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1. Introduction

Some of you may be thinking, “I can take care of all that,” and this is aimed at you. The decision to avoid maintenance could be detrimental to your website. There is a reason large companies pay very high salaries to web developers to maintain their WordPress websites. Imagine your website goes down for a couple of hours, and you do not know about it. This could be potential lost sales if you run an online store or lost reader retention if you have a regular blog. If your website is outdated and is running plugins or themes that are no longer supported, you may find that it breaks when updating WordPress to the latest version. Now you have a broken website, and it could take a while to find out what went wrong and how to fix it. These are all scenarios that proper WordPress maintenance could prevent.

WordPress is the world’s most popular content management system, and countless companies and individuals rely on it for their business. Because WordPress is an open-source project, it is fast and easy to develop quality websites without sacrificing creativity. The main problem with this software is that it requires maintenance. This ranges from keeping your plugins and themes up to date, to security or compatibility fixes for your website. WordPress maintenance is crucial to sustaining your website and making sure that it runs at its best. It also has some unexpected benefits.

1.1. Why WordPress maintenance is important

Ignoring the basic principle of website maintenance for any platform, WordPress backend updates, plugin updates, theme updates, and WordPress version updates are all easily available and can be applied relatively quickly. These updates let you take advantage of new feature additions and also help to make your site more secure and stable. In the case of plugins, which are a staple for WordPress site usage, updates and new versions will often contain bug fixes that were reported by users to the plugin author. By not updating, you’re missing out on the plugin working properly as well as leaving your site vulnerable to exploited security flaws that previous plugin versions may have contained. The same concept of plugin updates applies to theme updates.

It’s no wonder that we’ve seen WordPress take flight over the past decade as a widely used CMS platform. Its versatility and function have made it a widely accepted choice for end-users who need a web presence that simply does not cost the earth to maintain. With that said, the platform itself does need to be maintained properly in order to take advantage of all of its benefits and avoid the oh-so-familiar WSOD (White Screen of Death).

1.2. Benefits of ongoing support

Preventive maintenance on any site is essential. Your vehicle’s typical oil change and tire rotation is preventive maintenance. If you don’t do it frequently, sooner or later your vehicle will start to have issues. I’ve actually owned a vehicle like this. One day my check engine light came on and the repair cost more than the vehicle was worth. I ended up selling it for parts because I had not taken care of the vehicle with regular preventive maintenance. Long story short, it basically is more cost-effective to take care of your vehicle, or in this case your site, by regularly maintaining it. This will help to prevent issues from occurring down the line. Regular maintenance for a site includes checking for 404 errors, ensuring all links are working, and scheduling regular backups of your site. By performing basic preventive maintenance, you can address potential issues head-on and resolve them before they become a real issue. This will leave you time to focus on your work instead of trying to troubleshoot why your site is messed up. Regular maintenance will also extend the life of your site and keep it running quickly. A fast-running site is crucial to keeping visitors engaged. If a site is slow or has been down, visitors may get impatient and leave to find another site, and they may not return. Regular maintenance will ensure quality and make a positive impression for guests coming to your site.

2. Essential WordPress Maintenance Tasks

At WordCamp UK 2011, many developers expressed a lack of routine for maintaining WordPress websites. In other words, there was no best practice for this phase of the project lifecycle. The outcome of this was that each client and developer combination had different habits and different sides of ongoing support, with no real consensus on what should be done to systematically ensure the website is maintained. Steps were taken and ideas were expressed as Post-it notes were attached to a board throughout the weekend, culminating in a team taking on the project of codifying these best practice methods into an official way of maintaining a WordPress site. In my opinion, this is something that is very much needed and the WordPress project could greatly benefit from in the long term. This is perhaps a topic for a future project, but the discussion held over that weekend provides the inspiration for this chapter and it would be great to see this evolve.

