website maintenance

We provide a cost-effective website maintenance service to enable not-for-profit organizations (NFPs) to stay focused on delivering their mission. You can rely on our expertise whenever - and to whatever extent - you need it. We can establish a regular maintenance routine, or simply respond to periodic requests quickly and accurately. We can also help you address current issues and suggest improvements.

Budget suggestions for websites maintenance

We are aware that many of our clients review their budgets in advance of the fiscal year, which often begins in January or April.  We continue to receive questions and requests to suggest things to think about for the next year.  As some of these issues may be of relevance to many, we've summarized the key points below to help you think about planning for the regular maintenance and support of your IT infrastructure.

Regular maintenance of a website can help to keep it secure and prevent issues from arising. As much as possible, we'd like to prevent surprises and predict any maintenance work that might be expected for websites.  Below is a list of items we suggest our clients plan for each year.

Depending on the systems you own, not all of the points below will apply to your situation.  For those still on Drupal 6, the biggest issue this year is the anticipated release of Drupal 8, which will likely mean that Drupal 6 and its modules will no longer be supported or receive security updates.  This requires upgrading to Drupal 7.
 

If you have requests before the end of your fiscal year in March, please note that this is a very busy time for us, as many organizations are in the same situation.  Please discuss timing and financial options with your project manager.  The sooner we know what you require, the sooner we can plan.

=== ANNUAL MAINTENANCE CONSIDERATIONS ===

** 1. Drupal website(s) security updates.

Why is this important?  Security updates ensure that a site has up-to-date code so that potential security risks are addressed before they become a problem. Possible consequences of having a site without recent security updates: a leak of users' information, unauthorized access to your site, publishing not-approved content, hijacking the whole site, decreased performance.

How often should this be done?  Security updates should be applied when they become available.  The people who create the software issue updates when they are aware of problems.  For most website implementations, we use Drupal, which is an open source system. For Drupal, like any major piece of software, this can be as frequently as once a month, though sometimes a month or two goes by with no updates.

How much will this cost?  $1,000 to $3,500 annually.  The cost for our time in applying updates and doing other general maintenance on the site will vary depending on how complex the website is.

** 2. Drupal website(s) review for error logs, performance issues, missing content redirects, link checking, compatibility with new browsers, etc.

Why is this important?  Most problems with a website can be prevented when a review of error logs is done on a periodic basis. In addition, we can review a site for compatibility with new versions of major browsers (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari) and other potential problems.

How often should this be done?  We can review these areas when they arise during security updates, or on a quarterly basis, and apply simple fixes. If a major issue is noticed, we can estimate the cost of various options, and let you know so you can make a decision about how to proceed.

How much will this cost?  If a site never had such an audit, the first audit will take longer (it might take over a day, up to around $1,000 for the time involved).  Each subsequent pass should take less time, so the cost would be between $300 and $400 each quarter.

** 3. CiviCRM (contacts database) security updates.

Why is this important?  Security updates ensure that your database has up-to-date code, so that potential security threats are addressed before they become a problem.  In the case of your contacts database, this is especially important because you don't want the sensitive personal information in the system to be lost or compromised.

How often should this be done?  CiviCRM has a small number of security updates per year.  The schedule is irregular.

How much will this cost?  Based on how much time this took last year for the average system, we estimate that this would cost about $1,000 to $2,500 each year.

** 4. CiviCRM version upgrades

Why is this important?  CiviCRM releases version upgrades every few weeks, and major upgrades every few months.  Keeping up-to-date with the latest version helps your site run smoothly and gives you the latest features.  Older versions eventually stop receiving security updates.

How often should this be done?  Allocating an ongoing budget to upgrade CiviCRM regularly is the best approach.  At a minimum, CiviCRM should be upgraded once a year.

How much will this cost?  At a minimum, there should be budget allocated for one upgrade each year (approximately $700).  If the organization desires to have all recent features implemented as soon as they become available, that budget would be $2,000 to $3,000 to support multiple upgrades throughout the year.

** 5. "Nice to have" fixes.

We encourage all clients to improve their website and database systems as needed, on an ongoing basis.  The goal is to keep improving the user experience, to take advantage of new interfaces and features.  In some cases, your staff, volunteers or public visitors will have used a new kind of interface on other websites and will expect your site to work the same way.  In other cases, you will have discovered a new need that you realize could be addressed through the website.  It can be important to expand the website to address that need.  In some cases, staff or volunteers may be frustrated that the website doesn't deal with a new membership renewal process, for example, and it may cause them to use other tools instead of the website, which may decrease your efficiency.

This kind of work is obviously highly variable.  We encourage proactive planning with all our clients so we can help assess your organizational needs and provide realistic cost estimates.

=== UPCOMING ISSUES IN 2014 ===

** 1. Drupal major version upgrade

What is this?  Every few years, the Drupal community, releases a major new version of the software.  When they do this, they stop supporting older versions.  Generally, the two most recent versions are supported at any one time.  By early 2014, we expect a new major version (Drupal 8) will be released, and when that happens, Drupal 6 and its modules will likely stop being supported.

How often does this happen?  In general, major website upgrades are a good idea every 3 to 4 years.  One reason for that is because new versions are released, as discussed above.  But also, three years is a long time on the web.  New techniques are invented, and your users experience these new techniques on other websites they use.  You will experience pressure from them to upgrade, and you may recognize some new features that you would like to take advantage of in your website so that it better meets your needs.

How much will this cost?  If you are on Drupal 6, we have already sent an estimate of these costs specifc to your site.  It all depends on exactly what your website is doing and what has changed in the new version, and what new features you might want to take advantage of at this time.  We can discuss the options with you and determine the best approach given your feature requirements, and budget.  Since the cost can be high, we recommend making an upgrade part of a larger website redesign project, which is worth doing every 3 to 4 years for other reasons anyway, as described above.  For future planning, those on Drupal 7 will need to consider upgrading in 3 to 4 years' time (a major version upgrade on a typical site may cost from $5,000 to $15,000, for example).

** 2. Website accessibility standards to meet AODA requirements

What is this?  In Ontario, there is a new law called the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.  What it means is that by January 1, 2014, all designated public organizations and large organizations must make their websites accessible for persons with disabilities.  The two major disabilities that affect the use of websites are impaired motor skills, such as inability to use a mouse (a fully accessible website can be used entirely with just a keyboard), and impaired vision (a fully accessible website will have high contrast colours and larger fonts, as well as be compatible with "screen reader" software that blind people can use together with a keyboard to interact with a website).

There are certain official accessibility standards (called "WCAG 2.0 A-level") that the law requires certain organizations to meet.  Small organizations (50 or less staff) are encouraged to do so as well -- especially if they sell goods, provide services, or have facilities -- but it will be required by law for large organizations.  (See http://www.aoda.ca/ or contact the government to determine whether this applies to your organization).

We believe it's a best practice for any website to be accessible at the basic A-Level, at least, which means that people with disabilities can access information provided on that website. Sometimes small changes to a site will make it A-level compatible.

How often is this an issue?  Once your website has met certain standards, the only thing you need to think about is making sure new features and content that are added also achieve those standards.

How much will this cost?  We suggest scheduling a day of work at some point in the next year or two for us to review your website to make recommendations and verify what needs to be done to ensure that it is WCAG 2.0 A-level compatible.  The cost of that review would be about $750.  The cost of making the changes to accessibility, once we have reviewed your website, will depend on what you choose to do.