When you’ve invested your time and money in a new website, you really want to make sure that you keep your website online to make sure your visitors can see it in all it’s glory.
The time and cost implication in creating a new website is not insignificant, and let’s assume that you have had that done properly by a seasoned professional such as myself (shameless I know!), then you want to make sure that it is there to be seen, 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week.
So how do you keep your website online?
Too many small businesses I know have put investment and resources into having their new website crafted and yet decide that they will then skimp on vital aspects of running and maintaining their website. It doesn’t make sense.
Here are a couple of really straight forward things to do to make sure you give your website the best chance at being seen by your customers.
1. Choose an excellent website hosting provider.
This advice is obviously sound – if you use a good website hosting provider for your website then it will be visible almost every second of every day, and your website pages will be quick to load. But even if you know what to look out for and what to avoid in a potential hosting provider, technically and from a general common business sense perspective, this advice isn’t necessarily simple to follow.
As with choosing any bit of software, or partnering with any business for a service, it is important to do your research. Try to cut through the sales pitch, avoid being tempted by the too-good-to-be-true offers, and have a proper look at what they are offering, technically.
Also look at their track record – their performance, their reviews (be careful to find reputable reviews that aren’t weighted), and any recommendations. Look at who owns them, then find out what they are like. Definitely check out their customer service – and test them out before entering into a contract.
My top 3 choices of website hosting provider are WP Engine, Flywheel and SiteGround.
2. Keep your website software updated regularly, and check it afterwards.
The number one cause of a website being hacked, and so taken off the website server, and worse, being blacklisted by the search engines, is due to the software not being updated. This is because old software is more likely to have vulnerabilities in it that hackers can exploit.
If you have had a WordPress website design then you will have both the core WordPress software to look after, as well as a handful or more ‘plugins’ – additional software that expands the functions of your website – and possibly your theme to look after too. The WordPress core software is updated frequently (on average perhaps every month or two), plugin software is updated pretty often too, and themes less frequently. It is likely – expected – that you will need to update your website’s software on a weekly basis.
If you are happy to regularly update your website’s software then it is a fairly simple process – you just go into Admin and click the Update icon in the top bar. This will then list all of the software that needs updating. You can choose to update everything or one item at a time, and it really is as simple as a click of a button.
That said, be warned! There are minor and major version updates to consider, and updating one item of software can negatively influence another, so it is vital to have a recent backup of the website before you update your website, and vital to know how to ‘roll it back’ to a previous version if something goes wrong.
3. Monitor and scan your website for downtime and security threats
Even with the a great hosting provider, and even with regularly updated software, there is still a chance your website can go offline or get hacked. The hosting providers I use have a SLA of 99.9% – which means that over the course of 1 year there is a chance that the website will not be online for something like 8 hours. This may be a few seconds here, or a few minutes there, hopefully pretty much not noticeable and certainly not an hour or more ‘here or there’.
With a downtime scanner you can get email notification to let you know when and for how long your website is down, and keeping an eye on that can point towards either something being wrong with your website, or something going awry with the server. If the latter is the case, and you have documented logs of downtime, then you are in a good position to speak directly with your hosting provider to make sure the service they are providing meets their contractual agreement.
Why would anyone bother to hack your website?
One of the most common reasons that a website has ‘malware’ (malicious software) injected into it is for the purpose of then email phishing through your domain (sending out emails as though they are from you or the domain of your website). It is usually nothing personal against your business, and so it can unfortunately happen to anyone.
A malicious automated ‘bot’ (sounds painful I know) can find a way in through the software of your website. Even if the software is kept regularly updated there is a chance this can happen, which is why it is recommended not just to monitor your website for potential downtime, but also for potential security threats and injection of malware.
Only yesterday a client of mine had some malicious code injected into their website, but thanks to the website maintenance plan they are on I received notification of this attack from the security company I use, and then within a couple of hours they had repaired the damage and the website was clean once again. Had this client not had monitoring on their website, the code would likely still be there, and the client may not even be aware that their domain name may be being used for all manner of irreputable reasons, damaging their brand and business. It has also been known for browsers to clock access to websites that have been hacked, and for domain names to be black listed from services they use and search engines.
(I use Sucuri.net for scanning, security and repair – have a look at this blog post on their website about how to be careful what plugin you use).
Even if you have built your own website, you will have poured a great amount of time and energy into the content alone, not to mention making it look *just right*. If you have paid a web designer to build your website for you then you will have invested not just your time but also financially.
If you were to then find the cheapest web host and let the website run it’s own course – not updating software, and not monitoring the uptime or for security threats, then you lay yourself wide open for impending disaster – not just the potential for a key customer to find your website down or hacked, but also the potential for your reputation to be abused without you even knowing about it.
I offer website maintenance plans for all my clients, in fact I pretty much insist they use one after the website is built. I want to make sure that after I have built a great website solution, the website I have created is kept online, is fast to download, is kept up-to-date with the latest software, and is clean from potential threats.
I would seriously urge you to do the same!