Due to a significant increase in requests to manage the versioning and updates to our clients’ WordPress website framework and plugins, in 2014 we developed a service that addresses this need – the WordPress Maintenance Plan. We have been offering this plan for about a year now and are often asked questions like – “Why do I need to pay to have WordPress updated”, or “I already pay a hosting fee, why do I need to pay to have WordPress updated as well?” We will address these questions below.
WordPress Is Popular
WordPress is very popular for good reason; it’s easy to use, there’s a huge community of developers and designers creating solutions for it and it’s very flexible. According to WordPress.org, WordPress powers 23% of all websites on the Internet. Much like operating systems like Microsoft’s Windows require updates to patch security holes, increase functionality, or fix bugs, WordPress and the plugins that extend its functionality must be updated from time to time for the same reasons.
The good news is that with all of those aforementioned developers and designers working on WordPress and it’s plugins, the vast majority of security issues and bugs are addressed very quickly. Unfortunately, many website owners don’t update their versions of WordPress – some versions may be years old – and this opens their site up to great risk. According to WPBeginner, 83% of hacked WordPress sites are not upgraded. Most sites that get hacked are usually the result of an outdated or old version of WordPress or plugin on the site.
Critical Security Updates
In the past month, we have seen two “critical updates” that address serious security holes or issues in WordPress. This was unusual because we normally don’t see critical security updates deployed this close together.
- April 21, 2015 – WordPress 4.1.2 Security Release
- May 7, 2015 – WordPress 4.2.2 Security & Maintenance Release
In cases such as this, if our clients were not participating in our WordPress Maintenance Plan, we can upgrade WordPress and the plugins on a time and materials basis but we will have to revisit the site and repeat the process for all critical or important updates if you want to continue to ensure your site is up to date.
Performance & Functionality
Another major reason for keeping the site up to date is that it provides performance and functionality upgrades that are continuously developed and introduced. Remember, these updates are not done for security reasons alone; WordPress usually sees several significant upgrades annually that introduce new or improved functionality. Likewise, plugin developers also update their offerings to improve the functionality, security, or compatibility of the plugin and it is important to keep them current as well. Lastly, like all software, bugs are sometimes present and these updates address them as they are found and remedied – the bigger the bug, the more important it is to update.
Can’t I Just Click Update?
Well, you could and many of our clients have. Sometimes an update can run just fine – particularly if the site is bare bones and simple or if the webmaster has followed WordPress’ own update guidelines. However, as soon as you start adding plugins that extend the functionality of the site, you have to consider the effect updating WordPress will have on those plugins. Updating can sometimes affect the functionality of the plugins and render them broken and causing issues or outages on a website. Larger, more complex sites generally have more plugins, which increases the possibility that there can be a conflict.
Help, My Website Is Broken!
We often hear this after a client has tried to update WordPress themselves or after the website was hacked due to an outdated version of WordPress or one of their plugins. If we are hosting the website, we are usually able to fix the issue and get the site back up and running with everything updated due to the fact that we have a publishing process that uses a repository and staging site that allows a isolated testing environment. However, the client ends up having to pay for the time and materials required to diagnose, test, and fix the issue, which can be greater than the cost of an entire year’s subscription of our WordPress Maintenance Plan.
WordPress Maintenance Plan
For clients that are enrolled in our WordPress Maintenance Plan, we conduct quarterly audits and reviews of the versions of WordPress and plugins to check for any available updates. If any are available, we start by first testing the updates on your site in an isolated staging environment to ensure functional integrity. If there are no issues found when testing in the staging environment, we will push the updates to the live, production website. If it is determined that the update is causing issues, we will diagnose the issue and make a recommendation for its solution. The client can then make an informed decision as to whether they want to update the version of WordPress.
- Check WordPress Core Version & Plugin Versions
- Check Compatibility Map for Core + Plugins
- Make & Implement Recommendations (if necessary)
- Upgrade Core & Plugins on Staging Site & Test
- Make & Implement Recommendations (if necessary)
- Upgrade Core & Plugins on Live Site & Test
How Do I Get Started?
If you are interested in Sleeping Giant Studios’ WordPress Maintenance Plan or if you would like to learn more about it, please let us know, we are happy to help.