Now Is Always a Good Time to Perform Website Maintenance
You can set many website maintenance procedures on automatic pilot, and then forget about them. But things change.
Developers stop supporting themes and plugins or website designs no longer meet current standards.
Both major and minor updates to the WordPress platform may have bugs or security issues, too, causing your website to crash or become vulnerable to hackers.
So, make it a habit to perform website maintenance on your small business website regularly.
Recently, I updated a website’s theme to the latest version. What could go wrong, I thought? Then I saw the dreaded “fatal error” message on an all-white screen. Luckily, I could restore the theme to its last stable state.
Backing up your database and files is easy to do, and comes in handy when you experience a crisis like I did. Few people, however, get around to doing it.
One way to back up a website is to use FTP to download all the files. You then compress them into a zip file and store the file on an external hard drive or in the cloud.
Many good plugins will do the same thing, and email you the zip file or save the files to a cloud service of your choosing, such as, Dropbox, Google Drive, or Amazon AWS. Whatever method you choose, watch out for storage space requirements.
Also, make sure you back up your site before you make any changes—just in case something does go wrong.
Comments and Form Submissions
You can receive an email every time someone posts either a comment or submits information through a contact form.
You can either respond or ignore the submissions; but eventually, you’re going to have to clean up the ones marked as spam.
WordPress flags any entries that seem spammy. A plugin like Akismet can also block spam. For extra protection, I also like Simple Comments by Todd Lahmann. Akismet and Simple Comments are premium plugins. But the protection they offer is worth the price of a yearly subscription.
The Updates screen tells you which version of WordPress you’re running and if there is a new one available.
Since version 3.7, WordPress automatically updates minor releases. It’s best, however, not to update major releases until you read about any known issues that may occur when you upgrade.
You can read about WordPress updates in the WordPress Codex. The Codex lists all the major and minor releases in chronological order. It also explains the reason for each release.
If you see something you like on a website, you probably can find a plugin to duplicate that function on your own website. Plugins add functionality to your site so you don’t have to write the code yourself.
While some plugins require an annual subscription fee, many plugins are free. Developers, however, may ask you to make a donation to help support the cost of maintaining a plugin.
You never know when a developer stops supporting a plugin. A visit to that plugin’s WordPress page will tell you the last time it was updated. You should consider getting rid of or finding replacements for old, out-of-date plugins because they may no longer be compatible with your site and could be a security risk.
Also, you don’t want to keep a deactivated plugin in the Plugins folder. If you don’t need it, delete it.
Themes display the graphical user interface visitors will see when they land on your website. Designers modify themes to give your website its feel and look.
Usually, it’s easy to update a theme. However, in my “fatal error” experience, the theme and design are so old that the theme can no longer be updated. So, before you update a theme, check with your website designer to see if you really need a website redesign.
Also, you don’t need inactive themes unless they’re required by your theme and web designer. For example, I use child themes that run on the Genesis Framework. So, in my Appearance folder, I have two themes, one active and one inactive. I’ve deleted the others that came with the WordPress install because I don’t need them.
As a small business owner, you can’t afford any website downtime. You want to make it a habit to see how well your website is working. So, make sure you perform these five website maintenance tasks or have a webmaster do them for you. Also, if you’re using a service, make sure they give you a monthly or weekly performance report.
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