One of the best parts of WordPress is its massive ecosystem of plugins. In fact, as of right now, there are more than 50,000 free add-ons available on the WordPress.org plugin repository.
Given how user-friendly plugins are, it’s not uncommon to end up with dozens of them. Each one might be specifically chosen and configured for your needs.But with all the positive aspects of using plugins, there can be some pain points as well. The biggest pain point is probably keeping up with all the updates that become available.
This might lead you to ask questions like: “do I need to run plugin updates?” “How often should my plugins be updated?” Or: “are there any tools that help make plugin updates easier or more efficient?” In short, the answers are: yes, it depends, and you bet!
Read on to learn about the importance of plugin updates, how to update your plugins, and when (and how) to use automatic updates to help manage your site.
Why plugin updates matter
If you’re wondering whether plugin updates are worth the effort, the short answer is yes.
Let’s go a little more in-depth by talking about the three most common reasons why plugin updates become available. They are:
- Performance improvements are made by the developer(s) — ex. increased speed.
- There are new features added to the plugin — ex. a new menu or export functionality.
- A security vulnerability or exploit was discovered and fixed.
You might have read this list and thought to yourself, “I don’t mind if I miss out on some new features or a performance improvement.” This is an argument that you might make if you have a lot of plugins installed, and running site updates takes a long time. Or you might be happy with the way a particular plugin is working for you already, and just don’t need new features.
That being said, when it comes to site security, you really can’t afford to waiver. The problem doesn’t lie with the number of plugins installed — it’s letting them become outdated, giving potential attackers opportunities to exploit security weaknesses.
The easier way to update your plugins: automatically
Updates should be made as often as they become available. If you manually run plugin updates, make it a daily habit to check your plugins for available updates to ensure that you’re running the latest and greatest versions of each plugin on your site.
If this sounds like a hassle, you might wonder whether there’s a way to automate this process. There has to be an easier way, right?
You’re in luck — there is.
If you’re using Jetpack, you can activate Automatic Plugin Updates. Instead of manually checking for updates and spending the time to run them on your site(s), you can select individual plugins to update automatically. This becomes especially useful if you maintain multiple sites or run a single site with a large number of plugins.
When to use (or to avoid) automatic updates
Now that you know about automatic updates, it might be tempting to enable them for every plugin across each of your sites. After all, it creates less work for you — what could be better than that?
Most of the time, enabling automatic updates is the right choice, but there are some exceptions. Depending on your individual site’s configuration and the plugin in question, you may want to run some updates manually.
Imaging that you’re running a WooCommerce store and you worked with a developer to incorporate custom functionality for when a new order is placed. In this scenario, you’re running custom code that may conflict with changes to WooCommerce core. For this reason, it might make sense to manually update the WooCommerce plugin so you can verify that nothing breaks your custom code.
Another scenario is if you have a plugin (or group of plugins) that enhance another plugin. For example, you may have a basic form plugin with an add-on that syncs your form submissions with an email application like MailChimp. If an update is released that modifies how your form plugin functions, an automatic update could temporarily break the MailChimp add-on.
In cases like these, you may want to disable automatic plugin updates, which you can do by toggling off Autoupdates below the plugin in question in your Installed Plugins list via the WordPress.com editor.
Stay updated and keep your site secure
Is your site running any outdated add-ons? This might be the perfect time to set up Jetpack’s Automatic Updates and get your plugins in working order!
Share your experiences using Jetpack’s automatic plugin update feature, or any other tips and tricks for updating your WordPress plugins, in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you!
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