Back in the 1980s and 1990s, Ron Popeil coined the phrase, “Just set it and forget it.” It was a very memorable line in reference to his counter-top cooking appliances and helped Ronco sell millions of units over the years.
While great for getting that whole chicken cooked in under two hours, this is not an attitude one should take with a website. Let me explain why you must take a proactive and vigilant approach to caring for your website.
The main reason to be on top of your website is the threat of malware or intrusion by hackers. I’m sure you are aware that there are individuals and organizations with very sophisticated software searching the Internet for vulnerable websites. They are looking for exploits left open by un-patched software that runs your website. Their intentions range from redirecting your visitors to their gambling/pornography/pharmaceutical sites to stealing your client information for identity theft purposes and everything in between.
The most basic actions to thwart these intrusions is to make sure your server and web hosting software is on the latest version and that you have a plan to update whenever a new version is available. This includes backups in case an update fails and corrupts something making your site unusable.
This brings me to a simple concept with perhaps one of the most complex set of implementation options. The ability to recover from a disaster (hacker, virus, database corruption, errant code, natural disaster, etc.) quickly and with minimal data loss is measured in dollars. If your site is down, you’re not able to respond to paying (or potential) customer demands and that equals lost revenue.
I spent some time working for Acxiom and they had a very critical role in helping the federal government recover from the disaster of September 11, 2001. They had a plan in place and immediately went into execution mode when the towers were struck. The process took days instead of weeks or even months, but only because there was forethought to build and, more importantly, fund a disaster-recovery plan.
I said this was a complex subject because of the myriad of considerations that must be made based on the type of system involved. A typical website runs on a server that has an operating system that runs on a hard drive connected to a motherboard and needs RAM and a reliable power source. Additionally, that server is connected to the Internet through a cable to a networking switch sitting behind a firewall that is then connected to a router and on to the Internet Service Provider (ISP). And then there’s the website code and database running on the server. In short the toe bone is connected to the neck bone and each bone in between is a single point of failure and thus must be considered in a disaster-recovery plan.
For most of us, a hosting provider takes care of all of the server and networking parts, but you are still not off the hook. Backups and patching are still something that you need to do.
If you ever run into a problem and contact your hosting provider, the first question they will ask is if you are on the latest version. If not, they will most likely require you to upgrade before they will help. That makes sense since the problem you’re experiencing could be linked to something they have fixed in the update.
With most updates come shiny new tools that can help make our sites better. If your competitor is updating their site, they could potentially gain an edge with a more attractive website.
Most business owners don’t know how to do this (and if they do, don’t do it correctly) and it’s only when disaster strikes do they see the need for any of it. Consider hiring a professional to keep tabs on your website and pay them to worry about security and disaster recovery and talking to your hosting company. It’s the difference between regular checkups with your doctor and a trip to the emergency room. Pay a little over time or a lot later and hope the damage isn’t permanent.
We offer cost-effective maintenance plans for any site we develop and can help provide support for existing sites depending on the technology involved. If you’re interested in talking to us about website maintenance, please LET US KNOW.
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