Planning For Good Technical Support
There are several flavors of "technical support" that every website owner eventually requires.
First, there is the technical support that the web hosting company provides... this is the company that literally provides space on their computer for your website files. You’d call them if you were having a problem with some physical aspect of the computer on which your website resides. For example, you’ll give them a call if people are complaining that the emails they send to your web address are getting bounced back to them. You’d also call the web hosting company if you couldn’t retrieve email associated with your web address. And, you’d call them if your website vanishes... since that typically indicates a web hosting computer that simply needs to be rebooted.
Second, there is the technical support that you’ll need from your website developer. The support that you require may be very simple... if you have a simple site with half a dozen pages, for example. Or, you could have a heavy-duty website with hundreds of pages, lots of custom programming, multiple databases, relationships with third party software solutions, and potentially more. In this second scenario, the circumstances under which you’ll be calling your website developer for support will vary widely. Obviously, you’ll be in touch with your website developer when you are considering adding new capabilities to your site. There are also certain "housekeeping chores" that either you or your web developer need to perform on a regular basis. One example of this is backup. Every resource that supports or feeds into your website needs to be backed up on a regular basis, with the backups themselves stored in more than one physical location. There will also be times when your website developer needs to modify some aspect of your website files in response to a change that your web hosting company has made to their computers’ configuration files.
Most web hosting companies include some form of technical support at no charge to their customers. However if they need to make a change to the configuration of their computers (which happens regularly for security reasons), and consequently your website files need to change, then the web hosting company will not cover that... instead, you will need to hire your own web developer to handle that modification for you. Likewise, if you decide to move your website to another hosting company, you’ll probably want your website developer to physically handle the move, since that person knows the inner workings of your website, and can correctly anticipate each step that the upcoming move will require. It’s extremely important that a single, knowledgeable person... specifically, your web developer... be fully in control of the site so that they are not making complex (and potentially incorrect) choices based on insufficient information.
For example, I had a customer a few years ago for whom we created a database-driven shopping cart. The website needed the correct database login credentials in order to open a database and retrieve the list of products for sale. However, this particular website owner was a nervous woman who believed she needed to change her database password, every day, for security reasons. What she didn’t do, however, was to have us change the programming code on her website to match the new password. Since the website couldn’t open the database, given the password mismatch, it also couldn’t retrieve the list of products for sale, and her website physically could not work. The lack of communication from the site owner to the web developer created a situation that ultimately doomed the website’s ability to succeed.
When you are planning a new website, in addition to arranging ongoing technical support from your web developer, you may also want to consider requesting custom classroom training materials, online help guides, and paper-based user guides or cheat sheets. By working with your web developer to document as much useful information up front, and by making that information freely available to your staff members, you will be able to maintain a high quality of support for your users, while minimizing the ongoing expense associated with obtaining solid technical support from your web developer.
This material is Copyrighted. All rights reserved. Linda C. Uranga-Norton,
President and Founder, Urangatang Web Design. To obtain reprint
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