My clients are entrepreneurs and small business owners. Most of them are busy running their businesses; they don’t have time to properly manage their websites. So it’s no surprise that, when I come on board, I often find their websites in a state of disarray.
Websites that are not properly tended are usually out of date, at risk for security breaches, and littered with unnecessary files that clog bandwidth and impede website performance, making sites cumbersome for visitors to use.
These problems are difficult to see. I’ve worked with many folks who know that there are software updates available for their websites but they never make the updates because failing to do so never results in any repercussions. A website can go months — maybe even years — without an update before a hack or some other security breach slips in. But the failure to make the update does leave a website at risk.
This is just one of the many reasons it’s a good idea to have a professional managing your website. However, there are some things that any website owner can do to make sure their website is safe and secure.
Keep Your Website Secure and Healthy
Today I’d like to share some tips to help website owners keep their sites secure and healthy. Remember, your site might look and function fine while it is at risk for mild to serious problems.
- Keep all website software up to date. This is the single biggest risk factor for most websites. Outdated software, including content management software (such as WordPress) and extensions (such as plugins), leaves a website vulnerable to a wide range of attacks.
- Run regular backups. Even websites that take every security measure possible can get hacked, especially if they are targeted. Regular backups mean that if your site is compromised, you can get it back up quickly and easily. There are other ways to lose your website or portions of it — such as accidental deletions. Backups provide relief! The regularity of backups should be based on how often you update or change the content on your site.
- Make sure your image files are processed for web publishing. This is an issue I’m seeing more and more these days. With the advent of content management systems, anyone can run a website. Many people are uploading raw images to their websites without first processing them. The images are often too large, both in dimension and file size, causing websites with only a few pages of content to be hundreds of megabytes in file size. This can cause a range of problems, from impeding the ability to run, share, or store good backups to causing a site to load slowly (or even lock up) for visitors.
- Password storage and sharing. If you manage a website on a computer that is used by lots of people, it’s best not to store the password locally, even if doing so makes logging in a little easier. Similarly, don’t hand out passwords for accessing your website to just anyone. Never store your passwords online or in a device (like a smart phone).
- Back up your site before making major updates. Occasionally, an update can break your website’s design or functionality, and you may need to roll back to a previous version. And some updates may be buggy, in which case you may need a backup that you can use to restore to a previous version.
- Perform regular site audits. Deleting files (especially images) and software that are sitting on your web server but no longer in use is a good practice. As websites age, this kind of content can build up. Going through your website to clean out unnecessary files and make sure every page is functional is just good housekeeping.
- Determine whether your site warrants an extra layer of protection, especially if it’s an e-commerce site or stores user data, such as contact information (for example, users can create accounts and log in). A lot of small business websites don’t need extra security, especially sites with just a few pages of content. But some sites are at higher risk and should engage deeper levels of security.
- Store backups in a safe place. If you back up your computer and then store the backup on a flash drive that you keep beside your computer, and there’s a fire, you’ll lose everything. You can store backups of a website on your computer, but it’s also a good idea to keep copies on the cloud. Backup your backups!
- Use strong passwords and change them on a regular basis. Web software doesn’t prompt you to strengthen or change your password just to make your life harder. Stronger passwords lessen the risk for security breaches. Follow the protocols of good passwords. Avoid using simple words. Include numbers and punctuation marks, and make your passwords case-sensitive.
- Consult with both website designers and IT professionals. Most designers specialize in design and content and know just about the hardware and technology to do their jobs. The people who build and manage the hardware (your web server, which is a special computer where your website files are stored via your hosting provider) are IT experts.
Buzz Pro Studio provides website services to small businesses and independent professionals, specializing in website design and maintenance. For more information or to get a no-obligation quote, contact me.
Melissa Donovan is the founder of Buzz Pro Studio, providing website services to small businesses and independent professionals.