Running a website
A practical introduction to running a website – based on real-life encounters.
Budgeting to maintain your website
Once your site is published and out there then it’s important to allocate a budget to maintain it. This is not a predatory online marketing budget but the basic costs of keeping a website running.
Below is an itemised summary of expected costs. You can if you like keep a separate ledger in the books titled Website maintenance. This is useful because you then know and monitor the costs for simply having the site. Any online marketing is then kept under a separate ledger.
Website maintenance – itemised costs
- Host costs.
- Domain renewal.
- Developer maintenance fees.
- Website security.
- Website backup and recovery.
Managing the website
Back-end access to the website
Once your website is published, you can access the back-end (the administration part of the website that is not seen by the public).
There are two levels of back-end administration.
- The first is file management where you can upload and download files using such as Filezilla (a piece of software that is kept on your local computer). This then links to the back-end host. A common host file management platform is cPanel.
- CMS or Content Management System. This is the ability to log into a back-end and add or change content and pages. This is only available on platforms that include this facility. The most common is WordPress.
cPanel – an example of a host file management platform
A common website administration platform at the host end is cPanel. It is very easy to use. But as with most software, it may look hard because you have not used it before or got use to it yet. There are others but they are all organised around the same theme.
Things to note when visiting cPanel
There are various presentations of cPanel so be aware if it looks slightly different then the examples you might find on the internet.
A few of its capabilities you can get to know, others you should stay away from. Your chosen developer or host provider technical support can also help make any changes you require.
cPanel can be set up in different ways by host providers depending on their preferences or policies. This is mentioned in case you visit YouTube and follow a tutorial on how to use cPanel then become confused because you cannot find a particular icon that is meant to be there. When this happens, contact the host provider for clarification. It will save you a weekend.
What your host provider might do if your website is compromised
If your website is compromised due to a host provider scan identifying potentially infected files then the practice for many host providers is to take down and quarantine the site. If on a shared server, this is likely done to protect your neighbour sites.
Sometimes, this occurs due to a technical issue where the compromise may be innocent. Knowing if this is a real or technical vulnerability is the first problem. And if you have a busy site and your business is relying on it to generate enquiries, then this is a big problem.
Some host providers can seem unhelpful in these circumstances. And waiting on the host provider to respond to a support ticket can be agonising.
Host providers can often leave it with you to sort the problem and only offer a rescan to confirm you have rectified the situation. After all, host providers offer servers and are not web developers. This is the line they walk. Too much delving into your files and folders and the effort and time spent quickly eats into their profit margins. And margins are already low due to that fantastic hosting deal they gave you.
The shock of a downed site
When a site is perceived to be compromised, it has been known for some host providers to take down a site without warning and leave in its place an horrific default page notice that implies you have skipped the country with everybody’s money.
There are other reasons why a site is be downed; including a mishap with the domain name renewal or any of a number of gremlins that play around in the system and administration of websites.
Agreeing the downed site default page with a host is therefore important.
Something along the lines of the following would be more appropriate.
The website is currently offline due to maintenance. We should be back shortly.
404 error pages
When an individual page is not found following the click of a link, then the system will return what is known as a 404 error page. This can happen even with the most well managed of websites.
Having a well designed 404 page is therefore also good practice.
This page cannot be found. Sincere apologies.
Usually, this is down to you or your web designer to develop this page.
Site down – taking precautions
A potentially compromised website taken offline can happen occasionally and the law of eventuality means that something like this will happen at some point. The solution is to have a plan in place to deal with such situations. Then execute it.
There are providers that react instantly to such situations and can have your website up and running within an hour. They will also take the responsibility of managing your website security. If you can afford it then add this service to your website maintenance budget. Passing liability this way relieves you of these complications and the stress they cause. It also demonstrates reasonable care.
Summary of typical tasks in maintaining your website
- Ensure all relevant software is up-to-date (Example: WordPress versions and plugins are up to date).
- Periodically check all scans and backups are operating as expected.
The platform and accompanying software will need to be kept up to date and occasionally mended. For example, if you use WordPress as a platform then it and the various plugins used on the site will need updating.
You can attempt this yourself or you can retain a developer (pay a monthly fee) to take the responsibility to do this for you.
If you use WordPress
If you are managing the site yourself then log into the admin section and go to the plugin dashboard and click the updates for each highlighted plugin. Usually there is not a problem. Sometimes things go strange. If that happens then contact your developer to sort it out. If you use WordPress and such as the Wordfence security plugin for WordPress then this will email you when an update is required.