WordPress is frequently updated. Over the last year, we’ve seen updates nearly every month. It can seem like a lot of work to have to keep it updated and these manual updates are the primary reason some businesses opt for SaaS solutions such as Wix or Shopify. However, these updates can be less painful – especially when done regularly. And there safe ways to update your site without the risk of breaking it. Let’s take a deeper dive.
When to update your WordPress Version:
Our recommendation is to update WordPress within two weeks of the most recent update. If the update fixes one or more critical security issues, then we recommend updating as soon as possible. Like any software, WordPress has bugs (the SaaS options also have bugs). So even though the WordPress team does extensive testing, things slip through. These issues are usually resolved within a few days and if they cause serious problems, a maintenance update will be released.
We have seen websites that aren’t on the current major release of WordPress. The good news is that WordPress has branched its code in a way that they still produce maintenance and security updates for older versions. If you’re running an older version, it’s even more important to apply these fixes to minimize any vulnerabilities in your site.
Are there reasons not to update WordPress?
If your WordPress website is mission-critical and requires high uptime, you may want to hold off until you can test the update. Complex websites also may require some testing before doing the update to ensure any custom code is compatible with the update. The same is true if your site uses an abandoned theme and/or plug-ins. These scenarios are more of an issue with the major upgrades to WordPress than the maintenance and security releases. While it’s been a while since we’ve come across a WordPress update breaking a website, it certainly can still happen.
If you fall into this category, we recommend the following strategies:
- Ensure your site is backed-up and you have the ability to roll back in the event of an issue.
- Test the update on a staging server to ensure it doesn’t break any functionality.
- Do the update during off-hours or during a scheduled maintenance window.
What happens when you update WordPress and it breaks?
WordPress has included functionality that will roll back to the prior version. We’ve seen mixed results with this, but it’s your first option. The next thing to do is to put WordPress in safe mode to see if the site works that way. If you can’t even get to the WordPress dashboard, a quick call to your hosting company may help as they can make changes directly on your server or within your database. An experienced web developer can also help in this area.
If the issue is with how your website displays, then it could be your theme or a plug-in. Try updating your theme if an update is available. Otherwise, disable all plug-ins and enable them one by one. If none of this works, or you’re just not sure how to handle it, you can always reach out to us.
So remember to keep up with your WordPress updates. If it’s something you’d like to outsource to experts, our maintenance plans are perfect for you. We apply all critical updates right away and perform all other updates on a monthly basis. And we also test the site, review your security logs, and much more.