What if WordPress hasn’t been updated in years?

Unfortunately, many website operators who use WordPress as a CMS waste no thought of updates. For years, these websites have been in the status quo on the web and diligently collect security gaps due to outdated software. But can you simply update old WordPress websites if you want to give your website a makeover? Or even make these updates WordPress unusable?

What happens if you don’t update WordPress?

WordPress websites are modular. In addition to the WordPress carrier system, there is this themewhich the optics supplies and various according to taste pluginsthe features deliver. These can display simple contact forms, enable tracking of visitors or also output chic sliders.

The website itself will often continue to run without problems if there are no updates. the supposed stability but this is that problem: The owner of the website is playing it safe because his website may not be down yet. In the background, however, security gaps and Incompatibilities with newer server systems.

Why are outdated WordPress websites unsafe?

To understand why outdated WP websites insecure are, you have to understand, like most of them these days Hacking websites happen. These hacks usually happen automated: Known vulnerabilities in plugins, themes or WordPress itself become known, automated systems search the net for websites that are looking for exactly these versions of software. If they find what they are looking for, they load malicious code onto the web server of the website via the security hole, for example.

The longer a website has this vulnerability, the higher the likelihood that it will be exploited. Good software developers are therefore always careful to close known security gaps as quickly as possible. So fast that hackers and script kiddies don’t have time to adapt their systems and roll out attacks. Of course, that doesn’t help if the website operator doesn’t use the updated version.

So what can happen if you don’t update WordPress websites regularly?

In the worst case, the website choppedmalicious code is installed on the site, which delivers itself to site visitors. Google gets wind of it and throws the website out of the index. Especially for worst-case companies that depend on search engine traffic. The website is often also blocked by the web host until the malicious code has been cleaned. Equally ugly if you need the traffic.

What can also happen: The website will incompatible with the server environment. PHP as a scripting language and MySQL for database management are regularly updated. Also to close security gaps, but also to optimize performance. The web host wants to keep its servers secure and up-to-date and therefore regularly throws old versions of PHP and MySQL (and many other libraries) out of the system.

If you now have an outdated website, you may get into trouble here because an old WordPress has lower system requirements and may not be able to cope with a new PHP. In the worst case, this means that the website throws errors or no longer works at all.

Is it easy to update old WordPress websites?

That cannot be answered in general. Quite possible that plugins or theme were used that no longer compatible with the new version of WordPress are. Then the Updating no fun, especially with an incompatible theme, the effort of a change will be very high in case of doubt. If necessary, plugins can be replaced with similarly functioning counterparts.

The only thing that really helps here is:

Back up the website and create a test site, e.g. under a subdomain. Run the updates there and test whether the website still works. If successful, follow the updates to productive or mirror the test domain to productive. That should be done by a specialist, at least you should read up on it well, so that no data is lost.

What if I can’t update my old WP website?

In this case, I would always consult a professional on how to solve the problem. As described, outdated websites can be hijacked to deliver malware to visitors. Here it is Website operators have a duty to minimize the risk and to take action if it becomes aware that something is wrong with the website. It is unimaginable if the customer network was infected with viruses and costs were incurred as a result. The image damage is enormous and the financial damage can be life-threatening in the worst case.

Therefore, I would never choose the path of leaving old websites instead of making the effort to update them. If in doubt, take the website offline.

How often should you update a WordPress website?

As often as possible: If you have the time, update whenever updates are available. Otherwise, definitely once every 1 or 2 months. That should be the minimum.

Last version from July 4, 2016 by net user René Dasbeck