You just published your new website and you are happy and proud. In the old days, when websites where hand coded, you could lean back a little while and and concentrate on your main business. Not so with a WordPress website. A WordPress website needs maintenance, a task that should be done at least weekly.
Here is a look how the different software components of a WordPress website work together.
The PHP version is the software that runs the code of WordPress. Think of it like the operating system of your computer. Depending on your hosting service, you may not have control over that. However, it is very important to keep an eye out on the version that is installed on your account (to check once a year is enough). If you run an outdated version of PHP, your website can be attacked. Talk to your hosting service how you can stay current.
That is the actual WordPress program. The latest release will always be ready to run the latest version of php. WordPress Core is being maintained by a large group of volunteers and provided for free.
The theme determines the look of your website. It decides how the font looks like, if and where a sidebar displays, the color scheme, the logo and much more. Themes are installed on top of WordPress Core.
Plugins are little additional programs that “plugged-in” to provide additional functionality. There are thousands of free plugins available but some have paid versions. They provide functionality like sliders, security, integration with other software components, etc. If you want to do something that your theme cannot do, there is probably a plugin for that.
All these components need to work nicely together. If your php version is outdated, WordPress, the theme and the plugins will not update and may crash your website. If you update the php version, and your theme is outdated, your site may crash. If you run the latest php version, your theme is up-to-date, and any one your plugins is not maintained, your site may crash.
Things that Have to be Done Weekly
The best way to make sure your website stays up-to-date, is to run updates as soon as they become available. WordPress notifies you in the administrative dashboard of any available updates and provides a link to do the update. Some hosting services (or settings of your WordPress installation) provide automatic updates. That means as soon as an update becomes available, it will be applied. I am not a fan of that automation. An untimely update can cause a conflict between your theme and plugins and take your website down. You may not know about that for days unless you check your website daily. I prefer to do updates manually when I have time to do a thorough check afterwards and take care of problems that may have occurred.
Not every update is a security update. Sometimes, additional functionality is provided or bugs are fixed. Checking each time what kind of update it is, can be time consuming. But if a WordPress installation runs outdated software, hackers may have an easy time to find vulnerabilities to attack your site.
Make sure – at least once a week – that all of your software components are up to date:
- WordPress Core
- The Theme
- and Plugins
Last but not least, make sure you have backups of your site.