Like everything else technological, making sure that your website is kept up to date is hugely important and often overlooked.
Once you have a website; either by paying someone or doing it yourself; it is easy to just leave it or go in every now and then and tweak some of the text.
As I specialise in WordPress this is what I will be talking about, however if your site is built on anything else it willl be just as important.
How often should I update WordPress and the Plugins?
I would recommend that you update WordPress and its plugins at least once a month. This has a lot to do with security. Every time a vulnerability is reported to WordPress, the community (WordPress is open source so there’s a lot of people looking after it), will look into fixing the vulnerabilites and release a new edition. The releases can include bug fixes, add new features, improve performance, and enhance existing features to stay up to date with new industry standards.
This is the same for any Plugins that you use in your site.
So I should just click the update button?
Ideally you will download your website locally or put it onto a staging site and run the backups and make sure nothing breaks!
If you’re tempted to just click update…
With both WordPress releases and new plugin updates I would wait at least 48 hours after they have been released, make sure the plugin author says that it is compatible with the current version of WordPress and always always BACKUP YOUR SITE first. This is because it has been known for bugs to be introduced in releases and their is a possibility that it could break you site.
Backing up your website
“There two groups of people: those who have already had a storage failure and those who will have one in the future.” – Peter Krogh
In short, the 3-2-1 rule of backup means you must;
- Have at least three independent copies of your data.
- Store the copies on two different types of media.
- Keep one backup copy offsite.
Luckily WordPress has many plugns which can help with this.
Click Here to see a list from wpbeginner.
All your website files are served from the hosting company, and most hosts offer backup as part of the package (please check your hosting package- if they don’t backup think about moving to a host who does).
But also think about installing one of the backup plugins and making sure that the backup is being sent to somewhere away from the host i.e. downloads to your dropbox/onedrive or similar …just think what happens if the hosting company you are using suddenly goes bust and everything dissapears!
So why backup before updating?
There is a chance the updates between the different plugins and the current WordPress version could clash – so you always want to make sure you can go back to a previous version.
Updating regularly will make this less likely, or easier to pin point the plugin that caused things to go wrong.
White screen of death
As a WordPress developer I have seen this a few time and it does make your blood run cold!
Here is a detailed explanation of why this can happen from WordPress Codex
If you have run the backups on staging or locally this isn’t a problem, you can go in and rename the plugin folders and find out which one has caused the problem.
If you have done this on your live site this is when you need to revert to your backup – your hosting company should be able to help with this.
Website Care Plans
This is going to sound a bit salesy – so you can stop reading here if you like.
Ok so most web designers will offer care plans/maintenance plans and there are also companies who’s whole business is to maintain your site.
(Here’s comes the sales bit)
With all the websites I build I offer a care plan this includes:
- Technical support and bug fixes.
- Phone/email based help on using CMS (WordPress)
- Keep WordPress CMS and plugins up-to-date.
- Communicate with hosting provider regarding email/server issues.
- Updates and enhancements to the design/content.
If you would like more information please contact me
And one last note, and this may sound harsh, but if you’re not paying for a care plan with your web designer, once the site is live, they are very unlikely to back up and maintain your site for free.