Software updates are a familiar hassle to all of us. Whether we like it or not, anyone using apps on their phone or programs on their computer knows they need updating from time to time.
WordPress is no exception. As one of the web’s leading CMS platforms, it’s constantly evolving its software – new features, security patches, maintenance updates, etc. All of which are regularly released to enhance the platform’s performance.
Although support for older versions of WordPress is still active, it’s recommended that you use the latest version of WordPress to run your WordPress site. So, if your organization doesn’t have an in-house technical team to keep on top of WordPress updates, it’s crucial to outsource the task or learn how to maintain these updates yourself.
In light of that, this article addresses how to run WordPress’s major updates and the risks and benefits of doing it yourself vs. hiring an expert to handle it for you.
The Different Types of WordPress Updates
Before we progress any deeper into this article, let’s discuss the different types of WordPress updates you should be aware of:
Updates to WordPress’s Core
This type of update principally serves to:
- Apply technical improvements that make website building and content creation easier.
- Security updates – Hackers are continually working to find new vulnerabilities in WordPress’s framework. These updates often help to protect you against the latest threats.
- Fix past bugs that hinder performance.
- Ensure compatibility with other tools
WordPress Updates for Installed Plugins and Themes
As you’ve probably guessed, these updates affect the themes and WordPress plugins you’ve installed and, therefore, vary from user to user.
Typically, plugin and theme updates:
- Optimize performance issues
- Boost security
- Add new features and functionality
Depending on your settings, you can install smaller WordPress updates either automatically or manually. Automatic updates generally occur when a security or other minor improvement is available. WordPress runs these updates by default, as most sites won’t be affected. These updates just run in the background without your WordPress website having to experience downtime for maintenance.
But suppose you don’t want these updates to run automatically, and you would rather handle them manually. In that case, you can switch “automatic updates” off from your WordPress dashboard.
More significant plugin and theme updates always need to be initiated by you. This can be done by pressing the “Update now” button when an update is available. The same one-click process applies for major releases, like upgrading to the latest WordPress version. Your ‘consent’ to update is required because you should anticipate some changes to how your website or plugins might function in the wake of significant updates.
How to Run WordPress Updates
If you’re curious about how to go about running WordPress core and plugin updates yourself, here’s a quick tutorial to follow:
- Head to your WordPress Admin area to see which version of WordPress you’re currently using and which version you’re about to update to. You can check which WordPress versions your existing widgets and plugins are compatible with before installing anything.
- Backup your site. You can do this with or without a WordPress backup plugin – but, the important thing is that if anything breaks during the update, you can restore and run your website while you find out what needs fixing. Many web hosting providers offer daily automatic back-ups for WordPress.org sites – so if you haven’t already, that’s an avenue well worth exploring.
- Turn caching off. Caching affects what happens in the back-end of your WordPress site. You can use a caching plugin to do this. Or, you can manually edit the wp-config.php with the additional line: define(‘WP_CACHE,’ false);
- Update plugins and WordPress themes. Again, it’s possible to do this with or without a plugin. Just navigate to the ‘Plugins’ tab from the WordPress dashboard, and select the plugin that needs updating. Then, click Update Plugins. The same can be done with themes. However, here, the button you need to hit is called “Update Themes.”
Plugins that aren’t available in WordPress’s plugin directory need updating manually. This requires you to download the new version of the plugin and unpack the files. Then, you’ll have to deactivate the current version of the plugin and overwrite the existing files by uploading the new files into the plugins subdirectory of wp-content.
- Update the WordPress core. This can be done automatically by clicking on the ‘update now’ button or manually. To complete a manual update, download the file package from WordPress’s website, where it says “Get WordPress.”
- Then, re-install WordPress with the newest core files. As a precaution, we recommend disabling all plugins before proceeding. Note: WordPress core updates will affect all files and folders included in the central WordPress installation. If you have made any modifications to those files, those changes will be lost. As such, if you’re unsure what you’re doing, manually updating the WordPress core isn’t recommended.
- Turn caching back on.
- Do a thorough check on your website to make sure everything is fine.
- Back up your site once more.
What Could Go Wrong When Installing WordPress Updates?
Running automated WordPress updates can be a risky process; most notably, you may run into trouble with the following:
- Technical problems: In some cases, if you let WordPress run auto-updates across all plugins and themes, you could experience technical issues. Most commonly, site functionality and mobile optimization can go askew. Unfortunately, auto-updates can also fail entirely! This is most likely to happen when several updates are happening at the same time.
- You may have to go back to a previous version of your website: In extreme situations, you could find that an update has negatively affected your site. As such, it’s essential to keep track of which updates you’ve run and isolate the one causing the problem. But, again, if several updates run simultaneously, this can be difficult to determine.
- Incompatibility: Some of your existing plugins, or new plugin updates, may not be compatible with your latest WordPress installation, which may lead to technical glitches, or worse, downtime.
Precautions and Skills Required to Complete Successful WordPress Updates
Despite the risks, it’s not impossible to run WordPress updates on your own. As long as you follow the process above and proceed with caution, you’re likely to succeed. This is all the more true if you boast the following:
- FTP access on your web server
- Ability to comfortably navigate WordPress’s files and folders and replace them with updated files.
- Ability to create staging sites, back-ups, and if necessary, reset your site to a previous version.
However, you can’t completely rule out the possibility of something going wrong. That’s why it’s wise to make yourself aware of potential issues that could crop up and come up with a backup plan.
To keep track of current updates, we recommend updating WordPress twice a month. This helps to ensure you tackle new updates as they come out without too many changes piling up at once. As a result, in the event something goes wrong, you’ll have an easier time tracking which update might have caused issues on your site and re-setting to a previous version of WordPress accordingly.
Alternatively, if you hire an expert to handle the process, you won’t have to worry about any of it. A well-seasoned developer will have worked on tons of WordPress updates and know what to do in the case of failed update. As such, you can be sure that your WordPress site will be fully updated and run smoothly.
Are You Ready to Install The Latest WordPress Updates?
WordPress updates its software regularly to keep it secure and to ensure it runs at peak functionality. However, these frequent updates require you to perform regular maintenance to ensure everything’s up-to-date and running correctly.
While WordPress offers a one-click automatic update functionality, this isn’t always the safest option. Auto-updates can lead to incompatibilities and even whole-site failures. As such, the update process should never be taken lightly.
Only complete updates yourself if you have the skills, time, and resources to do so successfully. If not, consider hiring a professional agency or freelancer to avoid compromising the health of your website.
Codeable’s experts are a safe bet. They have to go through a vigorous vetting process to be accepted onto the platform. In the case of failed WordPress updates or other technical problems, they’ll know exactly how to pinpoint the root cause of the problem and solve it.
So, what are you waiting for? Submit your project for free at Codeable today and get a no-obligation estimate, 100% risk-free.