Oh, the joys of laundry.
It’s a multi-step process that never really ends — because even on the rare occasions when everything is washed, dried, folded, and put away, you just know that more dirty laundry is going to pile up almost immediately.
Website maintenance can feel a bit like doing laundry: A never-ending, thankless task that’s only noticed in its absence.
In this post, I’m going to outline four time- and sanity-saving steps you can take to keep your website up and running.
4 Ways to Keep Website Maintenance from Becoming a Dreadful Chore
Step 1: Back up your website
What would you do if your website suddenly vanished? If you have a recent (and complete) backup, even a disaster like that is reduced to a mere inconvenience. If your web host provides backups for you, make sure you find out how often those backups happen, and where the backup files are stored. You need to be able to access those files or request a site restore at any time of day or night. You may want to set up your own backup system, especially if your web host doesn’t do that for you (or doesn’t do it frequently enough).
Look for these features in a backup system:
- Automation and scheduling. You should be able to set up a regular backup schedule that will happen automatically, instead of adding “do a weekly backup” to your already-crammed to-do list.
- Ability to back up everything. This means your database, your software (including themes and plugins), and your files (including images and other media).
- Off-site storage and sending. Having a complete backup on your web server doesn’t help you at all if your entire server crashes, or your web host gets hit by a hurricane. Keeping copies on your server is fine if you’re also able to send copies to a DropBox or Amazon S3 account. Having your backups emailed to you may sound good, but is usually impractical because the files are so large.
- Notifications. Once you’ve got your regular backups scheduled, you want to be alerted if anything goes wrong with running a backup or transferring a backup file, so you can run a manual backup and get help from your backup provider.
Step 2: Update your software
One of the simplest and most cost-effective steps to protect your website is keeping it updated.
If you’re using WordPress, for instance, the software itself is constantly being tested and improved, as are your plugins and theme. Security patches are issued regularly, and it’s important to apply these to keep your site as safe as it can be.
Unlike backups, updates aren’t something you can automate (unless you have a more expensive managed hosting plan, or you subscribe to a maintenance service like my Peace of Mind Program). So you’ll need to find another way to get those updates done regularly. I suggest checking weekly for available updates. If you’re a calendar-centric person, set up a regular appointment in your schedule to do updates. And, if you hate scheduling, find a way to add website updates to something else you’re already doing on a regular basis, such as writing a blog post or (gasp) doing laundry.
Step 3: Monitor your site for downtime
Here’s a question that will keep you up at night: If your website went down, would you even know? Set up one of these free monitoring services to get notified as soon as your site goes down, so you can quickly address the problem. These services will also notify you when your site is back up.
- Pingdom has a free plan that lets you monitor one site for downtime and loading speed. You can be notified by email or text message if your site is down for even one minute.
- If you’re monitoring more than one site, UptimeRobot will monitor up to 50 sites for free. Set email notifications individually for each site.
These services won’t help you fix the problem that caused the downtime, but their notifications will arm you with the information you need to submit a trouble ticket to your web host.
Step 4: Keep crucial information handy
When (not if) you run into a website problem, or your site is down and you don’t know why, or you simply want to hire some help, you’re going to need some important login information. And you do not want to be scrambling to find this information when you’re already stressed about your website. Create a master document that has all the information you, or your troubleshooter, will need to access the various important parts of your site.
Here are some of the logins you want to keep track of:
- Website dashboard login (URL, username and password)
- FTP access to your website files (hostname, username, and password)
- Web hosting account login (URL, username and password)
- Domain name registrar account login (URL, username and password)
- Website monitoring service login (URL, username and password)
- Web hosting status URL (check with your web host to see how they communicate planned maintenance and unplanned outages with customers — you may be able to sign up for email or RSS notifications)
- Support forum login for any paid plugins, themes, or services (URL, username and password)
Following these steps should keep your website laundry from piling up too high. What are your favorite tips to maintain your website peace of mind? Share them in the comments!
About the author:
Wendy Cholbi is a Technology-to-English Translator who teaches solopreneurs to build and maintain their own websites at WendyCholbi.com. Her complete DIY guide to setting up a WordPress website is called Site Setup Kit. She lives in San Bernardino, California, with her husband, her two children, and their two cats.