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With the introduction of tools to enable auto-updates for WordPress plugins in version 5.5, the WordPress experts at Peacock Carter give their guidance on whether you should enable auto-updates or not.

With the recent launch of automatic updates for your plugins, should you enable auto-updates for your WordPress website’s plugins?

The WordPress experts at Peacock Carter take a look at what these automatic updates are, and whether it’s right for you to enable them on your own website.

What are automatic updates in WordPress?

If you missed the original announcement, here’s a introduction to automatic updates (or “auto-updates”) in WordPress: as of WordPress 5.5, launched in August 2020, you can now manage whether plugins automatically update when a new version is available.

Automatic updates in WordPress have been around for quite some time, as it happens – but there was not previously a way to enable automatic updates of plugins in WordPress’ administration panel.

By default, auto-updates are not enabled for your website, and you need to manually enable them. You can read about how to do enable auto-updates on WordPress on our sister blog, here.

You can ascertain if enabling auto-updates is suitable for your WordPress website by asking a few questions:

1. Do you have a sturdy back-up and restore process for your website?

If the answer is yes, and your website isn’t “mission critical”, you should be OK to enable auto-updates for your plugins. Even non-critical websites should be backed-up and easily able to be restored, so if this isn’t something you have in place, we highly recommend you ask your current web design agency or hosting company for guidance.

(As it happens, a future upcoming topic at our local WordPress meetup, WordPress North East, is on the very topic of backing up and restoring! Videos of the talks will be made available after the event.)

2. Do you trust your WordPress plugins?

The testing and quality assurance of WordPress plugins varies greatly. Some more well-known plugins such as Yoast SEO, are regularly updated and compatibility with new versions of WordPress will be high in most cases, whereas more obscure plugins will have a less frequent update timetable. You can review how often plugins are updated on their plugin page on WordPress.org to give you an idea of whether they’re maintained on a frequent basis and therefore – in theory – are more likely to be suitable candidates for enabling auto-updates.

If you don’t trust all of your WordPress website’s plugins, you could enable auto-updates just for those you do: this is a smart way to manage smaller WordPress websites with a variety of plugins.

3. Is your website “mission critical”?

If you website is “mission critical” (e.g., an ecommerce store which sells 24/7, or it contains some business tools which are high priority for your business), then enabling auto-updates probably isn’t for you, at least in your live or production website, and it may be worth talking to your WordPress developers or hosting company if you don’t already have processes in place for regular updates.

If you’d like more insight on WordPress and auto-updates for your organisation’s websites, please do get in touch on 0191 375 5713, or by emailing hello@peacockcarter.com.