Whether you are maintaining your own WordPress site or providing ongoing support for your customers, it is crucial to establish a good set of repeatable maintenance tasks. In many cases, the overall website will have been built with little consideration for the ongoing support required. This means extra work down the line to ensure all aspects of the site are maintained to a high standard. This chapter explores the key areas of ongoing support and aims to provide some best practice advice to make your life easier.

2.1. Regular updates and backups

The best method to backup your WordPress files and database is still via FTP client or your webhost file manager to download the files to your hard drive. But it is also a good idea to use a backup tool to automate this process. There are too many disaster recovery options if something goes wrong, and this can be time-consuming. FileZilla is a popular open-source FTP, so this may be easy. But the best tool is enabling Unix Cron and setting it to automatically archive and backup your entire website at regular intervals. This can free you from manual backups and automate the process, which can be easily forgotten. An example tool is WordPress Database Backup, offering easy backup for the database alone, multiple file backups, and sending backups to your email or hosting it on the server. This can offer an easy method of long-term storage, and should an emergency occur, you’ve got the files close at hand. Both FTP and tools should be used in tandem as it’s the best way to backup WordPress files and ensure nothing is lost.

Plugins are simple to update and are generally highlighted on the WordPress admin panel, but it’s not always the best idea to update them immediately. The update could have faults and bugs which were not apparent in the previous version and could lead to your site becoming dysfunctional. It is good to keep a log of when each plugin is updated, and if your site suddenly starts to have problems, this could be an easier way to identify the cause. This also makes it easier to downgrade the plugin in question. Step 2 is deciding a schema for file organization so you know where to backup files to and where you can easily retrieve them.

Updates and backups represent a regular maintenance task for a WordPress site. This typically involves updating the WordPress core, which sometimes can result in the website being inoperable, theme updates, and plugin updates. A great thing to do before making updates could be to place a maintenance page up to inform visitors that the site will be back soon. Then, if anything goes wrong during the update, you haven’t got visitors complaining that the site is broken. But updating is very important. By keeping the theme and plugins up to date, you can avoid vulnerabilities in the old versions, which can be the cause of hacking attacks on your site. This may be easy to rectify if you have a recent backup available. If you don’t have updates to make, it is still a good idea to test the backup tools in case of a future emergency. These tasks ensure regular updates and file backups. Due to the tag and category kind of algorithm plugins use, files can be easily lost if they are not stored in the right place.

2.2. Monitoring website performance

Finally, make sure you are also monitoring your website bandwidth usage. Some web hosting contracts will have a limit on the amount of data you can transfer. Exceeding this limit can result in extra costs or your website being taken offline. By keeping track of it, you can address any potential issues before they become a problem.

Check your website load times on a regular basis. A slow website can be just as damaging as a website being down. If you are modifying your website a lot, load times can gradually increase without you even realizing. Measure the load times for your site after making changes and address any significant increases in load times. Google’s PageSpeed Insights provides a quick and easy way to measure your site load times and also provides suggestions on how to improve them.

Keep an eye on how your site is running. Using tools like Uptime Robot and Jetpack Monitor, you can receive notifications should your website become unresponsive. The last thing you want is visitors to be put off or potentially lost due to thinking your site is down. By receiving these notifications, you can address any issues with your hosting provider and ensure you are getting the best possible uptime for your website.

2.3. Security measures

Unlike lapwarming Rohit, we assure a higher priority to the security measures we could induce on the blog. A very secure website not only makes the visitors comfortable but also makes the maintenance job less complex. He stays away from handling hacks and malware, which are the high-end troubleshooting jobs. If we could prevent those, why go treat them? I’ll give a brief description of the bullets mentioned above. We’ll take regular backups of all the files and the database at the beginning of every month. The reason for doing it at the beginning of every month is that it would clean all the mess if the website is affected by any malware in the previous month. If we know the website is clean, we could wipe out everything and reinstall. We have a downtime of a few hours, but we are not losing anything because we have a clean backup of the website. Storing backups might consume some space, but the headache saved is a lot more. The database could be backed up using the wp db backup plugin, and the files and the database could be backed up through FTP. The blog files and folders could be zipped and saved into a single file. This is for easy access. If you are a geek, you can even make use of shell to do it and schedule it in the cron job. But it wouldn’t be necessary for ordinary guys.

