Updates are crucial for any digital solution – everyone knows that. But not everyone realizes how detrimental a failure to update regularly can be, especially when it comes to WordPress updates.
It can cause a host of problems across your website, some of which may be obvious while others are not.
WordPress is the most commonly used CMS and accounts for nearly 75% of all active sites based on a CMS and over one-third of all existing websites. It’s also open-source software with an incredibly active community.
With over 56,000 free plugins and 2,500 themes, the number of options and customization can be overwhelming – even for the digitally-savvy users.
Further, the sheer amount of updates (on average, 2-3 major and minor releases per month) can make it difficult to ensure that you are using the latest version. But the effort to perform regular updates is well worth it for several reasons.
Enhanced Security Features
Perhaps the most significant benefit of performing regular WordPress updates is the enhanced security that is provided. Since WordPress is so popular, it is also a frequent target for hackers.
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Finding weaknesses in WordPress core, plugins, and themes can allow them to attack websites and potentially do great harm. While only 14% of website attacks are caused by hosting or other issues, a whopping 86% are due to outdated WordPress installs, plugins, or themes.
If you are a smaller company, you may be thinking that you are safe from hackers. This is a common misconception. While you may not have any files or data that they would like, hackers can still intend to infect your site. Their objective is often to use your hosting services to attack other servers or send spam. This is one of the reasons White Peak hosting includes so many security features by default.
The result of this can be that your IP address gets blacklisted. This can cause damage to your site’s reputation. Since hackers generally use AI bots to identify sites with vulnerabilities, it may include yours if you don’t perform regular updates.
Evolve and Adapt
Hackers also continually evolve and adapt their methods. This means that security features must reflect the most recent advances in efforts to thwart any potential breach.
To the organization’s credit, WordPress has a vigilant security team that is constantly monitoring for vulnerabilities. They are then able to address these vulnerabilities by creating security patches that are included in updates. A failure to promptly install an update means you may miss the latest security features and open your site up for a potential attack.
Since it is an open-source platform, you may be wondering how the plugins and themes are updated. These are maintained and updated by their developers or owners. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are more vulnerable. The WordPress security team and other developers or members of the community frequently monitor these for vulnerabilities too.
Once they are identified, the security team works with the owners to create effective patches. This means that WordPress updates can serve as one of the most important security practices in your arsenal. This alone provides a huge incentive for updating regularly and promptly when there are new releases.
WordPress’s development team also regularly provides bug fix updates. Despite the rigorous testing process used by WordPress, bugs are inevitable in any evolving software, particularly one with such a robust array of plugins and themes.
Small ones can slip through the cracks at any time. Regular updates can ensure that identified bugs get fixed and new ones are prevented.
One of the primary reasons that WordPress is so popular lies in its usability, which is constantly being refined and enhanced to contain new features. Additionally, performance updates ensure that your site visitors have the best experience possible. This is crucial as internet users have no patience for sites that are not immediately responsive.
The latest major release, WordPress 5.0, has included many new features aimed at improving usability, administration, speed, and performance. Most notably is the inclusion of the Gutenberg editor to replace the traditional TinyMCE editor.
This editor has proven to be so powerful and user-friendly that even WordPress’s primary competitor, Drupal, has decided to add it as an optional add-on module. In addition to this, WordPress 5.0 offers a new built-in front-end editor, background image cropping functions, and other new features.
If you ignore WordPress updates, you will surely be missing out on performance improvements and new features that can greatly improve your user experience and site quality. This alone is a reason for updating to the latest version of WordPress. At the time of this posting, that version is v. 5.2, known as “Jaco”.
Creating a WordPress Update Strategy
Taken together, the benefits outlined that come with regularly updating WordPress’s core, themes, and plugins, make it crucial to the success of any website.
If you are not currently paying attention to how and when these updates occur, it’s definitely time to develop a strategy. A solid strategy for performing an update contains the following steps:
- Perform a WordPress backup to preserve your current WordPress files
- Backup your current database structure and content
- Backup your current WordPress plugins
- Update all files, plugins, and database structure
- Update WordPress theme to replace deprecated codes
- Check to ensure WordPress functionality. If it is not working properly, you can restore your backup files, database, and plugins and start the process again.
Perform updates regularly and carefully. If you believe that simply updating your plugins is enough, think again.
The compatibility between all website components should be checked during and after each update. This applies to whether you automatically update your site or run a manual update. In both cases, it is common for code conflicts to exist post-update. Unless these are resolved, site performance and subtle user experience issues and be harmed.
Given the many elements of a proper update process and the frequency with which updates are released, it is a good idea to entrust this process to experts. In the long run, handling this on your own can be quite expensive if issues crop up that need to be addressed later.
Using a WordPress developer or professional that is well-versed in all aspects of the update procedure can ensure that updates are successfully performed when necessary.
So will you perform the update in-house or hire an external professional?
With whatever strategy you choose, ensure that your WordPress site reaps all of the benefits of performing regular updates. This includes improved security, bug fixes, and other performance enhancements.
Tim Woda is the CEO and founder of White Peak Marketing. He has been on the founding team of five successful start-ups and his digital marketing campaigns have acquired more than 800 million customers for his start-ups and White Peak’s client companies. Tim has been featured by The New York Times, Fox News, Forbes, The Huffington Post, and more. Under Tim’s direction, White Peak was selected as one of America’s Top Digital Marketing Agencies for 2021 by MarTech Outlook magazine.