Let's look at the factors in keeping your website up and running
(This is the second of a three-part blog series on the costs surrounding redesigning, building and maintaining a website. The first blog gives specifics on the build portion and the third blog has information on website updating). Ongoing costs to maintain a website include domain renewal, hosting, backups, license fees (if applicable), software updates and site maintenance. I'll cover each of these areas in this post.
Website maintenance costs
Domain (Web Address) Renewal
This is a small one in terms of cost, but it is of extreme importance. If your website and URL are new, you had to purchase the web address (domain) through a provider like GoDaddy, Network Solutions, etc. My suggestion is to prepay for multiple years in advance and/or be sure to have your web address (domain) automatically renewed. It's generally $10 to $20 per year. If you forget to renew your domain, your site will go down and, in some cases, you can't get it back. Just realize the importance of this and put whatever safeguards in place that are needed to make 100% sure you always own your web address.
There are a myriad of hosting options available. The same companies that can sell you your web address also offer hosting. The cost for this also range from very inexpensive (for smaller sites in many cases it's less than $10 per month) to somewhat expensive (hundreds of dollars per month and up). The range has to do with the size of your audience (web traffic) and the (literal) size and complexity of your site. While in the corporate world, I managed sites for which the company owned the infrastructure at a data center; the combined cost of servers, various other IT and storage related costs (including hosting) was in the seven-figure range annually.
Bottom line is this: If you are a SMB (small to medium-sized business), the cost for hosting should be in the lower ranges I provided above. More important than the expense are other considerations such as security, up-time, reliability and support.
This is an area many companies don't think about until it's too late. It's ALWAYS a good idea to have your entire website backed up frequently, and a further suggestion is to have it backed up in a separate location from where your site is currently hosted.
If your company is e-commerce or if there is a lot of data on your website that is of extreme importance to your business, a disaster recovery plan can literally save your business if you get hacked or something goes wrong with your primary hosting. There are many companies that offer backup services and the cost for backups will be similar to the hosting cost ranges above. If or when your site does go down, you will need technical expertise to be able to restore the site from a backup. More details on this are in the maintenance section below.
Here are a few examples of sites for website backups:
License Fees / Software
Unless you have a site that is built in pure HTML/CSS, you are going to have some type of software that facilitates some functionality. Even popular open-source CMS (content management systems) like WordPress, Joomla or Drupal require downloads of software and certain types of servers to function properly.
- Open source CMS are generally "free" (i.e., no license fees).
- Other CMS options require license fees that can go into the thousands of dollars range.
Software updates / Site maintenanceThis is where real expense ($$$) occurs:
- "FREE" CMS options like WordPress require a lot of software updates.
- Further, most WordPress sites (just using this as an example but it applies to all "free" CMS options) have software plug-ins to create various functionality on your site.
- It's not uncommon to have 10 to 20 plug-ins on a site.
- Every piece of software requires updates over time.
- WordPress itself has upgrades - and each plug-in on your site needs upgrades.
In theory, it's "simple" and "you don't need technical expertise" to manage this; in practice it's very common for a plug-in upgrade to have an unintended consequence on another plug-in. In some cases it affects your website negatively and/or can cause it to cease operating properly. (Very quick read from WordPress.org Forums on this; glance at the fourth comment - please read).
- Every site will need technical expertise to keep it running over time.
- IF your site goes down OR needs to be restored from a backup, you need expertise.
- Technical expertise costs money - ranges from $60/hr to $150/hr +.
At a minimum, build in expense to cover issues and have technical assistance available. At the low end (for smaller sites), I'd suggest setting aside $1,000 to $3,000 and either utilize the company that built your website and set up a "bucket of maintenance hours" or create some type of agreement on how much the company will charge when issues arise and how quickly they'll respond. For larger sites, plan for double that expense (and more for larger sites).
Another option is to hire a web developer (this is certainly an alternative depending on company size, and it might be less expensive than external resources). The range will depend on experience, but plan on $55K to $90K annual salary (plus benefits).
OR consider utilizing a CMS that has this type of software updating and site maintenance built in. It's one (of many) reasons Weyer Web Works is a HubSpot partner. The HubSpot COS has world-class security, reliable download speeds and 24/7 support built in. (This site runs on the HubSpot COS.)
Website Maintenance Costs
Low End - approximately $1,500 to $3,000 annually
Upper End - up to the expense of a full-time employee
In terms of answering the question, "How much does it cost to maintain a website?", the factors listed here all need to be taken into consideration and planned for. Your website is a very important asset to your company and, as with every other asset, you must take into account ongoing maintenance and the associated expense. It's often not planned for and turns into an unintended expense that impacts the business negatively.
Website Redesigns / Rebuilds
Decisions on this topic are very important
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