When it comes to owning a website, one of the worst things you can do as a business owner is fail to routinely update and maintain this asset. And I don’t mean your website’s content, although that’s vitally important also, but rather the underlying code and infrastructure that your site runs on.
I like to use the analogy that most reasonable people will not drive their work vehicles into the ground for lack of routine maintenance or care. Equally so for any other mission critical piece of equipment or technology crucial to business development and growth.
The importance of a routinely maintained and updated website can be divided into three main areas of impact – Security, Stability and Speed.
Thousands and thousands of websites are hacked every day. Sometimes these are because of security weaknesses that exist as part of a content management system or third party plugin/service running on your website, sometimes it’s because of a website’s programming language or development framework, sometimes it’s the actual hosting hardware that the website is located on, either way a means of breaching your website has been discovered and exploited.
These hacks can range from annoying to unrecoverable depending on the nature of the attack. Ultimately you, as the website owner, are responsible not only for fixing the damage to your website but also to your business and customers.
A well maintained website is a stable website. It’s human nature in the modern world to just expect things to work; push a button on your computer, phone, dashboard or tv remote and away you go – 99% of the time such is the case, but nobody likes that sinking feeling of frustration when you hear that “click” and nothing happens!
When a prospective client visits or utilizes your website platform, especially for the first time, is that the time you want them to get a “404 PAGE NOT FOUND” or a “500 SERVER ERRROR” or the NEXT button doesn’t work or the SUBMIT button didn’t work after they spent five minutes filling out a form…and, yeah, now they have to complete the whole form again.
“One-Mississippi, Two-Mississippi, Three-Mississippi, Four-Mississippi…”
We are a world obsessed with speed. What was fast five years ago, in technology terms, seems grindingly slow by comparison today. In such a fast paced culture full of digital conveniences there appears to be no place for slow. The online world is particularly unforgiving when it comes to this.
Hang on a minute doesn’t cut it, actually hang on five seconds often doesn’t cut it. I admit I’ve clicked out of many a website out of frustration and simply moved on to the next website listed in my Google search results.
Generally a well maintained website is going to be a faster website. Even though the gains are literally expressed in terms of seconds this could be a significant edge over a competitor’s website. Like modern athletics, in the extreme, the separation between first and second could be a matter of hundreths of a second.
Regardless if maintaining your website is something you love to do yourself, or you’ve hired in-house or contracted help, it’s important to have a policy or procedure to routinely check and maintain your website’s health.
While it’s impossible to explore this topic completely in the scope of a single article here are a few website maintenance suggestions to get you started doing your part to make the web safer, better and faster for everyone.
Backup, Backup, Backup – maintaining a routine backup of your website can make the difference between being down days and weeks rather than minutes and losing months (or years) of work versus days of work.
Update, Update, Update – this is particularly true if you utilize a development framework or a self-installed content management system (CMS) like WordPress or others. Don’t ignore notices about updates to either your core system or third party add-on’s. Many of these updates will include security patches to newly discovered threats or vulnerabilities.
Check Your Platform – hosting providers won’t always automatically update you to the latest versions of underlying services they provide. Why? Because they don’t want to get blamed for “breaking” your website which often require application upgrades or code rewrites to be compatible with platform updates. Not keeping your platform up to date can lead to a vulnerable or unstable website.
Secure Your Site – don’t assume that your hosting provider, framework or content management system will provide all the security and protection you need. Put extra effort into securing and “hardening” your website, in my experience it’s not a matter of if but when your website will be attacked or hacked. Expect the best but be prepared for the worst. Research what best practices are recommended for securing your particular website setup. Consider utilizing third party services like CodeGuard, SiteLock or a similar service.
Eric Ramos is a life long artist, graphic designer, programmer, website developer and entrepreneur who enjoys working with businesses to create, maintain and improve their “home on the web” with an understanding that successful websites require a strategy of ongoing assessment, adjustment and refinement, not just a one time launch hoping for results. Passionate about technology, design and business development, Eric’s goal is to not just build better websites, but better businesses, growing and improving with them together, side-by-side.