Tuesday, May 14, 2013 - 22:50
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We have seen two recent breakthroughs for people who want to spend more time on implementing awesome websites and less time fiddling with hosting.

Pantheon has launched a hosting service for Drupal that’s even simpler than cPanel and has seriously good performance and scalability built-in. We don’t need to setup caching anymore or worry about a reverse-proxy server; all we need to do is enjoy designing and configuring our sites. Developers like it just as much as implementers because it clearly separates the dev, testing and live environments and plugs nicely into GitHub. It schedules backups and it’s easy to move your site elsewhere if you want to.

CiviCRM Starter Kit is a Drupal-and-CiviCRM-in-one bundle that I have been interested in. It includes a sensible choice of modules and extensions to get you going. The package can be installed on your choice of hosting and the documentation and support is good thanks to its champion, Kevin Reynen. I share Kevin’s vision of making it simpler for small organisations to get started with a powerful engagement tool like CiviCRM. He has overcome engineering and other hurdles to bring that dream a little closer. Full credit to him and others in the community for this achievement!

At CiviCON San Francisco, I was excited to see Kevin combine these two projects to launch the CiviCRM Starter Kit on Pantheon, adding to the availability of other excellent one-click-install options for CiviCRM. There are pre-existing software-as-a-service hosts for CiviCRM listed on, which I encourage everyone to explore, but this is still a milestone in the maturing of Drupal, CiviCRM and their hosting platforms.

It really is a niche offering for people somewhere in-between heavy-duty developer and non-technical user. For people like me who want to retain the ability to customize their website but want a simple way to install CiviCRM and Drupal core updates while still controlling best-practice workflows and backups, it's a good option.

However, the entry price point is above existing hosts that have a good and long standing reputation with CiviCRM installs and the next price point is higher than the starting price for managed hosting. So not everyone is going to see value in it for them.



How's this for a deal?  I'll keep writing code to improve the Drupal/CiviCRM integrations and you blog about it filtering out all my geek speak so more people understand the pros and cons of these new options :)

Another use case for Pantheon are organizations who are working with a more Drupal centric shop who are willing to install CiviCRM, but don't really understand/like it.  Because CiviCRM is so large and does so much, it can be intimidating for a shop that focusses on Drupal's secret handshakes and special sauces.  Including modules like Features CiviCRM (PLEASE help test the alpha so we can add that to the kit!), WebForm CiviCRM, and CiviCRM Cron in addition to some simple tweaks like moving the CiviCRM menu to the Admin Toolbar and setting the CiviCRM Admin Theme on install should do a long way towards making someone who is already comfortable with Drupal happier with CiviCRM "out of the box".

I'll be the first to point out these developers need to do less naval gazing and embrace approaches outside the Drupal bubble.  It's just not healthy for a community or project to approach every nail as if the Drupal hammer is the only solution.  It drives me crazy when I hear someone say that "while [Drupal native CRM X] isn't as feature complete or well documented and lacks the level of free community support organizations get with CiviCRM, it's Drupal"... as if the face that the CRM is Drupal is actually a good thing for client.  While the CiviCRM Starter Kit will never be enough for most convicted members of the the four legs good camp, it should be enough for any shop or sitebuilder that does both Drupal and WordPress work.  

I honestly belive that by making getting started with CiviCRM less overwhelming, more Drupal developers will get past the fact that CiviCRM is not Drupal and recognize the benefits for their clients of a feature complete, well documented solution with a great community behind it!

Having just recently signed up for a Pantheon test account, I can see how this could be a nearly turn-key option for an ORG who has committed to CiviCRM and does not want the headache of setting up dedicated hosting or go the VPS route. Platform as a Service leverages expertise, best practices, etc. that a typical ORK would normally need to seek out - and not knowing where to start it is hard to get started. This also seems like a great work flow for a distributed team. I am looking forward to getting to know Pantheon and accessing whether it could work for my next implementation.