Editor’s Note: From time to time, our Woodinville Chamber will bring you guest posts from Woodinville Chamber Members that will aid in educating and informing our members about a topic of interest. The article below is a guest post by Scott Bothel of FourTen Creative.
by Scott Bothel
WordPress websites need regular maintenance. That doesn’t mean they need oil changes, or even theme changes to accomplish this. What is does mean is that the Open Source ecosystem that makes WordPress possible is the same reason it needs to be regularly updated, checkin in on, and kept up. Between changes to third-party plugins, themes, WordPress core, and your hosting configuration, something is always changing.
The truth is, WordPress maintenance is WordPress security. By keeping your website up to date and monitoring its security and backup features, you are ensuring the survival of your website content. Your hard work could be lost if you website experiences a catastrophic failure or hacking. The cost to rebuild a website is something you don’t want to risk.
So, here are four easy tips to ensure your WordPress maintenance is on track.
#1 – Log in Regularly
Many people are content to make sure their website is still showing as normal on the internet. But the truth is that your home page may be loading and showing as normal while things behind the scenes are falling apart. You may be seeing a cached version of that homepage and it’s important to log in to see admin-level notices that help you understand what is really going on in your website. Logging into your WordPress website on a regular basis is the easiest way to be sure you are seeing the notices you might be missing.
Look for available updates each time you log in and be sure to run them. Many folks are wary of running updates for fear of ‘breaking’ the website. If you are sure to have a good backup situation (see below), you should feel free to run available updates.
This is especially important due to the inconsistent nature of email delivery from web hosts. You may have set up your website to email you important notices, but would you know if it stopped functioning?
#2 – Review Site Health Feature
A newer feature of WordPress in the past few years is the Site Health feature. The WordPress Site Health feature helps identify potential problems in your hosting configuration and other WordPress files. Look for this widget on the Dashboard when logging into your WordPress website. Be sure to click the Site Health screen to explore possible recommendations that range from identifying out of date PHP versions to deleting unused old themes which could pose a security risk.
One of the most important items that will crop up is whether you are running the latest secure versions of PHP and MySQL software on your web hosting configuration. Many web hosts will allow you to keep your old versions of PHP at your own risk. But you likely aren’t tracking the release of new versions of PHP if you are a small business owner.
#3 – Automatic Plugin Updates
Another recent feature addition to WordPress is the ability to enable automatic plugin and theme updates. This is great news to keep your website as secure as possible from security exploits that inadvertently pop up in plugins and themes over time. You may not be eager to enable automatic updates for every plugin or theme in your website, but even allowing the ones you have high confidence in will help get you on the road to a well-maintained WordPress website.
#4 – Security and Backup
As we noted, WordPress maintenance is WordPress security. When you are seeking to keep your website secure, running all available updates and logging in regularly are helpful. But you also want to have good security and backup features in case anything does go wrong. There are many plugins available to solve this problem, but I prefer to know that my web host is being proactive with WordPress-specific solutions for security and backup as well.
I recommend WordFence for a good security plugin and UpDraft Plus for a good backup plugin. But, for me, hosting with Siteground has been the best solution to these concerns. Good hosting enables good maintenance. With the introduction of their new Site Tools configuration (as opposed to open source cPanel), they have integrated similar features. Be sure you understand what features your chosen solution provides and doesn’t provide so you do assume you have everything covered by one plugin when you likely need a coordinated solution.