Finding the right website support company means finding the right group of people to extend your business. Some hire freelancers for website support and maintenance, which isn't advisable. Some hire site support and maintenance talent full-time. We know that's not scalable. So when it comes to a support and maintenance partnership, there are three choices are on the table:
1. Small: that raring-to-go, 10-generalists agency
2. Large: the established 350-employee giant
3. Medium-sized: 50-100 specialists
That Small Website Support Company
They want your business for a chance to prove themselves. Maybe they haven't worked with a client of your size before. Scalability might be an issue, same with experience. but one thing is for sure, they're pretty cheap.
If they're local, it might go something like this: the CEO gives you a short tour of the local office, which doesn't take long since they occupy just ten desks in a shared workspace. Everybody greets you with friendliness—shakes your hand.
Three developers huddle around a large screen, brainstorming to solve a problem while muttering back and forth in technical jargon you can't understand.
In the middle of your meeting, the CEO excuses himself or herself to take a call. Because a current client has uploaded a video that's not playing for a customer using the Chrome browser (or something like that). Nobody at the company has ever before worked in your business niche. When you ask about an SLA, the CEO assures you they will do everything they can to keep you happy.
The Industry Giant
It's going to come with a hefty price tag, expect it to be impersonal, and you better be big enough to get your point across. real empathy can be a challenge when you're dealing with hardened industry giants.
You'll see the signs too. It takes several days before your sales representative has a slot available. They explain their 24/7 automated support systems, reachable by email, a dedicated chat system and telephone at all hours. They also explains how every support client has an account manager assigned to them—something the medium sized agency has.
You'd like to meet the CEO, but, the salesperson says that they're busy all day in meetings. Ultimately, they give you a long list of impressive statistics about how many accounts they handle and how many upgrades and fixes they perform every month for others.
The Middle Ground
I promised myself I'd spare you the goldilocks and the three bears reference. But I couldn't resist. There is a 'just right,' and there are reasons it makes sense for most business sizes. They're out of the startup phase; they're scaleable,
You'll likely be met with something like this: they too have an automated support system, accessible around the clock. And they have enough personnel to take immediate care of problems even if reported in the middle of the night or on Sunday. They introduce you to the account manager you'd be assigned to, and they assure you that your business is the kind of client they like.
They do have some experience with your niche, but your account manager promises to sit down with you and learn everything necessary to understand your goals, your position. And she will explain their SLA in detail.
Sizing up Your Website Support Company—for What?
All three website support company sizes have the technical capabilities. Ultimately each one of these could handle those basic support and maintenance tasks, like these very common 11:
1. Executing new website designs: keeping pages updated and fresh is competitive. This approach to a website being a living, evolving medium. Your platforms are means, not ends in themselves.
2. Protect the website: hackers, malware, and denial of service attacks aren't going away. And the bigger the business, the more dangerous the breach. Imagine the resources large organizations have to defend data, and yet see how they've failed. Having no dedicated resource available is suicide.
3. Changes in SEO: Let's just admit it, search engines have us by the scruff of the neck. When SEO changes come down to us from on high, because decision makers up top have seen users evolve and topics shift, digital engagement teams need to scale.
4. Update and troubleshoot: bugs, broken links, these things need to be corrected regularly. Because content is involved to the extent that it's been (since it claimed the throne), your site shouldn't be stagnant. And if it isn't stagnant, there will be support and maintenance needs.
5. Keep the site loading super fast: site load matters. Optimizing load time is the business of a website support company. Regardless of size, an extension will have to scale to handle these changes or jump to fixing flukes.
6. Expand and evolve content marketing: the right website support company is a marketing department's closest ally. Websites serve as content hubs and have to change, to be rearranged and reconfigured.
7. Maintain shopping cart software, payment gateways: e-commerce platforms specifically require adjustments, updates and use flow quality assurance.
8. Ensure images and other media are being properly displayed: videos, infographics, photo carousels—sometimes these break. When making changes to your site, it's best to ensure all media types look and function the way they should.
9. Read your weblogs to store your data for analysis: data is valuable, plain and simple. The more relevant data to have to review and pull insights from, the better. Support specialists can help you extract and work website data like this.
10. Perform site backups, establish a downtime strategy: every business needs a plan for website downtime. Establishing backup exercises and a plan for the worst isn't something that should be put off.
11. Update all web frameworks and plugins: plugins, modules, frameworks—these need tweaking and updates. Fortunately, tasks like this don't have to become burdensome to your internal team. Some sites have over 100 plugins to keep watch over.
With the selection of your common taskings reviewed, and an idea of your sizing choices, it's time to move forward with your research.
Nathan Roach, Director of Marketing
Germany-based consumer of old world wine and the written word. Offline you can find him spending time with his wife and daughter at festivities in the Rhineland.