When the developers release security updates or enhance functionality, the WordPress platform and plugins will need to be updated. Outdated and vulnerable software is a security risk and one of the top reasons for WordPress websites getting hacked. It is super important to keep WordPress and all themes and plugins updated to the latest versions.
WordPress provides automatic background updates for security releases. You will still need to update major releases manually. Only core WordPress files will be included in automatic updates, not themes or plugins. You will get an email notification when your site has undergone an automatic update, equally you will receive an email notification if an automatic WordPress update fails.
When updating here are the stages you should follow:
1: Back Up Your Website (If your host does not do this for you)
On rare occasions things can go wrong when updating and so it is really important to make sure you have a backup. There are plenty of plugins you can use. If I built your website you should have BackupBuddy installed already or you will be hosted with WPEngine (who have an excellent built-in backup solution).
2: Turn Caching Off (If you have a caching plugin)
Deactivate your caching plugin if you have one. In most cases this will be W3 Total Cache, Super Cache, or Quick Cache.
NB. You will not have a caching plugin if your hosting is with WPEngine.
3: Carry Out Your WordPress Updates
To update your WordPress version manually or to update your themes and plugins, click the Updates link underneath the Dashboard menu on the left hand side.
The Updates page is divided into three sections. If WordPress itself requires updating, this will be displayed at the top of the page. Next you will see any available plugin updates followed by available theme updates.
To update your WordPress installation simply click the Update Now button. WordPress will download and validate the necessary files and update your website.
To update plugins, tick the boxes and click the Update Plugins button. The new files will be downloaded, validated and installed.
To update themes, tick the boxes and click the Update Themes button. The new files will be downloaded, validated and installed.
4: Reactivate Your Caching Plugin (If you have one)
Reactivate your WordPress caching plugin and clear out/purge the cache.
5: Check Your Website
Take a minute to look over your WordPress website and visit a few pages and posts. If something isn’t working properly, it is best to catch it now instead of later.
This is all very easy to do with the click of a few buttons but if you are not comfortable doing this yourself then most developers will offer a WordPress maintenance service for websites that they have built.