We encourage you to keep your WordPress site updated to keep it secure. Keeping your WordPress software, themes, and plugins up to date is the best thing you can do to keep your website and your visitors safe.
Some of our clients are now taking the initiative and updating their own plugins, themes, or WordPress software, which is great!
However, it’s important to realize that updates are not totally risk-free when it comes to the visual aspect and the functionality of your website. In some cases, upgrading a plugin or theme may lead to visual changes on your website, or at worst, to your site becoming inaccessible. The site can “break” upon upgrades due to new PHP version requirements, plugin conflicts, or timeouts during the update process due to under-resourced hosting accounts.
Following some best practices can help minimize that risk.
Before you click to update anything on your website, always make a backup.
We use and recommend UpdraftPlus Premium for this purpose. UpdraftPlus allows you to create an off-site backup on a regularly scheduled basis, and you can click to create a backup at any time. You can also set it to automatically create a backup before any update.
Creating a backup allows you to restore your website to its previous state if anything does go wrong. Storing that backup off-site means you can access it even if things go very wrong and your WordPress admin area becomes unavailable after an update.
Your webhost may also make backups – find out before you get started. If your host does make backups, this doesn’t let you off the hook for making your own. It gives you an additional set to use if your own backups become corrupted or unusable for any reason.
Make some visual backups, too.
The Wayback Machine allows you to enter a web page URL and save it, so you can refer back to it later. You might opt to save your home page only, or other important pages of your website that have different layouts.
If you use Firefox, you can right-click and save a screenshot. We recommend you save the full page, not just the visible portion.
Click on the arrow to download the screenshot to your computer. Save it to a folder where you will be able to find it easily later, so you can compare your updated website to your pre-update visual backups.
If you’re up for a full-scale solution, you could try out WP Boom‘s free plan. WP Boom is an online utility that can take screenshots of many pages of your website, and compare the differences. To use it, have it take an initial snapshot of your website, then make your complete backup, and make your updates. Then take a second snapshot, and WP Boom will show you any differences.
Stay up to date on what’s happening.
There are various lists you can subscribe to like WPScan Vulnerability Database, Sucuri, or Wordfence, who can keep you informed about the latest vulnerabilities in plugins, themes, or core software. If you want to manage your own website updates and security, it’s essential to stay informed.
If you’d rather make updating completely hassle-free, you can let your trusted web developer handle updates, so your website stays secure and you don’t have to deal with the headaches.
When you have multiple plugins on your website, the chance for conflicts between those plugins grows exponentially. Some commercial themes are also prone to issues. For instance, a theme creator might decide to rename CSS classes in the new version, causing your carefully-planned website styling to go awry. Or they might decide to change the way the theme handles the header, which causes the original website header to completely vanish. You can see how with one simple click, your website may no longer look the same. In some cases, it can be quite challenging to restore the original look to the updated theme.
Managing website updates can take up a lot of time. We’re here to help if you’d rather spend your time on your organization’s main mission, rather than using it to manage the organization’s website.
Having RED handle your updates with a monthly security package has many advantages.
- We make regular backups of your website, and always create a new backup before running upgrades.
- We make updates overnight, so if any issues do arise, they can be fixed during a low-audience time and your visitors are unlikely to be impacted.
- We apply any security-related updates to your website as soon as they come out.
- We keep thorough notes of issues we run into on theme, plugin, or core software updates across all the sites we manage, so we know what to expect and how to address concerns that may arise during upgrades. Our experience across a wide variety of websites allows us to have a broader vision of the WordPress ecosystem and helps us anticipate problems.
- We plan upgrade timing. If there are known issues with upgrading a theme, for example, as long as nothing is security-critical, we may wait until a quiet moment to update the theme, or plan the upgrade for after the theme creator releases a fix for that issue.
- We visually inspect your site before and after upgrades to catch differences and correct them.
- After upgrades, we verify your site’s functionality as well, and do any required troubleshooting.
Want to learn more? Take a look at our security packages and ask for a personalized quote.
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