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For most people, this topic is a lot like cleaning leaves out of the gutter, wiping down the inside of kitchen cupboards, and checking your windshield wiper fluid and tire pressures.
Though the car references are pretty good analogies for today's topic (and reminds me to check my car).
My temptation today is to get on my soapbox, pull out a bible, and have a good ol'fashioned maintenance revival meeting. Although I don't think there has ever been one. There should be.
Why do it?
Your website is likely set up like a program. Similar to Microsoft Windows or Office, there are security updates to patch security holes. The holes could allow people to:
- Copy information off of your website (and compromise the privacy of your users)
- Deface your website (and leave people thinking you have some very odd views)
- Have your website used to increase the rankings of other sites with hidden text (you won't notice, but Google might, and your site's rankings will decrease
- Use your website to send spam and/or store objectionable material (which could also hurt your search rankings and get you blacklisted).
In short, these holes hurt your online reputation.
Really. We have had clients suddenly discover that their website is now an ad hoc porn server. Explain that to your clients. And why you no longer show up anywhere near the top of search results. It doesn't happen that often, but when it does, it can be pretty disastrous. We have also discovered invisible links on people's sites that they have never known were there.
What to do
Have someone apply the available security patches on a regular basis. A 'regular basis' depends on what you use your website for and how precious it is to you. We can help you determine that. And how much effort it takes is related. This is usually only an hour or two each time, but for some sites it is more depending on how much testing of the site is done.
And you know, if you are doing maintenance, make looking at your site part of that, at least once a year. Some people never really look at their _whole_ site again after it gets set up. You would be amazed at some of the things that may still be posted on your site -- events listed as upcoming that are long past, links that don't work, people mentioned that are no longer with you, or references that just don't make sense any more.
This may require planning this into your budget.
And let's not forget long-term maintenance. Assume your website will need an overhaul about every 5 years and budget for it. Like Windows and Office, older versions are no longer supported. You probably need to upgrade the platform. And if you don't want people laughing at your site (and making jokes that the 90's want their website back), you should consider an update to the design every now and then. I would love to include some classic examples here, but I just can't do that to some otherwise wonderful people.
Some other day we will talk about backups (another highly ignored topic, followed by a freak-out and promises to do it before next time.....), but next we will probably talk about mobile trends.
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