Importance of a WordPress maintenance plan
WordPress is a great platform for building both simple and complex websites. It has a long history of reliable operation, it produces solid code and allows both customisable design and functionality. One thing you should keep in mind, however, is that once you’ve built your site and launched it the job is not over.
You’ve probably chosen WordPress as a content management system (CMS) to allow you to edit and update your site under your own steam. That’s great, but keep in mind there’s a hidden requirement that your site developer may not have explained: WordPress, like most other website solutions, is regularly being updated and therefore you need to make sure that your own site is up to date.
Why? Well, like any piece of complex technology – a car, computer or mobile phone – a little bit of attention is required to keep it running smoothly. The website page code that drives websites, along with browsers and computers themselves are in constant development. Nothing remains the same for very long in the techosphere. What this means is that your nice new site is not new or ‘finished’ for very long and requires ongoing maintenance in order to avoid features ‘breaking’ or your site becoming vulnerable to being hacked.
This continual updating is designed to make things better – through the development of new features, and allowing sites to do more as well as fixing bugs. But it does mean that when you apply updates, you need to make sure that your site still works properly, and that all the various components such as plug-ins and add-ons are compatible.
Coupled with this is the issue of security – the web has constant security threats at various levels, and these include the threat of website hacking. WordPress has a regular programme of updating, which also addresses new security holes. The older a site gets (without updating it) the more likelihood these holes will be targeted by hackers.
As just a couple of examples of the need to keep up to play with developments: recently (early 2015) Google announced that it would soon start ranking websites lower if they were not mobile-friendly. Many older sites don’t view well on mobile devices and could find themselves with poorer search placement. WordPress also recently announced a potential security issue with many of its well-used plugins that could allow a ‘back door’ into the site for hackers.
This first issue can be addressed with a plugin that gives basic mobile-friendly operation, but in some cases may require that page template code be rewritten if it’s not already designed to have basic mobile-friendly display.
The second issue, and other general security concerns, are often dealt with by regular updating of WordPress and its plugins. Many plugin authors quickly fixed the issue, but if you don’t update the plugins on your site, you are still running the old versions.
The Admin area of WordPress will notify you of any updates, but there is a caveat here: don’t just apply all updates and think you are done. As with updating computer software, updates can sometimes introduce new bugs or unexpected behaviour. Plugins especially can potentially conflict with the WordPress CMS itself, or with other plugins when updated. So a proper check of the site is necessary after applying any updates.
And what if a plugin update does cause the site to fail? Well, that’s where the automated website backup feature comes in. If you don’t know about this, read up on that here.
All this makes a WordPress maintenance plan an important component of your web strategy. Key points to address are:
- keeping the WordPress CMS current
- keeping plugins current
- keeping a backup of files and database/s (preferably offsite).
Within these there are a number of things to be checked. If you have the time and feel technically competent, you can maintain WordPress yourself, and we’ve developed a simple checklist you can use to do this – see our downloadable WordPress Maintenance Plan checklist.
At the same time we realise that not everyone has the time or technical know-how to feel confident doing this, and so we offer a hosting plan that includes WordPress maintenance.