With the recent attack on the Royal Navy website I thought it prudent to explain the importance of upgrading and updating your website, not only for security reasons to prevent attacks like this but for a variety of other positive reasons.
Updating/Upgrading a Website
All websites would have been written using technology available at that time to a design concept that may have been “modern” or “fashionable” at that time, whether it be plain old HTML for static sites, or dynamic database content managed sites.
It is extremely common that the coding and technology used was not completely perfect and issues may exist such as certain functions not working or security exploits hackers will find. In time these these bugs and security issues may come to light and be fixed within the original code and technology used to build your website.
The problem is your website is already built and will not benefit from these improvements. Your web developer would need to implement these fixes into your site to ensure you benefit from these improvements.
This is known as updating or upgrading your website to the latest and improved version.
Why Should I Update My Website?
There are many reasons to update your website, some more important than others, but all are necessary if you want to maximise the effectiveness of your website and protect your business from attack.
Arguably the most important reason to keep your website updated and especially true for eCommerce sites that store sensitive customer data on their database.
For a content management system that has an administration interface and relies upon the server executing scripts, it is vital that all known “holes” a hacker could use to gain entry to your site are plugged. If not then it may be possible a hacker could gain entry to your site and access sensitive data, deface your website or use your server to attack other websites and computers around the world.
For the same reasons, it is just as important to make sure your server and it’s software the website is hosted on are also up to date, so even if you do not have a content managed website, server updates are just as important.
It is extremely common all software when released will have bugs that were not identified previously. Being a computer user you probably know the frustration when things don’t work! It’s the same for websites. It is likely the coding is not 100% perfect and something, somewhere may not work as expected. For off the shelf systems with an active development it is likely the bugs will be fixed, if known, in future updates.
When a new versions of a browser is released it is quite possible that it will interpret the website differently to the older browser. This issue mainly exists in the Internet Explorer range of browsers. The move from Internet Explorer 6 to 7 saw one of the biggest changes in the way browsers interpret website code as IE7 moved closer to adopting web standards. This is because Internet Explorer 6 was (is) well, quite rubbish really (yet so many people still use it!). So your website may look perfect for IE6 if that was the latest version when it was built, but some things may be out of place with Internet Explorer 7. Differences occurred again from the move to Internet Explorer 8 and I am expecting more differences with the imminent release of Internet Explorer 9.
If you want a consistent look across all browsers, it is very important your website is checked and updated with every major release of popular browsers (mostly true for IE).
Benefit from Technology (Goodbye Flash and Hello HTML5 & CSS3)
HTML4, the version of HTML used to build websites, has been around for about 10 years! Quite a timescale for internet technology. Standards have moved on and the with the release of HTML5 and CSS3 we have far more features to take advantage of for websites. Whereas previously it would be common to use Flash for simple things like playing a video or simple animations, and images to make round corner boxes and shadows, we can now use plain HTML5 and CSS3 instead. Websites can be dramatically improved using HTML5 and CSS3.
The only problem is browsers need to support it and once again IE let’s us down. We have to wait for IE9 to be released and everyone use it, before it becomes common practice. I suspect it will take years to update IE users to the latest version though, so we still need to fallback to HTML4 for websites for many years to come.
Functionality and Features
If you use an old content management system it is likely a more updated version would provide more features not possible in your older system. Perhaps an improved “insert image” process exists for example, allowing you to resize images on upload rather than use that slow to download 3Mb digital camera file.
Social Networking and Marketing
Social Networking has exploded. More and more people are online and the internet their primary source of information and reference. Your website needs to get on the bandwagon or be left behind. Updating your website to integrate with social networking is considered quite an important marketing strategy.
Search engines constantly update their ranking methods, such as the above speed factor, so keeping up to date and updating your website is important to ensure your rankings are maintained.
Improved Content Management and Maintenance
In time you are likely to have a much better understanding of how you use your website compared to when you first built it. Therefore it may be possible to streamline the administration and maintenance side of the website to make it easier for you to manage and add content. For example, maybe you are adding Latest News to several locations on the website whereas the website could be configured to add the news in all the different locations at the same time therefore reducing the time it takes you to add the news.
The most visual aspect of a website will sadly look dated over time. You know that 70′s block of flats down the road that’s a bit of an eye sore? Your website may be the online equivalent, putting people off using your services or buying your products. It may not represent quality any more. So definitely time for a design update. I would say a redesign is required once every year or two.
Good for business
With more new features on your website such as social network integration, perhaps a latest news or customer testimonials listing, a better user interaction with some JQuery effects, a brand new, modern design representing better quality and professionalism, a much faster load time and a lot more, you will certainly see a boost in traffic and business following a website upgrade.
In addition you can email your contact database to let them know of the improvements and how they will benefit from them, resulting in an increase in visitors and hopefully business.
Upgrading does of course come at a price… it is likely you will have to commission your web developer to perform the upgrade, which is likely to cost some. If you have a content management system that supports easy upgrade, and no bespoke changes have been made, hopefully upgrading will be a straightforward and low cost process meaning you can afford regular updates and benefit from a new and improved website.