You may be saying, “I have a web site and we add/update content every once in a while. Why would I need a web site maintenance service plan?”
Content management systems are amazing things. They allow a web site to organically grow, added to by the average user.
The downside to CMS program is that there are a lot more pieces than a static HTML site. Just as a CMS based web site can grow organically as a garden does, just like a garden, a web site takes continual updates and maintenance. This is exclusive of content updates.
To illustrate, I’ll share what I did to one of my personal sites. I had multiple domains running on one installation of WordPress Multisite. I never do this on client sites, and I am constantly telling people to back up their web sites, but I was on the phone, trying to multi-task and without stopping to back up the site, I hit the “Update” button on WordPress.
It completely messed up the WPMS installation. I might have been able to recover it except for that the original installation was from 8 years ago when WPMU was a separate platform. There were a few carryovers from that, which I think contributed to the problem. I didn’t have the most recent backup. Directly editing the files and database to recover it wasn’t working. The host tried to revert the site with the backup they had . . . which didn’t work as the database was too large.
It was a complete mess.
You can export a blog on a WPMS installation to convert it to a standalone version. However, all of the instructions to do so assume that the WPMS installation is functioning when you do so.
What I ended up doing is:
- Created a standalone WordPress installation for each domain
- Exported the database (of an old backup)
- Identified the blog ID for each domain
- Copied the images and uploads for each domain into the new installation
- Separated the tables for each domain into their own SQL file.
- Renamed each the tables for each domain in the new SQL file.
- Edited the options table in each domain SQL file for the new standalone installation.
- Imported the revised SQL file into the new WordPress installation
- Double checked the settings for each plugin and deleted those that weren’t being used.
For 10 different domains. All of that because I didn’t take five minutes to back up the web site before I hit update.
Open Source Means More Vulnerability
Open Source platforms like WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal are wonderful in that they allow the individual blogger and small business person to have world class sites. The downside to that is that since the code is open to all, it is also open to those who explore it to find vulnerabilities to maliciously hack your site.
When people contact me to recover their site after it’s been hacked, most of the time it is because they didn’t keep the platform up-to-date. There can be occasions when someone purposely tries to take a site down and overcomes security measures.
But the reality is for most of our web sites, hackers just don’t care that much about coming after you specifically. They are just looking for opportunity to do damage and most of the times are choosing the path of least resistance to do so.
Not keeping your site up-to-date or monitoring add-ons for security issues is like driving your car to the center of town, leaving the keys in the ignition, the doors, open, and blaring the words “Come take me.”
The moral of all this is keep your site updated.
Sometimes it’s not as catastrophic as what I described in my first example, but the truth is with every platform core or plugin update that you do, there is a risk of a conflict between the new files and the existing plugins.
With the majority of hosts switching to PHP 5.3 as the server defaults, sites with deprecated coding had issues. Or sometimes files are corrupted during an update. Sometimes things just stop working.
Last week, I had two sites with compatibility issues after updates. The first was a WordPress site with several custom post types. The permalinks for one custom post type stopped working due to a conflict with another third party plugin.
The second was a site on Joomla with a membership component that stopped creating new accounts after an update to the core Joomla platform. A very big deal.
These types of things usually take you by surprise and it is something that you just have to be prepared to handle. If you don’t have someone on staff that is able to troubleshoot an issue, then have a reliable contractor that you can go to.
Familiarization Takes Time
Which brings me to my next point, I may be familiar with the platforms, but unless a site is a plain vanilla install, before I can trouble shoot an issue I first have to familiarize myself with the site including what plugins are installed, how the settings are configured, and any custom features or coding.
This all takes time.
If someone calls because of a crisis with their site and I’ve never looked at it before, it is going to take time to get familiar with it before I can fix the issue. Having someone that can monitor and maintain it on an ongoing basis is usually much cheaper than waiting until disaster strikes.
Another situation similar to this is when I developed the site for them initially, but I haven’t maintained it since and other people have done various things to the site. That also takes time to research.
Even if you are comfortable updating the content on your site yourself, unless you are also comfortable handling the technical details and troubleshooting when problems arise, it is a good idea to have someone monitoring your site for potential issues.
It is so critical that we do not even offer web site hosting anymore to clients unless we have a maintenance agreement in place. The potential risk of having out-of-date and unmonitored sites on our server just isn’t worth it.
What Is a Web Site Maintenance Plan?
A web site maintenance service plan can include a variety of things, but the most basic level of service includes updating the core platform and plugins of the site, backing up the site, monitoring for uptime and security issues, and resolving conflicts when they arise.
Get Started with a Web Site Maintenance Service Plan
If you need a go-to person for your web site, contact us.