Photo by Lee Campbell on Unsplash

Are you lucky enough to have someone maintain your website for you? If so, congratulations, you’re probably in a nice and happy place with your website and marketing initiatives and that’s a great thing!

If not, should you even care? If you don’t care you can stop reading now and head on over to Google and search for cat videos. We won’t mind or be offended. If you’re wanting to know more or now have some uneasy thoughts running through the back of your mind, I would suggest you keep reading.

It’s not a nice position to be in, companies go out of business (the collapse of local technology firm Exa Web Solutions in 2016 is a perfect example), developers go MIA (missing in action), people get hit by buses (sad but true) and people actually do win the Lottery (I can’t believe my numbers have never came up) and chase a better life. None of this helps you though. You get left stranded and need to take action, fast!

What is website maintenance?

Believe it or not, just like a car, your website requires ongoing maintenance. In many cases, more than your car! Software needs updating, your CMS version will need ongoing upgrades applied to it and things do break or worse, your site could get hacked. Ensuring it runs smoothly and efficiently requires someone to actively maintain and look after it — just like a mechanic looks after your car.

You’re probably thinking this costs money. Well you’re right, it does. But what would it cost you to restore your website after it has been taken down or hacked – or revert to an older version of a plugin because the update took your site offline? What would be the cost in lost sales and revenue if your site was to go offline for a week? It could run into the thousands of dollars and that’s if you actually have a backup.

This is the very reason you need someone you can trust and rely on to loko after your website.

What's involved in maintaining a website

The tasks involved in maintaining would include:

  • Keeping the version of your CMS (eg. WordPress) up to date
  • Update plugins to the latest stable versions
  • Up-time monitoring
  • Regular backups
  • Proactively prevent hacking attempts
  • Monitor SEO performance and penalties
  • Setup and manage your site through Google Webmaster Tools
  • Implement and monitor tracking and performance tools
  • Provide regular statistical reports
  • Manage domain name records
  • Monitor hosting performance
  • Develop new page templates
  • Implement new features and functions into the website
  • Setup and manage user accounts
  • Provide training and support
  • Update content
  • Offline troubleshooting
  • Ongoing improvements
  • Social media integration

What’s it cost?

So you know this is all going to come at a cost, but how much? Well, that depends on a few things, such as;

Plugin licenses

If you website is using licensed software or plugins, they will most likely need renewing each year, depending on the initial development contract. This could be anywhere from $50 a year to a couple hundred. This is typically a cost that is absorbed by the developer and passed on to you as part of the maintenance cost each month.

Rates

Hourly rates will certainly vary between developers and agencies. If you have to shop around, go with one you know, like and trust and fits the budget. You should be able to get a lower rate if you pre book a block of hours each month rather than going for an ad-hoc support arrangement.

This will also depend on the geographic location of the developer or agency.

Availability and on-call arrangement

It goes without saying, just like an employee, if you want your developer on-call 24×7 then expect to pay more than typical business hours availability. If you need someone available 24×7 you should perhaps be looking for an employee rather than a contracted resource.

Environments

It is always good practice to have development and staging instances of your website. This safely enables your developer to build and test updates and changes without risk or effecting the performance and availability of your live site. Setting up these additional hosting environments takes time so expect to be charged accordingly. Your developer may also charge you a small fee to maintain these each month as it will normally cost them to keep them running.

Off-site storage

Yes, you may also need storage other than website hosting. You may need this for delivering content (Content Delivery Network — CDN) or for keeping secure backups. A good developer will not only keep a locally stored backup of you site but one in the cloud to ensure there is always a backup available. Amazon S3 and Dropbox are our go-to off site storage preferences.

Security services

If you’re not using Cloudflare to manage your website security and domain name records, you should. Seriously, go and do it now if you’re not.

Cloudflare provides a suite of applications and services to protect, optimise and secure your domain name and website from attacks and other various online risks. They offer various plans, even a free one, but again this type of service needs management and maintaining to ensure it works effectively with your website.

If your website is running on SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) this will also incur an annul fee. Depending on the type of certificate you have, it could range between $50 odd dollars a year to a few hundred.

Web hosting

In many cases, this cost is absorbed by your developer or agency. It could also be a cost you incur if you setup the hosting service yourself. In any case, it will require support and ongoing maintaining and liaising with the hosting company. Something I am guessing you would rather not deal with. Am I right?

The hosting fee will most likely be a yearly expense but could also be a monthly charge. Depends how it was setup of course. In many cases, your developer will most likely charge you annually for this type of expense and include perhaps a half hour a month to maintain. This could vary anywhere from a few dollars month to a couple hundred.

What action should you take?

If your agency goes into liquidation or you’re left without anyone to maintain and look after your website, panic! No, just kidding. There are plenty of things you can do.

The first action I suggest taking is making a plan and document it and keep it somewhere safe, all the access details for your website, hosting and any other technical information relating to your website. If you don’t have it, go and get it, now. Go on, you can always come back to this post later. This is important.

Do you have a backup plan?

If you’re like almost every one I speak to, you probably don’t have a backup plan. The interesting thing is, it’s incredibly easy to set one in place (if you know what you’re doing of course) and it will run on auto pilot. Our advice is to begin by setting up BackupBuddy on your website. Your developer of course will do this in snap for you.

Having a backup is one thing, securing and protecting your website is another. Speak to your developer or ask me (comment below or email me) on how to protect and secure your website. This will provide an added layer of protection and make you backup that much more valuable to you.

Next steps

There is certainly a lot to be said about due diligence. Don’t get caught out because someone you rely on decides they don’t want to play anymore. Get your technical checklist in order and begin safeguarding your website and online assets today. Let me give you a little push along. Start by downloading my Technical Checklist below and begin gathering the important information today in the event you will need it tomorrow. Trust me when I say, it’s worth it.

Hope this helps!