A Smart Guide To Keeping Your WordPress Site Up To Date

A Smart Guide To Keeping Your WordPress Site Up To Date

If you work extensively with WordPress websites then you’re familiar the need to keep your plug-ins and WordPress site software updated in order to insure that your site is secure and functioning properly.  However, there are situations where you need to tread carefully to avoid any potential issues that could end up having the complete opposite effect.

Plug-ins:  You should always try to keep your plug-ins up to date to address any security issues that could put your site at risk.  However, if you’re working on a WordPress site that has not had its operating software updated in over a year, you should proceed cautiously.  Some newer plug-ins will not work on older version of WordPress.  In this situation, you’re limited to what’s compatible with your site.  However, there are also situations when problems can still arise even if you’re working the latest versions of WordPress and plug-ins.  Examples include conflicts with custom themes are other installed plug-ins.  When you encounter a plug-in conflict, some site elements won’t display correctly or won’t display at all.  Worst case scenarios could result in your site becoming unavailable.  Since you can’t predict when conflicts will occur, it’s important to make sure your WordPress site is backed up before proceeding with any plug-in updates.  For more information on how to implement a comprehensive site backup strategy, CLICK HERE

Themes:  Many WordPress sites use custom themes and layouts.  Periodically, the authors for many popular themes will release updated versions with new features or to correct potential security issues.  However, developers will often customize these themes in order to achieve a desired look.  So when it comes time to install updates for these themes, a cautious approach is once again recommended.  If your theme uses any custom CSS style sheets, be sure to back those up first in order to address any visual layout issue that might occur after updating.  If you don’t have direct access to the web host server and you can’t make regular full backups, you should verify that the site administrator has updated backups before making any updates.

WordPress Site Software:  Finally, the last part of keeping any WordPress site up to date is the core operating software.  Updating to latest WordPress version is pretty straight forward, but if you haven’t updated your site in over a year, you may experience incompatibilities with older plug-ins if you skip over several generations of updates.  Not updating regularly can also leave your site vulnerable to security loopholes and you’ll be more likely to have compatibility issues with future versions of many popular plug-ins.  Here’s a recent case study to illustrate the point:

A local Office Furniture Retailer was trying to build up their rankings so we decided to add a “Thank You” page, with tracking, to their contact form in order to document all customer inquiries, as part of their SEO strategy.  Their current contact form plug-in didn’t allow us to add re-directs so we decided to add Contact Form 7 – a widely used contact plug-in.  However, because their WordPress site software hadn’t been update in over a year and a half, the latest version of CF7 wouldn’t work on their site.  And because the site also had an older custom theme and we didn’t have access to the host for making backups, simply updating the core WP software was a risky option.  We had to track down a legacy version of this plug-in before we were able to add the extra page and setup tracking.

Additionally, a major security bug was recently discovered, that allowed denial of service attacks to be executed using PHP’s XML processing.  This bug affects WordPress versions 3.8 and older.  The 3.9 update correct this flaw.  These are both strong examples of why it’s important to keep your WP software up to date.   Always be sure to make a complete backup of all site files and your SQL database, just in case you run into any problems that cause your site to become inaccessible.

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