A few days ago, a new version of WordPress was released, numbered 5.5, and with it a few new features, which you will read about in the article "WordPress 5.5 - what's new?". One of these is the ability to activate automatic updates for plugins and the theme.

Many people immediately after switching to WordPress 5.5 decided to activate updates for selected components. Let's consider whether it is actually worth doing this.

WordPress It is a modular system allowing to install additional extensions responsible for various functions of our website. We have at our disposal tens of thousands of add-ons, both free and paid, those that perform certain operations in the background and those that have a real impact on the appearance and functionality of our project. If you are wondering how to add social media icons, you can easily find such an add-on, if you are wondering how to set up an online shopthen you also have many solutions at your disposal. And so on.

Are the updates valid?

They are extremely important. To a large extent, they bring with them new possibilities and improvements, but also bug fixes or security patches. In most cases, hacked websites are the result of negligence in this area. If you're not updating WordPress, plugins and themes you're exposing your site to serious problems. 

How often to update?

This question is difficult to answer unequivocally. On the one hand, many people say that updates should be carried out as soon as they are published, but in practice this is not always a good thing.

The more plugins you have installed and the more complex they are, the more likely it is that a quick update will end in complications due to incompatibility or simply a bug in the code of a new version of one or another plugin that was not caught by the author.

When you install plugins, you build a specific environment for your site, sometimes even a unique one. On the other hand, a developer, that is a person or a team of people working on the development of one or another plugin, are not able to fully predict how the changes they make will behave in one or another configuration. That's why in practice, when a major update is released, any problems related to it, which the developer didn't catch, are verified on a living organism, i.e. on the websites of the people who made the update.

This is precisely why it is worth considering whether to update on the fly or to wait for the next release. A simple example:

A few days ago a new version of the WooCommerce plugin for online shop appeared with the number 4.4. Someone who also had the WP Rocket plugin, which is used to optimise the performance of WP after the update may have encountered a rather serious problem as a result of which the shop simply stopped working. However, it was enough to wait a day or two for the 4.4.1 version to appear before updating to avoid this problem.

So as you can see not always quick update is good for your site, sometimes it is worth to wait a few days and check if we have another version with fixes. If it is not there, it usually means that the community has not caught major problems and you can update. If the fix appears after a short time, then there are probably some complications.

How to interpret version numbers

What release cycle a developer adopts and what numbering scheme they adopt is their own decision, but you will most often see numbers in the format x.y.z. X is the major version number, Y stands for functional changes and improvements, and Z usually stands for minor bug fixes and security patches.

Let's take our example above. If you see a WooCommerce plugin coming out with version 4.5, which may have quite a few major changes, it's worth giving it a few days' breather and seeing if a patched version, i.e. 4.5.1, comes out in the meantime. This phe rule of thumb will allow you to avoid many unpleasant experiences and wasting time restoring a previous version of a plug-in.

Automatic WordPress updates

We're back to what's new in WordPress 5.5, which is the option to automatically update plugins or a theme. By going to the Plugins section you will see on the right hand side the column "Automatic updates"

Automatic WordPress plugin updates

By clicking on the link indicated, you can activate the automation for selected plug-ins. This selective choice is extremely important here. I'm not suggesting you activate the automaton for every plugin as you go, approach the subject selectively. Plugins which are of lesser importance can be activated instead, but extended plugins, which are strategic for you, I suggest to leave unchanged, and perform their updates in controlled conditions.

It is no different with the theme. Here too, the new version of WordPress allows you to activate automatic updates.

auto02

If you are using basic WordPress themes the risk of something bad happening after an automatic update is relatively small, but if your theme is much more complex then I also suggest performing a controlled update.

Take advantage of hosting update mechanisms

At WordPress hosting accounts Didhost can perform updates that give you an extra layer of security in the form of, for example, restore points. For example, if you're upgrading WordPress then by performing such an operation directly in your hosting account panel, the system will automatically make a copy before making changes, from which you can restore your site in case of problems.

Automatic update

In addition, on the higher plans you will also find the function intelligent updatewhich will analyse the process before WordPress, plugins or the theme are updated. It will make a copy of the page and implement the update on that copy. Once the task is complete, you will be able to review the results and even check how each subpage looks after the update is applied. If everything is OK, with one click you accept the changes and the update is automatically implemented on the production version of the website. The risk of potential problems is reduced to a minimum in this case.

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