The Milwaukee meetup group for WordPress convenes on the third Tuesday of each month. This meetup has taken place at numerous locations throughout Milwaukee. In more recent months it has found its home at Bucketworks, a collaborative/co-working space near the historic Third Ward.

This meetup focused on various issues regarding updating WordPress sites and keeping them safe from viruses and attacks, among other topics.

The evening’s discussion covered specifics like:

  • when to trust a plugin that might not be compatible with the latest core release,
  • how to go through the update process and
  • which variation of WordPress – the pre-installed content management system (CMS) or self-installed – will best suit a site builder’s needs.

 

Updating Your Plugins (and When to Dispatch Them)

The discussion started with how to handle plugins – applications that get fused with a WordPress site to optimize functionality or address certain designer/developer needs –  when updating the site.

You might ask as you read this…

  • How important is it to update all my plugins?
  • What happens when the core software updates?
  • Should I continue to use or trust plugins that haven’t updated with the software?

Let’s address these questions, minding that security is the underlying issue. Keeping all plugins updated will prevent your site from vulnerability to outside attacks. This usually presents the biggest reason why plugins need occasional updating.

Someone might find a coding exploit within that plugin which allows hackers to weave through the main content on your site from the administrative side. One could imagine how that level of access to an untrusted party could result in corrupted content, virus attacks or other functionality issues which could prove very costly.

Another issue might arise when certain plugins have not updated to match the latest core updates. Core updates – meaning when WordPress decides to update core features in their CMS – will also demand plugin updates, unless the developer pre-optimized their application for compatibility. However, this usually isn’t the case.

If one should encounter this, it might simply come down to when the developer last updated the plugin. Usually, plugins updated within the last few weeks or month would be more trustworthy than those that haven’t been updated for almost a year. Contacting the developer or checking for recent posts by them may also indicate their intentions to update.

Running Core Updates

Before running updates, particularly core updates, you will want to do a full-site backup. WordPress offers a few different methods in their help documentation, following numerous steps that can be time-consuming.

The developer community also offers a number of quick-step plugins – both free and at-cost – which can backup all the content on your site, often with just a click of a button and perhaps a few menu selections. ManageWP and BackupBuddy offer premium backup solutions suited for handling nearly any server transfer, site recovery or developer testing issue.

When I built WebMKE.com, I discovered Total Backup, which can save your entire site to a ZIP file with a single click. Since it’s free, it doesn’t offer many other features like automated backups. Those only needing the simplest of backup solutions may want to consider it.

This backup process mainly concerns those who choose to host their own sites with the WordPress software from WordPress.org . Those newer to the platform may want to try WordPress.com, which hosts sites on their servers for free.

So You Want to Be Free…

This option gives users a chance to familiarize with WordPress, though the no-cost option comes with certain restrictions. Free sites may not allow certain theme or plugin installations, limit ad support and must use the prescribed domain structure (i.e. yoursitename.wordpress.com). Free sites are also not allowed for eCommerce or promoting profit ventures.

On the other hand, those with free sites on ‘dot-com’ can migrate their existing sites to their web hosting of choice and have all the freedom of a self-hosted site whenever they wish. Those new to selecting web hosting should understand that not all hosts are created equal. There are many reasons for this, but loading speed and security are usually the biggest concerns.

Where Should I Host?

A little research might be in order for those seeking hosting best optimized for their site needs. One might be tempted to pick a familiar name like Rackspace, Amazon Cloud or those advertised on television or radio.

At the same time, some consideration should be given to the CMS running your site. WordPress runs more sites than any other CMS in the world, but that doesn’t necessarily mean every server that can store your site will always play nice.

A few emerging names that audience members felt worked particularly well with WordPress include ZippyKid and WPEngine. The latter solution might require some deep pockets, but its user base enjoys remarkable page loading speeds, WordPress support and other upscale features not offered by most other hosts.

The meetup offered a lot of in-depth advice for site maintenance, fielding plenty of questions from audience members. Many of those in attendance also had extensive WordPress experience, which made for a discussion with enough take-aways for a few more blog posts.