The Cost of Website Maintenance
Once you build your website, you’re done, and it takes care of itself, right? WRONG! Website owners also have to face the cost of maintenance.
There are two main types of website maintenance.
- The first is maintaining the integrity of the website code – the code that allows your website to display and function.
- The second type of maintenance is the regular updates to your website content.
A website is like a time bomb with many fuses that are constantly burning down. Plugins, extensions, and your website framework (WordPress, Drupal, etc.) need to be updated in order to reduce bugs and hacking.
Why do you need website framework upgrades?
Websites are like any other software application you may use, Microsoft Word, Adobe Acrobat, etc., in that they have versions, each new version adds features, or fixes security flaws. If you don’t upgrade your website then you can’t take advantage of new features and hackers could gain access to your website through some “backdoor”. This is why it’s always advisable to keep your website version up-to-date. If you have a website on a DIY (do it yourself) hosting services like Squarespace, Wix, or Shopify, etc., they will take care of these version upgrades since you are just “renting” their base website software, and they are liable to maintain it. This is one of the few advantages of DIY (hosted) website services.
If however, you have a regular website (WordPress, PHP-based) on a standard hosting service, you are just renting the hosting “space” (not the website software) and they will not perform any upgrades for you. This means that you are responsible for maintaining your website framework, by upgrading it when a new one comes out. This could be every few months depending on what type of framework your website is built on.
The graphic below shows the versions of WordPress that were released so far this year. Each one of these versions fixed bugs and vulnerabilities.
For a no-nonsense estimate on your website maintenance, please fill out our Inquiry Form and we’ll respond within 12 hours.
Why do you need to upgrade plugins and extensions?
Plugins and extensions are mini-applications that you add onto to your website to increase the features, like having a slideshow on the home page (an easy target for hackers), a video player, a photo gallery, a social media feed, etc. These mini-applications also routinely expire and need to be upgraded or they can become the backdoor that hackers use to access your website. Once a new plugin is installed, the website should be checked to see if the new plugin “broke” any website feature. Sometimes plugins that worked well together previously are not compatible when upgraded. Many website frameworks will alert you when a new version of a plugin is available – but you have to be paying attention.
What if I have in-house IT?
If you have web-oriented, in-house IT staff, they should be monitoring the website on a regular basis and keeping up with expirations and updates. If you don’t have an IT resource, you have a few options:
- Hire an IT consultant or Web Agency that can remotely monitor your website and make any updates for you. This consultant should have access to your hosting account and all your add-ons, plugins and extension licenses.
- Contract with an automatic updating service that will automate your website updates. These services are effective if your website doesn’t have too many customizations. If your website is heavily customized, then making a simple upgrade can cause a ripple effect and bring the whole website down.
- Ignore it and hope that your website will be safe from expirations, hackers and malware. We often see clients that have gone this route. Their websites are usually riddled with malicious code and require many hours of “cleaning” and upgrades.
What are other website maintenance costs?
- Hosting is a basic recurring cost. Depending on the complexity of your website and how much bandwidth you are using, your website hosting costs could range from $10 a month to $100+ a month for a small to a mid-size business website.
- Domain Name: your domain name (or URL or website address) cost can start at about $15 a year.
- SSL: Google is now giving preferential ranking to businesses with SSL licenses. We now build it into all our websites for extra security. These can start at $50 a year.
- Backups: Website backups are cheap insurance, no matter the size of your website. If you get hacked or infected with malware, you could have to completely rebuild your website. Backup services start at $5 a month and go up depending on the size, frequency, and type of backup you need.
What are some examples of website maintenance services?
Executionists does offer maintenance packages, such as our “Secure Pack” where we monitor and keep your website current.
For example, an overview of our process for upgrades is as follows:
- Make a website backup (so you can always revert)
- Make a working duplicate of the website on another server (so you don’t work on the live site)
- Perform the upgrade on the duplicate
- Test and make sure nothing breaks
- Move the new upgraded website to the live website’s server and replace the older version (still, keep that backup)
- Test again (because you always need to test again)
What about content maintenance?
Most businesses have an ongoing need to update website content, like; product or service information, staff bios, news, etc. Modern website frameworks, like WordPress, have built-in content management Systems (CMS) that allow non-tech users to manage content. We find that most businesses are so busy running the day-to-day that their website content is continually being back-burnered. A Web Agency that knows your business can help by scheduling content edits and providing a communication process to allow for quick response to client requests. Costs for this service depend on the number of hours your business requires. For example, we have some clients that we bill under $500 a year because their content updates are so minimal. Other clients require 20 hours or more of content work every month.
What about SEO maintenance?
SEO keywords and meta tags are not as critical as they used to be. There is more emphasis these days on PPC Ad services like Google Adwords. That being said, all your content should be properly tagged and new content should be tagged using current SEO best-practices. Once the content has been optimized for search engines, there is little reason to go back to it and re-SEO it. Your marketing resource or Web Agency should keep an eye on the analytics to determine if any further SEO work needs to be done to legacy content.
Website maintenance is a necessary part of your online budgeting. Talk with your web agency or internal team to make sure you understand how your maintenance is being managed. If it’s not being managed or you would like a free review of your website code, contact us for more information.
If you’re looking for a great, full-featured, secure, hosting solution check out our video on Pantheon hosting services.