The regular WordPress update - can you name anything better, or indeed worse, for your site? The great thing about the regular updates that WordPress goes through is that security is kept tight.
WordPress has millions of users who rely on quick updates, and these users act as beta testers to find even the smallest bugs quickly. The only horror stories about hacks are from people who have not upgraded their websites in a while.
That said, there is a downside. The downside is familiar to anyone who has used WordPress for more than a few months. It's the dreaded WordPress "update of death" when in the name of instant security your website breaks down completely.
If this hasn't happened to you yet, you can count yourself very lucky. The number of plugins we install, the themes we use - every, little thing can be a catalyst for your website losing all function.
A Smarter, Safer WordPress Update
So you're damned if you do, damned if you don't when it comes to doing a WordPress update. Let us take a look at the steps you can take to keep your website chugging as smoothly and regularly as possible.
Golden Rule 1: Up to date backups before updating
Having a backup of your WordPress website is a must, no matter what. Backing up can be as straightforward or as complicated as you want it to be. You can choose to do it all manually, like thousands of new users choose every day. It might be the most time-consuming route, but it is the cheapest. It's great when you're just starting, not so much if you take your WordPress empire seriously.
The next best thing is to use a plugin that does everything for you. The problem here is when you have many sites. You have to log in to each one and backup each one separately. While plugins offer many options, they are only marginally better than doing everything yourself.
The third, best option for those who are serious about their business, is to use a professional back end. A dashboard from which you can control all your WordPress backups. Which cloud service to send each backup, and how often to do it (hint: before you do a WordPress update). When you can control multiple websites from one place, it's great. When you can do that for backups, it's priceless.
Backup done, what do you do next?
Now it's time to check for the backup. While most often, your WordPress installation will check for updates frequently, it never hurts to be proactive. Whenever you make a new backup, check for an update and if there is one - great. You move to the next step.
If not, you keep the backup and hope you don't need it for a WordPress update. However, we're taking a look at what happens when you do need to update. That little notification saying "You can update WordPress".
A rule of thumb would be to do the general WordPress update first. Then you do your WordPress plugin update, after which you finish with your WordPress theme update. Of course, that's if you need to update all three.
Here's a little secret for you if you haven't learnt it yet. The best services, themes and plugins will all keep up to date with WordPress. If you found an update for WordPress, but no WordPress plugin update… then it might be time to find another one.
Plugins and themes that don't keep up with the latest version of WordPress tend to one of two things. The first is to break - which impacts your business directly leading to loss of sales and productivity — fixing something that shouldn't have broken in the first place.
The second is that it makes your website much less secure. While security might be an afterthought for many, it is vital. It is the main reason why WordPress puts out so many updates. It helps it keep ahead of the security curve.
WordPress Plugin Update done - what's next?
Now it's time for the litmus test. Find out if anything is wrong with your website. Is it performing slower than before? Is it completely broken? Are there artefacts on some of the pages that weren't there before? Something similar happened when I didn't do my WordPress theme update but updated everything else. My pages looked blocky instead of smooth. A WordPress theme update did the trick, so it wasn't a significant problem but… it was a possibility.
No one knows your website as your customers do. They will send you an email with their problems so even if you miss anything, they will be quick to tell you. However, if you don't want any mistakes creeping into your customer experience, then it might be a good idea to use a monitoring service. Something like Uptrend's Website Monitoring is fantastic value for money when you have a large number of websites.
What if WordPress Theme Update breaks the site?
Of course, it doesn't need to be just the WordPress theme update. It could be the regular WordPress update or the WordPress plugin update as well. However, the only thing you could do is to revert to an older version of your site. It is something that takes time and can be a pain to do correctly, but it is necessary.
If you have a plugin or service that does this automatically, then all the better! Anything to save time is appreciated when you are busy running a business, and I can't think of a worse thing than reverting to an older backup. I have done it manually quite a few times and always hated it.
Microblogs and niche site networks - are they possible?
You might be asking yourself how niche blog networks with hundreds of websites possible? Good question, albeit one that has an easy answer. They use websites that offer services for controlling multiple websites from a single page.
Take a look at WP Blazer's dashboard as an example. It has bulk options for everything we have talked about in this post. You link your WordPress website to WP Blazer, and everything you need is at your fingertips from their dashboard. You can update all your websites instantly, with one click. You can choose to do a standard WordPress update, a WordPress plugin update or a WordPress theme update. You can choose to do it on 10 of your 100 sites. You can select 20, 30 or all of them.
One-click services save you time. The more time you have, the more websites you can make - and you will never feel overwhelmed by the numbers. After all, you don't need to do anything manually - not the backups, not the updates or even reverting to older versions.
Take a look and see how much time and money you can save with their feature-rich dashboard, and you'll see why anyone who has more than a few websites needs a service like WP Blazer. It simply makes sense.