What is website maintenance?
Website maintenance is the term used for all the processes that deliver the smooth running of your website. Ensuring your website is always secure, up-to-date and performing as it should so as to deliver consistent user experience across all platforms and devices. These processes can cover general maintenance, security, design and code updates, consultancy and training.
Why do we need website maintenance?
Think of a website as a car. Your car provides you with the ability to travel where you want and when you want. Whether it is on the motorway, country roads or busy city centres it takes you everywhere.
But, imagine what would happen if you never gave it oil, water, petrol even. Imagine you never having it MOT’d or even the tyres pumped. That car wouldn’t get you far. To be reliable, safe and performing to its best, it needs to be regularly maintained. And, the same is true for your website!
Today’s websites are built with tools and functionality that are constantly being updated and evolving. Companies want and need to make constant content updates so as to ensure their information is new and relevant and therefore always optimising relevant traffic & enquiries. And, to be able to do that, the website needs to work perfectly. And, at all times.
What happens if we do not have a website maintenance solution?
It’s frustrating how many times we have heard scare stories regarding businesses who have successfully launched their websites but without any consideration for its maintenance and upkeep. Either the web agency do not offer website maintenance or the business has simply tried to save on costs and gone without. Over the years, we have taken countless call from these businesses, telling us something has broken on their site and asking us if we can fix it.
Sometimes it’s a simple issue, a CMS plug-in just needs an update or renewal perhaps. On the other end of the scale however, its not simple at all! The site may have missed a vital security update and been subsequently hit with a cyber attack, breaking the site and leaving the business severely compromised, and with no back-up process in place either. This may sound like a scare story but, we can tell you, this was real and it was certainly very frightening for the companies who experienced this.
So, whether you are considering a new website, currently in the process of having one built or if you have already launched a website, then ask yourself, ‘what are your plans to ensure it is constantly updated and secure?’ Consider having a dedicated website maintenance team – the consequences are really too high to not have anything in place.
Ten golden rules
Here are ten golden rules for good website maintenance.
1. Select a content management system that works for you and your site
Over 80million websites have been built with a CMS and these provide the flexibility and functionality for you to make a whole host of content changes to your website yourselves. No waiting for the web agency to do it for you. And, no additional costs either.
WordPress is the most common content management system – laying claim to 43% of CMS-enabled websites. However, whilst this may be the most common, it may not be the best one for your website. So, when you are having your website built, speak with the web agency and discuss the options and benefits of each.
2. Source a website maintenance company who knows what they are doing.
Whilst this seems an obvious statement, the number of times we hear businesses relying on no-one or, at least ‘a friend’ to make updates, is incredible. Website maintenance requires knowledge & skills in many areas, CMS updates, fixes, cybersecurity, server management, backups, reporting, etc.
The most relevant companies to speak to are those who actively provide a dedicated ‘web maintenance package’. They offer this because they know what they are doing and what it takes.
3. Discuss the right package for you
Not all web maintenance packages are the same. You need one that works for you (or rather, works best for your website). If your website has been built with a CMS, your package will need to include maintenance for when the CMS core, or one of its many plug-ins, has released an update.
Moreover, if your site requires constant design, content & functionality updates but don’t have the resources to manage that yourself, then you would benefit from a package that includes this type of support. Most web maintenance & support packages allow a number of hours set aside for this. So, speak to the web maintenance company and agree a solution that fits you (and your website’s) needs.
4. Bring hosting and web maintenance under one roof
Server security is just as crucial to the continued performance of a website as is the way the website has been built. If your web maintenance company also provides secure and dedicated hosting solutions, it may make sense for them to manage this too. And, whilst hosting is a separate service/specialism to web maintenance, everything can be more streamlined if all under one roof. Moreover, you only need to rely on one company to ensure everything is working at optimum performance.
5. Take backups
Don’t think that just because you have a small- or medium-sized website, that you will be free from a cybersecurity attack (“I’m only a small business, why would they target me?”). The fact is that most small & medium sized websites are those who have the least security defences in place. And it is these sites that are increasingly targeted. In fact, it is estimated that there are 4500 successful attacks per day in the UK alone.
So, if your website were ever to be affected by a cybersecurity issue, the website maintenance company will be able to quickly restore your site to the most up-to-date version. The more current your backup is, the less data you will lose upon restoration, and the less downtime, profits and customer frustration you’ll have to deal with.
Because this is so important, this should be one of the daily tasks included in your website maintenance package. When you speak to your website management company, ask them how often backups are taken.
6. Monitor uptime
Of course, in the ideal world, your website needs to be running 24 hour a day. Every day. And, whilst you may simply expect that to happen, do you know for sure? Or would you simply hope to hear from a disgruntled customer who cannot reach your site as your first indication that something is wrong.
Downtime can do serious damage – to your reputation, orders and bottom line. As a case in point, in 2016 Amazon went down for 30 minutes. This cost them US$3.75.
Your website maintenance solution should include uptime monitoring solutions which will not only report on daily uptime but also have an alert system in place to inform the relevant team.
7. Monitor security
Even with a good backup system in place, your website maintenance company should be monitoring all aspects of your website security, encrypting the data and information flowing through the site to limit any potential damage an attack can create – such as a breach of any personal data stored.
This monitoring should be carried out daily and, if necessary acted upon, reported on & learned from. Ideally, the company will have set up automatic alerts notifying them immediately should any suspicious activity occur.
8. Know what’s coming
Web maintenance companies are always one step ahead when it comes to security issues, compliance and protocols. They know what’s coming because they keep one ear to the ground and are always ‘switched on’. Whether it is forthcoming changes in data security, analytics, server platforms, financial regulations, firewalls or CMS updates, having advanced knowledge and understanding of what will be needed is crucial. Having a website maintenance company that has always got your back, no matter what is coming, is invaluable.
9. Add regular content
Adding new content to your website not only keeps the visitor updated with latest information about your product and services but it also helps the website rank more favourable by search engines which, in turn, helps attract new visitors. This is one of the main reasons companies choose to have a blog on their site.
Adding new content regularly – whether that be a weekly blog article, news announcements or downloadable whitepapers – is highly beneficial. Of course, this may not be something you have time for, especially if you are busy with the day to day workload. So, ask your web maintenance company if they also offer content creation as part of the package.
10. Include SEO reports
Of course SEO is more related to marketing than web maintenance but that shouldn’t stop the web maintenance company providing regular SEO reports as part of your support plan. Afterall, SEO is essential for the healthy performance of your website.
You may already have an in-house team or a dedicate SEO agency supporting you with this, in which case you do not need to worry. But, if not, then do speak with your web maintenance company and see if they will include this.
Design Inc is part of the Moore-Wilson Group – website build and maintenance specialists.
Learn more about our web maintenance & support packages, content management solutions and managed hosting.