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Why Do I Need To Update My Plugins?

Updating Plugins

Learn why updating plugins on your WordPress website is so important

If you’re a business owner operating your business’ website, but don’t speak fluent tech, it can often be difficult to wrap your head around the ins and outs of running the back end of your website. At WP Sparks, we specialise in managing WordPress websites, so we know firsthand some of the issues that come with clients not knowing how to run their own site, or perhaps being too busy to do so. One of the major issues we see is website operators failing to frequently update their plugins and being unaware of how dangerous this is. So, to help you out, we have outlined some of the risks that come with failing to update plugins and how you can keep your site safe.

The importance of updating: Safety, efficiency and trends

Like you would update the apps on your phone, it’s just as important to regularly update your plugins so your site can run smoothly, safely and maintain modern functionality. Sometimes plugin updates are large, for instance, if you’re moving from version 1.0 to 2.0, which usually involves access to new features and setting that will improve the usability of your website. On the other hand, a smaller update, such as moving from 2.0 to 2.1 will usually be a “patch” update, which fixes any bugs or security flaws in the plugin’s coding that developers have been made aware of. While these updates are smaller, they are just as important as they save your site from being hacked or attacked by Malware, both which can gain access to your site through these unpatched holes,

What is Malware?

In basic terms, Malware is software that intentionally adds a large amount of junk ads and links to your website. If you’re on your website and notice a link that wasn’t there before that leads you to a dodgy landing page, it’s a good sign that your site has been attacked by Malware. While Malware is dangerous for your site, luckily, it can be fixed. If you have a good hosting provider, they will catch the Malware early and have a Malware-free backup of your site that they can publish.

WP Sparks has website hosting services that all include regular backups, so restoring your website if it has been attacked by Malware is very simple if picked up quickly.  

While Malware is fixable with a good hosting provider, if left untreated for too long it can be very dangerous. When Google recognises Malware on a website, it will start to remove some of your SEO rankings, pushing your site further down the search page and undoing all your hard work. When this is left even longer, it can escalate to a blacklisting, which is so detrimental to your site that it is often best fixed by buying a new domain and creating a new website.

The dangers of hackers

Even more dangerous than Malware, hackers can also access your website through security holes left by failing to update plugins. Different to Malware, hackers will hack into your website and steal personal data from your customers to try and sell. While it’s the hackers doing the stealing, if you haven’t updated your plugins, you become partially responsible for leaving your customers’ data unsecured, which can pose a significant threat to your business by losing the trust of your clients.

How to update your plugins

If you can keep on top of it, updating your plugins is a reasonably easy process:

  1. Login to your WordPress site
  2. Look at the side bar that runs along the left side of the page and look for the ‘Plugins’ option.
  3. If there are updates that need to be done, there should be an orange dot saying how many plugins need updating
  4. Important: Before you update, make sure you have a backup version of your site ready in case any of the updates conflict with your current coding
  5. When you’re ready, click on “update plugins”
  6. Once all of your plugins have updated, make sure that you jump back on the front end of your site and test all of the pages and functionality. Take particular notice of pages that have maps, forms or other tools/functionality on them. Sometimes plugin updates can clash with each other so it is important to make sure you test, and if there are problems, you may need to roll back to the backup you took prior to starting and request assistance from your developer.
  7. Your plugins should now all be up to date, make sure you check your site each week and aim to update your plugins every month or as required.

Of course, if you’re finding the updates hard to maintain, WP Sparks offer several hosting packages where we can take over the updating process for you, ensuring that your site is always backed up and up to date. Our process includes taking a current back up prior to updating plugins, and conducting thorough post-updating testing to ensure there haven’t been any errors or clashes.

WP Sparks are an Australian based company that provide managed WordPress hosting services including plugin updates, daily backups, multiple hosting environments and more. To enquire about our services, contact us here.