Understanding your Website & Server

Keeley Caverno
January 12, 2020

When onboarding new clients to our CMS Managed Services plans, I found it helpful to give a quick overview of how websites are built and hosted, in order to better explain why we do what we do. Even our most technically savvy clients enjoyed the “spiel”, so I’ve decided to share it with the world! Hello World!

Your website is likely built on a CMS platform (WordPress, Craft, Drupal, etc) which is the foundation for your site files. CMS stands for Content Management System, which means it’s a platform that allows you to have more control over your website content than a traditional static site.

Think of your CMS as your smartphone, which out of the box can make calls, send text messages, has a calculator, and a few other features. To make your phone “smarter” you can add apps for functionality like online banking or fitness or games. In the same way, in order to customize your website to meet your business needs, plugins were added to your site for features like sliders or forms or animations. 

Both your CMS and the plugins were created by other developers, maybe even a community of developers, and they will release updates for new features, bug fixes or security patches, similar to how your phone OS and apps will release updates.

Those updates introduce new code to your website, and anytime new code is added, there is a chance of compatibility issues with other apps or the way in which your website was coded. This is why we always do updates on a staging site, to make sure that doing an update does not cause any new issues before pushing the updates to your live site. If there are issues and they are easily fixable, we’ll go ahead and fix them, otherwise, we’ll let you know what the issues are, how long they’ll take to fix, and get approval to use your CMR (client maintenance request) hours in your plan budget – or ask if you want to hold off on the update for a while.

Similar to how you might not want to update your smartphone or laptop OS as soon as a new release comes out (because there might be glitches and it’s often better to wait until the following release that includes those fixes too), we’ll sometimes strategically wait to install a major update on your website. At some point, however, the updates will need to be installed, because not doing updates cause security vulnerabilities on your site. 

It’s like doing routine oil changes on your car but never rotating the tires or replacing the air filter. Eventually, the unbalanced tires or clogged air filter will cause major damage to the car and you’ll have to pay even more to repair the damage, than if you had kept up with the routine maintenance.

So, that is why we do monthly, bi-weekly, or weekly CMS and Plugin updates depending on your plan level and how large/complex your site is.

 

The next major thing to know about is servers, site files, IP addresses, and DNS. The server is where your site files are hosted, and the DNS is the service that ensures your URL sends visitors to the right site.

If you have slow site speed, frequent malicious activity, or your hosting provider isn’t responsive enough to your needs, you may want to change the server your site is on.

Think of servers as a plot of land, the site files as your house with all the belongings, the IP address as the street address, the URL as your phone number, and the DNS as the phone service. You could pick up your house with all its belongings and plop it on a new plot of land, then have your old phone number redirected to the same house at its new address. Your house and the belongings haven’t changed. That’s what it’s like to move your site from one server to another server and change where the DNS is pointed. Your SEO isn’t impacted because the URLs and site content are all the same, but your site will be in a new neighborhood with better/worse security and higher/lower speed limits. 

At fjorge we have a dedicated Systems Administrator who manages our servers, so you can think of our servers as gated communities with a groundskeeper/security guard.

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fjorge has a dedicated CMS Managed Services team with several plan options available. Our priority is the security and sustained functionality of your site. Plans are month-to-month and can be upgraded or canceled on a monthly basis. If you’re looking for a development partner to service your website, you’ve come to the right place!

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