Why should I keep my website up to date?
Spending $50 and an hour of your life getting an oil change sucks. Having your car break down and paying thousands for repairs sucks worse.
In the web development world, updating your site’s software and server operating system are the equivalent of getting an oil change. It is preventative maintenance done to mitigate the risk of future failure. And given the lack of an immediate, tangible benefit, it is something that many are tempted to skip.
While we try to communicate the need for preventative maintenance to our clients, we’ve been involved with a number of projects where it wasn’t a priority. In some cases the client has skipped updates for long periods without any negative consequences. But we’ve seen other cases where clients have suffered disastrous losses as a result of neglecting updates.
One new client who came to us was years behind on Drupal updates and were targeted by a malicious hacker. The hacker defaced their website, deleting content and hijacking their homepage. In addition to not updating the site, the client also wasn’t performing regular backups. As a result, they had to rebuild their entire site from scratch and rewrite a great deal of content. It was a disaster.
There are a number of reasons why keeping to a regular, preventative maintenance schedule is important:
- Security. Platforms like WordPress and Drupal are extremely popular and widely used. Given their ubiquity, malicious users are constantly working to hack or hijack sites powered by these platforms for personal gain. If you don’t perform security updates regularly your site runs a high risk of having major security holes that hackers can exploit.
- Bug fixes. No platform as large and complex as Drupal and WordPress is 100% bug free. If you have worked in either platform there is a good chance you have stumbled on a small bug that impacts your work. By performing regular updates you get access to bug fixes made by the community.
- Access to new features. Tens of thousands of developers are constantly improving Drupal and WordPress through the release of new features. You can only get access to these new features if you update to the latest software version. This is development work that you get for free just by updating your site.
- Prevent your site from becoming obsolete. If you keep up with updates, the time investment is pretty low. On most sites a few hours a month are all that are needed to maintain a site. If you put things off for years, the problems pile up. The updates become difficult or even impossible in some cases. A neglected site can get so behind on updates that it is obsolete.
Most of the sites we maintain are run in LAMP/LEMP (Linux Apache/Nginx MySQL/MariaDB PHP) environments, and powered by Drupal or WordPress. We typically recommend clients perform preventative maintenance on their sites once a quarter, speeding up the timeline when critical security updates are released.
Businesses and organizations spend untold time and money building and maintaining web presences. Given the investment and importance of web programs to most organizations, it is dangerous and short sighted to not invest in preventative maintenance.