Keeping WordPress updated is very important. Why? Because this is what will help to keep your website safe and secure. I monitor and maintain all the websites that are hosted with me as part of my hosting package as standard. So its not something that my hosted clients need to worry about. But if you look after your website yourself then it is a good practice to get into and will ensure things keep working as they should. Your website is more likely to be hacked if it is running an old version of WordPress, theme or plugin.
Since version 3.7 of WordPress, you have the option to set the core files, themes and plugins to all update automatically. Just by the tick of a box! A great idea you may think and it can keep things going with little manual interruption from you. However, there can be dangers with this approach too.
How and when WordPress updates
So the team behind WordPress bring out major updates two or three times a year. These are the updates that have versions that jump eg 3.7 to 3.8 or version 4 to version 5. So by a two digit number and these tend to be updates to functionality and features. If the update has three digits ge 3.7.1 or 5.6.2 then it is a minor update. These are primarily bug and most often security updates.
You can set WordPress to automatically update ALL updates, only security minor updates or no automatic updates. My preference is to auto-update for security updates only. This is because this doesn’t usually include any major changes and so shouldn’t impact on the site significantly and ensures that any security issues are plugged as soon as a fix is released. In my opinion it is risky to set to ALL updates as standard and I don’t enable this for my hosted clients.
The major updates can bring changes with them that may not be compatible immediately with the themes or plugins running on your website. They may need a bit of time to catch up and so I often wait for version two of the new features update as that often fixes any issues found in the first version. So, for example, rather than updating to version 5.6 – I will wait for version 5.6.1 before manually applying to my websites. Then I can check if the themes are compatible by this point and the same for plugins. Lots of bugs are often ironed out after the first version too.
Generally I don’t set these to manually update either. I usually take care of these when I do the feature update manually and in increments if I conduct any work on a website in the meantime. If any security updates are needed then these are actioned ASAP.
I do set these to auto-update mostly but not all! It depends on the plugin itself as to whether these auto-update for me. So plugins such as for SEO, security, forms and caching are usually okay to set up auto-update. Plugins that are used by themes in the main eg sliders, page builders etc, I tend to do manually alongside the theme.
Best practice on manual updates
If you haven’t set any components to auto-update, then you will need to do so manually. But before you perform any updates get a BACK-UP! My clients are safe in the knowledge that daily back ups are provided by my host so we always have a rollback option. But if you don’t have this provided by your host as standard, it is worth paying extra for this. Or install a back up plugin into WordPress and run from there. The back up needs to include the database, media and images you may have uploaded, WordPress themes & plugins and the core WordPress files.
Once you have your back up, and if you need to update manually, the easiest way is via the ‘update’ buttons that will be available in WordPress.
Click on the ‘Update Now’ button via Dashboard >Updates. And the same applies to themes and plugins. It is always best to do the WordPress core installation first of all, check the website is okay. Then the theme next and check after this again and then the plugins one at a time – checking the site after each one.
Then you should be running the latest version to keep your website up-to-date and secure.
If you’d like to find out more about my supported WordPress maintenance package – please get in touch!