Imagine the perfect year: Your website is humming along, serving up blog posts, collecting new leads, and helping you market your product or service to the world. Business is growing and life is good. And your website is a central part of that perfect world.
But here’s a dark thought: You might be one disaster away from a world where your website is a smoldering shambles — ripped apart by hackers or blasted to bits during a server meltdown.
If you don’t already have a routine maintenance plan in place, the new year is the perfect time to start. A little work now will ensure your site remains secure and problem free in the year ahead.
Start with these five tips and you’ll be off to a good start:
- Schedule regular automated site backups.This is like having fire insurance for your online business. When all else fails, your backup will save you from the complete and total annihilation of your online business.If you don’t already have an automated backup system in place, now’s the time to address that issue. And if you do have an automated backup system in place, now’s the time to verify that it’s actually working — you know, backing up your website and all the bits and pieces needed to restore the site when the “worst day ever” happens.Recommended plugins and services. BackupBuddy and BackupWordPress are two plugins that will allow you to schedule automatic backups at regular intervals. Both have the ability to move your backups to a secure location for safekeeping.
I also recommend VaultPress for those who want a set-it-and-forget-it approach. VaultPress is the ultimate bulletproof backup service for WordPress.
- Update the software that runs your website.Those WordPress updates contain more than just feature upgrades. They also contain critical bug fixes and security patches that ensure your site is safe from hackers. So, run those updates! The same is true for WordPress plugins and themes.The truth is, updates are an ongoing process, not just a new years task. At a minimum, you should make it a practice to run these updates at least once a month. Word of caution: be sure to backup your site first! If anything goes wrong with an update you’ll be able to revert to a working version of your website.
- Purge unused plugins and themes.Remember those plugins you installed when your site was new and you were trying every widget under the sun? It turns out they can be a potential security risk. Not only that, if those plugins are still activated on your site they’re likely slowing things down.Now’s the time to roll up your sleeves and clean house. Get rid of the plugins you don’t need. By “get rid of” I mean deactivate, then delete. Take a minute to look at every plugin you have installed and ask yourself: what good is this doing? Does it serve my readers/customers or is it just there to amuse me? If there’s no clear purpose, eliminate it. If you find yourself missing something after the purge you can always re-install it later.Bonus: Paring down your installed plugins and themes will also cut down on the number of updates you need to perform throughout the year.
- Clean and optimize your database.One of the nice things about WordPress is that you generally don’t need to worry about the underlying database. WordPress takes care of the messy details so you don’t have to. That said, it’s a good idea to perform some routine database maintenance from time to time. Doing so will purge unneeded data and optimize your database to ensure that your site runs smoothly all year long.Fortunately, you don’t need to be a MySQL guru to tune-up your database. There are plugins that walk you through the process of this routine maintenance. WP-Optimize will help you purge spam comments, eliminate unneeded draft posts, and optimize the underlying MySQL database tables, among other things.
- Add a layer (or two or three) of security to your website.In this era of hackers lurking around every corner, there’s no such thing as too much security. Consider these plugins and services to enhance your website’s security:iThemes Security is a plugin that allows you to batten the hatches on your WordPress site. Use with caution. It’s possible to make your site so secure that you lock yourself out!
CloudFlare is a free (and fee-based) service that acts as a buffer between your site and some of the sketchier areas of the Internet. As bonus, CloudFlare also provides a speed boost to your site (double win!).
Sucuri is a security scanning service that monitors your website for hacking activity. When Sucuri finds something suspicious they’ll notify you immediately. If your site falls victim to a hack attack Sucuri will help with the cleanup. It’s like having a full-time security expert keeping tabs on your website.
Now that you have a basic maintenance plan in place you’re free to focus on things that matter the most — creating great content, building a relationship with your customers, and growing your business.