What to budget for your ongoing website maintenance cost
Maintaining a fast, functional, and compliant website is crucial to success in today’s digital-centric world. Keeping everything running smoothly in this way often requires investing in the help of a trained professional.
But as a business, it can be hard to figure out how much you should expect to spend on website maintenance. Here’s how to gauge your needs and options, as well as how to find the right balance of cost and quality.
Estimating Your Monthly Maintenance Needs
It’s impossible to start budgeting without an understanding of what you’re budgeting for. ‘Website maintenance’ is a fairly broad term, and it can refer to everything from running quarterly accessibility compliance audits to weekly or even daily security checks. To get a better idea of what you’ll need to spend, you’ll need to first understand how much time will be spent on maintenance each month.
On average, business owners tend to underestimate the amount of work that goes into website maintenance. Many think that their site will only need a day or two of work per month for some quick updates, but that’s often a bit overly simplistic.
As a bare minimum, the team looking after your site should be checking for upgrades and reviewing potential changes on any given day. They should also be conducting regular accessibility audits and ensuring that your site is safe and secure. However, your site will pass through quite a few hands throughout this process, and there are a number of best practices that need to be followed to maintain security and ensure consistent quality of code.
As a result, in one day, a mid-level developer may be able to take a look through your site, investigate what needs to be done, and make easy fixes. After that, you may still need about a half a day of a producer’s time to discuss the item backlog, site priorities, and any future plans that should be accounted for.
If all you’ve planned is two days of work, that only leaves you with another half day to work on new features or carry out small projects. Since you won’t be able to make much of a dent in your priorities over such a short window, it’s easy to see how the time you’ll need to dedicate to website maintenance can add up.
Your Options for Website Maintenance
Once you understand your maintenance needs, the next step is to consider how you’ll support them. Costs can vary widely depending on the type of resource you choose, so you’ll need to carefully consider your options. Below are a few of the most popular routes companies take.
Hiring a full-time employee to take care of maintenance is often the first possibility that comes to mind. However, this usually doesn’t provide the best ROI: if you hire a mid-level developer whose role is completely dedicated to maintenance, they’ll likely have nothing to do 70-80% of the time. That means you’ll end up paying them a full-time salary and providing benefits for a very small amount of work.
To solve this, some companies opt to include website maintenance in another role’s responsibilities. Typically, this ends up falling under a marketing role’s purview. The problem here, however, is that marketing professionals usually don’t have the technical skills required to perform the required maintenance. Part of a maintenance professional’s job is staying up-to-date on the latest developments, so even if a marketing pro has the technical know-how, they probably won’t have the capacity to take that on in addition to their other work.
Furthermore, at the time of writing here in Australia with borders still closed for the foreseeable future due to the pandemic, there is a considerable shortfall in skilled developers. Competition is high to hire competent team members, let alone those who truly excel in their field. Hiring internally requires the network to effectively recruit, the culture to attract quality talent, the knowledge to successfully interview, and the budget to accommodate inflated salary expectations.
Additionally, hiring only one in-house maintenance professional can be a liability — they can be a single point of failure. If they become ill or leave their job, your site will suddenly be without any maintenance support, and all of that knowledge will leave with them. Considering that hiring even one full-time maintenance employee typically doesn’t work out well from an ROI perspective, hiring a team to solve this issue isn’t a good option in most cases.
When it comes to outsourcing, companies have two options: freelancers and agencies.
Generally, freelancers are the cheapest option available to companies. However, the lower monetary investment can end up meaning you have to invest more time — freelancers need to be managed.
Just like an in-house hire, freelancers also present the issue of a single point of failure. Since they have no team backing them, if the freelancer happens to be busy with another client or becomes ill, there will be no one available to help you. There can also be issues regarding limitations of IP transfer for the freelancer’s work if your initial hire doesn’t work out and you need to onboard a different freelancer after a while.
If you do decide to go with a freelancer, you’ll need to decide whether to hire one based in Australia or off-shore.
Australia-based freelancers will cost more, but they’ll understand the Australian markets, and – if you have an issue – it’ll be easier to simply pick up the phone and give them a call. For some companies, like those working in the financial sector or with the government, this may be your only option, if data can’t be taken off-shore for privacy reasons.
Off-shore freelancers, on the other hand, are much cheaper, but they won’t understand the Australian perspective, and it’s less likely you’ll be able to reach them quickly when needed. That’s why we generally advise companies to only consider this as an option for simple website maintenance needs.
Hiring an agency resolves many of the issues that come from hiring an in-house employee or a freelancer. An agency gives companies the benefits of an in-house team but without having to pay a salary and benefits for time that isn’t spent on maintenance work.
Agencies can provide companies with SLA (service level agreement) level support, which means that all the terms, expectations, and requirements for website maintenance are clearly set out at the start. This also provides protection to organisations by outlining what remedies can be expected if the services aren’t carried out satisfactorily.
Generally, agencies provide access to both mid-level and senior-level developers, which gives them the ability to work on problems of varying complexity. These teams typically have good IP transfer processes, which means that even if your primary service provider isn’t available, another team member can take over in their absence. Plus, agency teams usually have broad skill sets, which allow them to work with UX, data, analytics, PM, creatives, and more.
That said, it should come as no surprise that an agency typically costs more than a freelancer. While some companies may be inclined to cut costs by hiring an off-shore agency, the same issues regarding privacy and communication may arise.
Weighing Cost vs. Quality
It’s possible to find website maintenance services at all price points, but it’s important to understand what you’re getting for that price. After all, you can’t buy a luxury brand at a dollar store price — if you’re paying less for your support, there’s a good chance it’s because the skillset or overall service is not of the same quality.
Sitback provides companies with SLA-level support, experienced and flexible teams, smooth IP-transfer processes, and Australia-based service. This culminates in a website maintenance service that provides the highest quality at a reasonable price — and with a strong ROI.
For more, visit our Support & Optimisation page to see how Sitback provides scalable support that solves your biggest website maintenance challenges.