Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Construction Season: How are your underpinnings?

In the colder regions of the U.S., the joke is likely the same. There are two seasons to the year: winter and construction. Construction season is now in full swing and it is interesting to see what work is being done. Bridges that we assume are in fine shape are having their support structures reinforced, highways are being torn-up and repaved, and many other projects are underway.

Thinking about the bridges, I take for granted that every bridge I drive over is sturdy, but now as I look at the construction work being done, perhaps I should not be so sure in my assumption. When we drive over a bridge, we really have no idea what the underside is like and if the supports are in good shape.

The same is true for a web site. We visit a web site and assume that what is keeping the site running -- its underpinnings -- are in good shape. But we generally see only what is on the surface and really don't know what lies beneath. Sometimes the underpinnings do show -- like cracks in the road -- and display where some maintenance needs to be done. For the site to continue to function well, the "construction crew" must do regular and timely maintenance. More in-depth maintenance must be planned for and scheduled, so that the entire structure does not fail at some point. And sometimes that in-depth maintenance means replacing the supportive structures under a web site.

Unfortunately, we can go for a long, long time without thinking about maintaining a web site, but in reality most sites need regular maintenance. Regular maintenance helps to keep a site fresh and interesting. Those sites with loads on content, content management systems, etc., can have more things that will cause them to fail, so regular maintenance is important. The construction crew should be out on a regular basis looking for potential problems, making patches, and planning for future in-depth maintenance.

Here in Upstate New York, our road maintenance is planned for warm weather and thus a specific time of the year. When do you plan your web site maintenance? Is it done at a "slow period" during the year? Does someone check things over monthly? Or do you wait for something to break? Who checks your digital assets to ensure that they have not degraded?

Perhaps it is time for you to pull out the hard hats, lay out the orange cones and declare that construction season has begun.

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