Should You Auto-Update Your Website?

Question: Should I setup my WordPress website to auto-update?

The security of your website is one of the most important responsibilities of owning a business. It’s imperative that you keep your website and its security measures updated since the types of attacks are always changing.

Let’s look at the options.

Manual Updates

Manual updates have a few steps that have to be completed for a successful update:

  1. Create a sandbox site to begin your updates (provided this option is available)
  2. Backup your site, files, and database tables.
  3. Disable your plugins.
  4. Update your site.
  5. Enable plugins one by one.
  6. Check website.
  7. Test it under load.
  8. Push your changes to the live site (if you created a sandbox site)

Automatic Updates

Automatic updates for WordPress, on the other hand, can be much simpler. As a matter of fact, you can decide which aspects of WordPress get automatically updated. The options are:

  1. Core updates
  2. Plugin updates
  3. Theme updates
  4. Translation files updates

These categories can be broken down further, but there’s something we need to stress here. Using plugins and themes that aren’t kept up-to-date with your core WordPress can create a high security risk. Sometimes site owners will keep a plugin that is no longer maintained by the original coder and that leaves the site vulnerable to hackers.

Why Update

Always keep your WordPress site up to date. It’s important for security, and updating adds new features that make your job easier, increases speed and efficiency, and fixes bugs. Minor releases, a part of the core update feature, are an automatic part of WordPress 3.7 and above. The minor releases cover security and bug fixes.

Risks of Automatic Updates

What are the risks involved in automatic updates? You could run the risk of incompatibility, especially if you’ve tailored original plugins or themes to fit your needs. Did you know that WordPress hosting companies automatically update your site to major versions, all while monitoring your site to make sure nothing breaks? It’s a great perk.

So how do you update your site without impacting your site’s functionality? A well-designed update strategy will focus on these areas:

  • Critical security vulnerabilities.
  • Operating system updates.
  • Updates that can be easily rolled back to a previous version.

Manual updates, on the other hand, should be reserved for:

  • Non-critical updates.
  • Updates to systems with high traffic.
  • Updates to firmware, network switches, and more that can’t be updated any other way.

For manual updates, it’s best to create a sandbox and process your changes in a safer environment. That way, you can push the changes with a click of a button, and see minimal impact on your live site.

WordPress Keeps You Informed

WordPress even offers email notifications to let you know when your site needs to be updated. This way, you should never miss a critical update and you will know every time it’s needed. You’ll get a RESULT EMAIL following an automatic core update, a NOTIFICATION EMAIL if an auto-update couldn’t be completed, and a DEBUGGING EMAIL for developer versions of WordPress.

In the event of a failure, WordPress will even tell you whether a manual update will fix it or whether your site may be down because of a failed update. It will tag the latter version with URGENT in the subject line of the email.

Automatic updates to your site aren’t necessary for all areas but are definitely essential when it comes to security and stability. Schedule your manual updates regularly and don’t miss critical patches that can affect your site’s credibility and bottom line. Automatic updates can save you a lot of time and work.

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