What is a Maintenance Plan?
A website is a constantly in use and permanent online asset for your business, company or non-profit. Much like anything that is running 24/7 websites can break, develop faults, need repairs and even be subject to security threats. A maintenance plan is a way to lower the possibility, or lessen the impact of, negative outcomes for your website. We find it best to think of it similarly to a regular service for your car, while regular car servicing doesn’t guarantee that your car will never break down, it helps identify potential issues and repair them before they become more expensive faults. A maintenance plan for your website functions similarly, it ensures that your software is up to date, that security patches are installed and that all those little behind the scenes cogs are operating as intended. The maintenance plan is all about maintaining what’s happening under the hood of your website, and while it’s not visible to most website owners that maintenance is incredibly important because if not kept up to date and done correctly it could cost you thousands to fix issues after they break.
No two sites' maintenance plans will be the same. Every site uses different software, is built using different CMS programs or simply has different potential security threats to consider. At 360South we offer two separate types of plans, Complex and Basic. Both plans include a wide range of ongoing services that help keep our client’s sites working at peak performance;
- Installation of CMS updates (The main CMS we service is WordPress, if your site is built in another CMS we may be unable to offer a maintenance plan).
- Update of any available software patches and updates to security, functionality and management software.
- Update of PHP and review of PHP settings.
- Virus and malware scans.
- Review of CMS configuration, permissions and core file system.
- Uptime check.
The difference between Complex and Basic plans comes down to how in depth or complicated the website is. If a website has multiple different 3rd party programs feeding data into it or collects data from users to be stored on servers or has multiple live update feeds running, then it is likely a more complicated website. Whereas what we call a “Brochure Site”, which is a site that uses multiple pages of standard text and simple videos to communicate a business or service, would be considered simpler and less at risk. The more complicated site would need a Complex plan, with potentially multiple hours of maintenance required every month to keep all the cogs turning a complex plan usually budgets for a maximum number of hours you’d be required to pay for, saving you money when the more complicated site requires more hours than could’ve been previously predicted. Alternatively, sites on which it is appropriate to have a Basic plan pay for 1 hour of maintenance a month. But if something goes wrong, they would be unable to get more time than that one hour, without incurring extra costs.
Why use Maintenance Plans?
The simplest metaphor is that your maintenance plan is a safety net. In an ideal world you set up a maintenance plan and then never really have to think about it again. It ticks along comfortably in the background keeping your site running and catching issues before they become catastrophic. In the event of something going wrong you have consistent uptime reports to fall back on to help identify the cause of the issue. If your site has been existing without the maintenance plan systems collecting data you may find that your lacking information on how your site has been functioning since it went live.
The problem with safety nets is that if nothing goes wrong, they can start to feel superfluous. But with every new security patch, software update and ongoing functionality test, that net is quietly supporting your site as it flips and tumbles through an internet that is growing more sophisticated, complicated and risk filled.
Every Site Is Different
We want our clients to be enthusiastic about maintenance. We’re proud of the sites we have built and are invested in them continuing to serve our client’s needs. But the biggest barrier to that enthusiasm is diversity of needs. While we can wax lyrical about maintenance plans and their advantages, it’s impossible for us to perfectly summarise exactly what they will entail. And these plans come at a cost, so the more specific we can be the less surprising those costs will be to our clients.
But every site is different, and most sites will need a Complex or even bespoke maintenance plan to stay secure and functional. What we hope is that our clients will be enthusiastic to collaborate with our team to design and take on the maintenance plan that suits their needs best.