WordPress, Magento and other hosted-CMS platforms are churning out code updates like no tomorrow.

Whether it’s the platform itself or a plugin, rarely does a day go by that you won’t receive a notification telling you to update!

Given how user friendly content management systems have become, it’s easy to click ‘Update’ without second thought. However, a laissez faire approach to updating your site’s code can get you into hot water quickly.

What’s the issue?

In a perfect world, your site should be built in an extensible manner. That’s how we build websites here at Built.

What do we mean by that? Well, essentially it means plugging in modules on top of one an other, rather than modifying underlying code.

That means you’re able to hit update on a core platform upgrade or plugin, and it should just work.

However, sometime developers will take a shortcut and ‘hack’ the core code of the CMS or a plugin to achieve an outcome. That means if he core or plugin code is updated, the changes are wiped, and the outcome is lost.

If you don’t have a backup of the site pre-update, the functionality can be lost for good, requiring re-development. A very painful situation indeed.

And all of that assumes that the new code was perfect and ready to go. Programmers make mistakes too; updates can contain bugs!

Backup, backup, backup

At Built, as a minimum, we advocate always backing up your site before undergoing any code changes.

It’s good development hygiene, and it means that if there are any issues you can always roll back to the previous version of the code. From there, you can assess issues with the new code and either piece together old and new code or wait for the next version.

Some hosts offer overnight backups; at the least we take a backup of files and database prior to any changes.

Use a Staging Server

Using a staging server or separate instance of your website to test updates is a wise course of action. This allows you to test any new functionality or changes, as well as updates, in a ‘sandbox’ so you don’t affect users.

We strongly recommend this course of action as applying untested changes to a site that is ‘live’ is a risky proposition, especially if your website has solid volumes of traffic and directly generates revenue or leads.

Do I need to bother?

With all of the complexity that updating your WordPress or Magento website introduces, it’s natural to ask whether you need to bother.

The short answer is yes – you do!

Updates often contain security fixes or patches that fix known platform vulnerabilities. That means it takes care of issues that are known to the wider public – if you don’t update, you’re putting your site at risk.

With that said, not every update contains security fixes, so it may not be worth the effort of updating every single time. We can assist and advise you through this process to ensure that you are not wasting effort and resources unnecessarily.

Can Built help us?

Definitely. If you need help making backups, setting up a staging server or would like someone to fully manage the maintenance process of your web properties, get in touch with us today. We’re too happy to help!

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