Submitted by Rachel on Monday, January 20, 2020.
“Our website is down! What do we do?”
Once your website is built and running on the web you may ask yourself “What’s the best way to maintain my website?” It doesn't matter whether you live in United States or Timbuktu, your website will require regular website maintenance or else it will eventually fail due to one of these factors:
Out-of-date website coding.
Expired plugins or extensions.
Hacks and malware due to exploits of old software or hardware.
Why do websites crash?
Modern websites are very complex, loaded with features that business owners need. On top of that, there is a myriad of “plugins” and “extensions” such as slideshows, video players, social media feeds, etc. All of these pieces of software have expiry dates, potential conflict points, and vulnerabilities.
Unfortunately, website maintenance is not as easy as you think. Sometimes it may appear that you can just click an “update” button to automatically get the latest version, but often this will cause problems due to some custom configurations or incompatible plugins which is why we recommend that all maintenance be done by a professional company. We offer a Secure Pack service. The Secure Maintenance Pack is ideal for websites built in WordPress or Drupal. The Secure Pack includes:
Why do you need website framework upgrades?
Unless your website is hardcoded, chances are it’s making use of a framework and a content management system (CMS). The software powering your websites is like any other software application you’re probably familiar with, such as Microsoft Word, Adobe Acrobat, etc., in that they release versions and each new version adds features or fixes security flaws. If you don’t upgrade your website then you can’t take advantage of new features and hackers could gain access to your website through some unresolved backdoor vulnerability. This is why it’s always advisable to keep your website version up to date. If your website is hosted on a DIY (do-it-yourself) service like Squarespace, Wix, or Shopify, etc., they will take care of these version upgrades since you are just “renting” their base website software, and they are responsible for the ongoing maintenance and updates. This is one of the few advantages of DIY (hosted) website services.
However, if you have a regular website built in WordPress or Drupal, which are both PHP-based, on a standard hosting service, you are just renting the hosting “space” (not the website software) and they will not perform any upgrades for you. This means that you are responsible for maintaining your website framework, as well as the server, by upgrading the PHP and the CMS when new versions are released. This could be every few months depending on what type of framework your website is built on.
Step 1: What do we mean by website maintenance?
This can be a confusing term. There are generally two types of website maintenance.
“Website maintenance” can refer to managing the regular updates to your website’s software applications.
If you have a website it is probably built on a code framework, referred to as a CMS (content management system). Some of the popular open-source PHP-based frameworks are WordPress and Drupal but there are thousands of others.
Like any software application, these frameworks are constantly being improved. The website framework organizations are continually releasing new updates to their website software. On top of that, modern websites also use a variety of plugins and extensions to add features. Each of these plugins and extensions is also mini-applications created by 3rd party independent developers that require regular updates as well.
Finally, your website exists within an ecosystem of hardware (servers, networks, etc.) that are also constantly changing. So in this case, “website maintenance” refers to managing all these elements to ensure that your business website is up-to-date and running smoothly.
Step 2: Who is managing your website, and are they doing a good job?
Most of our clients use one of the following methods to manage their website maintenance:
They use a hosting service that includes automatic updates. The issue here is that the hosting service is probably using a “bot” that performs a limited, automated upgrade and doesn’t review or test the website to see if anything broke.
They are using a company employee, possibly someone in IT to maintain the website. The issue here is that these employees are usually spread thin and don’t have the time or expertise to manage website upgrades along with their other duties. A caveat with IT specialists is that website functionality is usually just outside their area of expertise.
They use an outside service. The trouble with this approach is when the outside service is unresponsive and you have no idea what they are doing or if everything is running well. As a business owner, it’s best not to just “assume” that no news is good news, especially when it comes to the health of your website.
No one is actually managing the website. Clients figure they’re saving money by not doing anything to their website, but eventually something breaks or there has been a hack. We see this scenario often when we are brought in due to a website issue. A quick inspection can show that the website software is not up-to-date, and a security breach or other issue has caused a problem.
The second type of website maintenance is “content maintenance.”
Content includes the text copy, images, products, and even features that your website displays to the world. Some companies rarely update their content because their businesses are relatively static. Other businesses are always publishing new content around their blogs, staff profiles, products, services, case studies, etc. At Executionists we manage this type of website maintenance as well. We can input blog articles, edit web pages, create and insert images, and act as your website publisher. If you would like to find out about our content management services and our content retainers, please fill out our online Inquiry Form.
Q: What are the dangers of not maintaining my website?
A. Maybe nothing (if you’re lucky) but most website owners will notice some issues over time. These issues may be as simple as the website running slower than usual, or a video or slideshow that doesn’t work quite right. Others will notice worse problems, website outages, strange code appearing on pages, broken links, and a host of other issues. With a maintenance plan, you will be able to catch issues before they damage your business and your carefully cultivated online reputation.
Q. What is the cost of website maintenance?
A. Our Secure Pack is currently $475 a month, or you can prepay annually for $5,000/yr which is a $700 savings.
Q. Are there discounts if we have more than one website?
A. Yes, we offer multi-website discounts with savings up to 15%. If you have more than 3 websites, contact us for a custom quote.
Q. Do I get a report?
A. With our Secure Pack we offer monthly reporting and check-ins. Below is an image of one of our monthly reports.
The cost of a monthly maintenance package is very reasonable when you compare it to the cost of restoring a crashed website that has been hit by hacking or code incompatibilities. E-commerce businesses are especially susceptible since they often live or die based on their online sales. But your business can take a hit with even smaller irregularities. Even a minor issue that causes a photo to distort, text to overlap, or a form not to work are all issues that can cause your business to lose credibility and as a result, customers and revenue. Making sure that your website code is updated can reduce the potential damage from these kinds of problems.
What are other website maintenance costs?
Hosting: For all self-hosted websites, hosting is a basic recurring cost. Depending on the complexity of your website and how much bandwidth you are using, your website hosting costs could range from $10 a month to $100+ a month for a small to midsize business website. Hosting comes in various flavors from cheap shared hosting to managed dedicated servers.
Domain Name Registration: Annual domain name registration is about $12/year. That cost can come down if you prepay for multiple years of registration.
SSL: Google is now giving preferential ranking to businesses with SSL licenses. We now build it into all our websites for extra security. These can start at ~$50 a year, though there are creative ways of ensuring https without an SSL certificate, such as the use of Cloudflare and https settings, depending on where your site is hosted and where the DNS is managed.
Backups: Website backups are cheap insurance, no matter the size of your website. If you get hacked or infected with malware, you could have to completely rebuild your website. Backup services start at $5 a month and go up depending on the size, frequency, and type of backup you need. Some hosting companies, such as Pantheon.io, include automated scheduled backups and easy restore solutions, as part of the package.
Website maintenance is a necessary part of your online budget. If you have a web agency or internal team, find out how they are maintaining your website. If it’s not being managed well or at all or you would like a free review of your website technology status, contact us for more information. To learn more about hardening your website against malware and hacking, please read our blog article here.
"There's birth, "there's death, and in between there's maintenance.”
― Tom Robbins