The Cost of Website Maintenance UK

Gordon Smith
By Gordon Smith

How much does website maintenance cost in the UK? The question might seem straightforward but like all things tech, when you dig a little deeper it can get a bit more complex. Let's look at some of the driving factors.

Introduction

Before we dive in, let's touch on what website maintenance actually is. Essentially it's the ongoing service which aims to keep your website up and running (uptime), free of errors, running fast (speed) and recoverable (backup and recovery). An important part of the service is also the support you get from real people as and when you need it.

So uptime, errors, speed, recovery and support are the five main pillars of maintenance and all website maintenance packages will include an element of these. Let's quickly look at each one in turn.

Uptime

Uptime is a measure of how long your website is online for, in a given month. It's measured as a percentage (the higher the better) and downtime incidents and outages go against uptime. For example, if a website was online for all but 30 minutes in a given month, it would have an uptime of about 99.93%. This sounds high, but actually for many websites, particularly busy e-commerce websites, the site must be online 100% of time otherwise it can result in large losses.

Errors

Errors in website functioning are problems which cause the site to malfunction (not do what it's supposed to do). Sometimes errors won't cause too big a problem on the site and are more of an annoyance. Other errors are "catastrophic" - for example, an error that prevents a customer from checking out on an e-commerce site would be in this category. For this reason we categorise errors into low, medium and high priority errors with the aim of reducing all categories, but with a particular focus on the high priority. 

Speed

We've all experienced the irritation and inconvenience of trying to use a website that's running too slowly. Studies prove that adding just a second of speed to each page load can reduce e-commerce sales by 10%. Speed is money in the online world. For this reason speed is a key measure in website maintenance. 

Recovery

Perhaps the least understood element of website maintenance is recoverability. Should a website "crash" or become corrupted (there are many reasons why this can happen) then the ability to get the back online is crucial. If the site is badly corrupted then it will need to be restored from a backup. So the ability to recover the website and bring a recent backup online is vital. It's your "insurance policy" - only needed rarely but when it is needed it is needed very urgently. 

Support

Perhaps the most important part of the service is the ability to call up a web professional and discuss your website's requirements.

Perhaps you like to manage your website yourself but need a bit of support now and then. Perhaps you need to outsource the entire management of your site to professionals. Or perhaps, like most businesses, your needs fall somewhere in the middle. 

Whatever level of support you need, it's a key driving factor in the cost of website maintenance because the service will usually bundle in a number of hours per month reserved for supporting you and your website.

The cost of this support will vary depending on how it's delivered  (by phone, email or Skype/Zoom/Teams etc.) and how many hours are expected to be needed. Monthly support hours can vary from 1 hour to almost full-time hours and the hourly rate may vary but usually falls in the region of £50 to £100 per hour. 

Cost of website maintenance

So that brings us to the question of the total cost of website maintenance. Each of the four pillars above has a variety of different levels of service. Each one will usually be tailor-made for your specific needs. 

In terms of uptime, the cost will be driven by two main factors: the reliability of your web server(s) and the reliability of your website content management software (CMS). The power and reliability of your servers is in turn driven by your needs in terms of the amount of traffic that your site typically receives each month. But the power required must cater not just for "average" traffic, but for spikes in traffic caused from time to time. 

Other causes of website downtime include hardware failure - after all, all websites are still hosted on some physical machine somewhere in the world (even cloud-hosted websites). Issues with your DNS - the records that tell the Interner where to go to your website - are another very common cause. Robust "premium" DNS hosting is advisable but costs more than "cheap" DNS provided by large-scale web hosting companies. 

Denial of Service attacks (DDOS) are another cause of website. These are caused when your site is deliberately bombarded with requests from multiple locations. This is a type of attack and whilst higher-profile sites are more at risk, it can happen to anybody. To combat against DDOS, web firewalls are advised but again, these drive up the cost of your website hosting and maintenance. 

Hacking: almost all websites are vulnerable to hacking and some types of sites much more than others. Hackers are always one step ahead of the game and are extremely good at finding new vulnerabilities in the software that runs your website. Maintenance services much keep your website software up to date at all times in order to ensure the latest updates that fix known vulnerabilities apply. 

Bugs: your website is enabled by a complex set of interacting software. From the server it's hosted on to the database that contains your website content, to the content management system that allows you to update it, it's all software and bugs can and do frequently creep in. Again, keeping your software bang up to date is the right way to guard against software bugs that can throw your site offline if not looked after. The frequency of software updates is a driver of the cost of website maintenance. 

In terms of website speed, this is largely dictated by how and where your website is hosted. There are some very cheap hosting packages out there at the moment, with costs as little as £1 per month. But the more traffic a website attracts, the more robust and powerful your web server needs to be. The costs can reach hundreds or thousands of pounds each month, depending on the complexity of the website and the amount of traffic it must cope with. 

Recovery: website recovery is hopefully only needed on rare occasions but when it is needed, it's needed fast. The number of backups your site needs will vary from site to site. Perhaps a daily backup is sufficient, or perhaps your site requires continual backups. This is particularly true of e-commerce websites where customers will be placing orders continually throughout the day, and this data is vital to the running of the business.

Your website maintenance company will take all of the above factors into account when pricing up your maintenance package. They will look at: the amount of traffic your site receives and therefore where best to host it, the power required to keep your site running quickly, the risks and harm caused by outages and slow running, and the appropriate amount of backup and recovery points. 

Website maintenance can vary in price from under £100 per to many thousands, depending on the complexity of the site, amount of traffic, cost of downtime, and the necessary speed of recovery.