WordPress maintenance is not an option
Do you think it’s wise never to update your personal computer or even your mobile device operating systems and applications? Likely you would never intentionally skip those updates and take care to safeguard your devices for anti-virus and make appropriate backups to protect your valuable data. Similarly, all CMS require ongoing attention, with WordPress maintenance needs as no exception. Gone are the days when one builds a site and then just parks it to tweak content only every few months.
What items are typically included in a WordPress Maintenance Plan?
- Providing updates on WordPress core as well as theme & plugins
- Provide regular database and complete/component backups along with a remote option
- Security – scan for malware etc., and protect against DD0S and other intrusions
- Monitor Errors
- Tweak environment – such as upgrading PHP versioning when appropriate and related configurations
- Database optimization
- Cache Management
- Optimization for speed (images, minification, etc.)
- Some aspects of SEO
- Monitor Comments for Spam
- Form Performance to include notification delivery
Who takes care of WordPress maintenance?
There are a few options in how to handle the need for ongoing, perpetual WordPress maintenance for your website:
- Do it yourself
- Rely totally on the Auto-Update Services some hosting providers offer (especially for WordPress Managed Hosting)
- Contract with a Third-Party Service Provider (these are major services)
- Hire an individual professional agency or developer like Creative by Clark, offering this as a custom service
Let’s examine each of the above in a bit more detail to include the costs, pros & cons.
1. Do it yourself
Some website owners have the time and inclination to take on WordPress maintenance themselves. There is a steep learning curve with an assumption that you can handle just about any emergency that might arise if something goes awry. Maintenance is not just pressing the update button! Obviously, I understand that many site owners are driven to take on this responsibility because of the costs involved in hiring a consultant or service provider.
A great article as a primer for do-it-yourselfers with these additional caveats… Don’t press update without doing your homework. Go to the plugin site and examine the support threads to look for any known issues and documentation on whether the plugin has been tested in your upcoming version of WordPress core. And as with anything, Backup, Backup, Backup, and be clear on the recovery process before you need it.
- Don’t press update without doing your homework. Go to the plugin site and examine the support threads to look for any known issues and documentation on whether the plugin has been tested in your upcoming version of WordPress core.
- And as with anything involving the potential for change and breaking your site (as with installing something new)… Backup, Backup, Backup, and be clear on the recovery process before you need it.
- Similarly, understand how to restore access to your site if you get locked out of wp-admin to include how to switch to a default theme and disable plugins using tools through your hosting cPanel like File Manager and phpMyAdmin.
- Be fully aware of your hosting provider’s backup policies; if worst-case scenario, you can request they restore the latest version of your site. And for example, were they to do that, would you lose important content data such as on a store or membership site (or even new posts)? If you have a more current database backup, would you know how to restore that after a host restores their latest version of your files and perhaps a database that is a few days older?
2. Managed Hosting Auto-Updates etc.
While technically, your site has its WordPress core automatically updated with these dashboard-based or host-plan services and theme and plugins, this is actually not equivalent to site maintenance. It’s better in some instances than not doing anything at all for months at a time. However, remember that the first line of action for the host is protecting their server from the security vulnerabilities that often befall a site that becomes woefully outdated. That crosses into the realm of ToS (Terms of Service) Violations with your hosting provider if you don’t keep the site reasonably current.
What is wrong with allowing this machine-driven approach? You are at risk of more plugin or theme conflicts when this update occurs. There is less control over the order of operations that someone like me would utilize. You may or may not have backups run the same day before a major update by a host’s automatic process. And if the site breaks because an update fails (and these do happen more frequently than I would like), your site may go down without your knowledge depending upon any installed uptime notifications.
Then… how do you get your site fixed? Will the host’s support team fix a broken update? Or will you be responsible in the long run for finding someone to fix it for you? There’s a disadvantage to not being directly involved in the incident and coming into it after the fact… It will drive up the diagnostic time to assess what went wrong to accomplish a recovery.
While you might have an auto-update service, this may or may not include pre-update backups with an easy-to-use restoration process. You may or may not have additional security. You won’t know if you have an error log throwing an error due to some type of plugin conflict or coding error. It might not be sufficient to cause your site to crash, but it could cause your site to utilize a lot of server resources, can slow it down, or not be fully functional (perhaps displaying an error message on the front end).
3. Third-Party WordPress Maintenance Services
These big companies provide a service — often from a centralized dashboard where they manage many sites at once. Normally, they will assume responsibility if something malfunctions and be liable for a restoration. But the service is often not personalized, and you won’t typically have a single professional to contact.
These services are typically pretty expensive. This great article below outlines eight of the top service providers and their price ranges.
4. Hire an Agency or Professional (like Creative by Clark) for a Custom WordPress Maintenance Plan
Check with the agency or professional who built your site for ongoing WordPress maintenance. With a new website or redesign project, Creative by Clark offers inclusive options for the first year annual maintenance plan at a substantial discount. We can do specific renewals at that time as well. Our monthly plans scale from around $75-100/mo at a minimum for a very small website and increase depending on the size and complexity of the website.
We offer incentives to those who pay their monthly bill early and those who can afford to pay lump sums for more than a month at a time. We award extra or “bonus” time when paying quarterly, semi-annually or annually. All unused time rolls over to the next month, never expires and can accrue along with bonus time for some discretionary use. We log our time in 15-minute increments and offer bonus time using those segments. Even for those who pay monthly, it’s possible to amass bonus rewards. How? We expect prompt payment on or before the 1st of the month for the upcoming month of maintenance services, and for those who pay their bill by an earlier deadline, we award a pre-defined extra amount of time. We scale the award according to the size of the agreement. And likewise, if payment is late, we can deduct any of that incentivized bonus time, too.
A Key, Creative by Clark Differentiator
Now for what makes Creative by Clark a bit different from the rest… In addition to our WordPress and troubleshooting expertise, we invest heavily in Premium Developer plugins. As such, with those tools, we have the discretion to install licenses on our client sites. Our policy has been that so long as we have the plugin in our library, we install it at no additional charge or sub-licensing fee for those clients who engage us for ongoing website maintenance. The savings to the client can be significant when it might cost several hundred dollars annually to secure the same licenses for their sites. If our maintenance services discontinue, we detach our license keys. In such cases, some or all functionality might cease. We provide ample warning and do also offer an annual license fee option to those clients who want continued plugin access. We base the fee on a pro-rated cost with a markup. That’s still going to be less than buying your own license.
Should our maintenance services be discontinued, we do detach all of our premium license keys. In such cases, some or all functionality might cease even if the plugin remains installed and active. This is due to the nature of how the plugin is licensed and connected to the source. We provide ample warning and do also offer an annual license fee option to those clients who want continued plugin access. We base the fee on a pro-rated cost with a markup. That’s still going to be less than buying your own license.
We will also offer the option to keep our license keys attached and pay us an annual license fee in advance. This guarantees continued plugin to access and the ability to update. Plugin support, however, is only available to Creative by Clark as the license holder, and we are happy to assist on an hourly fee basis and will escalate a support ticket if required. We base the licensing fee on a pro-rated cost with a small markup to cover our administrative costs. As a solution, this will still be less than buying your own license in most cases.