So, you’ve created a fantastic website. You spent a bit more than you initially wanted, but the end result is beyond your initial expectation too. Having spent your money you now all you want to do is leave it to itself and forget about it for a while.
But, now the agency that designed the website are talking about a maintenance contract. What exactly is that all about?
What is website maintenance made up of?
There are two types of website maintenance. The one that I’m not referring to in this post is content maintenance. A website is only as good as the content. If you have nothing to say then don’t expect much traffic and as a result, too many enquires. Live, organic, informative, changing, engaging content is key to Google success, which in turn leads to inquiries.
The second type of maintenance is software infrastructure, the core code that makes up your website and the plugins or additional scripts that makes your website stand out. That’s the focus of this post.
Just like any software (Windows, Excel, Dreamweaver), the codebase needs to be routinely updated to support the latest hardware updates and to keep pace with new, more robust features. The software that makes up your website is exactly the same.
The most obvious example is security. As your website dates, it becomes susceptible to malware and virus’. Unless these vulnerabilities are managed your website could be compromised for significant periods and at great expense to fix.
The popular CMS ‘WordPress’ is particularly vulnerable because of its popularity. The thing that makes it so popular (free to use) is the thing that makes it attractive to hackers.
Yes, you can get alerts when plugin updates are due, however, you need to test these updates to ensure they do not negatively impact your main website.
What does a contract include:
Framework updates to ensure that the very core of the website is operating efficiently. You want to know that the code that underpins your website is not suffering from memory leaks or performance overloads.
This can only be done by a regular monitoring of the site.
If left until an issue arises it can cause a noticeable disruption to performance (affecting your business) and a big chunk of time/money to resolve.
Plugin updates need to monitored very closely. Free plugins are extremely attractive to developers because of the time saving the present, however free comes with a cost at some stage and that’s security and compatibility. As updates are made available you can’t assume the new plugin will work seamlessly with the rest of your site. Just as the old one was tested for compatibility, the new one should be too in order to avoid crippling your website.
Site Backups are part of most hosting agreements, but not all hosting agreements are created equally. You don’t want to find that your site backups are only available for certain restore points, or that the database can be restored but not the files. Before any plugin or core file updates, you need to know without hesitation that a backup is available to restore the working copy immediately if an update fails.
So what would an update involve
Typically we review your website once a month. We check the speed and the loads it places on the server. If we find issues we determine what is causing it and if it is website related we address those issues.
At the same time, we look at the core website software and make sure there are no alerts circulating about emerging vulnerabilities. If we find any we schedule an update.
During the same review cycle we look for alerts affecting any plugins used on your site and if necesary we update or disable the plugin.
If we have to disable a plugin we need to find an alternative solution (however this may involve additional costs beyond the standard contract).
If we find that an update to code is necessary, we do the following.
- We make a complete backup of the site and it’s databases
- We document what test we intend to conduct to ensure the plugin is working
- We apply the plugin update (out of office time) and run the test
- If anything goes wrong we do a complete restore and investigate what is required to do better update.
Site maintenance is a necessary precaution to making sure the website you developed to generate business enquires continues to meet it’s objectives.
It is not something you want to avoid.