The reliability of your website is crucial – after all, your website is often a customer’s first impression with your company, product or service. A reliable website loads fast, functions as intended, and operates free from bugs and hacks.
With all that’s on your plate, making sure your website is safe and up-to-date can feel like just one more thing on your to-do list – yet you know that leaving it to chance might be asking for trouble. Read on to discover our tips and best practices for better website reliability.
Tips for better website reliability
Use automated backups
A website backup is a copy of important files, such as plugins, your theme, databases, media uploads, and configuration files. Implementing an automated backup guarantees that your site can be restored in the event of a crash, mistake, or other unexpected problem. The best backup service stores your files to an external source at the host level – think of it like storing valuables away from home in a safe deposit box. The backup is automatically separated from your website, so your data is protected.
Keep site software up to date
Maintaining content management system (CMS), theme, and plugin software updates is the best way to keep your site performing well and to stay one step ahead of bugs, hackers, and other threats. It’s a good idea to use a special environment to test updates to any site software. For plugins, use a tool like WP Engine’s Smart Plugin Manager. It automatically updates plugins, scans for visual changes, and automatically rolls back and notifies you if it finds any problems.
Keep server software up to date
For most website managers that don’t have a technical background, maintaining server updates is an intimidating challenge. We offer a hosting and maintenance plan that allows us to serve as the liaison between you and your web host. We ensure all software running on the server is kept up to date, including mySQL and PHP.
Choosing the right host is crucial. Depending on your host, websites go down (become “unavailable”) a lot more often than one might think. We recommend setting up a tool like UpTime Robot, a free uptime monitoring service. UpTime Robot alerts you when there’s downtime and provides logs of past incidents. With this data, you can determine if your hosting is really the best choice for your site’s needs.
A website will go through many versions, managers, and developers throughout its lifetime. A version control system like Git eliminates code conflicts, assigns ownership to changes, and keeps everyone on the same page. There are several more reasons why you should use Git for your next website project, but its main benefit is to create a better workflow with fewer problems. Sounds great, right?
Use multiple environments and define the deployment process
When an organization has multiple people managing a site, putting a deployment process in place helps keep everything running smoothly and consistently. Even if you don’t engage regularly with a developer, creating multiple environments and defining a deployment process helps create a collaborative and smooth workflow. Let’s dive into the two parts of this.
Using multiple environments:
An environment is just a copy of your website. Your “live” environment is called Production. It’s best practice to have a second, password-protected Staging environment. Some organizations use an additional Development environment. Many web hosts (like WP Engine) allow you to copy one environment to another. This is a fast way to deploy changes all at once and avoid elements looking half finished while changes are in progress.
Defining the deployment process:
It’s up to you to determine what changes get made in which environments. For example, you may define your deployment process in this way:
- Blog posts get posted immediately to Production
- New pages created through your CMS get made on Staging so your team can review them before they go live.
- New code gets posted to Development first, then reviewed on Staging, then finally deployed to Production.
Next, decide up front if your environments are just for previewing changes or if you will be copying from Staging to Production, for example. If you will be deploying via a copy, remember that changes may get made to Production directly either by teammates or users (e.g. customer orders, forum postings). If you can't do a content freeze, then a developer will be required to help find a safe way to deploy.
Peace of mind about website reliability starts with regular maintenance – and we’re guessing that’s pressure you could do without. Our Hosting and Maintenance Plan keeps everything running smoothly and we're always available should something go wrong.