20 minutes | Mar 20th 2019

EP8: Ask Zane - Updating Those Pesky WordPress Plugins

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In this episode, we're talking with Zane DeVault, lead developer at co-founder of Tiny Blue Sky about updating WordPress plugins. Zane explains why plugins need to be updated regularly on WordPress websites, what to do if something goes wrong during the update, the importance of backing up your website and some overall website maintenance best practices.

What is a WordPress plugin?

If you currently have a WordPress site, you might know that some of its functionality is made possible by plugins. A plugin is a bit of software that can be added to your site to do a thing that your site couldn't do before. For instance, let's say you want to have an online store but your current site doesn't include ecommerce. A plugin can be added to your site, and voila, you're in business.

How to choose a plugin?

There are currently 54,737 plugins available to extend your website experience. And that number is growing all the time. So how do you know which one to chose?

Zane recommends starting within your current site. On your WordPress Dashboard, hover over Plugins and select Add New. The plugins here have been vetted by WordPress. From there, look for Plugins that have been installed on lots of other sites and check for high ratings.

Updating plugins: when, why and how

Like most software, plugins require updates from time-to-time to keep them secure and working as they were intended. You should update your plugins—it's a good thing.

Before you update, back up your site and your database. Not sure how? Check with your host (Zane recommends WPEngine and Flywheel. At Tiny Blue Sky, we use WPEngine and love that it automatically backs up our site daily). If your host doesn't make backing up easy for you, there are plugins that can help. Zane references Backup Buddy, Updraft, VaultPress and Duplicator.

Once your site is backed up, update the plugins and then give your site a quick once over to ensure everything is in working order. If for some reason something isn't working properly, pat yourself on the back for having a back up. Contact your host or developer and ask them to help you restore your site.

Zane recommends updating your plugins every week. This ensures you won't miss a security update, unintentionally making your site vulnerable to an attack. 

What happens if you don’t update your plugins?

There's a chance that nothing will happen. That said, you're also leaving your site open to the possibility of an attack. If you're hacked you're site could go down or become associated spam activity, which will negatively impact your Google search results.

Have something to ask Zane?

If you have a question for Zane. let us know. We may use it in a future episode of the Tech Savvy Nonprofit Podcast. Send your question to zane@tinybluesky.com.

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