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Improve Your WordPress Security!

Did you know you need to perform monthly maintenance?

If you are new to WordPress, it is likely that you don’t know that you do need to do frequent updates to keep your site in a healthy state. I imagine you may be wondering why this is important. WordPress is one of the most popular website building platforms in the world. As such, it’s a place hackers are always trying to find new ways to break into. There was even an instance of  1.5 million WordPress web pages being hacked through the use of a vulnerable outdated version of WordPress. Keeping your WordPress version, themes and plugins up-to-date can help keep those hackers out of your site and keep your site from going down completely.

I should mention that WordPress just released version 5.1 which helps increase website security. This new 5.1 version is called “Betty” and one of her features is that she helps create awareness about what version of PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor your WordPress site is running on. Named after famous jazz singer, Betty Carter, Betty alerts website administrators to update their PHP version since some versions are becoming obsolete. “Betty” is great news, but you still need to follow a maintenance routine!

Before we do anything, I want to make sure you are making backups of your website! Even though updates are our friend, on occasion, an update could cause a conflict. Conflicts can, in turn, cause something else to break and bring your site down. Conflicts can happen between two plugins, between your theme and a plugin, or even between a plugin and your site’s current WordPress version. I highly recommend the backup plugin Updraft Plus. UpDraft Plus allows you to save backups either on your server or somewhere else off-site such as Dropbox, Google Drive, etc. Making sure you have a backup of your site is critical to getting it back up and running quickly if a plugin conflict occurs or in the unfortunate event that your site gets hacked.

Monthly Update List:

WordPress

WordPress developers frequently release security patches or add extra functionality. You may have WordPress set to auto-update or to be updated manually. If it is set to auto-update, WordPress will send you (or the site administrator) an email when it auto-updates. If you do not have it set to auto-update, you will need to do this manually.

Go to your WordPress Dashboard > Updates (see image below). Here, you can see what version of WordPress you are running, as well as Update it if need be.

Dashboard > Updates

To see the current WordPress version, scroll to the bottom of the page. It’s in the lower right corner:

At the top of the page, it will tell you if you have a WordPress update. Just click the button. It will take 30 or so seconds and will alert you when it is finished.

Themes

Good WordPress themes are also updated frequently by their developers. Themes need to keep up with WordPress updates, and often add new features and update their design or code. You can update your theme in two different places.

Go back to your WordPress Dashboard > Updates and this time, scroll further down the page to Themes.

Check any or all themes that you wish to update and hit the Update button.

In the left side panel, you can also go to Appearance > Themes. Here, you will be able to see which theme you have activated and if it has any updates available.

Plugins

Plugins are software that can be loaded on your WordPress site. They can add all sorts of features and functionality, allowing you to do a variety of things outside of the scope of your theme. There are over 56,000 plugins that have been created for use on WordPress and you are likely to install a number of them. Plugins are written by so many different people that occasionally the code within them doesn’t play nice with other plugins.

You can update your plugins from two places.

Go back to Dashboard > Updates and scroll down to Plugins. From here you can select all or some of the plugins and hit the update button. The other option is to go to Plugins in the left panel.

You can check the top box next to the word Plugin and it will select all installed plugins, then choose Update under Bulk Actions and hit the Apply button.

More on Plugins

I will mention one additional thing about plugins because it can be important to the health of your website. There is an awesome list of plugin “vulnerabilities” that you can check before you install one on your site called WordPress Plugin Vulnerabilities.

In Conclusion

Updating your website/blog every month will only take you about 15 minutes and it is worth it. This routine maintenance will keep everything running smoothly on your site and will help to ensure your site stays secure. I recommend you add your maintenance routine to your calendar!

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