The traits all true systems administrators share, though, are the unwavering dedication to making the Internet better, and mastery of all things infrastructure.
The year 2020 is over! Of course, that doesn’t single-handedly solve all of our problems, but still, most of us heaved a sigh of relief. That was certainly a year to test endurance and the ability to persevere, as well as the agility of our businesses. Despite the adversities, we have learned much and so let’s explore the few things that are good takeaways from this life lesson.
Much of the upheaval in work and play that we saw last year will remain, and some things will never revert entirely. One thing that is a given, is that consumers’ online expectations have skyrocketed. With that in mind, we’d like to share some thoughts on building more robust, faster, and better websites in 2021. Combining good planning with a little luck, we can bring more good mojo into your year.
Optimize Your Site for Traffic Changes
A neverending cycle, SERP changes are happening as we speak. The days of stuffing loads of keywords into footers or faking image rankings via alt tags are long gone. Instead, your site needs consistency, useful information and well-thought-out structure that tells a clear and compelling story, both to the bots that determine your SERP rank and the customers who expect a straightforward browsing experience.
Those webmasters that serve video must also concern themselves with making sure your video player offers all the right formats, for desktop as well as mobile. In today’s situation, people spend a lot of time at home, so you must ensure high-quality streams and cross-platform compatibility.
ISPs reacted to the new modality with record spending on infrastructure, and people are way more likely to be watching content on a high-speed connection. The surfer who spent a ton on the gigabit fiber, or even those on the 300 mbit cable connection, will no longer be satisfied with a 720px “semi-HD” video experience. 2020 also boasts an increase of more than 50% in big-screen TV sales. This means customers are more likely to watch video content on their TV, so now is the perfect time to make sure that you support playback on the biggest screens available.
Security: Time to batten down the hatches
It has never been more important to secure your websites and data. This may not be the first time you hear this, but the start of a new year is a great time to clean and polish up. This could be a great New Year’s resolution. Double-check that you revoked access to hosting accounts or control panels for people who no longer work with you. The unemployment crisis is drastic, and the wrong person with credentials to your account could make your 2021 even worse than 2020 (you’re thinking “is that even possible?” Yes, yes it is).
Here’s a basic checklist to go through:
- Remind your trusted employees and partners to use strong passwords and have two-factor authentication enabled.
- Check your software packages to see if updates are available (outdated software is a likely attack vector against your website).
- Improve your minimalist Zen skills by removing user accounts, software, and services you no longer use. Start the year lean and mean by getting rid of the rubbish.
- Make sure you have an actionable data backup plan as well as a retrieval plan? Most are so focused on having backups that they are oblivious about restoring them. As a website operator, you don’t want to guess and hope — test and know for sure.
Scalability is the Only Way
If there’s one thing we learned in 2020, it is that you can never predict the next upheaval – lockdown, economic turn, or any other major world-changing event. You have to be ready. Websites can get busy fast. Consider that Zoom ended 2019 with 10 million daily meeting participants and exploded to 30 times that by April 2020.
The new year is a great time to consider scaling your back-end (not by eating more snacks). In the last year, many database vendors released updates and new versions of their software. These options support cost-effective replication and scaling. Rather than wait until a spike in traffic forces you, explore and plan to scale horizontally. Horizontal scaling means adding new servers with little or no downtime to increase capacity. Scale-out database technology that just a few years ago was cost-prohibitive for many site owners has become cost-effective. Read more about scaling here.
Out with the old, in with cloud storage
It may be time for you to break away from hard drives. Relying on individual drives, which limit your read and write capacity and can fail at any time, is outdated. Highly available cloud storage solutions are economical, simple to manage with a common REST API and will forever rid you of the need to upgrade drives. For those of you using CMS solutions, we make a point of working with software and CMS providers (including WordPress, MechBunny, and ElevatedX) to add support for infinitely scalable storage. When your content library grows, server load will not be a problem – the CMS will simply offload its storage requirements to the cloud, where only the bytes actually in use are being paid for. You shouldn’t have to plan for capacity upgrades or maintenance windows. Moreover, data loss is a thing of the past with automatic replication, as data recovery services are available (in case you’re too lazy to learn that one important new thing this year).
May you have an optimized, secure, scaled, and modern 2021!