It's a fact of life that whether we like it or not, time moves on for all of us! Particularly within the IT industry, with so many new innovations occurring on a regular basis!
As a consequence of this ever changing environment, a question that I sometimes get asked is "How long should a website last?"
Unfortunately there's no simple answer to this one, because there are many contributing factors that can influence longevity.....most of which are beyond our control. I'm referring to factors such as discontinued software applications for sites, and vulnerable server software being withdrawn. Then there's new technologies that emerge......a typical example of that being mobile responsive websites.
However, I'm going to give you the main reasons for upgrading your website software, and hopefully give you an approximate timescale for when I'd consider it necessary.
The main reason for upgrading, and by a very wide margin, is security!
Cyber crime is rampant! But it's not just cyber criminals that an online business needs to worry about.....it's vandals! In fact, these are your biggest threat. Just the same as if they broke your shop window or daubed graffiti on your walls, they'd love nothing better than to trash your website. It's a game to them!
Did you know that there are sites out there that actually organise competitions for members whereby they score points by defacing sites? And they always leave a calling card on your site (sometimes not very pleasant) in order to identify themselves so they can rack up points in the game.
Eventually, vulnerabilities that initially could only be accessed by the elite few will be accessible to even the novices. Very often via user-friendly interfaces, and even guided by online tutorials! It's one of the reasons why software keeps moving on in terms of older, vulnerable applications being withdrawn and newer versions being introduced to replace them. While no application can be guaranteed free of security flaws forever, newer systems are all coded with the knowledge of past vulnerabilities in mind, and patched accordingly.
We've always taken security on the servers very seriously, and the trigger for it to activate is very slight. But if a vulnerability exists in an application that allows a third party to infiltrate your site by simply walking in without raising the alarm, then none of these measures are going to take effect. Given a long enough timeframe, intrusion is guaranteed. So security must always be paramount in your planning.
Of course there are other reasons for upgrading your website. These would include embracing new technology. A typical example would be mobile responsive websites, which has been the most significant technical advancement in the past 10 years. This is the one that's changed the game totally.
Or maybe your competitors have recently taken a major initiative in revamping their web presence, and you're now looking like the poor relation? If that's the case, then it could be the time to consider upgrading.
Has your business switched direction? Or have you changed your marketing strategy? If so, then it may be time to change your website to match the new focus!
Perception! As the years pass, your site will look more and more outdated. And so will potential clients' perception of you. Essentially, you will not be giving them the confidence to use your services.
All of these are valid reasons to consider upgrading......but the security aspect is by far the most important!
As for the life of a site.....in principle it could run forever if you can find a webhost that will run obsolete server software indefinitely! Plus you'd need to be totally invisible to potential hackers of course.
In reality, neither of those scenarios are going to be very likely, so I'd say around 3 to 4 years before you'd need to think about replacing your existing site. If not for functionality and appearance, then most definitely for security reasons because you may well be vulnerable by that time.
But whatever your reason for considering an upgrade, you'll still get the benefits of all of the aspects! Plus you'll have the peace of mind of knowing that your site is looking modern and attractive to potential clients, while being as safe and secure as possible.