Once you have your website in place, it seems as if that is it - job done. No more work on it is needed. However, just like with physical objects, maintenance is key. The most popular CMS that websites are built on is WordPress, but this requires more regular maintenance than other platforms.
WordPress is an Open Source software, meaning it has a community of developers behind it, and new versions are published regularly to fix bugs and introduces new features. This is the same for any WordPress plugins. Within each new version of WordPress or plugins, there are also security and performance updates. This is the main reason it is crucial to update to the latest version. Without the update, a website is vulnerable to attempts from hackers to insert malicious code, which could cause data breaches, damage SEO and also affect the content of the site. The worst case we have seen involved a website targeted with more than 60k pages of spam content. This took hours to remove and then further work was needed to take the spam links off search browsers. The total cost was nearly four figures.
When a new update is released, hackers look at what has been addressed and then identify where they can find weaknesses in sites. Following this, they target sites that have not been updated, as they will be easy marks.
As mentioned alongside the issue of maintaining a secure site, there are other benefits of updating to the latest version such as new features and functionality. For example, when version 4.8 was released earlier this year, it included ways to improve user performance and accessibility, which can be crucial to the success of a business.
While it may seem that it would be easy to update WordPress, there are potential flaws in new updates - this is why it is constantly updated! Given this, it should never be updated on a live site, but should be done on a development server. Furthermore, before an update is carried out, a back-up should be taken of the site and following the update, there should be testing to ensure everything is working.
As new versions of WordPress are published fairly regularly, we recommend getting an update done on a quarterly basis. This will strengthen the security of your site, ensure you and visitors to your site are benefitting from the latest features, and also ensure that you are staying up to date with industry standards. It doesn’t cost a lot to do, and is a small investment that could save you a lot of time, money and secure your site for the long-term.