I cannot begin to tell you how many people believe that once their website is done they are “all set”. Many think they don’t have to do anything more to it once it is out there live. While that may seem true in that moment, there is still much that needs to happen and be thought about going forward.

There are a number of things to think about that fall under the auspices of web maintenance. I’ll try to briefly cover them here.

Backing up your Site

Note: CharlesWorks automatically backs up your WordPress site each night to maintain a backup going back a month. The backups are made to a separate server from the one your site is on.

There are numerous reasons to back up your website. In my estimation the primary reason is to protect your investment. You just published your site online and have invested time and money into that project. Having a good backup gives you a fallback point in case one of the following happens. As a side note, these are listed in the order of how often I have seen them happen:

  • Unexpected Results from Changes you made to the site
    The most common needs for backups happen because something was done in the site that had an unforeseen result. It is also the most common cause of consternation because the individual making the change really wished they had made a backup but didn’t. Always remember that software does what we tell it to do. Unfortunately, we sometimes don’t realize what we think that may be and what it may actually be don’t always line up.
  • Your site was hacked
    On occasion websites are hacked. There are two major reasons contributing to website hacks: outdated software and poor or compromised password protection. Keeping your plugins, themes and the WordPress core updated can greatly reduce how prone you are to hacking. Keeping your email safe from being compromised by having strong passwords and using email over secure networks can reduce the ability of hackers to walk right in to your website using your credentials. In such cases a backup can be used to restore your site and then the credentials for the FTP, database and user names all changed.
  • Errors Happened as a result of Updating
    Luckily only fewer than 1 out of 1,000 times, an update will happen that will wreak havoc with a website. WordPress is composed of many thousands of plugins and themes and other scripts written by just as many authors that must all work in harmony with the WordPress core. So when WordPress itself or plugins or themes are updated, there is always some risk that the harmony in the WordPress universe may be disrupted.
  • Server errors you need to recover from
    These issues come up the very least. They happen very, very seldom. But hardware errors do occasionally happen, so having a backup protects your investment by having a copy of your website readily available to place on another server as needed.

Getting Ongoing Maintenance

Note: CharlesWorks prides itself on making changes on an as needed basis to our web client’s websites after the site has been completed. CharlesWorks charges by the minute for such changes. This means that a change that takes 12 minutes is only charge 12/60 of the hourly web-work charge. However, be aware that sometimes updates must be applied to sites in order for small changes to be made. These can increase the time to complete the process.

Having your website up-to-date is an important part of doing business. The most complaints happen when your hours or days of operation are wrong or missing. These kinds of changes usually only take a few minutes to make.

Keeping WordPress Updated

One of the primary reasons for keeping the WordPress core and its components (plugins and themes) updated is for security. One really runs the risk of having a hacked site by not keeping the websites components up to date. Possibly infecting site visitors as a result of your site being infected can be a public relations and possibly a legal nightmare for the business owner.

Database Maintenance

When we first get a computer, it runs fast, until, over time, it slows. This is because more material is stored and operating in it which slows things down.

Your WordPress website’s database is prone to the same thing. WordPress saves nearly everything you do in its database. Every change made to a post or page is saved in the database. The databases grows and grows and grows.

It’s a good idea to clean the database out from time to time. This can keep the website actually running faster as it has to “look through” fewer items to “find” items to render.

Updating your PHP

PHP is the programming language that runs WordPress and its themes and plugins. Each newer PHP version has become more secure and operates faster.

When deciding which version of PHP your WordPress site runs on, one must consider of a delicate balance between PHP version and all the WordPress components. What this means is that all of the software must operate with the version of PHP in place.

Experience has shown us that we need to keep a version of PHP that is operational with MOST plugins, themes and the latest WordPress core. Using a version too new – that everything doesn’t function with – can break websites. Avoid using PHP versions that no longer receive security updates.

Updating Redirection

Redirection is needed when site posts or pages change their addresses. This usually happens from renaming or when better search engine optimization is needed. Every now and then one should view the website.

Filtering Spam Comments

Another thing that can fill a database up quickly and thereby slow down your website are spam comments. Most of these spam comments are not filled out by humans – but rather by bots that search the web looking for forms of any kind to fill in. We suggest using Google CAPTCHA or Akismet to reduce spam form entries.

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