Updating WP Plugins Safely
Plugin updates: Users love them, developers toil over them. Your support department likes to think of them as a box that mysteriously appears in your office one day with the label ‘Caution: Live Badger’. The odds are it doesn’t actually contain a badger, but it never hurts to be prepared. Similarly, although most plugin updates shouldn’t cause a problem for your site, it still happens. Let’s examine what you should do to safely update both WordPress and its plugins.
Why Should I Update My WordPress Plugins?
Good question — much like letting boxes labeled “Live Badgers” pile up in your office, when you let plugin updates sit and build up, bad things happen. Old versions of WordPress are much easier for hackers to break into, leaving you with a major hole in your security. The same goes with plugins, but in addition, the plugins may stop working as time goes on. This means that regular maintenance is not just recommended but should be mandatory.
When updates to your version of WordPress and plugins appear, we don’t recommend doing them on your own, especially the first time you go through it. With how easy it is for a conflict or crash to occur, we recommend having a professional walk you through the process, such as your web host or another trusted support professional.
Step 1: Check for Updates
For the purpose of this article, let’s say you have available updates. The easiest way to spot if your site needs updates is to look for the ‘WordPress Update’ icon. It can be in two different locations, either as a symbol next to your site name or under the ‘Dashboard’ tab. Both should indicate the number of updates available.
If you do have any updates, you should click on them and visit the ‘WordPress Updates’ page. Here you can see if you have the latest version of WordPress, as well as view any plugins that have new versions available to download. Below is an example of what your page should look like.
Step 2: Prepare a Backup
This is the most crucial step in the entire process. When you update WordPress and plugins, you can end up with major changes to the code of your site. Sometimes, there can be conflicts or issues of incompatibility between the update and the coding of the site itself, and when that happens your site can go down pretty hard. That’s why your first priority is ensuring you have a backup of your current site before you make any updates.
So, how do you create this backup? Well, most of the time your website host will offer an automatic daily backup. Additionally, those same hosts will typically have a simplified backup service that’s integrated with their automatic backups. If you’re not so lucky, don’t worry because most site host providers have a guide on how to create a manual backup using their system. Once you create the backup, we’ll be ready to move to the next step.
Step 3: Update WordPress
One of the most important things to remember about plugins updates is that they are, more often than not, designed for the latest version of WordPress. This means that before you rush to update your plugins, you need to make sure WordPress itself is on the latest version. There will be a section of the ‘WordPress Updates’ page that states whether or not you have the latest version of WordPress. Make sure to download the latest version, then move on to the next step!
Step 4: Update Plugins
Now comes the point to start opening those badger boxes. You might be tempted to just select all the plugins at the same time and update at once, but if one of your plugins causes a crash it will be much harder to determine which one is the problem. Instead, go down your list and update the plugins individually. As you update each plugin, check your site for any issues. If a plugin causes a problem or crash, simply load up your backup and then troubleshoot the issue with that particular plugin.
Once you have completed your updates and avoided a site crash, congratulate yourself on a job well done! You have successfully updated your version of WordPress and its plugins safely and efficiently!
Final Thoughts: How Often Should I Update My Site?
When it comes to site updates, it’s usually recommended that you check for updates at least once a quarter or every three months. By doing this it minimizes the potential of missing critical updates, having repeated site crashes and/or conflicts, and it also makes troubleshooting much easier for both you and your support team.
If you follow this style of regular maintenance with your own site, it helps drastically drop potential downtime. It may also help with potential injury from badgers, although that’s less likely.