What WordPress’ auto-updates mean for your website

8th August 2020

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Should you be worried about the latest WordPress 5.5 update which allows for automatic updates of WordPress plugins and themes? The WP experts at Peacock Carter, a UK web design agency, take a look…

Is WordPress’ latest change to automatic updates for plugins and themes a good idea? Should you enable them on your own website? WordPress experts Peacock Carter discuss.

What are automatic updates in WordPress?

Automatic updates – or Auto Updates – are just as they sound – WordPress will try and automatically update plugins and themes on your website, as of version 5.5. This feature is not enabled by default on WordPress websites, so you will need to enable

Previously WordPress has required a degree of proactivity in order to maintain plugins and themes, as well as the WordPress core updates, but a move to automatic updates is a step to making maintaining your WordPress website much less intensive, time-wise; with a few caveats, of course. Updates to plugins, WordPress core, and themes, will be triggered by the wp-cron.php now, up to twice a day. In essence, this means that updates can be run automatically twice a day – without any need to log in to WordPress and click buttons.

How will Auto Updates effect my website?

How Auto Updates effect your WordPress website will vary hugely depending on your website hosting arrangements, and the plugins and themes you have installed. As a first port of call, you may find our article on getting help for your WordPress website helpful if you are struggling with this.

A handful of WordPress plugins (such as Wordfence, a popular WordPress website security plugin) already update automatically, so you may notice no difference at all. For more information on WordPress Auto Updates, see WordFence’s article on this topic.

Disadvantages of WordPress Auto Updates

Updates are vital in keeping your WordPress website secure, so this move to automatic updates is largely a positive, but, as with many things,there are some side effects.

  • The major disadvantage of automatic updates in WordPress is that features can suddenly fail without you realising – this can mean, for example, that your contact form stops working overnight, without you realising. This can be somewhat mitigated by using popular and reliable WordPress plugins.
  • Many updates add fixes for security issues, but some updates can introduce security issues of their own for your WordPress website. Automatic updates could make these issues hard to detect.
  • The quality of WordPress plugins and themes varies greatly. This means some plugins will be able to update automatically without issues most of the time, whereas other, less tested plugins, will not be as thoroughly tested and may be more likely to cause issues.

Should you enable Automatic Updates for your WordPress website?

Thankfully, WordPress allows you some options as to whether you should enable updates on your own website:

  • Don’t enable WordPress Auto Updates at all – continue to manually update everything
  • Enable Auto Updates for certain plugins in WordPress. As we’ve mentioned, some plugins already do this, but chose carefully!
  • Turn on Automatic Updates for everything – a riskier proposal, but you’ll certainly discover which plugins and themes you use are built more robustly. Not recommended without some serious research!

As ever, if you’d like any help with your WordPress website, Peacock Carter are an established WordPress agency in Newcastle upon Tyne, and offer ongoing WordPress support packages for corporate and third sector clients.