What Is Website Maintenace?
Website Maintenance is essential on multiple fronts. Often many people get new websites, and these get handed over from the web designer, or they build it themselves, and the site is left to fend for itself.
The key but not the only part of Website maintenance is to the upkeep of your website. The aim is to keep your website online, secure, functioning technically and visually so your website can provide the service it got designed for initially.
- Your content
- Browser compatibility.
All three of the above should also get monitored to check your website continues to be in a supportable state.
I will run through various website maintenance questions below to help as many website owners as possible keep their sites online.
What is website support and maintenance
This is often where there is confusion because website support and maintenance are two different things.
Website support is about help with your website, support potentially but not limited to add content, updating layout, maybe fix an issue you have caused on the site. You call for website support perhaps from a website designer for assistance to rectify the problem.
Maintenace is about maintaining all the functional parts of your website (apart from the server unless you manage your webserver). During this post, I am going to use WordPress as an example but the same would be applicable to any content management system(CMS).
Unless you hire someone for website maintenance, it will be your responsibility to perform website maintenance. Your web Hosting provider will keep the server running but not your website.
How to perform website maintenance
The 1st thing about performing website maintenance is ensuring you have good backups. You should backup your website regularly but also before you make any changes such as those that get performed during website maintenance. Should the worst happen you, have a backup you can restore, even if you need assistance to complete the restore. Do not update without a backup. I have another post about performing a manual backup of WordPress which might be worth a look to see what’s involved if your not sure what to do.
Once you have a good backup you can review what needs to be updating. 1st thing to check is are you running a recent version of the CMS. You do not need to be on the latest version, sometimes this is not the wisest because it will have had less time in the open. Unless an update is critical I tend to use a system of latest update version -2. For example, the latest version is 5.3.3 I would make sure I am running 5.3.1 unless 5.3.3 is a critical update for security. I am still current and update but we are not running bleeding edge versions which have a higher chance of causing issues with plugins that have not been updated for these latest versions.
TIP See all versions of WordPress that have been released including the latest update.
Before you update your CMS though you need to check that your plugins are compatible with the version of CMS you are about to deploy. If you cannot confirm plugin compatibility, you may need to implement, test and if there is an issue rollback the CMS update if it breaks your website. It’s often worth paying for updates and support from the plugin developers that are critical to the operation of your website and business. You then have a line to support should things not work as expected.
You should also check you are on the latest version of PHP for the version of CMS you are running. PHP, CMS and Plugins often have security vulnerabilities which can lead to your website being compromised by a hacker.
If you implement your certificate to secure your website, you should keep tabs on the expiry to ensure this gets renewed in advance of the expiry.
I would also recommend you check in on Google Search Console. Google will report in the console if there are issues with your website such as usability and indexing.
Finally, when your finished take a fresh backup of your website as an excellent copy to return to should, the need occur. You should also ensure you have a regular backup schedule in place. I think backups are so important I include daily automated backups for all my web hosting.
What is the going rate for website maintenance
What is website maintenance cost? The cost of website maintenance varies so much because it depends on what gets included. I have a Bronze starter maintenance package for £24.99 a month. This website maintenance plan consists of 1 hour of support per month for issues such as problems adding a web page or adding a plugin etc. It also includes an update of your website CMS, plugins and PHP if required once per month. For more regular updates I have a Gold package which is £99.99 a month, but for this, I will check and apply updates weekly along with 3 hours of support each month.
If your website is your business paying £99.99 a month is a small cost to ensure your site has the best chance of staying online. Although nothing is guaranteed hackers can find an unknown vulnerability which has not been patched by a plugin developer.
I will also restore a website for web maintenance customer as part of their package should the need arise.
What should website maintenance include
As minimum website maintenance should include the below
- Backups. Check you have good regular and working backups.
- Check and update your CMS platform if required.
- Check and update PHP version if required.
- Check and update plugins if required
- If you have any website monitoring ensure this is functioning and will alert if an issue occurs.
- You can perform a scan of your website on Pentest-tools who offer a free security scanner.
- Google Search Console check to ensure your website has no crawl issues or other errors which may impact your website’s visibility on Google.
After you have completed all these steps, you need to make sure everything still works on your website such as contact forms, eCommerce process. These tests are called functional and non-functional testing. The testing plan you need to perform will depend on your website.
TIP I use a tool called Uptime to monitor when my websites are up or down for various services. If a website goes offline I receive an email alert and I can investigate before a client even knows. I wrote a post about how to get an email alert if your website goes offline which is worth a read.
What is the basic knowledge for website maintenance
If you are a component CMS user then you should be able for the most part be able to handle your website maintenance. Most of it is research.
Find out what your hosting provider offers backups, are they automated like my web hosting. How do you perform a restore, make sure you know what you would do in the event of a disaster so your not trying to work it out on the spot should your website require a restore. I have posted on manual WordPress backups but you may also be able to find a plugin, I am not sure I would trust one for my backups though.
