The Dreaded Update

By sheer quantity alone, yes, they’re annoying. Another new WordPress version arrives or one of the many plugins residing in your theme, and oh yes, a theme update too. There are the minor updates for fixing security bugs, like 4.1.1 to 4.1.2, and the major updates for new features, like 4.3 to 4.4. Along with the inevitable update, so too comes the same fear and confusion. What is the risk of using the latest version? Will a conflict arise? Will my site blow up? Fear and the unknown have always been good friends. For this case, allow me to try to break up that relationship by sharing some known stuff.

sirens

Using the latest version really is for your benefit. First, it’s best to understand why updates happen. There are a few good reasons, but number one is security.

There are near a hundred content management systems out there, but WordPress boasts about a quarter of the market share and it continues to grow. And the bigger the share, the bigger the target for malicious hackers. These nasty people are always looking for vulnerabilities that allow them to do nasty things but, all is not lost. There are also heroes.

Good hackers are also out there doing their job of investigating, reporting, and releasing the fixes for these known vulnerabilities. And they do it all the time too. True, it’s a never-ending game, but remember this piece of tough love – if you are not using the latest version of WordPress, then the version you are using is susceptible to attack. Period.

Major updates happen once every few months or so, and the minor ones are released as needed. Given the frequency of these updates, WordPress streamlined the process by creating automatic background updates in version 3.7 to make life a little less worrisome. These background updates are the minor ones that fix security and maintenance issues. Once in a while, they will include plugins and themes. You can activate updates for major releases as well and get email notifications. But be warned – if you do not use a host that manages WordPress,then there is a risk that an ‘oops’ will happen.

Let’s move on. Another advantage of using the latest version is that you get a bunch of really cool new features. These can be anything from better plugin installations, better compatibility between the browser and the post editor, to a variety of bug fixes. In short, this means staying on top of the game with the latest toys.

And then there’s speed. Every new release also comes with performance improvements that make WordPress run faster and smoother. And here’s the bonus – faster speed is also favoured by the ever-important Search Engine Optimization. Fast is good.

Bugs. Everywhere bugs. Older versions of WordPress have them, sure, but let’s be reasonable. Of course, no versions are released without rigorous testing, but keep in mind that the WordPress core files are written with a lot of code. So it shouldn’t be surprising that some get through the filters. It’s entirely your choice to keep up to date with the latest version or not, and if not, you will face greater difficulty in trying to search for online help. This is because it is assumed that you installed the latest version. If that’s not the case, then the first recommendation will be, you guessed it, to do the dreaded update.

This line of thinking is not just for WordPress alone. Your plugins and themes are also at risk when it comes to the nasty hackers. Yes, they’re annoying and can even be a pain to be totally honest. What it boils down to is how much risk do you want to live with?

Sources
1.wpbeginner.com – Why You Should Always Use the Latest Version of WordPress, August 06 2015
2.https://make.wordpress.org/core/handbook/about/release-cycle/releasing-minor-versions/
3.https://wordpress.org/news/

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