On 24th July 2015, we received a frantic email at 6.46 a.m. IST (18.16 p.m. PST)
By the time we read this email, which was around 9.30 a.m. IST, the client had lost more than 3 hours trying to fix this issue.
Our immediate next steps were to get on a call with him….
…..and calm him down!
We then quickly noted a few details and got to work.
(And this is the basic protocol you’ll have to follow, if you’re ever stuck in a similar situation)
Our immediate steps were to connect to the site via an FTP client and deactivate all the plugins. This obviously helped us access the admin panel. We then put the site in maintenance mode, to avoid any grouses from website visitors.
We then activated and deactivated each of the updated plugins to narrow down on the one causing the issue. Once the plugin was found, we rolled it back to a stable version, and took the site off the maintenance mode.
Why WordPress Website Maintenance isn’t as Easy as it Seems
The apparent issue that caused the client’s website to crash was of course- the buggy plugin.
But there were several other underlying issues which could have prevented this panic attack, not to mention the client’s time and effort.
For example- there was no test site or any recent backup!
Keeping plugins, themes or the core updated is part of maintaining your WordPress website. And is highly recommended to improve the website’s overall security.
But undertaking these simple WordPress website maintenance tasks might not always be simple.
#1 Updates could clash with one another
Do you know the most common issue faced when updating WordPress plugins?
A possible conflict with another plugin.
(Trust me, this happens)
There could be other issues as well, such as compatibility with older PHP versions. This might result in a plugin or theme update clashing with the PHP version of WordPress you’re using.
#2 Update could cause the ‘White Screen of Death’
The ‘White Screen of Death‘ is when the WordPress website is completely inaccessible. It’s frustrating because you can’t even access the back end. This issue could arise due to some changes you’ve made to the website, a plugin or theme update, memory problem or a file transfer issue.
Ideally a test or staging site is an apt tool to tackle this problem.
“A staging site is a replica of the main site, which can be used for testing purposes, like plugin or theme updates.”
(The client suffered this exact problem. Had he tried updating the plugins on a staging site, this issue could have been entirely prevented)
#3 Security issues could creep up
Here’s something staging sites can’t get a hold of- security issues.
As mentioned, theme or plugin updates are meant to make the system more secure. But the fact is, some themes or plugins don’t know how to behave. They give way to malicious activities, which can lead to serious security issues.
Sure, a security plugin can help. If you can decode the esoteric messages they send you.
#4 Database could bloat up
Have you ever thought about what happens when you delete a plugin or theme? The files are deleted, but what happens to the content saved in the database?
Most of the plugins and themes (yes, most), do not bother with removing the content saved in the database when they are uninstalled. Over time, unused content, unlinked media files and spam comments can bloat up your database and slow down your website.
Updates are Unpredictable
With all these issues, the bottom line is – Updates are unpredictable! And they can take up a lot of your time. You need a better way to deal with maintenance of your WordPress website.
Reduce WordPress Maintenance Effort the Smart Way
The way I see it, blogs can employ a reactive approach to maintaining their WordPress websites. With a reactive approach you can just fix issues as and when they occur. It’s an economical approach and regular backups should suffice.
But for businesses where the website is the primary lead source, the reactive approach could be risky. If the lead flow reduces due to an unforeseen issue, it could hamper their income and growth.
Business websites need a stable approach- a preventive or proactive approach. Here, you’re not waiting to visit the doctor when you have the flu. You get flu shots when it’s flu season.
Unless you’re capable of tackling issues yourself or have an internal website support team, you need to hire a professional maintenance service to employ the proactive approach.
Hiring a Professional to Maintain your WordPress Website
Maintenance plans and maintenance service providers exist for a reason- they monitor, and foresee problems which many might miss.
- They guarantee seamless updates, by testing plugin and theme conflicts before making any changes on the live site
- Maintenance services go beyond updates and setup firewalls and notifications to monitor security breaches
- You’re ensured of regular backups, so that your data is never lost
- Your database and files are optimized to speed up your website
- Broken links are tracked as well to help avoid any errors
There might be a lot of consultants and blogs which might tell you that all of these activities can be handled by installing several plugins.
But that’s not entirely true.
I won’t deny that plugins won’t make the job simpler. They certainly do. But they just assist you.
You still need to put in effort, monitor notifications, validate updates, supervise website changes and note errors. You also need to take the appropriate measures in case of any discrepancies or security breaches.
Plugins won’t help you there, people will.
People who know what they’re doing.
Now, hiring professionals to maintain your WordPress website might set you back anywhere from $1000-$1500/year.
So how do you find the “perfect” WordPress website maintenance service plan that will reduce your effort by 79%?
You need to explore your options. Talk to various maintenance service providers. Gauge their proactiveness.
Take a look at their maintenance plan.
- Does it include the essential services?
- What additional maintenance services do they provide?
- What would their protocol be in case of any security breaches?
- Are there any hidden costs?
- Do they know the domain (WordPress) well?
- Do they provide WordPress customization services for changes on your website?
- Are they ready to go above and beyond simple maintenance tasks and consult you with changes needed for your website?
This should be a company you need to trust.
What are Your Thoughts?
Given a choice would you rather spend your time and focus on building your business or maintaining your website? Unless you can focus well on both, it’s always better to have professionals overlooking the technical aspects of the website at a regular intervals.
Remember, employing a website maintenance package might not be for everyone. But if it’s something you’re looking for, I’d like to hear from you. What are your concerns with maintaining a WordPress website? Do you think it’s a task you can handle yourself? Or would you hire professional help?