If you have a hosted blog at, say, Blogger.com or WordPress.com, then one thing you don’t have to worry about is updating the software – it’s all done for you behind the scenes.
But if you self-host, it’s your responsibility. I sometimes get asked “Should I be worried about all those little red numbers on my dashboard, and messages telling me there’s a new version of WordPress, or my Theme, or a plugin?” The short answer is yes – although you could carry on without updating, and everything would probably work fine, there are reasons why it’s a good idea to stay on top of updates:
1) WordPress updates generally include a whole range of amendments to the code, including security fixes and improvements to the functionality of the software. In plain English, an update should make your site more secure from hackers and make it easier to do stuff.
2) Similarly, Theme updates can offer improved security, more design options and better compatibility with plugins. If you’ve paid for a premium theme, why not take advantages of updates? They’re like free upgrades, after all. An out-of-date Theme can cause plugins to work differently, or not at all.
3) Plugin updates are worth installing, again because they tend to bring improvements, and like Theme updates if you don’t run with them you risk them not working at some point in the future.
Non-functioning elements of a blog are not only annoying for you and for your readers, they can open the door to security breaches. You may think “No-one’s going to be interested in hacking into my blog!” but that’s not the point. Hackers, scammers and spammers have automated systems at work 24 hours on the web, looking for easy ways to peddle their own particular brand of ill-will. Unsecured blogs, no matter what they’re about, are fair game for them.
Warning – before installing updates:
1) first do a back-up of your blog
2) be aware that if you (or a developer) have done any customisation of your blog or Theme, or have any bespoke plugins, updating any of your blog software may affect those customisations. This is why it’s important to back everything up first. If you’re worried, as added precaution you can also take screenshots, which will help if (in the worst-case scenario) you need to rebuild everything!
The longer you leave updating, the riskier it can be to do so. So better to stay on top of it.
Today when I logged on I was prompted to update to WordPress 4.0 ‘Benny’. (Updates are given names, rather like hurricanes and computer viruses.) This short video explains the improvements it offers.