Do I really need to worry about software updates & patching?

The short answer is yes, this kind of maintenance is an essential ongoing process. Websites today are very sophisticated, and a lot of the programs most web developers use are open-source, meaning they are continuously being updated and improved by a community of developers. The software is not static, and their ongoing efforts improve its performance and features, as well as addresses bugs and security vulnerabilities. It is critical to keep all programs current to help ensure the best and safest overall experience. Clients on our maintenance/care plans will have these new updates installed on their website on a regular basis.

 

If for no other reason, the software should be updated to ensure the security of your website. Modern day content management systems are a primary target for the more unscrupulous among us – they spend a lot of time looking into the code of these programs seeking methods of exploitation so they can steal data and distribute malicious code (among other things).

 

As these vulnerabilities are discovered, software developers immediately work to patch and secure the code and make the updates available for end-user distribution. Something to keep in mind too is that it is not just the content management system itself that is a target, but all the moving parts that come together to create your website. In other words, even the software for add-on features and the web design itself can be targeted, so they are also in need of constant monitoring and updates.

 

Regular updates also tend to improve overall performance on your website, as one of the goals is to improve the user experience by serving the site faster – it also helps with search engine placement considering speed is a factor they look at. Function of the site can also be impaired by bugs that may inadvertently be present in the code, and regular updates helps resolve these issues as they are discovered and corrected.

 

Ideally, all the different software components running your site “play nice”, but sometimes they don’t, and this needs to be paid attention to during the update process. Aside from their own ongoing smaller updates, program developers tend to pay attention to upcoming releases of the content management system to ensure compatibility remains – but even then unforeseen difficulties can occur (issues with the core or other integrated programs), and negative interactions occur causing either a dysfunction or total take down of the site. We make sure we have recent backups on hand when performing updates in case we need to quickly reverse the action we did. Sometimes it is best to leave the previous version of a program in place, or use a different, compatible program.

 

These updates can be done using automatic and/or manual processes. The software can be set to automatically update as new releases are posted, but this should be carefully used (if at all) considering there are numerous software interactions at play – content management system core, design elements, and many different add-on feature integrations. If the system is automatically installing updates and something “breaks”, it takes more time to notice and correct the issue than if we are manually overseeing the operation – which is our standard approach. Also standard in our process is to ensure we work on your site updates during “low-traffic” hours, so it has as little impact as possible.

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