WordPress is a great platform that has quickly become the international standard for websites and content management systems. Business owners and website designers are moving to the platform to easily manage their websites. With the popularity comes an active community of developers and core contributors (the guys and gals that make WordPress happen). These developers make constant updates to the platform to improve it, make it faster and keep it secure – this makes it super important to keep WordPress up to date. So let’s look at a couple of things to remember before updating WordPress.
Before updating WordPress
1. Backups are essential, especially before an update
If you’re not backing up your website, please go and do that now before reading on – most website hosts do this for you already but if they don’t, there are a number of WordPress backup plugins that you could use.
You’ll want to backup both your files and database for a number of reasons including doing an update of plugins or WordPress itself.
2. Check if the technical requirements have changed
WordPress can’t run on every system although it does a good job of running in as many environments as possible. That being said, when systems reach end-of-life they’re not being updated and could carry security vulnerabilities.
At some point, these outdated pieces of software will either provide too much of a security flaw for your website or will just not work with WordPress anymore. Before you update, check if the minimum requirements for WordPress have not changed.
3. Update themes/plugins before you update WordPress
Most good WordPress developers will release updates to their theme or plugin if it potentially breaks in new versions of WordPress (plugins and themes should get regular updates anyway). Not only that, plugins and themes also provide their own possible security vulnerabilities and are often the cause of security breaches on WordPress websites.
So before you hit that update button on your main WordPress install, make sure you update your plugins and themes first.
4. Backup again, yes I said that
At this stage, if everything is working, I like to run another backup. It would be very frustrating to have to start all the way at the beginning if the update of WordPress breaks. This way, if something does go wrong, you can quickly go back to where you were and look for a solution (or try again).
5. Test after an update
Once you’ve clicked that update button and the update has been done successfully. It’s time to make sure that everything still works. If your website is just a blog, check out some blog posts, category pages and normal pages to make sure everything looks fine.
If your website has more advanced features and/or plugins like WooCommerce, BuddyPress, etc. then it’s a good idea to actually replicate general processes that a user will do to make sure nothing in their process flow has broken.
6. Setting up a staging environment
This is a much more fail-safe strategy than updating WordPress on a live site. A staging environment allows you to run a replica of your website in the same setup as your live environment. This means that you can simulate what would happen before it goes live for all your customers to see.
There are plugins that allow you to keep a live and staging website in sync, which makes the process easier. You would then update the staging environment, make sure everything works and then schedule some downtime to deploy those changes to the live environment. Staging environments are also good places to test new features before deploying them.
Keeping WordPress up to date is one of the most important aspects of keeping it secure. Other added benefits are new features, which always come with major releases and performance enhancements that keep your website fast. I would highly recommend updating WordPress often. Contact us if you need assistance updating your WordPress websites.