If you have had your WordPress website for a little while now you will know the bar at the top that utters the words to put the fear of the Titans into anyone will be coming to your website shortly…… ”WordPress 4.5 is available! Please Update Now.” This phrase puts the fear into us developers as well, mainly because we know that some of you see this as a red rag to a bull and can’t resist hitting that upgrade button without any parachute or crash helmet! So with the the release of WordPress 4.5 coming in the next few weeks we are going to take a look at how to avoid website issues when upgrading WordPress.
Hosting and Backup
Where a lot of people who we work with have their own hosting and we respect that they like to stick to what they are used to, we have a recommended hosting company for a reason. SiteGround Hosting is the best that we have come across and their specialised WordPress hosting and caching is excellent for making sure that your site is kept secure and safe. Now due to the fact that SiteGround is our recommended hosting company we will be making references to some of their features within this article that will back up our choice of recommended hosting company. One of their features is an excellent backup service that makes sure that you don’t have to worry about your site getting a solid backup.
Good hosting with a good backup means that you can run your updates safe in the knowledge that if nothing works then you have a fall back to make sure your business isn’t offline. A while back after spending most of my weekend restoring a photographers website, I wrote a blog post called “Backup Your Website or the Kitten Gets It!” well the same applies today, even more so today! You need to ensure that your website is fully backed up and that you have a copy of everything before you start clicking buttons with “Upgrade” written on them.
So you have good hosting and a solid backup solution through your hosting company (please even if you are using SiteGround check that you have a backup solution) what comes next?
Well we advise that you use what is known as a Staging Server (yep you guessed it another feature with SiteGround, can you see why we use them?).
What is a Staging Server?
A staging server is basically a copy of your website that if you click away and it messes up your website when you upgrade you haven’t made a complete mess of your website and you are protected by this copy being hidden from public view. Very handy when you are trying to do it quickly.
If you log into your SiteGround hosting there is an option to select Staging (You will need
their GoGeek package but it is worth it) Then you will be asked to create a staging copy.
You can password protect the copy which is advisable so the search engines don’t accidentally find it. Once you have done this and filled out the self explanatory boxes click on the “Create Staging Copy” button and bingo you have a copy of your website probably on http://staging1.yourwebsite.com.
What you can then do is completely update everything on your site and test to see if it is all working on a copy of your site that is not visible to the public. Much better than being offline or the site looking a bit screwy for a few days while you try to get the backup restored.
Once you have updated your site you can simply go back into your hosting control panel, go to the staging server section, open your copy of the staging server and do an Easy Push to Live. BINGO you have an updated website live.
If you make changes to your live site, such as adding images or changing text even adding a blog post you will need to import that and replicate the changes on your staging server or they will not be visible and be overwritten by your staging copy.
If when you have run your updates and your theme is all wonky and your website just doesn’t look right or doesn’t function right, then start your diagnostics by going to the kettle (or fridge) getting a cup of tea or coffee (beer or wine) and spend that time cursing and cussing before realizing it doesn’t matter because you have not updated your main site just the core of the staging server. (Clever ain’t it?)
At this point you have a few options, you can either opt to try and repair the issues yourself, if you are tech savvy then this is probably a good option, you could even look towards your web developer or designer to help you, or you can simply delete the staging copy and create a new one so you don’t have to fix it and you can attempt again.
If you are going to have a go at fixing it yourself you might want to start by disabling the plugins on the site, changing the theme and seeing if the site functions with another theme. If your site works with another theme then you can turn your theme back on to see if it works without plugins. If it works without plugins then you can turn one plugin on at a time to see which one isn’t working properly. By following this process of diagnostics you will be able to tell what the problems are before you either attempt to fix yourself or go through your developer, either way this process will mean you have saved yourself and or your developer a whole heap of time (and if you are using a developer a whole heap of money) discovering where the issues are!
The most amazing thing about a staging server is that you can’t break your website, unless you do something spectacular then it will be worth a case study so let us know!
Hosting Support is Important
So we have spoken about one of the amazing features of the Siteground hosting, another thing they offer is first class support. Even to the point where they will help you solve some of your issues during upgrade if you ask them nicely. Their support is second to none and if you are going to manage your own website then you need the backing of a very good hosting company in order to avoid issues when upgrading WordPress and making changes to your website full stop.
As with most things technical we did notice that some of you started to glaze over half way through the staging server part of this post, not to worry if you are not tech savvy and you are worried about your ability to upgrade your WordPress yourself and would like to hand the responsibility over to someone who knows better, then look no further. Our maintenance plans keep your site up to date and free from nasties should anything happen.
If you are interested in SiteGround hosting but you think they are a little too expensive for you, there is a little tip in the video below that should give you a little discount on your monthly costs.
We hope you have found this little guide to making sure you don’t have issues when upgrading WordPress helpful and insightful and more importantly we hope that by making the simple change or having your website maintained and managed helps you free up valuable time for your business that could be wasted on your updates.