3. Best Practices for WordPress Support

In finding what is slowing the site down, search the internet for various tips and tricks. Usually disabling the WordPress theme and using another default one will verify if it is a theme-related issue. Often slow SQL queries from poorly optimized plugins or database calls will be the culprit. Use the MySQL Profiling plugin to find slow queries and check plugins one at a time to evaluate their impact on the site’s speed. Often plugins are the single biggest reason for a slow site. Always keep the WordPress and plugins up to date. The final solution is to enlist the help of a developer.

Optimizing website speed and performance is essential in retaining visitors. It is common for WordPress sites to become bloated with extraneous data. The first step to troubleshooting website speed issues is to verify the current speed by using a service such as ySlow or the Firebug plugin for Firefox. This will give a good baseline for performance. The next step for monitoring is to check the site often and especially after making major changes. This will ensure that the changes are not adversely affecting the performance of the site.

The best practices for WordPress support revolve around maintaining and securing the website, and preventing the actual need for a support request. Troubleshooting common issues, optimizing the website’s speed and performance, and managing plugins and themes are proactive maintenance tasks. It is most efficient to have a library of common issues and solutions. WordPress has a well-documented list of Frequently Asked Questions and a good codex that can be searched. Utilize search engines to their full potential by including error messages and other pertinent information in your search.

3.1. Troubleshooting common issues

If you can access the dashboard, a quick fix for these issues would be to migrate the server to one with higher specifications.

define(‘WP_DEBUG’, true); define(‘WP_DEBUG_LOG’, true); define(‘WP_DEBUG_DISPLAY’, false);

Another common problem is a white screen of death event. This can be caused by low memory limit or a script running out of time. In order to find the cause of the issue, you can add the following line to the wp-config.php file. This will print the errors to a debug.log file located in /wp-content/

These problems are common and need to be addressed immediately. Troubleshooting WordPress when a website decides to stop working can be for any number of reasons. A lot of the time, a problem is caused by an update that means something else will not work properly. In order to find which plugin/theme is causing the problem, try disabling them one at a time and reload the page. This can help you highlight the plugin that is causing the issue.

3.2. Optimizing website speed and performance

Your website’s speed and overall performance are crucial to the success of your business. A fast site will help boost your search engine rankings, enable customers to more easily find your business, and keep them coming back. The CMS is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to a fast site, but this guide will provide you with many actionable items that can greatly improve your site’s speed. For high traffic sites, or just sites where you are super concerned about performance, there are some managed hosting options where WordPress is fine-tuned, and it is installed on a server so that it is specifically tailored to run a WordPress site. This can be a bit more costly, and really the tips in this guide should enable you to greatly improve your speed, possibly negating the need for this type of hosting.

3.3. Managing plugins and themes

However, if you basically update the plugin on your customer’s website and then use development time to try and ‘fix what broke’, you’re not being cost efficient – and it’s very likely that you may not be able to restore its functioning. A much better alternative could be – in the early phases of updating a live site – to test the latest versions of the key plugins on a staging server. If you find it’s all too much trouble, just prior to updating the live site, you’ll be in a position to advise your client that they’d be throwing money away by paying you to fix what may break, and that it might be wise for them to seek an alternative solution for executing the functionality that the plugin provides.

Once you have a large client connection, even a simple update that is performed by someone other than the original developer can result in a plugin ceasing to function. In this scenario, it isn’t realistic to ask the client to go and find a new plugin to substitute the one that has stopped functioning, especially if that plugin is complex. In this case, your client is going to want the original plugin fixed, and they’ll be happy to pay for that to happen.

4. Outsourcing WordPress Maintenance

High maintenance sites and big businesses can be complicated in the sense that they don’t require only one expertise of a developer. A maintenance team is composed of developers, server administrators, and also security professionals. It’s not practical hiring different freelancers for different tasks, and it’s not efficient if you’re hiring each one of them to be an in-house employee. By outsourcing to a company that provides these services, you get it all in one shot with a high level of expertise.

