A website, what it actually takes

There is an idea that a website should be put in place, though the reason why is not well understood. The early days of the web positioned the company site as a tech-savvy alternative to the brochure. The site could be quickly put in place and left there. That has changed, and the process is more complex.

In order to put in place and use a site, three broad steps have to be followed. These consist of putting in place the website, making the site is secure, and keeping the site up to date with current technology.
The first step contains several sub-steps. Before the site can be developed, a server has to be prepared. This server has to contain an operating system for the site, much like a computer contains an operating system on a computer which runs the programmes.
Once the OS is in place, the site can be developed. This will include the core of the site, and any additional modules which add functionality to the site. Theoretically, at this point, the site is almost ready to run, and content will be added.
At this point however, the site should be optimised for speed. Few people have time to watch a site loading, so the better optimised for speed it is, the better the chances of someone hanging around to look at it.
Once the site is optimised, and working well, with all its contents, on the development domain, the IP address can be safely pointed at the web address.
The second step is to ensure that the site is secure. This entails a number of functions. Typically, the OS on which the site is developed will change, as will the modules which give it functionality. At the same time the site will be under continuous threat from hackers. The degree of threat depends on the value of the data and the functionality on the site. You may really have something valuable to lose, or you may just be a convenient platform for a hacker’s message, or a fun way for a hacker to test his or her skills.
In order to limit the possibility of a breach, security must be in place, firstly to prevent hacking of the server, and secondly to prevent hacking of the site. A second process entails backing up the server and / or site so that in the event of a successful breach, the site and server can be restored relatively rapidly. This should be backed up in two places. If this seems excessive, bear in mind that a determined hacker can go almost anywhere.
The additional factor to consider here is that there can be moments when servers crash, taking data with them, so dispersed back-ups become doubly important.
The third step is closely related to security, but also considers functionality. As operating systems and modules become known, functionality is improved and weaknesses are identified, which may be exploited. In order to deal with this scenario of shifting goalposts, regular patches are released, and have to be applied as they are released.
And every few years, much like office computing, new iterations of operating systems are released. This means that the OS and site have to be upgraded from the ground up, typically every few years.
What this boils down to is an ongoing exercise in the management of site technology. Yet it is a valuable exercise. Somebody recently pointed out to me that a search for and examination of a company site is an important way to establish the credentials of a company. In other words if the website is poorly executed, the company needs to get it together again.
The obvious thing is that setting up a good website and managing it should not be left to chance. The person who sets up the website has to be vetted for professionalism, and the ability to go the distance. The internal process must be managed by people who understand the parameters of the job, and it cannot be left alone once it is up. There are distinct steps to be followed with clear checks and balances.
A website is a long-term marketing commitment.


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