WordPress is one of the most popular content management systems out there, and it’s in large part because of its ease of use and plugins. WordPress plugins can also be an Achilles heel for your website and organization when they’re not updated regularly, however. Not only can they compromise the functionality of your website by triggering software conflicts and errors, but the security of your website and customer information as well. All of these things could have severe repercussions that could’ve been easily avoided had you been more vigilant. Here’s exactly why it’s so important to keep your WordPress plugins updated.
Hackers Know WordPress In and Out
About 30% of all the websites you’ll find on the web run on WordPress. That’s a lot. And as such, hackers have dedicated years and years to exploiting WordPress and its vulnerabilities. While it can be a very secure and stable platform, WordPress can also become shaky the minute the software and plugins become outdated.
And in some cases, hackers are not even after your information. While it is common for sites that keep a lot of transaction information on their server to be targeted, some hackers just want access to your servers and be able to use your address to send spam and phishing emails. Some will want to use your website to trick users into downloading malicious software. So even if you run a small blog with no sensitive info, you’re still at risk.
WordPress Will Run Better
But besides the real threat posed by hackers, keeping your plugins updated is also essential if you want your WordPress site to continue running smoothly. For instance, an outdated plugin could end up clashing with WordPress’s core, which could severely affect the performance and lead to bugs and errors. It could also start clashing and malfunctioning with other plugins or become incompatible with your theme.
With newer versions, bugs, fixes, and bad code are fixed, leading to a better performing plugin and site. This is especially important in a time when so much importance is being put on things like bounce rates, for instance. This is also why it’s important to keep the core WordPress software up to date as new releases are often more performant.
WordPress plugins won’t update themselves unless you tell them to (we’ll get back to that later) but installing and checking for updates is fairly easy to do, fortunately. However, there are some things you’ll have to be aware of before you do so.
What Should be Considered Before Updating Plugins
Even if updating a WordPress plugin is very simple, that doesn’t mean that there won’t be any issues along the way. If you want to make sure that the whole process goes smoothly, and that your website isn’t compromised, there are some guidelines you’ll have to follow first.
The first thing you should do is make sure that you backup your website just before you update any plugin. There are times when a new update may have poor coding, which could lead to issues with your current WordPress version and result in all sorts of bugs and errors. This is why you always want to have a previously working version of your website you can upload if anything happens.
Also, always make sure to not upgrade multiple plugins at once. This is an option that WordPress offers, and it might seem convenient, but it’s not the best idea. You should only do that when you’re fairly confident of your plugins’ reliability, or if you have only a couple of reliable ones. If you update plugins one by one and test for functionality, you’ll be able to identify a faulty plugin immediately.
Plan Your Updates Properly
You should also plan your updates to make sure they’ll work properly when the site goes live. One thing you could do is update any plugins on a test version of your site first. If you don’t have a staging or testing site yet, set up one immediately. This will not only ensure that the plugins work properly, but there will be no inconvenience to your users.
As for auto updates, you should think twice about having them activated on your plugins. While this is a great way to save time, we wouldn’t advise you to do so unless you know the plugin is dependable or reliable, or you may wake up one day with all kinds of errors and bugs for no reason.
Another thing you could do is time your updates in a way that will not interfere with your traffic. This is why it is always better to schedule updates during off-peak times. This will make sure that a minimal number of visitors ends up being impacted by any changes or issues.
No Need to Rush Though
However, you shouldn’t automatically install a new plugin update as soon as it is released. The reason for this is simple. Initial versions of an update might still not be 100% and could be revised shortly after. If we’re talking about non-priority updates, then it’s fine to wait about a week to see if there isn’t another update being released. This will limit the risk of this new update disrupting your website and makes sure that you get an update free of kinks and possible vulnerabilities.
One of the things you could do, for instance, is to scour the community after a certain update and see what others had to say about it. It will give you an idea if anybody has had any issues. But you should only do that with non-priority updates; if it’s a security update, then it would be wise to update as soon as possible.
WordPress is one of the most practical, user-friendly, and safe CMSs when used properly. This means making sure that the software, themes, and plugins remain up to date at all times to limit vulnerabilities and boost performance.