Zen and the art of support and maintenance
There was a time when you could just buy an application, maybe on a CD-ROM if you remember those, install it on your computer and it would just work - forever. Or at least until the computer broke down.
So you might ask, given that a website is ‘sort of’ an application, why does it even need support and maintenance? Given that a huge industry has sprung up to provide these services, are we looking at a conspiracy of self-serving geeks? Or is there more to the story, and if so how do you navigate that narrative and discover the zen and the art of site support and maintenance?
Let’s take a dive.
Back in the day, your trusty old computer stood on your desk. It wasn’t connected to anything but the mains outlet. It wasn’t much fun either. It didn’t deliver experiences to people on the other side of the world, it didn’t transact millions of dollars of revenue with customers. It didn’t talk to mobile phones.
Today, we take all that for granted, as consumers and as providers. But if you stand back for a moment, it’s an incredible feat of software engineering. And it powers the world we know, generates billions upon billions in revenue, and enables a lifestyle and brand presence we couldn’t have imagined back then.
Realistically, your business can’t build out the digital infrastructure to reach those endpoints. You rely upon layer after layer of services provided by third parties and there you have your problem. And that’s before you throw in the bad actors that look to prise apart those layers for their own gain.
So what is support and maintenance?
All those interwoven layers - your CMS and the modules it uses, the third-party systems it might be connected to, the servers it runs on, the content that your managers deploy, the caching services, content delivery networks, internet infrastructure, the devices that people consume your content on is all evolving on a continuous basis. And it's no wonder life then gets a little complicated.
So how do we navigate this problem and deliver ‘experience’ reliably, at low cost and with minimal fuss?
Welcome to the art of website maintenance!
Let’s start with your website. You have basically two choices - you can let it run and just hope for the best, and if it breaks you get it fixed. Alternatively, you can have it proactively maintained. The first option is cheap, until it goes wrong. The second option is more cost-effective and involves less risk, but how best do you optimise it?
And then what about all those other layers - the ones you don’t own or control? Do you just leave it to chance, or can you monitor and manage those effectively too? And if you do - again, how do you optimise that for cost and risk mitigation? And how do you do all of this while maintaining a zen composure at all times?
The answer isn’t straightforward, but in the right hands, these challenges can be turned into business as usual. That’s where that crowd of geeks come back into the story.
Yes, proactive maintenance can be very rewarding, both for the site owner and those who are tasked with the job. For the site owner, peace of mind and easy to manage budgeting, plus the satisfaction of knowing that you have a professional site in all aspects and regards. For the support team, the satisfaction of working with systems that are run optimally is very high. This encourages care, diligence and best practice as they work and the net result is a win-win for both client and service provider.
Managing the experience end-to-end
Then add in all the peripheral services - from hosting all the way through to a smartphone in someone’s hand, walking down a street. The key here is the balance between effectiveness and cost. Again, a good support team will know the optimal ways to monitor service delivery by those third parties, using a range of tools and alert systems. Done well, this is again very satisfying for developers who pride themselves in professionally managed services. And the client wins with the knowledge that their service delivery, not just their website, is optimally delivered.
The final piece of the puzzle is the management of these services and again, we’re talking a special breed! Speed and efficiency of deployment of resources is key. There is more too - the liaison with clients to ensure they understand the value added. The confidence they can inspire in both team and client that they can relax and enjoy their work. Support management done well comes with the same satisfaction levels as for developers and clients.