One of the best things about WordPress is the features and flexibility it gives you to design your website. Website owners and developers the world over prefer it, making it the most popular platform for website design. However, launching a website is easier than maintaining one. One of the biggest elements of WordPress website maintenance is keeping it updated. Which brings us to a major question – what are WordPress updates?
Updates are major or minor code changes – a bug fix, a security patch, or even a new feature. WordPress developers release new software updates to enhance your website or make it more secure. These updates apply to the core WordPress version that the website runs on as well as the plugins and updates installed on the site. Updates are free to use and not applying them can affect your website’s security and user experience.
However, website owners face a few challenges when it comes to applying these updates. These challenges keep them from applying timely updates or putting them off altogether. What are these challenges, and how can you overcome them? Let’s decode them.
Why are WordPress Updates Challenging?
Applying updates can be challenging, especially if you need to update multiple websites. Here are three common challenges that website owners and developers face when it comes to updating their websites:
Challenge 1 – WordPress updates are too frequent
Depending on the version that you use and the installed plugins/themes, you may need to update your website components – Core WordPress, plugins, themes regularly. This becomes a hassle when you manage hundreds of WordPress websites.
To maintain your website, you need to keep track of all the major and minor versions and updates being released by the WP team. This needs to be done for each of the many plugins/themes that you have installed for your site.
While WordPress core updates may be regular and released according to a schedule, the release of plugin/theme updates varies based on the severity of the reported bugs or security flaws.
As a result, your mailbox could be flooded with “update” notifications from many plugin/theme developers. It can get confusing to keep track of them all and run them on time.
Challenge 2 –Too many WP sites to manage
Managing updates on a single website alone can be hard work, imagine doing that for hundreds of sites for your company or clients. This is indeed challenging as updates are not the only task you have to perform as an administrator.
Managing too many sites is daunting and challenging, especially if each site runs on different versions and its own set of plugins/themes. Considering the frequency of released updates and fixes, managing updates on multiple websites can be a time-consuming affair.
You also need to manage WordPress users, evaluate new plugins/themes, take care of your website uptime, website security, and much more. If you’re looking for an easy way to manage your website, do check out our WordPress Care Plans.
Challenge 3 – Not every WordPress plugin/theme company sends you notifications
Each time a trusted plugin/theme developer or marketplaces like ThemeForest or MojoMarketplaces release an update, they send a notification to their users. However, this is not true for every WordPress plugin/theme company that works on this platform. In some cases, even if you get notifications, they may not be displayed on your WordPress dashboard. If your website uses such plugins and themes, you will need to download updates from their company website or another third-party marketplace.
There’s another issue too. Many plugin/theme companies abandon or stop development work on their products, exposing your website to risks through them. In this case, you need to take stock of all the abandoned plugins/themes on all your website – and then take a call to either delete them or replace them with suitable alternative plugins/themes.
These are the three main challenges that administrators face when they need to update their websites. Next, we shall see how to avoid these problems and update your site without too many hassles.
How To Easily Update Your WordPress Site
As a WP administrator, you can now easily update a single or host of websites at the same time. However, before applying any major update, you are strongly recommended to take a backup of your entire website and database – to avoid any incompatibility issues later. You can use a backup plugin like BlogVault designed especially for WordPress backups.
Let us now look at three of the easiest ways of updating WordPress websites.
1. Through Your WP Dashboard or Third-party Services
If you manage a single website, you can easily apply any pending updates from your account after signing in as an “admin” user.
From the “Updates” tab, you can view all the pending updates for your WP version that you can apply directly (recommended) or download to your computer and install them manually. Most of them will be minor updates – unless you are applying updates after a long time!
Similarly, you can view the pending updates for all your installed plugins and themes from the respective pages. You can choose to update all your plugins/themes at the same time or individually select those that you want to update.
In case you don’t want to use your admin account, you can use third-party WordPress management tools like WP Remote or ManageWP to apply bulk updates across all your websites. If you don’t want to invest in a separate WP management tool, you can use the WordPress security plugin, MalCare, that has an integrated WordPress management feature to apply bulk updates to an unlimited number of websites.
2. Schedule a Time for Applying Updates
With the increasing frequency of WP updates, you cannot spend your time on them on a daily basis. Hence, you need to schedule a time every working week to apply updates.
So, before you plan on keeping a day to apply all these updates in bulk, here’s a note of caution: WordPress updates can cause your website to break. To avoid this from happening, it’s much safer to test your updates on a WordPress staging site instead of your live website.
If you are applying any major update, we recommend that you do not attempt them directly on the dashboard. This could cause significant incompatibility problems or, even worse, a website crash. A staging website is a much safer option.
3. Through Automatic WordPress Updates
What do automatic WordPress updates mean? Whenever WordPress or plugin/theme developers release a new update, it is automatically installed on your website. For example, if you are currently running version 5.4 and WordPress releases an updated version (example, WordPress 5.4.2), it will be automatically installed.
What makes this most convenient is that it does not require any user intervention. The entire update process occurs in the background while you can continue with your other website management tasks.
Automatic updates are recommended for minor updates, like a security patch or minor upgrade. They are, however, not recommended for a significant update, for example, if you are updating after a long interval or updating multiple versions. Besides this, do not go for automatic updates if you use customized plugins/themes or files as the update will override all the custom changes.
You can enable automatic updates either manually or through WordPress plugins like “Advanced Automatic Updates” or “Easy Updates Manager.”
First, let us see how to enable automatic updates manually:
- To enable automatic updates for your Core WordPress version, add the following function to the wp-config.php file of your WordPress installation:
define( ‘WP_AUTO_UPDATE_CORE’, true );
To disable automatic updates, set the value of the variable to “false.”
- To enable automatic updates for minor WordPress versions, add the following function to the wp-config.php file:
define (‘WP_AUTO_UPDATE_CORE’, minor);
- To enable automatic updates for your WordPress plugin or theme versions, add the following function to the “auto_update_$type” filter in the wp-admin folder of your WordPress installation:
Plugins: add_filter(‘auto_update_plugin’, ‘__return_true’);
Themes: add_filter(‘auto_update_theme’, ‘__return_true’);
Next, here is how you can enable automatic updates using the following WordPress plugins:
Using the “Advanced Automatic Updates” plugin:
First, you need to download and install this plugin for your site. Once the plugin is installed, sign in to your admin account and open “Settings > Advanced Automatic Updates” where you will see the following screen:
Select the appropriate checkboxes to configure automatic updates using this plugin.
Using the Easy Updates Manager plugin
First, you need to download this plugin from the WP plugin repository. Next, install it on your site and activate it from the “Add Plugins” page. Once you have activated the plugin, you can enable automatic updates from the General tab of the “Updates Options” page.
Toggle the ON button to enable automatic updates for all components of your website. Alternatively, you can click Custom to enable or disable any of these following options:
- Major or minor updates
- Development updates
- Automatic plugin (or theme) updates – you can also individually enable or disable each plugin or theme.
Applying website updates is an integral part of website maintenance to keep websites safe and optimized for optimum performance. However, updates can be a significant hassle, particularly if you are managing multiple websites. Besides, updates have infamously even broken many sites causing damage to the business.
We have discussed three of the easiest ways of updating your sites. These methods can work for all WordPress components – the Core WordPress, plugin, or themes. Plus, we have highlighted when you should (or not) use any of these updating methods.
Which update method do you think is the best for your site? Do share your feedback in the comments.