At the risk of offending the shade of Humphrey Bogart (“The Treasure of the Sierra Madre”, 1948), I thought I’d dramatize an apparently common attitude towards website maintenance:
“Maintenance?! We ain’t got no maintenance! We don’t need no maintenance! I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ maintenance!”
Well, in most cases, you DO need stinkin’ maintenance. Let me explain.
There are five necessities to make a website work. One of them is sometimes optional or unneeded.
- The website itself.
- The URL – your website address, rented from a “domain registrar” (such as GoDaddy) on a yearly
basis. No URL? That’s like trying to get mail if you don’t have a postal address.
- Hosting for the website, the provision of the computer (“web server”) that your website sites on and connects it to the internet, usually paid monthly or yearly one of the thousands of hosting companies.
- Marketing of the website. Some websites don’t need marketing because of the way they are used or the nature of the business you are in. Otherwise, SOMETHING needs to be getting new prospective customers to your website.
- MAINTENANCE OF THE WEBSITE.
THE TWO PURPOSES OF MAINTENANCE
Maintenance is never optional. It answers the most basic questions as to “what now?” when a website is completed.
First of all because, the instant a website is completed and launched, it starts going out-of-date. Staff change. Services and products change. New projects are completed and need to be added to galleries. I could go on, but this is obvious.
There are many solutions to keeping website content up to date, but if you don’t have one that works for you….
Perhaps you can update content yourselves. This is pretty common. But if you don’t have the time, the skills, or the inclination, you’d better pay someone else to do it.
The other dimension of maintenance is the website-as-a-program. Websites are involved with software. Software gets out-of-date. Hackers find new ways to attack. Technology advances.
MAINTENANCE BUNDLED WITH HOSTING
A common solution, at least to the software updates side of maintenance, is for it to be bundled with your hosting plan. In some cases this is 100% automatic and quite adequate. If you are using a so-called “hosted platform” solution, such as Wix, Squarespace, Shopify or BigCommerce. You pay a single monthly fee to the provider for your website and its hosting, and the vendor, who supplies the software, does all the maintenance.
Generally, these solutions are also user-friendly – or at least meant to be – for content updates.
I have said many times that this sort of solution often works well if you are on a very limited budget. But let the buyer beware. Many of them aren’t nearly as good or as user-friendly as they claim, and you usually can’t move your site if you want to upgrade. And they are all inflexible to a greater or lesser degree.
A very large percentage of websites are now being built with WordPress. It’s a great platform in many ways, and we do nearly all of our work in it. It has none of the disadvantages of Hosted Platforms, but it isn’t perfect.
If your WordPress site is built well, you will be able to do most content updates yourself. But many WP sites are poorly built.
On the software side comes the real issue. As I discussed in another blog, because more websites are in WordPress than any other platform, and because it is “open source” (anyone has access to the code base), it is the world’s biggest target for hackers.
IF YOU HAVE A WORDPRESS SITE, MAINTENANCE IS NOT AN OPTION. IT IS MANDATORY, REQUIRED, A MUST-HAVE. Your website will get hacked, and that can have severe consequences.
If you don’t feel competent to do your own security updates and other actions, you need help.
Some hosting companies offer so-called “managed WordPress hosting.” Again, let the buyer beware. GoDaddy’s version of this does a very incomplete job of maintenance. Another company, WP Engine, does a better job of it.
A LIST OF BASIC WORDPRESS MAINTENANCE ACTIONS
- Site is secure (https)
- Passwords are strong and not recycled.
- No unauthorized persons have access to logins.
- Security software is running on the site to block hackers.
- The web server is propserly secured and maintained.
- Daily backups are done with a minimum of 30 days retention.
- Periodic independent offline backups are done.
- Only reliable, properly maintained plugins are used, and replaced as needed.
- WordPress and plug-in updates are done monthly, more often in case of emergencies.
- When a plug-in update breaks the site, it is fixed.
- An independent service monitors site against it going down or running overly slow.
- Methods are in place to detect if the site has been hacked.
A COMPLETE SOLUTION
I’m going to toot our own horn here for a minute. We have a complete solution in our hosting and maintenance package. That includes with our hosting, everything you need on the maintenance side, including content updates.
If you don’t want us to host your site, we also offer maintenance only packages, also modestly price.
Some people don’t want to pay the price. But having professionals take care of it can save lots of time and heartbreak in the long run. We are dealing currently with a church which can’t accept donations online because hackers compromised their ability to process payments.
Fine if you don’t want to pay our prices. But don’t ignore the issue. You DO need stinkin’ maintenance.