Is updating WordPress as simple as clicking on “Update” whenever you have an update available in your WordPress dashboard? Nooooooooo! Please, don’t do that! This article could actually save your site… and make every update enjoyable.
Is updating WordPress easy?
Content management systems like WordPress have allowed millions of people to create their own website. The administration panel is amazingly user-friendly and updates are as easy as one click or two. But is it really so in practice?
The purpose of this article is not to sound alarmist, but rather to raise your awareness about the best way to update a WordPress site.
While it’s true that more than 9 times out of 10 updates go smoothly, when bad luck strikes, the damage can be permanent and irreversible. Therefore, it is essential to do all in your power to avoid ending up with a broken site because you did not follow the good practices.
How to update your WordPress site and minimize the risk?
To properly update your WordPress site, here are the steps to follow:
1- Choose a backup plugin
Before starting to update your website, it is recommended that you start with a backup copy.If anything should go wrong, you can rely on the said backup. Many solutions can be used to make a backup, but here are a few plugins that will help you do it:
- BackWPup (free or premium version)
- Backup buddy (free or premium version)
- Updraft Plus (free or premium version)
- BackUpWordPress (free version)
2- Validate the integrity of your backup
Once the backup copy has been completed, you must double-check its integrity. In other words, is all the data there? A WordPress site includes the WordPress installation files (commonly called the “core”), themes, plugins and media. Then, an extraction of the database must have been done. The extraction is usually done in a Sql file (ex: mysite.sql).
3- Confirm the integrity of the backup copy
The best way to find out is to restore the site. (for real?) Using the files generated by your backup, try to reinstall your site. This is the only effective way to validate that everything is there. However, some technical knowledge (which will not be detailed here since it varies according to the configuration) is required to perform this operation.
4- Make a copy of the backup on a remote server
Once you have generated your backup copy and confirmed that it is intact, you need to send it to another server! Why? If your web host’s hard drive should die and your backup copy is stored on the same drive…. oops! You will be left with nothing (and you will cry a lot).
Many hosting companies brag about having a backup system on their own, but trust me: you don’t want to rely on it. (This ain’t my first rodeo!) There are many cases, among all hosters, of people who have lost data by after entrusted everything to their host (read here, here or here for examples of horror stories). Most backup extensions allow you to send your backup copy to an external server (almost) pain-free.
5- WordPress, theme and plugin updates
Once everything is on a remote server (and not earlier!), you can start updating! Yes!
Let’s start by reading the changelog file for each of the available updates. This file explains what the update involves. This will tell you if you need to update immediately or if you can just wait.
Once you made the selection of updates, you can run and click on the famous “Update” button! As I said at the beginning, in most cases, everything goes smoothly. But if anything goes wrong, you have a backup copy of your WordPress site! With a backup, a WordPress expert can help you restore everything
6- Test, test, test…
After completing your updates, it is important to verify that the site is always operational. That means making sure that visually, everything is always displayed correctly. Also, you need to test the site’s functionalities such as forms, the purchase process, shortcodes and everything that produces dynamic behavior. If you have a cache plugin on your website, don’t forget to clear the cache before starting your tests! (needless to say, right?) Otherwise, you may perform your verifications on the previous version (before the updates). Ideally, an automated script should do all these validations. Thus, you can quickly spot any issues.
7- Keep on going with your business
All updates have been successfully completed! You have taken every precaution to minimize the risk. Well done! You can move on with your activities with total peace of mind.
I need help with my WordPress updates
The key to success relies on a good preparation it will make all the difference in the process. You’ re uncomfortable doing it yourself, you’ re afraid of breaking something, or you have other fish to fry? SatelliteWP’s team performs over 35,000 updates annually. You would like to leave them to us? Check out our WordPress maintenance plans.