year so far. I ended up buying out my original partners in Watchful and had to re-build the team. This led to Francesco’s return as CTO, and I’m delighted to see the new features he’s working on alongside our team: Cory Webb (developer), Valentin Barbu (customer support; quality & testing), Matthew Philogene (system admin). The photo below shows us at our Watchful retreat in London earlier this year.

From left to right: Valentin, Matthew, Francesco, me, and Cory.

Where Watchful is going next

Our main aim for 2019 is to achieve feature parity between Joomla and WordPress.

This means providing updates for commercial WordPress plugins and support for more WordPress backup plugins. Commercial plugin support is already available in Beta and we are about to launch support for a second backup plugin (in addition to Akeeba Backup). And WordPress improvements are building on a strong foundation with the Watchful client recently re-written.

We’ve also expanded our leadership team: Steve Burge (the CEO of Joomlashack, PublishPress and OSTraining) has joined us as Director of Growth. Steve’s team created the billing platform we use here at Watchful, and we’ve used his WordPress plugins to develop our new features. He has years of experience with Watchful and the problems we’re trying to solve.

Long-term, our goal is to continue to make it easier for you to perform site maintenance as well as document the value of that work to your clients.

Thank you so much for using Watchful. If you have any suggestions for new Watchful features, or any feedback on what we do, please leave a comment below, or send us an email.

Watchful history

If you’re interested in an overview of Watchful’s history, check out our Company page.

For a technical history, our anniversary/birthday posts are best: 1st birthday | 3rd birthday | 7th birthday | 8th birthday | 2020 year-in-review.

Open your free Watchful account

Watchful is a free website dashboard for digital agencies. Open your free account today and learn how much time you’ll save managing your WordPress backups, updates, and security with Watchful.

No credit card is required and there is no long-term commitment.


Joe Campbell · September 4, 2020 at 2:46 PM

Wishing you 7 more years of innovation and service. 

Elofi · September 7, 2019 at 3:26 AM

Congratutions. Suggest : propose your solution in white label. When installing in joomla or wordpress, allow the agency to choose the name of the component, the logo to be displayed … Or at least, to generate reports on behalf of the provider and with automatic routing to end customers , according to customer-specific periodicity.

    Vic Drover · September 7, 2019 at 7:43 AM

    Great suggestions Elofi. We’re definitely looking to improve reporting. White label might be possible. We’ll give it some thought.

      Sebastien · September 26, 2019 at 12:28 PM

      Hey Vic, thanks for all your work, you are really simplifying our job to maintain the sites we developed.
      As some suggestion i would join Elofi; one nice feature would be to automate reporting to the end customer.
      For example:
      Watchful would generate every month a personalised pdf that would contain all the updates that were made, the statistics of the site (uptime etc) and so on. We could define what email address would receive the report (with a copy sent to us for the records).
      That way agencies like us could more easily show the value of site-monitoring to their clients.
      Sometimes it’s not easy to convince the end-customer that it is an added-value to watch over their site. Such personalised reports (with our logo and the customer’s one on it) would make this definitely easier and in the long term make our accounts bigger at watchful, since we would convince more new customer by showing them existing records. (so win win for you and us 🙂 )

        Vic Drover · September 26, 2019 at 12:38 PM

        I could not agree more. Automated reports is high on our priority list!

Brian Mitchell · September 6, 2019 at 1:03 PM

Congrats on seven years Vic and on snagging Cory. I didn’t know he had joined the team. Total rockstar… but you know that already! Thanks for a great service.

    Vic Drover · September 6, 2019 at 1:11 PM

    Thanks Brian! Hope things are going great on your end. And yes, Cory is awesome 😉

René Kreijveld · September 6, 2019 at 8:54 AM

We have used Watchful quite some years and we were some of the early adopters in the Netherlands. It’s nice to read about the history of Watchful although I would have liked it, if you mentioned Pierra-André and his colleagues because I believe they were also a big part of the succes.

    Vic Drover · September 6, 2019 at 9:04 AM

    Hi Rene! It was great to catch up with you at JoomlaDagen a few months back. I love it when folks you meet in business become friends like you. Pierre-Andre and David and their team are great. They wanted to step away and I’m happy to respect their decision.

Dom Cassone · September 6, 2019 at 8:43 AM

Seems that most of your future development is on the WordPress side. What about the platform that got you here, Joomla? I get that WordPress is a bigger market, but….

How about getting to parity and exceeding myJoomla capabilities?

I am a big Watchful fan, especially for Joomla Watchful.

    Vic Drover · September 6, 2019 at 9:02 AM

    Hi Dom. Once we get the WordPress features in line with Joomla, we plan to roll out new features for both platforms, so stay tuned! Our focus is on helping agencies save time and show value to their clients. We will continue to make feature decisions based on that.

Stephen Crewson · September 6, 2019 at 8:42 AM

Thanks for all you do Vic and Team. You are making my life a whole lot easier on managing my clients websites.

    Vic Drover · September 6, 2019 at 8:59 AM

    Wonderful to hear Stephen! How many sites are you managing?

    Gilbert · September 6, 2019 at 12:03 PM

    Bonjour. Une suggestion : passer votre tarif de 19.999999 $ de 25 à 30 sites.

      Vic Drover · September 6, 2019 at 1:10 PM

      Hi Gilbert! We’re working on some more flexible plans. Until then, submit a support request from the Dashboard with your needs and we’ll work with you to make something work.

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