The webmaster’s invisible duties

spiderwebscrollYour website is finally finished. Now you can forget about it and reassign that staff member to other duties, right? Well, not entirely. As long as the website remains active, somebody needs to continue taking care of the details so that the site stays available and current. Because these behind-the-scenes tasks are invisible if performed responsibly, an observer without a technical background might be fooled into thinking that a website just runs itself.

Keep track of online accounts

Keep a record of the accounts connected with website hosting, domain registration, and any other services being used.

– Know which vendors are used for which services.

– Make sure each vendor has your name as well as your organization’s current contact and billing information and that you have current contact information for the vendor and for the person you usually deal with.

– Keep a record of the username and password for each account, and make sure that the account is controlled by your organization, not by any single individual.

– Keep track of renewal dates and see that payments are made as required to renew the services.

– Recognize when NOT to make payments, since you will sometimes receive fraudulent invoices from unscrupulous vendors for closed or non-existent accounts.

Stay prepared to make changes

If any special software tools were used for building the website, make sure you still have access to those tools when the time comes to make changes.

– Keep track of installation disks and license codes so that software can be re-installed when you move to a new computer.

– Keep track of usernames and passwords for accessing online tools or vendor websites.

– If the website includes documents that have been converted to PDF format, keep copies of the editable originals so that you can make changes if necessary.

– If the website includes custom graphics, keep copies of the original editable files in the native format used by the graphics editing tool.

– Keep notes about implementation details like RGB color codes, fonts, and so forth.

– Keep high-resolution, uncropped originals of all photographs or other images.

Make backups

Always have a recent backup of the website so that it can be reconstructed if something goes wrong with the site or its server. For some websites it might be sufficient to keep a current offline copy of all the website files. With websites that have a database component – including websites built on a Content Management System (CMS) like Drupal or WordPress – it is also important to make regular backups of the database.

Install updates

Installation of software updates is especially important for websites built with a CMS. Those systems are constantly being modified to add new features, fix bugs and improve security. Even if your website doesn’t require the new features, it is important to keep up with security updates because outdated CMS-based websites with known security vlunerabilities are easy for hackers to find and exploit.

Periodically test for problems

All areas of the website need to be re-tested every so often to make sure everything still looks good and works as intended. If several people share responsibility for making updates, maybe one person should make a periodic review to make sure nothing has been broken and that the site keeps a uniform appearance. Even if the website itself hasn’t been changed, the server might have undergone software updates or maintenance that affect the site’s behavior.

Keeping records, staying prepared, making backups, and staying current with updates may not be high-profile, interesting tasks, but they will help make sure your website continues to operate smoothly. Your website’s upkeep and maintenance is as important to your organization as the website itself.

Judy
About

Judy is a technology consultant for public libraries. She blogs at ElephantInTheLibrary.com.

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