Once I hand over a newly developed site to a client, I can’t stress enough how important it is to keep the site updated, not only for compatibility reasons using modern browsers and adding new plugins, but mainly for security reasons. Your first form of security should be a strong password. Your second form of security should be an updated site. When I get a new client and I see a ton of orange circles in their dashboard, I cringe.
However, updating your site is a two-step process. You should never do updates until you have first done a backup of your site. Some hosts do backups for you, but be sure to check if there is a charge to restore your site. And make sure your backup includes not only the site files but also the database, an integral part of WordPress sites.
It’s easy to do your own backups with any number of free backup and restore plugins. Personally I like to use BackupBuddy, but it’s a paid plugin. As a developer, I use BackupBuddy to transfer my development sites live, so it’s worth the investment for me.
Personally, I also like to do a screenshot of the plugins page with the names of the plugins and their version number, just in case there is a problem with one plugin update and I can just download a previous version from the WordPress repository, but that said, keep in mind that it should only be a temporary solution. If something is not compatible, a fix needs to be found. Keeping out of date software on your site is not a solution.
You will know you have updates when you get those orange balls on the left menu. You can click anywhere that is shows the orange notification, but I usually prefer to go to Plugins. Next to each plugin that needs an update, you will see a notice:
Then just click the “update now” link. It will take just a minute and then the highlight should turn green to let you know that the update is complete. If for some reason it doesn’t turn green, wait a couple minutes and try refreshing your browser and then try to complete the update again.
Once you’ve completed the plugin updates, hover over Dashboard at the top of the menu and check to see if there are orange circles next to Updates. If so, click on it.
This will show you if the theme needs an update. If it does, simply select it and then click on Update Themes. Again, give it just a minute to do the update.
Best practice is to check the website after each update you have to do, so if one plugin update causes a problem, you’ll know which one. Generally, updates don’t cause any problems, but every once in awhile something goes awry.
Is your site up to date? If not, updating it should be your top priority. And updating generally only takes a few minutes of your time, but could save you hours and thousands of dollars by keeping your site safer.