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WebWorks by Terry Young


Know what to expect before making a decision

When commissioning a website, most practices think that all sites are pretty much the same no matter who builds and designs them. While many websites out there are similar, this is not always a good thing.

There are two main types of websites. Custom-coded sites, like the sites we develop, and open source sites.

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Open source is what is sold by many web designers. It is free software that anyone can download. There are also many free design templates. Because it is free, it is extremely popular with web designers. They only need to know how to install it and add a template to make your site. They don't need to understand the coding that makes the site work.

Open source includes WordPress, Joomla, Magento, and Drupal, to name a few. While easier for the designer, they can cause problems for the client.

1. Longer issue response. If your site has an issue, the designer has to go back to where they downloaded it and look to see if that issue has already been reported and fixed. If it hasn't, they have to file a bug report, and wait for someone to find a solution to fix your site.

2. Security issues. Because it is open source, anybody, good or bad, can download it and examine the code, which obviously raises HIPAA compliance questions. Ironically, most web designers are not programmers and don't know or need to know how the code works. Hackers, however, do know how it works, and take the time to go over the code, line-by-line, to exploit weaknesses.

WordPress can run plug-ins, extra pieces of code for options like event calendars and image slide shows. They are created by people outside of WordPress with different levels of coding proficiency. Plug-ins bring their own set of issues. One such slide show plug-in recently led to over 100,000 WordPress sites being hacked.

As I have covered before, most people think that hackers would never go after their website because they're just small, local businesses with nothing worth stealing. The hacker's motivation is not always about stealing. It is about finding somewhere they can conduct their business without being discovered. Such things include spamming, attacking other websites, and running pfishing schemes.

The hacker's motivation
is not always
about stealing.
It is about finding somewhere they
can conduct
their business
without being discovered.

To demonstrate to prospective clients that this is a real issue to be concerned about, I show them three places:

First, I Google 'wordpress website hacked' to show how common this issue is. Next is I scroll down to show real-time global hacking attempts against WordPress sites with Wordfence software installed. As I write, there are over 15,000 attempts a minute. Finally, on our website, under 'No WordPress Websites' we have a realtime list of hacking attempts (all unsuccessful) against our clients' websites, all of which are small business clients, just like you.

3. Ongoing charges with open source. Because of the many security flaws, you will need to pay your designer to constantly apply security updates to your site. Also, getting decent search results may require ongoing payments for search engine optimization and pay-per-click, which can run thousands of dollars a month.

If you have concerns with your web presence reaching your widest customer base, now is the time to look into our WebUpdate system sites. Not open source, and coded for your needs, they take advantage of advanced SEO, social, and responsive features to give your business the best competitive edge online.

Terry Young is the founder and CEO of Internet Marketing and Design, the award winning web and multimedia design agency in Chesapeake.

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