Need advice on maintaining WordPress website

Posted January 5, 2022 in
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Lex Russell

Why do content marketers constantly feel cold? They’re surrounded by drafts.

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Hello! Not sure if this is the right place to post this but here we go!

I've been at my current company for about 2.5 years. Since I've been there, WordPress updates and WP Plugin updates have never been prioritized. I've been trying to fight to get them updated as I know it is a security risk and I understand it could break our website if they get TOO out of date.

I'm now in a position to make recommendations on how to move forward. The agency we currently use for website updates is charging $160 an hour and estimates that our WordPress + Plugin updates will take around 10 hours at the least - so around $1,600 total.

Once we get to that point, with everything updated, can I go in and perform the updates every week or is that risky? We have a custom website so I'm worried about anything breaking, but it seems like most people perform updates on their websites themselves from my research.

I also looked into WP maintenance plans such as WPSiteCare and maintain that seem like they might be worth the money so that we don't get into this situation again and everything will be updated consistently.

I would love to hear how other people maintain their WordPress websites when it comes to updates - do you do it yourself, use a service, or use an agency?

This is our website in case that matters: https://aquilacommercial.com/


Thanks!
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Richard Fleming
I've been working on this same thing. $1600 seems excessive. My current solution is to have a virtual assistant manage the plugin updates (not much that can go wrong there), but some of the hosting providers have more thorough maintenance they can offer you at affordable prices. I use Godaddy, but I'm sure others have similar services - including backing up your site. It isn't nearly as much money. Are you hosting your site on your own servers? And if that all fails, I can suggest specific people that could help you out.
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Lex Russell
Thank you, Richard Fleming ! The agency that built our website and performs our dev updates currently hosts our site, so it's seeming like they are going to have to be the ones who give us a package to maintain it. Not ideal!
 
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John Bendever, Jr.
Hi  Lex Russell  - I know we do not know each other personally, but WordPress is how I make my living...you are not necessarily stuck with them.  If you want to connect to share more details with me, maybe I can help guide you to a service that is far more economical and would (most likely) offer better results.
Franco Valentino
Lex Russell  What server/hosting space do you use?  Some semi-managed services like WP Engine provide a 'smart plugin manager' that does this for you automatically.  If you're hosting on your own VPN, then just make sure you have a good backup before updating the plugins.  It's usually better for you to manage that process because plugins are the #1 reason WP site go down.  Another 'must-have' is Wordfence pro.  For $99 a year, it's the best piece of mind you can buy for the site.  It prevents the most common hacking attempts like cross-site scripting, and scans your WP hosting space for viruses and WP core file changes.  Both of those problems typically come from outdated plugins.  I hope this helps!
Lex Russell
Thanks, Franco Valentino ! The agency we use for website development updates currently handles our hosting...probably not ideal. But we are looking into getting a full care package with them...TBD on pricing as of now. From further research, it seems someone who used to work at our company intended on doing the updates themselves when our website was first built so the care package was not purchased...but seems that the updates did not get done! If this agency hosts our site I assume it would probably be hard to get another agency or service to perform the updates, unfortunately.
Adam Stahl
It's a bit of column A, a bit of column B. That initial Herculean effort will get you back to a more current state and then it's a matter of being watchful and mindful about which plugins have an available update, what they could impact, and compatibility.

I used to be the de facto website admin of a WordPress main website with HubSpot used for all the inbound pages (landing pages, blog posts, etc.) We went through two iterations of our WP site while I was there. The first one was pretty custom and many aspects of it would fall out of compatibility before too long. 

With the second iteration, we were more diligent about having our partner use modules and elements that leaned towards compatibility. We also started using a paid, automated service to keep plugins up to date as well as keeping backups (for the life of me I can't remember what it was). Despite those efforts, we still were hitting points where something would be incompatible and then either had to be removed or replaced after a year or two. 

What we decided was best for us in the grand scheme of things (especially with security in mind) was to move everything to HubSpot CMS as that addressed most of our pain points that we were experiencing with WP while also providing greater functionality in HubSpot where we were seeing growing ROI.

Lex Russell
Thank you for the detailed answer,  Adam Stahl ! I think we're kinda in a similar boat as you were originally. We have our main website in WordPress with most but not all our landing pages in HubSpot. At my previous job, the website was built in Hubspot and was much easier to manage and update, although I was not as involved in the management of it. I know we are talking about refreshing our website in the coming years and it may be a good idea to consider switching over to it being built out in HubSpot. Do you have any complaints about having your website in HubSpot? Is it just as customizable?
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Adam Stahl
Lex Russell as the main front end (and *some* backend) website person in that scenario, I had no regrets about making that switch and consolidating everything in HubSpot. Personally, I was far more comfortable in HubSpot (despite being on both platforms for about the same amount of time at that stage). I actually found HubSpot CMS to be more customizable and I had more visibility into all aspects of it than I did in the WP/HS split scenario. It was easier for me also to "make things work" in HubSpot when I perhaps didn't have an exact module for something vs. the same scenario in WP. It reduced our reliance on outside partners for web work which helped offset the change in cost. Having everything under the same HubSpot umbrella also helped us improve our tracking and reporting - especially with revenue attribution. It also may have been a coincidence in timing vs. correlation or causation but we also saw a significant increase in our organic traffic performance but that could also be that our HubSpot site was better optimized than our WP page (as well as bringing all content under one domain vs domain and sub-domain). I could truly go on longer about that experience as it was a big decision but one that paid off handsomely for us. It may not be the right decision for all but it was a game-changer for us. 
Lex Russell
Thank you so much, this is such valuable insight!!
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Adam Stahl
You're welcome! Also, I think I totally forgot to mention this at any time but on HubSpot CMS we no longer had to worry about plug-in updates/compatibility 😅 
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Lex Russell
Update: These are the care packages the agency we are using is offering.

These seem steep compared to the care packages I've seen. Is it safe to do these website updates once a year like we are doing now? $1,600 once a year would be more affordable than $7,000 for the same thing spread over time. Looks like we are paying them $1,076 per year for hosting at the moment.

Also worth noting that we already get 10% off our hours for new functionality because we pre-pay for our hours in packages. 

Does anyone have thoughts/advice?
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Adam Stahl
Seconding that those rates seem higher than I would've expected based on my experience but that was also a few years ago.
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John Bendever, Jr.
This seems really expensive for a standard WordPress website and a care/maintenance plan.  The hourly cost is over $236/hr....and that's too much.  I'd be more than happy to connect and share alternatives that will serve you more economically without sacrificing quality or response time.
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