Maintenance is all about playing safe with your WordPress site. There is no room for you to explore and try out new things because if you have no prior experience in doing the tasks and end up making an error, it can be very costly to get it fixed. The time and money to fix it will outweigh greatly the amount it costs to hire an outsourced team from the start to do it right the first time. We all learn from mistakes, but there is a place and time for that, and in a production/live website is not the area for you to be experimenting.

Outsourcing can be a great idea if you are a busy person. It’s not like all of us can be free as much as we want, so if you’re having a tight schedule in a couple of weeks or even months, outsourcing is out of the question if you’re learning to be a WordPress ninja. But if you are a business owner, it can be a wise decision. Stay in your 20% business tasks. For the 80% that you are not an expert in, let the experts handle it. Free up your time and do the things that you are really good at or finish quicker. So in the end, you saved money by not doing the maintenance works yourself. With the time you save, you can even offset the costs of hiring an outsourced team with the profits you make on other tasks you accomplish.

4.1. Pros and cons of outsourcing

Small-scale freelancers are a popular choice for those on a lower budget. Using a freelancer is often the cheapest way to offload some of the maintenance responsibilities. Pricing can be flexible and negotiated, and in some cases, an individual with the right technical skills can be found to do the job effectively. If you decide to go for a freelancer, the best way to find a suitable candidate is by using jobs boards or forums targeted at web developers. Bear in mind that reliability can be an issue with some freelancers, and that their expertise and breadth of knowledge may be limited. So it is best to closely investigate their work history and experience, and a good idea to assign them to tasks of non-critical importance initially before giving more responsibilities. This will help you determine if the freelancer is right for the role and give you peace of mind that important site maintenance will not be compromised.

Once you have decided to outsource your site’s maintenance, you need to choose between the various service providers. The type of provider that you choose will depend on several factors, including the size and complexity of your site, your budget, and your level of technical knowledge. The potential provider types range from a single freelancer, through small independent companies, to large-scale on-demand development companies.

4.2. Choosing the right maintenance service provider

The site owner will also need to take into consideration the geographical location of the service provider. While web technology has made the world a smaller place, there are still advantages to engaging a local provider. They may be in the same time zone, which makes communication easier. Cultural or language barriers may also pose potential problems. Generally, the site owner should not engage a service provider if they have not demonstrated that they have the resources to provide effective service and support over the long term. This is often the case with freelancers looking for some ad-hoc work to tide them over between jobs.

A good maintenance service provider will help lighten the site owner’s workload and improve the site’s performance. There are a few prerequisites to take into consideration before deciding which service provider to engage. The first is to make sure that they have a good reputation. This includes having good references from other clients or industry peers. A simple Google search may also bring up customer reviews and feedback. Find out if they have a good record of reliability, in other words, have they consistently met deadlines or kept to scheduled maintenance windows. Site owners will also need to make sure that the service provider has expertise in all areas of WordPress, from server management to theme customization. If the service provider is lacking in any particular field, the site owner may find himself having to engage more than one service provider.

4.3. Cost considerations

It’s a mistake to consider your current budget and price against that alone. The decision to outsource your maintenance is not just a financial one, it carries costs of other kinds. Short term costs are fairly straightforward; how much can you afford to spend right now? This will be a big factor if your website has a problem and you have to fix it on a restricted budget. Unfortunately, in the long run, the cheaper solutions can carry even bigger costs. Many overseas providers will modify your core files and not document their changes. This can lead to a mess and more expense when you are forced to pay someone to correct their mistakes. In the worst cases, you may have to rebuild your website. Always properly weigh the short and long term costs of your decision.

Every website owner has an accountant hidden somewhere inside, constantly working to get maximum results with minimum spend. Many of us are tempted to use overseas services for their rock-bottom prices, but is it worth it in the long term? What are the key cost considerations you need to take into account to make a truly informed decision?

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