Make sure your website is Google Search Console. I have a post of adding your website to the Google Search console if not.
Create a test plan for your website, it might take a while to create this depending on your website but then its a template for each time you perform maintenance to follow to ensure your website still functions after you have performed your website maintenance.
The majority of my web maintenance clients either do not have time to do it themselves or are not even comfortable logging in to the WordPress admin dashboard.
Why you need website maintenance
There are five excellent reasons you need to perform website maintenance.
Keep your software at supported version
Sometimes plugins, CMS platforms are updated for functionality or changes to fix issues that make them incompatible with other software or browser updates. Updates are released for a reason, a developer spends time making these for a reason. You may have the odd bad apple of an update but for the most part, they get updated without a hitch. Try and follow the update version -2 mentioned above to build a barrier between stable and latest releases.
Stop your website being hacked
More often than not software updates for CMS platforms and plugins are for when a security vulnerability has been spotted. The minute these are known you should be updated as soon as is practical. Once you know about so does any hacker. To protect your website as best as you can install any critical secuirty updates.
Making sure you have a good backup, and a regular backup schedule means you can sleep safely knowing if some website update or hack wipes your site you have a copy of your website you can restore and be back online in an hour. Backups are so important everyone must do them. I would not even dream of updating, installation of a new plugin without doing a backup 1st.
If you do not maintain your website and index crawlers such a Google bot can not crawl your website then pretty soon nobody will find you on Google. Keeping your website in good shape and reviewing the Google Search Console and promptly addressing issues will keep your website displaying freely on the leading search engine.
Having a checklist of what should be working on your website is vital and doing this every week or at least once a month should be a priority. What happens if your website form is not working, the checkout does not work for PayPal, or that link to your email is a broken link? All these things could be costing you business. A simple checklist, after a few run-throughs, you’ll fly through it, and when you come across an issue, you will feel it was all worthwhile. I highly recommend you check your website displays on the different resolution of devices.
What is website hosting and maintenance
There is often confusion between web hosting and maintenance and website maintenance. Web hosting and maintenance is about the server that your website runs on. I provide web hosting, I maintain and support the web hosting regardless of what hosting or maintenance plan you have. Providing hosting web maintenance will likely be the same for most hosting providers. However, while I will keep the server and database online so you can run your website that it is where the maintenance ends. If you have an issue that you think is hosting or database-related, maybe emails don’t send from a contact form you might contact the hosting provider to check the server is in order. For the most part, you will not hear much about the maintenance from your hosting provider because they can virtually move your website around to manage the support however occasionally even we may need an agreed outage to perform an update.
You should not be surprised if your hosting provider notifies you of a planned outage, these should be monthly at most though. They are generally during the middle of the night and last no more than an hour or two. You do not need to do anything.
How to take the website down for maintenance
Most of the time, you should not need to put your website into maintenance mode for performing updates; the majority update in less than one minute.
If you need to perform a lot of updates or are changing large parts of your website, then creating a staging website is best. Hosting such as mine takes a clone of your live website and establishes a staging website. With the staging website, you can work on this happily and test things with no impact to your live site. When you are happy with the staging website, you can publish this as the live website.
How to put WordPress website in maintenance mode
If you do not have a staging capability, you could use a plugin such as Site Offline for WordPress. The free plugin will display a message on the website for visitors of your choosing while you as your website’s WordPress admin can still view the site and make changes. Once you have completed your changes, simply take the website out of offline mode, and everyone can see your updates.
How long does website maintenance last
For the majority of updates and checks, your website should be offline for no longer than a few minutes however the maintenance plan and checks could take 15- 1 hour for most websites. If you have a large complex website you will likely have a web team who provide this and are constantly monitoring the website.
Website maintenance is not about updating to change features or layout or even design it is about keeping your website online.
Summary of web mainteance
Hopefully, by now you realise the importance and reasoning behind why website maintenance is so critical to your website.
Most can carry out website maintenance on their website if they are confident with the WordPress admin dashboard, but does that mean you should. I recommended website maintenance plans to every client not because I do not think they all can not carry out the work but because I know lives are busy. Your website becomes that job round the house you never get round and you always think next week. This is where your website slips and you do not update and get hacked. I have had a number of clients in this situation over the years who do not have a maintenance plan and I have no choice to restore their website. Luckily I have automated backups for all my web hosting but that’s something recent and many hosting providers do not.
If there is one take away from this and maybe you don’t have time or the money to pay some else to update and maintain your website at the very least make sure you have an excellent working back up this is the fail-safe for any event. It’s better to start from week-old backup than from nothing. If your site is large, it could cost thousands to rebuild.
Good luck maintaining your website going forward