One of our most popular ways of onboarding new customers is via website maintenance plans; our services focused on maintaining and improving our client websites and applications. One common theme applies to my introductory calls with those customers. Typically, they are in some level of distress. Either a developer has gone rogue, or a system has been hacked. Maybe they are locked into a bad platform or simply have no one to call for help. It isn't typical that we sign new clients who are in a good situation and therefore looking for a maintenance partner. Most likely, something just isn't working out well for them.
Looking back over all of the introductory calls I've done in the past couple of years, a common theme was uncovered... Most of the clients had similar issues, and those issues led to stress. And we all know, when it comes to any asset, whether it be a house, a car, or a website – low stress is how we want things to be. This post will highlight some of these areas of stress for website owners and give you some tips and tricks to mitigate those problems early.
Don't Get Stuck
I just happened to have a call this morning with a potential customer who has this exact issue. They hired a firm that had utilized a non-licensed and non-transferable content management system. The client is now stuck with no content management capabilities, and their own IT team is being used for simple website updates. We've seen lock-in present itself in many different ways. You can be locked into a software package that only a vendor can maintain. That stinks. Or, you can be locked into a software package with no extensibility. You may be stuck with a developer who is the only person who "knows the code." In extreme cases, I've seen customers stuck because their previous developer hosted their site and left them with almost no control. And the worst-case scenario: the prior agency technically owned the domain name!
The key to lock-in? Don't get stuck in the first place. Easier said than done when a non-technical person is acquiring technical services – I realize this. But extra care must be taken when creating your website or application to avoid this exact issue. The best bet to be safe? Get second opinions throughout the project. Don't commit to trendy technologies or little-known vendors. Use common sense and carefully think about future migration scenarios—basically, forward-plan for what may happen.
Emergency Monitoring & Response
I'm amazed at how many clients have routine issues with reliability, scalability, or deliverability of their website. Not having in place monitoring and response tactics is a high-stress way to live. I've seen marketing managers who are the first line of defense for 2 AM outages. This is no way to live! You need to have someone on-call, capable of diagnosing problems and empowered to correct issues by conducting the proper triage.
Sadly, most hosts stop just at the server. If your server is "running,", typically that's the end of what their tech support can help you with. As such, you need not just systems support but software support as well. Our team provides this 24/7/365 support, and we're amazed when onboarding just how few clients had any procedures in place. Also worth noting is that as our service maintains servers and infrastructure, we've noticed that almost no one hosting at places such as Amazon AWS or Rackspace Cloud actually update their server software. We mean hardly ever! Make maintenance, monitoring, and response a first thought and not an afterthought. It'll lead to a much lower stress experience for you.
Security Scans & Procedures
Another common topic when speaking with new customers is security. More customers than you would imagine fall into one of the common security nightmare scenarios. They have been hacked in the past, are being hacked now, and the worst case is that they are compromised and don't even know it. I've seen pretty much everything in this regard. I'm always amazed at how many companies have little to no formality in keeping their website software updated and safely delivering content to users.
To lower your stress, you need to have two mechanisms in place. You first need a third-party system scanning your site. This is easy with some systems like WordPress: you can utilize WordFence. Other systems that do a good job are Sucuri, as an example.
Secondly, you need to know how to clean up if you have been hacked. This is an area where a developer on call (more on that in a minute) can be of massive help.
You must take this seriously – a hacked website can deliver a nefarious payload to your users, thus putting you at risk. It can gather user information, such as credit cards and payment details. And, it can infect client computers by transmitting malware. Security at all levels must be taken seriously.
A Digital Team Available To Help
This probably shouldn't be a surprise to me, because why call a web developer if you already have someone who can help, right? Every person calling has no one to turn to. In some cases, there may be in-house IT, who knows the basics of web technology but are overburdened in other areas. Sometimes they may have a freelance developer on a beach in Fort Lauderdale when things go wrong. And the worst – they have no one to call at all. Knowing you have a qualified, diversified team to help you is the key to avoiding stress because they take on that stress for you.
How do you build a team you can rely on? Well, you can hire in-house. This is great if the workload calls for it, and you can manage the resources appropriately. The other option is hiring an agency for maintenance and support. This option works best if you want a broad level of access to many capabilities without the full-time salary of a single specialized employee.
In wrapping this post up, I need to impress upon you that living a low-stress life regarding your website shouldn't be a big deal. But you do have to invest budget towards the most reliable and experienced solution to the above problems. Doing so will make your day-to-day website management much more palatable, and best of all, transplant your focus from areas you'd rather not spend time to those that are more important, such as the growth and management of your business.
How We Alleviate Your Stress
At NPG, we take a systematic approach to maintenance, monitoring, and securing your website. We do this with no to low-commitment arrangements that enable you to know that we have you covered, whether it's 2 AM or 2 PM. We'll watch your site for infiltrations, monitor it for reliability, and help you make it better day-to-day. Our goal? As little stress as possible for our clients and their customers.