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Blog: article

Why we offer website support and why it's a good idea

01 2016

by Nigel Harding

There is clearly some defining of roles and responsibilities that needs to be considered when a website is delivered. Is there a guarantee period where any issues will be fixed free of charge? Will you receive any training in using your new website? Does the hosting cost include technical support? Has your web developer offered you a support agreement or will you pay for future support by the hour? Will your web developer or an IT specialist be looking after your email requirements? Do you expect support outside of office hours?

What could go wrong?

So you’ve just had a nice new website delivered, what can possibly go wrong? Well, there’s a few things actually. Let’s take a look at some of them.

1. Hosting issues.

Your website will be hosted by an internet service provider. You may have arranged this by yourself or your web developer may have arranged this. Sometimes things change, the provider has to provide an up-to-date service for its clients, mainly to keep pace with security updates and issues. So things can change on the server. Things like…

1.1 PHP software

PHP is a server environment used to handle much of the dynamic behaviour of websites, particularly interactions between the website and a Content Management system. For example, WordPress (a very popular CMS) and our preferred Perch CMS both use PHP with MySQL databases. PHP and MySQL often get updated to make them more secure and you sometimes reach a point where some functionality has to be rewritten or re-coded in order to work. Some of our clients have found that form processing suddenly stops working or database access is suddenly prevented because the PHP environment has been updated on the server.

1.2 Your Content Management System (CMS) software

It is a good thing to keep your CMS software up-to-date to prevent security issues. Please note that this can be a very time-consuming process for your web developer (I’m thinking particularly of WordPress here where you not only have to upgrade regularly to keep ahead of security threats but you have to ensure that the latest core releases are compatible with any CMS plugins that your CMS uses). Most developers won’t (and frankly can’t afford to) do this for free and this can result in software that doesn’t get updated. Eventually something breaks – either when server software is upgraded or when a virus or hacker attacks your website)

1.3 Running out of disk space

You will generally have a limited amount of space purchased for the hosting of your website. If you add content to your website (blogs, photos, newsletters etc) then you are going to start to consume server disk space. If you are also using an email account with your web hosting package then things can escalate in no time and you may find that you run out of disk space. When this happens your emails won’t arrive, or depart, and you won’t be able to edit your website. You will quite likely need some help to ftp in and delete some files.

1.4 Email issues

Setting up email accounts on your current machine, on new machines when they are purchased and on mobile phones or devices takes time. If you are technically capable then you may be able to do this but if you can’t tell your IMAP from your elbow then you may need specialist help. It is useful to have an arrangement with your web provider or IT provider so that everything runs smoothly.

2. Browser issues

Occasionally browsers are upgraded with new features that can affect the behaviour of your website. Thankfully modern browsers are much more inline with agreed browser standards, at one time supporting a new version of Internet Explorer could be a real headache. Things to look out for these daya are browsers which might disable javascript by default or disable Cookies by default. Without going into too much technical detail, javascript is often used for dynamic client-side behaviour (such as the scrolling of slideshows on your website) and cookies are used to collect Google visitor stats and sometimes used to remember login information across different pages so if your website uses a login to visit a private area then behaviour could be affected.

3. Cloud or 3rd Party Library issues

Sometimes a web developer will use popular 3rd party libraries that are cloud hosted. This is a good idea from a performance point of view because a popular javascript library such as jQuery may already have been accessed by your machine so it may already be cached and this will speed up performance for your website. The same for jQuery plugins and we have seen quite a few instances where libraries have been moved so the code in your website would need to be updated.

4. API changes

An Application Programming Interface is where computer applications can use each other to provide input, data or functionality. For example, if you embed a Twitter message stream on your website or embed a Google map or a FaceBook message section then your website will be using an API. These providers can change their API. To be fair they often try to provide backwards compatibility but sometimes they don’t (Twitter in particular). I’m currently investigating one website where a weather feed has suddenly stopped working.


So I’m not trying to spoil your enjoyment of your lovely website, I’m not generally a pessimist either but I do believe you should consider where you stand with your support services and consider that things can and do happen. Do you have a plan in place for when it does? A support agreement helps give website owners piece of mind when technologies change and things go wrong.