If you have a website and you are wondering if regular website maintenance should be on your to-do list... it should! But before you go clicking update, you might be setting yourself up for failure.
In this article article you'll hopefully understand the importance of regular website maintenance and what can happen if you don't make it part of your monthly routine.
Expect to learn:
- Why a website needs updates in the first place
- What can happen if you don't update your website regularly
- What can happen if you wait too long before updating a WordPress site
- What to do if you don't want to maintain and update your site on your own
Without further ado, let's start learnin'...
You probably don't know this but "most" websites on the internet today are controlled by small businesses and typically updated or managed by the business owner or a manager.
That's probably you.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with saving a buck, and I'm all for keeping hard earned dollars in the pocket, but when it comes to making sure your website stays online, this is one area where you need to be on top of things.
Why does a website need updates and maintenance?
I don't know about all website platforms, but WordPress is in constant need of updates.
Plugin updates, platform updates, add-on updates - these are all part of owning a WP site.
Core Updates (platform)
This is where the dominoes start falling.
Core updates to WordPress happens for different reasons. Some are updates to looks, while others are major security patches because some pimple headed kid in a dark, musty basement bedroom found a security flaw in the code.
Recently, WordPress unleashed the latest major update - Gutenberg. Needless to say, this core update has been hated by most and I wouldn't be surprised if that pimple headed kid is currently trying to find a way to destroy it.
So - as you can see... core updates are very important and should be done monthly UNLESS the update is for security reasons.
Let's first answer the question...
What is a plugin?
Simply put - because WordPress is "open to the public" when it comes to developing stuff, many developers create plugins to add and extend the functionality of WordPress.
A plugin is a code file that you can simply add to WordPress to create a new functionality on your site. From calendars to collecting payment, there are almost 55,000 FREE plugins to date.
What does this mean and why is this important to your website?
If you have plugins added to your website and you don't update them - you're eventually going to have issues.
Most of the malware I've seen on websites happened because of poor plugin upkeep.
Malware isn't the only issue you've got to worry about.
Updating the core WordPress files but not your plugins can cause things to stop working like they are suppose to, or worse yet - an error message.
Nothing like an error message greeting potential clients and customers. It screams professional!
What Happens if you Don't Update Your Website?
The simplest answer is:
Something bad is going to happen - eventually!
Just like a smartphone, updates come available for a reason.
Some of the nasty things that can happen to your site if you don't do regular upkeep and site maintenance are:
Malware, hacking, errors, hosting taking your site offline, broken functionality, messed up display.
There isn't one thing in that list that would make any reasonable person take their chances...
But it's the unreasonable I worry about.
I once fixed a website that hadn't been updated in over a year.
Needless to say - it took hours to update everything because once the first update was applied, the site crashed until we completed all the updates remaining.
What happens if you wait too long to update a website?
Like I mentioned in the example above, updating your site long after core and plugin updates come along will surely break your website.
When an update to the core is released, plugin developers usually have to make a few tweaks to be compatible.
If nothing is ever updated, it doesn't become a problem.
The problem arises when 2 or 3 core updates are released and the plugin still isn't updated, or vice versa.
This can also happen between 2 or more plugins.
Plugins conflicting with one another before and after updates isn't unheard of. I've dealt with plugin conflicts before and they suck to say the least.
Rule of thumb - If you see the update alert, give it a few days and then update your installed plugins.
Giving it a few days will give the developer time to get feedback about the latest updates and fix any bugs as a result.
But if you are like most... you won't update your site for months and then notice there are updates pending.
Don't touch anything!
I'll say it again....
DO NOT UPDATE YOUR WEBSITE!
Find a website maintenance service and let them handle it for you. If they are in the middle of an update and the site goes haywire, they'll be quick to get your website working again.
Website Maintenance. Where to Get it and How Much.
If you've been paying attention, you likely just did 1 of 2 things.
- Went to your WordPress site dashboard and looked at the updates pending. Then you probably thought to yourself.... "have I ever updated anything?" If you are asking yourself this - read on.
- You realized that all these months or years you've been pushing the update button at random because someone said it was a good idea but now you are starting to realize that just pushing a button without knowing what's really going on is a bit dangerous.
Either way - you may want to opt in for a site maintenance service if you have no idea what you are doing.
If money is tight, but you realize you are in over your head, there still might be a few options you can deploy to make sure your website is safe and kept up to date.
I wrote an article not too long ago that covers the cost to maintain a website and some resources for getting started.
Check out the maintenance guide and make sure you don't end up having an unnecessary panic attack this year.
Simply put - your WordPress site is like a sick kid. You've got to take care of it. If you don't, you'll get no sleep at night now knowing that website upkeep is a necessity if you want to keep your website running strong online.
Consider your options and find the one most suitable for your pocket and unique needs.
If you are using a million plugins and want to lessen your chances of a crashed website, take a look at our really effective affordable website service. It comes complete with site maintenance as part of the annual membership. We offer this so you can focus on doing what you do best... your business. We'll focus on the nerdy stuff.