Planned or monthly, maintenance is the process which keeps your website running smoothly in every respect. It also keeps sites secure as any gliches in the operating software are constantly being exposed and exploited by human hackers (and automated robotic systems). Nowadays there’s an army, largely automated ‘ bots’ from all over the world, trawling the internet looking for websites with weaknesses that they can use to gain access to websites, their data and to systems beyond. So, just as Windows and Mac operating systems for PCs get minor as well as major security updates, websites should be reviewed and kept up to date with the latest system updates to remain 1. Secure and 2. Running and displaying correctly.
You can think of it like a smartphone. Every so often it’s necessary to update the iOS or Android software to the latest version. It’s also necessary to regularly update the apps you are using on the phone to the latest versions to keep things running smoothly. If you don’t, the next time you visit your favourite pizza restaurant and go to present your O2 Priority app at check out to claim your special offer you find its not loading because your app needs updating. And the next minute you’re looking at paying full price for that Classic American deep crust.
Or it’s like buying a new car and choosing to do no servicing or maintenance – the car will run fine for quite some time, then small items start to fail like wipers and tyre pressure followed by bigger items like oil – the car runs perfectly to begin with then develops and few minor faults but is still driveable but long term there’s an inevitability that the problems will become worse until the car comes to a complete stop.
With a WordPress website the main operating foundation stones are the WordPress OS, PHP (this is the language your site uses to communicate), the plugins (these are the mini apps which work inside the site to add functionality) and the theme (this gives the site it’s look and structure). Just as with our phones and PCs, these components are constantly being reviewed and updated to work best with the latest versions of each other, and to address any security issues.
It’s like building a house – WordPress is the overall structure, the themes determines the layout and style inside and the plugins add special functions like central heating, a jacuzzi, or dimable lighting as required by individual homeowners PHP is the way the home communicates with other homes or gets its internet or TV. The big difference is that unlike bricks and mortar the basic structure will evolve and change over time as improved ways of building are discovered. When this happens the other system components need to be updated to to make sure they still fit and work. And hackers are like burglars looking to find ways to get into the building using any gaps or weakness in the structure.
And don’t forget backups. A basic hosting package won’t provide backups, but websites will be backed up as part of a maintenance programme. So if the worst happens the site can be restored from a recent backup.
Maintenance this isn’t compulsory. You can just wait to see which problems develop first and then pay for fixes as they go to resolve and update – and for some significant time everything will be fine, until a system update means something isn’t working quite as it should. Like the car you can just wait until something develops a problem then pay to work out where it’s coming from and get it fixed. With monthly maintenance all the moving parts are monitored and replaced regularly before problems develop.
Websites today are brilliant! They are more fluid that the old style ones that you could put up and forget about for ten years. Now clients can edit and grow their sites and change content – the down side is that they are more complex and the operating systems they all use need to be kept up to date.