We covered why it’s so important to update your WordPress plugins in the article aptly titled Understanding Why it is Important to Update Your WordPress Plugins and thought the subject matter was so important that we should give you a primer on how to keep your WordPress plugins updated.
Isn’t Updating Plugins Just Clicking a Button?
At first glance, updating WordPress plugins seems simple enough. When you log into your WordPress Admin Console (see image below) there will be an orange number next to your Plugins tab indicating how many plugins need attention. On the Plugins page, there will be a link taking you to the update. While clicking an update link seems simple enough, it does take a bit more work if you really want to keep your website safe.
Always Back Up First
When updating a plugin, or almost any change to a site for that matter, it’s always best to back up your site first. There are typically two reasons WordPress plugins get updated: new features and code corrections. Often a new feature or small tweak has been added to the plugin code for additional functionality or to expand on existing functionality. Ironically, these are often the updates that cause “things to break” due to changes to the way page elements look or function, how the plugin is used, or dependencies between it and another plugin. Especially with page element plugins, such as sliders, galleries, or sidebar widgets, it is not uncommon to update themes and plugins in the “wrong order” and have the element stop working or go missing completely. So for peace of mind, it is always best to take a fresh file and database backup of production site, just so you have it on hand and ready for restoration if needed.
How to Take a Site Backup
To create a site backup, please refer to one of the the Knowledge Base articles below or contact our support team for assistance:
- Creating a One-Time Website Backup with cPanel
- Creating a One-Time Website Backup with Plesk (future article)
- Taking a Website Backup using FileZilla (future article)
Plugin Update Methodologies
Once your site is backed up, there are a couple of routes you can take for updating the plugins necessary for a specific site. The thought processes for each are as follows:
You can update in mass: After backing up your site click all of the available updates and hope for the best. If all goes well it can be a considerable time saver. If not you can always rollback the changes with the existing one time backup.
Update one at a time test and repeat: After backing up your site you update a single plugin and test the site for functionality. Once you have confirmed it’s working correctly replace the previous backup with a new one and repeat the process. This is typically the safest route to go but unfortunately is also the most time consuming. The advantage is that if there is an issue with an updated plugin you know which one it is.
Hybrid approach: Just as it sounds, this is a combination approach using both of the above methods if needed. After the initial backup, try updating all plugins in mass. If you run into issues go to the one at a time method. This can be a defiant time saver for you and typically is the best of both worlds.
Updating Plugins in Bulk
- Complete a full site backup
- Complete plugin updates for all
- Make sure everything still works as expected
Updating plugins in bulk can be done either through the WordPress Updates screen, shown under the Dashboard button in the side-navigation bar, or on the Plugins screen by selecting all plugins needing updates and choosing Update from the Bulk Actions menu.
WordPress Updates screen:
Updating Plugins One at a Time
- Complete a full site backup
- Complete one plugin update
- Ensure everything is still working
- Repeat steps 1, 2, and 3 until all plugins are updated
Single plugin updates can be done by selecting only one plugin at a time, and choosing Update in the Bulk Actions menu, or most plugins will have an update now link shown if an update is available:
- Follow steps to Updating Plugins in Mass
- If you find no issues, then you are done
- If you find issues move to the Updating Them One at a Time method
Keeping your WordPress Plugins is an important part of keeping your site secure and performing properly, and your business online. For more information on this topic, please review one of our companion articles