Maintenance of your website is a critical function that not only keeps your website on your side but can save you from legal issues. Yet many small business owners try to ignore it. Sometimes it’s because of having yet another thing to deal with, or another thing to learn. Other times they just don’t know that there are things the website needs.
If you choose to go the route of handling your website maintenance yourself, there are some common mistakes you need to avoid.
Mistake #1 – Doing Nothing
We often get approached by businesses to do a quick change here or there on their website. And what was originally a quick change turns into a larger project because the website is out of date.
If you choose to do nothing, you are choosing to put your entire website at risk.
You never know if your website will be attacked. Those out-of-date plugins and themes are a perfect vector for malware to be installed on the site.
Yes, there is a risk to doing updates. The new update could break something. But every single day your website is under attack. Don’t you think it’s only fair to give it a little protection?
Log in to your website at least once a month and complete all the necessary updates. Always backup your site first and perform a visual check of the site both before and after the updates.
Mistake #2 – Not having reliable backups
You notice I said reliable backups. Your website hosting company is NOT a reliable backup source.
Many small business owners rely on their host to handle the backups. Even if you are paying for top-tier service from your host that includes backups you should have a backup system in place that you control as well.
If your website host goes down, most likely those backup systems will be compromised as well. If you have a separate solution in place that you manage you have control of your site. And when prolonged downtime happens, you can choose to jump ship and move to a new host.
The other big factor here is this: Don’t rely on any one single backup source. We have all heard the saying “never put your eggs in one basket”. This is just as true for backups of a website. Or anything really.
All our client sites have three modes of backup. The server itself is backed up entirely. This is stored for one month. The individual websites have backups completed each day at the server level and stored for a month. And lastly, the website has a daily backup that stores both files and the database for at least 90 days.
I know that at any point in time I can restore from a problem. And I have 90 days to detect a problem and go back if needed.
Always have a secondary backup in place, check your backups often, and keep them in a safe location that is NOT in the same place as your website hosting solution.
Mistake #3 – Not having a plan
If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail. You need to decide on a plan and implement that plan in your regular maintenance.
Pick a set day each week or month to handle certain tasks. Make a list of those tasks and be consistent about what you do. Don’t skip a week or month just because it’s inconvenient.
If you are choosing to handle your maintenance, then you need to commit 100% to that. If it becomes too much or you no longer have time, then you need to outsource it.
Your plan should not just include tasks to complete either. You need to plan for disaster. What happens if your website host is down? Will you know? What if the site is attacked and infected with malware? How will you handle that?
Planning for the unknown is just good business practice. You probably already do this for most of your regular tasks. You might have backup funds, a backup person to help, or any other number of redundancies. Your website is no different.
Create a disaster recovery plan. Know what you will do in common situations and prepare the means to implement them.
A few years back we were contacted by the son of one of our past clients. His father had just passed away suddenly. And tragic as this was, the eCommerce portion of his dad’s website was still up and functional. No one else in the family had the login information and could not get in there and turn it off or let anyone know why their orders were not shipping.
Though we were no longer the client’s provider, we were able to steer them to the correct information and help them resolve it. Do you want your family in that place?
Have a plan of action for both regular maintenance tasks and disasters.
Mistake #4 – Trying to do it all
As business owners, we are often stretched thin as it is. Adding website maintenance to your task list will stretch you even thinner. Are you prepared to commit the time to handle these tasks?
Your business is often most successful when you focus your energy on the things that you enjoy the most and those that bring you in the most money. If you are being pulled in every direction, or “multi-tasking” as they say, it is likely that things will start to slide through the cracks.
Website maintenance can be handled by yourself, an employee that you teach how to do it, or a third party that you hire.
With the first two options, each will still require some of your time. Whether it is you having to check on the employee’s work from time to time or doing the work yourself. No matter what you do you cannot let it go entirely.
If you hire someone to complete the tasks for you, then you can rely on them to get the tasks done. As time goes by, you will develop a strong trust and not even need to worry about it. A good care company should look out for the website, provide any updates needed and monitor the entire site. They should be able to alert you before minor problems become big things you have to solve.
Don’t try to handle everything yourself. Accept that you can’t control everything and do a good job. Know when you are overwhelmed and need to outsource a task.
Mistake #5 – Lacking knowledge
It’s likely that if you are reading this article, you are not a web guru. And knowing exactly how to fix a situation takes time.
Just like I would likely not know how to run your business, you probably don’t live and breathe the web industry. This means that as technology changes, you will always be behind the curve.
Playing catch-up or hoping that you are handling your website properly is never a fun place to be. Will this update break the site? What do you do if it does? Should I change this setting?
Sure, Google can help you get through. But now a little task has just become a huge mountain and time suck. It’s not a good place to be.
A common problem we run across with our website consulting is panic calls. A business owner calls and needs help immediately. They tried to do one little change and everything broke. Imagine if your website was your primary income and now it’s broken.
While these issues can often be resolved by us rather quickly, it might take time and loss of income for you to handle the same thing. Or you might become quickly overwhelmed when something goes wrong.
Know where your knowledge limits are and know when to ask for help. Don’t assume that it’s easy and anyone can do it. That line of thinking can quickly get you in over your head.
Website maintenance is often overlooked or assumed to be so easy that anyone can do it. And some tasks are certainly that way. Others that seem like a simple click of a button could snowball out of control just as fast as that first click.
Without proper maintenance, your website cannot do its job. And in the case of malware, your website could even open the door for legal issues should it damage other sites or computers.
If you can avoid these most common mistakes, then you will be way better off than the business owner that chooses to turn a blind eye to anything that deals with their site. And even better off than the button-punchy owner without a plan at all.