Several years ago, we designed a beautiful website for a new client. The project went well. The client was excited to have the new site live. Her site had momentum, too. She was getting new business leads and potential customers were finding her business on the web. Her search engine rankings were starting to climb naturally. Things were looking good on her side of the internet. It was a nice win for our client and for our company.
She was a very intelligent entrepreneur and had always been a real DIY sort-of-person. She decided to handle the care of her website’s upkeep and manage her own shared website hosting. Her site was built on the WordPress platform, had tons of flexibility and had plenty of extensibility to take her business where it needed to go. She was fairly familiar with the whole system and had the experience. Generally, over a period of 8-10 months, she did pretty well and her website chugged along like well-oiled machine.
What she lacked in increasing amounts, as her business grew, was time. It was rapidly catching up to our star client. Why? Because growing a business while wearing many hats consumes energy and time. When you’re a small business owner or solo entrepreneur, there’s sometimes a gap between scaling up and getting help. You have to do it all. And in her business story, other responsibilities were stealing resources and time spent keeping her site healthy and secure.
Fast forward about a year and her site had been hacked.
It was 6 a.m. in the U.S. when I received a frantic call from my client. She received a notice from her shared website hosting company that her website was sending SPAM emails to some foreign government. Her web hosting company quickly shut down her website until the problem could be isolated and removed.
The pain level started to grow.
It’s one thing to get another business mad at you, but a whole foreign government? Ouch! And our company was feeling stung by association. I was suddenly haunted by thoughts of being imprisoned in a foreign country’s national prison.
After a lot of deep breaths and phone calls to calm things down and do damage control, we worked with a security company to remove all the malignant code and purged every bit of nastiness out of her website. A short time later, we were able to help our client get back online. But the process of getting there was frantic, fast-paced and far harder than it should have been. And it was expensive for her to resolve.`
I decided that our company needed to take the initiative and find a way to prevent this kind of scenario for our clients. Not only did it hurt the client’s business, but it also absorbed a lot of our agency time. So, we created a WordPress Website Maintenance program to help.
What is a WordPress Maintenance Program?
A maintenance program for your WordPress website is usually a service agreement between you and a service provider or web developer to handle 4 key things with your website.
There’s no discounting what a good backup will do for the potential of getting your site back online quickly when trouble brews. If your site goes down from malicious attacks or has an unexpected conflict from a plugin or third-party software running on your website, a good backup is like gold. A dependable backup routine provides your website developer or service provider with the ability to restore your website quickly to a point of stability. If you’re running an online store, use online banking or any service that hundreds of customers frequent daily, you know how a down website can affect profits, overload call centers and affect the bottom line.
At Cooperata, we do an extra redundant backup of our client sites at a data center separate from our web host as a precaution. It’s proved to be helpful in rare cases where the web host’s data center experiences an extreme downtime issue.
Any software system that is exposed to the internet is potentially vulnerable to evil-doers that would infect your website with malware, viruses or even hack the content and functions of your website. The sad reality is that someone who is very intent on breaking into your site and has the skill set will probably do so. However, common sense and best practice security measures backed by malware scanning and security checking can deter most of what lurks in the inter-webs.
If you use WordPress, or any other CMS for that matter, it is always in a state of change. As a software system, it must be consistently updated to evolve, withstand security issues and to run smoothly. WordPress also uses third-party extensions that need the same kind of care. These extensions need to be monitored just like WordPress core to stay current and malware-free.
In the case of our client, she fell victim to a third-party plug-in that had a security flaw. Because she failed to update the plugin for an extended amount of time, her site developed a weak link in the chain and it was exploited accordingly.
Database Optimization and Uptime Monitoring
WordPress generally stores its settings and content in a database file to operate. Over time, this file can get packed with unused or redundant data and needs a good house-cleaning to keep a website running fast and efficiently.
Uptime monitoring is a kind of website check to make sure the website hasn’t crashed and is still running on the internet. Even with the best maintenance and care, a website may go down occasionally and when it does, the faster you or your developer knows about it, the faster you can resolve the issue and get things running again for your clients.
Both of these operations help your WordPress website to remain fast, secure and online.
Why does your WordPress website need maintenance?
Given the nature of software running on the internet and the illustration of our busy client, it’s pretty easy to see how a consistent maintenance plan would help and protect a business running a WordPress website. Here are a few good reasons to consider one.
A WordPress Maintenance Plan lets business owners focus on their busiiness.
As a business owner, You need to spend time doing what you do best — growing your business, managing staff and expenses, or selling products or services. With a limited staff, that’s a lot. Business owners tend to wear lots of hats and having a dedicated web professional monitor your online home, just makes sense. It provides a trusted team of professionals to monitor your digital front door 24/7 and makes compromising your site as difficult as possible.
A WordPress Maintenance Plan protects your investment.
As a business owner your website is just as important as any brick and mortar shop. As a matter of fact, it many times gets more customer traffic. Your website costs money to develop, too. Assuming you’re not the DIY type and you’ve hired an agency or freelance professional to create your site, you’ve probably spent a considerable monetary investment in getting your company online. Doesn’t it make sense to have the same level of security and care you’d allow for your brick and mortar stores?
We’ve had clients that never seem to hesitate in buying alarm systems, getting the best responsive security company and building a store where their products are properly safeguarded. Yet, they’ll leave a valuable online store website unwatched. It’s foolishness.
A WordPress Maintenance Plan provides more help with lower overhead.
Adding new employees is expensive for small businesses. If you factor in the insurance, taxes, training and salary needed for a full-time employee to monitor and maintain your website, it’s simple to see how a third party service is worth the investment. You’ll get good support and the attention of people who take care of WordPress websites all the time. They have extensive experience and they’ve learned how to get your site online quickly when disaster strikes.
Maintaining your WordPress website is good for SEO.
If there’s one other thing besides great content that search engine’s like, it’s a fast website. Keeping the redundant content and code out of your WordPress database helps the website run faster and cleaner. The more optimized a website is, the less likely it is to slow to a crawl under heavy traffic. And the faster the response to visitors, the more likely Google will rank your site higher in Search Engine rankings. When Google sends users to fast, optimized sites that help them find quality information faster, it makes their search index more appealing and reputable to people surfing the web which is great leverage for generating ad revenue.
Where can businesses find WordPress Maintenance?
Because WordPress powers over 35% of the web as of this writing, there are lots of businesses that cater to managing and supporting companies that use WordPress for their CMS. Each service provider provides a range of services. Some companies provide only maintenance and support while others like Cooperata provide website maintenance and an integrated web hosting plan optimized for WordPress.
Here are 5 other companies outside our own that support WordPress Maintenance that we would recommend checking out:
Prices and the level of support features vary among service providers but in each case the core services are available to keep your website healthy. If your own web developer offers the service, then it’s probably a good idea to work with them on a monthly check-up plan or get a recommendation from them if they don’t provide support services for WordPress Maintenance. Generally, the folks who built your site have a good idea of how it works and what it will take for the upkeep
Next Steps…are up to you.
In this article, we hope we’ve provided some insight into what it takes to operate and maintain a platform as robust and powerful as WordPress. The great news is that while the upkeep can seem like an added expense, and very daunting, the reality is that it’s not too hard to find quality help for your website at an affordable price point that is well worth the investment.
If you have further questions, feel free to reach out to Cooperata for recommendations or clarification using our contact page. For more information on why WordPress is a great platform for small business, check out this article, “Why WordPress is a Smart Solution for Small Business Websites.
Jonathon Cooper is owner and creative director of Cooperata LLC. He specializes in creating effective digital marketing and web solutions for websites using the WordPress blogging and CMS platform.