Why Businesses Must Keep Their WordPress Websites Up to Date

WordPress is no longer just a platform for bloggers but a fully functioning content management system (CMS). The free-to-use CMS powers more than one-third of all websites worldwide. Major corporations such as Etsy, BBC America, PlayStation, The Walt Disney Company are all operating on the WordPress platform.

WordPress is open-source software, meaning that it can be modified and expanded upon by any skilled programmer. As a completely customizable CMS, whether through theme or plugin customization, WordPress upgrades and publishes point releases every few months to address security vulnerabilities or bugs.

Those updates pose a significant challenge for businesses whose websites are dependent on WordPress as they need to maintain their website up to date. It is imperative for businesses with at least 100 employees to update their WordPress sites, not just for security reasons but also to maintain a competitive edge in an increasingly competitive marketplace. A fast and responsive website is not just a nice-to-have anymore; it is an expected feature that all businesses need in order to achieve higher customer satisfaction and, in turn, increased sales and conversions. Updating a WordPress site can also help improve search engine optimization (SEO) and, in turn, increase organic traffic to web pages.

What is a WordPress Site Update?

It is a process of updating a WordPress-based website without losing any data or content, by backing up its content on an external storage device, such as a hard drive, before upgrading. Updating a WordPress site may include installing the latest versions of the system’s programming language (PHP), the system’s core files, plugins, and themes. Developers provide new updates for at least three major reasons: fixing bugs, security issues, and making the site more user-friendly.

Critical Reasons for Updating a Business Website

Experts have identified the following reasons for businesses with at least 100 employees to keep their WordPress sites up to date:

INCREASED SECURITY: The latest updates often fix vulnerabilities that hackers try to use against businesses. Research has shown that websites running outdated software are more likely to get hacked than their up-to-date counterparts. In 2020, hackers managed to compromise thousands of WordPress-powered websites because of a vulnerability in a plugin called File Manager. To avoid that vulnerability, users had to update their plugins to the latest version.

INCREASED SPEED: Updating WordPress’s programing language (PHP) is necessary to maintain a website’s optimal speed. By updating their WordPress site with newer PHP versions, business owners can make their website faster, which results in higher SEO Ranking and better user experience.

COMPATIBILITY: There is compatibility on both the backend and the front end of a WordPress website. Backend compatibility is about ensuring that all plugins and themes work seamlessly together. The front-end part provides a better user experience on the website since updates are sometimes necessary to optimize a website to run on different browsers such as Chrome, Safari, and Firefox. Chrome is the world’s most popular browser used by nearly 64% of internet users.  

LEGAL COMPLIANCE: Ever since the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) law came into effect in 2018, website owners in Europe and beyond have been given a whole new set of new responsibilities. At the heart of them is the need to comply with controls over personal data. By keeping their WordPress website up to date, business owners ensure they are GDPR compliant and their customers’ data protected.

A SINGLE POINT OF FAILURE: If one plugin or theme breaks on a website, it can lead to the system crashing completely. Keeping WordPress updated will help prevent this undesirable outcome because there is a new and quick fix every time a problem arises.

NEW FEATURES: By keeping a WordPress website up-to-date, companies and organizations ensure their websites will have new features that often enhance design and functionality. For example, WordPress 5.0 introduced the block editor, and WordPress 5.3 included accessibility, UI, and block improvements.

The Solution Pathways

Now that the importance of keeping a WordPress website up-to-date has been explained, it is time to examine the different paths a business can take to achieve that goal. WordPress experts have identified the following five solution pathways:

Pathway One: Internal WordPress Experts:

Some businesses maintain an in-house team of experts to handle all security patches and updates. This solution is often more expensive and time-intensive, but it does allow business owners to control all aspects of their website from within. Large corporations and sensitive government agencies usually opt for this option because they can afford it and want to avoid potential security risks associated with outside vendors.

Pathway Two: Using Auto-Updates:

With the release of WordPress 5.5 in August 2020, the CMS provided a new feature designed to automatically update all plugins and themes. The addition was initially welcomed with enthusiasm by both WordPress users and developers since it provided hope that the tedious task of manually updating individual WordPress plugins would be eliminated. However, that did not exactly happen, and experts now warn against using the feature altogether after it led to many websites breaking down due to conflicting updates and/or incompatibility issues. Others remain supportive of the new feature, considering the trade-offs worth it.

Pathway Three: Use Plugins:

This solution pathway is similar to the previous one, but this one depends on a plugin such as WP Engine Smart Plugin Manager.  The plugin is designed to automatically update all the plugins on a WordPress site. What makes this solution preferable to WordPress’s auto-update feature is that it creates a backup of the site before attempting to update the plugins on a test version of it, lowering the risk of fatal errors. If the testing fails, then the update will usually abort. However, if everything goes as expected, it will update the live site’s plugins. The problem identified with this solution for business owners is that it can take a while for the backup to finish, and when it fails to update the site, which happens often, an expert is needed to manually begin the process.

Pathway Four: Hiring Freelancers:

Some businesses are hiring freelancers to maintain their website. The main advantage of this solution pathway is that it is relatively easy to find WordPress experts on platforms such as Fiverr and Upwork for a low price. This solution might be ideal for small personal websites, but when it comes to businesses, there are a couple of disadvantages that they need to be aware of:

1) Relying on an outsider who may not be as knowledgeable about the website’s specific needs and plugins.

2) Security is always a concern when it comes to freelancers since they are given unfettered access to the site’s backend and all the settings that go along with it.

Pathway Five: Hiring a WordPress Managed Hosting Service:

The last method to keeping a company’s WordPress website up to date is by hiring a managed hosting service, which is an outsourced, offsite company that will take over the day-to-day management of the website – updating WordPress when a new version is released and maintaining security patches. This option is widely considered the most secure and reliable because:

1) The website will be managed by established IT companies with reputations at stake.

2) They have the capacity to back up large amounts of data and can usually handle any type of website.

3) They manually maintain their servers instead of relying on automated security measures to protect the website.

4) Instead of shared hosting services, which are often quickly overwhelmed when there are too many websites on one server, some managed hosting service providers offer dedicated cloud-based hosting solutions, which scale to accommodate the growing needs of a business website.

In conclusion, to stay competitive, businesses with at least 100 employees must not overlook the importance of keeping their WordPress website up to date. In addition to protecting the website from potential hackers, keeping a website up to date allows them to scale with the needs of a growing business, leading to improved SEO, potentially higher conversion rates, and keeping in line with the latest website design trends. This article offered business owners five solution pathways to keep their WordPress website up to date. They included having IT experts within their company, leveraging WordPress’s Auto-Update feature, using auto-updating plugins, hiring a freelancer or a managed hosting service provider. The decision to keep WordPress updated will ultimately come down to business owners balancing the costs and benefits of upgrading their website.


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Melody Young