Why the Heck do I need WordPress Maintenance?

One of the things I require of my clients to work with me is to buy into a Maintenance Package.  They always ask me – “what will it do?”  So, I thought I’d answer this question for them (and everyone else out there).  It costs them money – I get it.  So, it has to have value.  And, it’s an ongoing thing they consider financially because, let’s face it, all of us are looking to save a buck and they want to make sure their money is being well spent.  As a business owner, you can really only spend money on that which makes sense and is necessary.  I get that and want to show you the value of WordPress Maintenance.

So, the first thing to ask is – How the heck does WordPress work?

WordPress is what is called “Open Source Software” which essentially means that any Developer or Programmer out there can see all the code.  Why is this important?  All of the software on WordPress is written by people from all over the world as a result.  If you can see the code, you can design your own features.  And then, when someone designs something, it can be made available to everyoneThis makes WordPress extremely powerful.  You want a social media feature, someone out there probably designed one the way you want it to be.  So, you can get almost anything – any feature.  But, it also means that WordPress is layers and layers of software.

Here is how WordPress Functions:

  • WordPress.org – This is the base software.  It is the operating system much like Apple iOS or Windows 10 on a computer.  It runs the show.  WordPress has a huge Team of Programmers that are always working on their software.  Adding features, fixing bugs, and making it as secure as they can.  So, it needs to be updated regularly.
  • Design Theme – This is the software that makes it “look” the way you want.  There are lots and lots of templates out there and lots of companies designing them.  Each one, has a Team of Programmers.  Some teams make awesome software, some not so much.  Some are around a long time, and some go out of business.  Some update their software to match WordPress.org changes, and some do not.  Theme software is mostly stable, but sometimes has to be completely replaced.  In general, it is not as simple as jumping from one theme to the next either.  Pieces need to be rearranged, preferences need to be setup (like all those checkboxes), etc…  So, the Theme software needs maintenance too.
  • Plug-ins, Plug-ins, Plug-inssss – The last layer of software is the big, unstable area.  If you want features, then you have to install a Plug-in.  Picture it as an App on your Cell Phone – you search for it, you read reviews, see how many people are using it, and you choose to install it. On a website, this would be for social media, calendars, PayPal buttons, online forms, …  All of them require plugins and it is truly a roll of the dice when you choose which ones to use.  Every plug-in has a Programmer or a Team of Programmers (a company) behind it.  Some good, some not so good.  When you install something, it can be glitchy, can interact badly with something else, can simply fail in the future, or even go out of business and become unavailable.  Plug-ins need LOTS OF MAINTENANCE,.  The more features you install – the more you have to work at it ALL THE TIME.

As you can see, there’s a lot of software that is being updated, changed, and can cause issues.  This is an endless game…

So, what else needs to be maintained?

If you are going to constantly be working on all that software I just mentioned, then you will need to make sure your website is safe.  Things happen.  Things do Crash.  Websites Crash.  Software Crashes.  Web Servers Crash.  So, you have to be prepared to recover and protect.  And, you have to have someone who can recover it, know how to repair (even when they are just guessing), and answer the big tech questions when all of this is confusing.  This is the core of a Maintenance Package.

Here’s How to Do That:

  1. Backups, Backups, Backups – If you rely on your server for your backups, you are at risk.  Yes, it’s great if they back things up for you, but I can tell you that no server is safe – they get bought out, they go under financially, and they have huge tech problems when you least expect it.  Just because you are with a big server company doesn’t mean they won’t go under.  It is the nature of it.  So, you want to have multiple backups protecting you off your server space.  This requires backup software running, data storage, and someone to make sure it is working over time.  BACKUPS ARE SOOOO IMPORTANT.
  2. Security – We all know that the Internet is a dangerous place.  There is so much hacking, phishing, attacks, and scams.  It’s super-crazy.  So, you have to choose a level of security that fits not only your needs, but gives you the protection you need.  This requires software and someone who pays attentions to its alerts.  It’s not fool-proof.  What on the Internet is…  But, a base level of security is well-worth the time.
  3. Tech Support – Okay, so how many of us know everything.  I don’t…  I’m learning and learning, and will never truly be an expert at anything I work on.  It goes too fast.  So, what small business owner wants to take any of their time to learn all that.  Or, even pay attention to it.  This is where having good, personalize Tech Support becomes essential.  This could mean getting a simple answer on something you can’t figure out, or it could go as far as a full recovery of a website.  You gotta have Tech Support!  Even the Tech Support has to have Tech Support!

So, can you give me an example of how this Maintenance Works?

Here’s a real life example of what I’m working on today for my clients.

A lot of my clients have “Slideshows” on their website.  It’s great visually and pictures speak a lot on a site.  I’ve used a number of different Slideshow software – remember that these are the Plug-ins.  Some are ornate (full featured) and some are simplistic (the basic Slideshow).  One of this type of software I like to use is called NexGen Gallery.  I have a bunch of sites with it.

NexGen is one of the biggest companies that I have found working on this sort of software.  The free version has some great features, and the pro-version is pretty awesome too.  As slideshow software goes, it’s fairly user-friendly – I can teach the client to use it.  And, I’ve noticed they are constantly updating their software – they actually fix and update their Plug-in.  They must have a real Team of Programmers working hard at it.

This week, I went to look at a non-profit website I work on (pro bono) and it was down.  It was embarrassing because I was showing someone it during a meeting.  It turned out that the NexGen Gallery was literally “blocking” the site and it was showing a big “ERROR” message on it.  So, I immediately went in (after my meeting) and poked at it a little.  I couldn’t easily figure out what was wrong.

  1. Step 1 – I quickly removed the slideshows temporarily from the site and deactivated the software.  I got the site running so their viewers would not notice.  This is step one – make sure the world doesn’t see it too much.
  2. Step 2 –  After lots of research, I learned that the Server had recently upgraded PHP (this is the programming language WordPress uses).  By upgrading PHP on the Server, the NexGen Software became incompatible.  Okay. I figured out what was wrong.
  3. Step 3 – I began solving the issue.  Clearly, the answer is to temporarily downgrade PHP on all of those sites.  Eventually NexGen will fix the bug and then it can go back to normal again (which could be Step 4 later).

I’m implementing this for all of the clients using that software, not just the one that is down!

Okay… I’ve got to Conclude this for you.

How many of you would have been able to figure that out…?
Or, even want to figure it out for yourself…?

How many of you are up to updating all that software, running backups, watching the security…?
Or, even want to deal with it…?

I will never know everything about WordPress (it’s impossible), but I poke at it for a living.

That’s why a Maintenance Plan is essential.

 

Thanks for Reading…

Joe Bodin, Reliable Web Designs

 

 

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