Your company’s awesome new website has been launched and you have a brand new WordPress blog—perhaps your entire site is using WordPress as a Content Management System (CMS). Terrific! Your web maintenance routine consists of posting to your blog regularly, which is great for increasing your Search Engine Optimization and establishing your business as an expert leader in your field. Well done! So, in terms of the technical management of that site, you’re all set, right? Not so fast!
If your website uses WordPress, it’s important to keep your blogging software up-to-date. You’ll notice when you log into your admin panel to edit or add new posts that WordPress frequently offers updates to its blogging platform, correcting security vulnerabilities as they arise, improving performance, and adding new features.
In particular, you’ll want to take advantage of the security updates to make your site less vulnerable to hacking. Investing in a routine WordPress maintenance plan can save your business time and money by keeping your site secure. This is our top reason for recommending yearly updates for most blogs, and monthly updates for power-bloggers and larger sites.
The steps to update WordPress
Typically, updating your installation to the latest version will go smoothly, but if your site is highly customized with many Plugins (adding functionality to your site) and complex Themes (executing your site’s design), there’s more of a chance of hiccups during the process.
These can range from a Plugin no longer working, which can happen more frequently with older, no longer supported Plugins, to an entire blog ceasing to function. It sounds scary, but following the protocol outlined in WordPress’ Codex, can prevent this sort of collateral damage to a site.
1. Check minimum requirements
First, check to make sure your server meets the minimum requirements for WordPress, by having the latest versions of PHP and MySQL, for example. Sometimes this isn’t the case, and we recommend holding off on updates to WordPress until the hosting company is up-to-date.
2. Back up the site
Next, make a full back up of your files and database, with all of your Posts and Pages. Always, always, back up your site before performing updates so it can be restored if something goes awry during the process.
3. Update and Disable Plugins
Keeping those Plugins updated makes it less likely they will cause problems with newer versions of WordPress. It’s good practice to evaluate from time to time which installed Plugins are no longer supported by their developers, to identify candidates for replacement with more modern, compatible Plugins.
WordPress recommends temporarily disabling all Plugins before running the update though sometimes this isn’t really feasible if it turns off essential components of a site. We make recommendations for clients on a case-by-case basis.
4. Run the Update
Finally, run the WordPress version update. When we’re confident the update ran successfully, we’ll double-check that a client’s site is working well, and if necessary we’ll re-enable Plugins. If there’s any custom code, this is the time to make sure it’s still running well.
If this process feels overwhelming, not to worry: we are happy to help keep your WordPress site running smoothly and securely. Don’t let your blog be at risk by not sticking to a maintenance plan for application updates.
by Deirdre Spencer, Senior Designer The Placemaking Group