At the 1997 COMDEX computer exposition, Microsoft founder and CEO remarked in a speech that if automobile prices behaved like PC prices, “the car would cost about $27.” This innocuous line became the butt of numerous jokes (some passed off as fact) that were variations on “but would you want a car that crashed twice a day?”
Absurd apples-to-oranges price comparisons aside, in one important respect, PCs (and computer systems in general) are like cars: They both need maintenance to keep operating at peak performance. But even here, there are some subtle differences:
- Changing the oil, keeping the tires inflated, and washing the exterior are all intended to keep a car running as well as it did when it was new. Much computer system maintenance is intended to make the system run better.
- Dangerous design flaws in automobiles are pretty rare these days—some models go through a whole lifecycle with no recalls. Most software, however, is riddled with security vulnerabilities that have to be patched with periodic updates as they are discovered (and hopefully before the “bad guys” exploit them).
The Importance of Website System Maintenance
Your website is a complex system of hardware, software, and networking, which means there are lots of things that can go wrong. It’s not just your content that needs to be maintained: the web platform (MODX, WordPress, or any other platform), server hardware and operating system, and various components of the technology stack must be kept up to date. And not just as individual pieces, but in a holistic approach that considers how all the pieces work together, and how all that working-togetherness can be impacted by each maintenance activity.
Here are some reasons you might not have thought of why website system maintenance is so important:
- Security: It’s easy to think, “I just have a small website, no one would want to hack it.” And it might be true that your site has less to offer hackers. But that doesn’t mean you aren’t vulnerable—you also have to consider malware that spreads on its own, indiscriminantly, for the sake of causing mayhem. Can you afford to have your site down for a day? An hour? Malware is constantly evolving, so all software and operating systems associated with your website should have the latest security patches installed on a regular basis.
- Interoperability: The different parts of a website system are usually developed independently, and each part may work well only with specific versions of the other parts. So blindly updating to the latest version of each component is not necessarily beneficial. Thus, proper maintenance requires careful testing in a test environment to ensure a given update doesn’t break the other parts.
- Enhanceability: Eventually, you will want to expand the capabilities of your site, and to accommodate the new features you have in mind, chances are good you will need updated system components. The longer you put it off, the more difficult this might be—some components might require an intermediate version to be installed before the latest one.
Who Does the Maintenance?
Most website owners are not keen on performing this kind of maintenance themselves, and unless you have your own IT department and host your own servers, you probably don’t either.
So who does it? Much of this type of maintenance should be the responsibility of your hosting provider, but in many cases hosting providers don’t do maintenance as often as they should. Why? Because they have hundreds of sites, and it’s much easier to manage them if they all have the same configuration. And when they do perform upgrades, they aren’t going to test every website to make sure they didn’t break anything.
For more personalized service, your web development partner knows the technical side of your site best, and should be able to keep the site system configured properly and optimally for your site. SmashStack can even migrate your MODX site to the MODX Cloud—a hosting solution that is specifically designed for MODX sites, making site system maintenance even easier.
Unlike a car, your website doesn’t have a “Check Engine” light on the dashboard. Contact your web developer and set up a regular maintenance schedule with them, so you don’t have a breakdown on the information superhighway.