Each year when we “spring forward” for daylight savings time it’s also recommended nationwide that we replace the batteries in our smoke detectors. It’s a good time to remember important things such as this and making a habit out of them every year. To my webmaster friends out there, it’s also a great time to do some “website spring cleaning.” I recommend making a check list for every time we “spring forward” or “fall back” to: update all software on your web server, remove unnecessary files, ensure all your templates are up to date, and audit all of your pages.
Nowadays dynamic websites use all types of software: WordPress, vBulletin, and other PHP/mySQL can add a very interactive experience for your visitors but can also pose numerous security risks if not updated on a regular basis. I personally recommend updating these scripts as the updates come out but from time-to-time you may overlook one. Now is a good time to check all of the latest versions and update.
Throughout the year I find myself using my web server as a quick “file sharing solution.” This isn’t necessarily a good thing but sometimes when I want to send a friend some pictures or documents, and they’re too large to attach, I simply zip and upload them. During my “spring cleaning” I found zip files of Aruba pictures and a couple of Grind Session DVD covers! Now was the perfect time to get all those unnecessary files off the server and hard drive space cleaned up. I also found a handful of WordPress templates that aren’t in use and also removed them. There is no need leaving files on your web server in a live environment unless they’re being used.
Since the late nineties one of my pet peeves was when webmasters failed to update the copyright date on their sites. Overall it makes the pages look like no one cares, hence it’s likely the content isn’t updated. Now is also a good time to change all of these dates and ensure your template files are up to date. While doing my audit this year I found a couple pages still using old templates. While it was a bit time consuming I went ahead and moved them over to the latest template ensuring the correct header, footer, and sidebars were being included.
While it may take some time, I recommend conducting an audit of the pages on your server. If you’re like us here at the Grind and have several hundred (or thousand) pages you want to review at a handful from each month. You want to check and make sure all images are loading correctly and the content is appearing the way it should. When you make theme changes sometimes images that once fit on a page, no longer do. Now is a good time to re-size them and make sure everything is presented to the user in an orderly fashion. Also you want to pay attention to special characters such as apostrophes and quotation marks. Some templates won’t view these correctly so you may need to make some changes.
In conclusion, it’s very easy to fall behind on many of these items especially when you’re focusing on growing your content and developing your website into a long term business model. However if you get in the habit of performing an audit each time we “spring forward” or “fall back” for daylight savings time you can always rest assure that your websites will run without fault and are save from intruders and other threats.
Ryan Gray is the founder and CEO of NameHero, one of the fastest growing independent web hosts in the United States. Ryan has been working online since 1998 and has over two-decades experience in Internet Entrepreneurship.