WordPress is one of the most popular website building tools around, not only because it’s free to use, but its page editor makes it very easy to write and publish content without having to know any computer languages such as HTML.
But things change rapidly in the information technology world, and new updates are released all the time.
There are three main reasons why you should keep WordPress and your plugins up to date:
- Security vulnerabilities hackers find in WordPress that put, your business reputation, your computer and/or others at risk.
- New and improved features to enhance your and your visitor’s experience.
- Plugins that need to be updated or deleted if they are no longer safe, as they can also be security risks.
Below is an example of a WordPress website’s admin area (dashboard). The arrows are pointing to two indicators showing you one or more things to be updated.
Here’s why you should apply them:
Security Vulnerabilities in WordPress
WordPress is open-source, meaning anyone can peek at the computer wizardry (aka. source code) that makes it work, and a widely used website publishing tool. It’s a prime target for hackers who look for holes in the source code. Hackers will try to do a range of things from inserting advertisements to unsavoury websites, to deleting your website, or even inserting code that could harm your computer.
Although Automattic (the company who make WordPress) take security and stability seriously, and constantly stay on top of holes in the code, it’s up to you to ensure that the updates are applied.
Improved Features in WordPress
One reason why information technology changes so quickly is because clever computer whizzes discover new and better ways of doing things. WordPress may become more intuitive or faster to use. This could be on the visitor’s side, for example the website loading faster. Or it could be on the administrator’s side, having a more user-friendly back end.
For instance, with WordPress 4.5, the insert link tool was made more compact and easier to create links to existing pages on your website. (Prior to WordPress 4.5, there were more steps in this process.)
The Ever-Changing Plugin Ecosystem
Plugins are mostly made by third-parties, so even more care should be taken with them.
Out-of-date plugins can pose the same kinds of risks I mentioned earlier.
Furthermore, it’s not uncommon for a plugin developer to hand their plugin to another author, or abandon it altogether. When this happens, you should investigate whether it’s still safe to use, and if the new author is maintaining it to the same standard.
You can find out whether a plugin is still safe to use by searching the WordPress plugin directory, or on the website it came from.
You can assess whether a plugin is still safe by checking to see if:
- That page no longer exists.
- If the plugin shows an out-of-date warning, or…
- There is no sign of any recent activity.
If any of the above conditions are true, it may be time to reassess whether you still need that plugin.
So now that you know why you should keep WordPress and your plugins updated, maybe it’s time to get that done!
- WordPress Website Security – Optimise and Grow
- 9 Common Mistakes WordPress Users Make – Mariah Magazine
- Tips to Keep WordPress Secure – Jeff Starr, Digging into WordPress
- Maintenance Mode: How to unpublish a WordPress website
Cover image from Pixabay – Free Image Library