WordPress and Plugin Updates – A Step by Step Guide

WordPress core and the plugins on your website need to be updated regularly. We recommend doing this on a monthly basis at minimum, and any time your host says there is an important security update. You can make these updates yourself as we have outlined here, or MIGHTYminnow can be contracted to make the updates for you.

Why Update Plugins?

Most plugin updates include security updates and bug fixes. Finding and fixing security vulnerabilities are a natural part of the software development process. When you update the core software and plugins on your website you are taking advantage of these security patches. This is no different than updating the software or operating system on your mobile device or computer. This will help ensure the ongoing health and security of your website.

Depending on who hosts your website we offer two workflows here (step by step) to walk you through the plugin update and testing process. 

Option 1 – Plugin Update Workflow if hosted at WP Engine

If your site is hosted at WPEngine, you have the use of a very handy one-click staging environment where you can test out updates. We LOVE this feature and find that it makes the plugin update testing process a real breeze by reducing the risk of updating your plugins on live since you can first test on your staging environment. You can also copy your site back and forth from staging, but there is some risk in doing that (explained more below*). To test making updates to plugins, themes and the WordPress core using your staging environment, follow these steps:

  1. Copy site from LIVE to STAGING
    Log in to the WordPress Dashboard, go to WP Engine in the sidebar, and click on the Legacy Staging tab. Click the “Copy site from LIVE to STAGING” button and wait for the process to complete.
  2. Log Out of the LIVE Website
    Keep the LIVE website open in a browser tab, but log out.
  3. Log In to the STAGING Website
    The URL for your STAGING website is different than your LIVE URL, but the same username and password will get you login access.
    (You can find your staging website address from your Dashboard by going to WP Engine > Legacy Staging in the sidebar)
  4. Update Plugins, Themes and Core on STAGING
    From the WordPress Dashboard go to Updates in the sidebar (under Dashboard). Update all Plugins and Themes that have an update available.
    Jupiter Theme Updates – If you are using the Jupiter Theme we have a detailed Jupiter theme update process. The Jupiter theme comes packaged with WPBakery Page Builder (Artbees Modified Version) and Revolution Slider. If you need to update these plugins that process is detailed in the Jupiter theme update process. You can continue this plugin update process and then complete the theme update when you are done.
    Premium Plugin Updates – If your site uses premium plugins and automatic updates are not available you can either get an updated copy from the plugin developer (if you maintain your own plugin license), or we can get a copy of the plugin for you (if we maintain the license on your behalf). Contact us if you need an up-to-date copy of a plugin. Once you have the updated plugin file on your machine you can follow the next step.
  5. Update Premium Plugins (as needed – not all sites use premium plugins)
    1. Install plugin called “Easy Theme and Plugin Upgrades” (if not already installed):
      1. Click Plugins > Add New 
      2. Search for “Easy Theme and Plugin Upgrades”.
      3. Install and activate that plugin
    2. Navigate to Plugins > Add New
      1. Click the Upload Plugin button
      2. Choose File by selecting the zipped plugin file
      3. Install and Activate the plugin
  6. Test the STAGING Site
    Visit your staging site and make sure nothing broke. Testing the site is vital, making sure that everything that was working on live is still working on staging. You should be able to do a page-by-page comparison, to make sure all’s well, comparing the LIVE website against the STAGING website. You should look at as many pages as you can and pay special attention to pages that have any custom features or functionality (e.g. Events, Forms, Maps, Custom Post Types, etc…). If everything looks great after testing you can proceed to the next step. If you notice something that needs to be fixed, you may be able to edit the page, but if there is a substantial bug you notice you can contact us to help you fix it.
  7. Back Up your LIVE Website on WPEngine
    Login to https://my.wpengine.com/ and make a fresh back-up (check point) of your LIVE website. Wait for the back up process to complete. You will get an email notification when this is done. A step-by-step process for making a fresh back-up of your site is provided here:  https://wpengine.com/support/restore
  8. Update Plugins, Themes and Core on LIVE
    Log back into LIVE and update all the plugins and themes (don’t copy from staging). Do a cursory test of the site to make sure all is still well.

Option 2 – Plugin Update Workflow if NOT hosted at WP Engine

Many hosts now offer staging environments, though they are often only available in premium hosting plans. If your hosting plan includes a staging environment you can use that for testing your plugin updates as described in the workflow above, but please note that the language we use in the process above is specific to WP Engine. If you do not have a staging environment you will need to update your plugins directly on live and be ready to test the site right away for any issues. Use the workflow here to update your plugins on live.

  1. Identify Your Most Recent Back-Up or Restore Point
    Login to your hosting service (GoDaddy, Site Ground, Blue Host, etc…) and identify your most recent back-up. You will want to ideally have a back-up from the last 24-48 hours that you could restore from if needed. Keep in mind that if you made content updates before the last backup was made that content would be lost if you needed to restore your website. In the event that you need to restore your website make sure you know how to do that or be prepared to contact hosting support. If you can make a fresh back up go ahead and do that.
  2. Update Plugins, Theme and Core on LIVE
    From the WordPress Dashboard go to Updates in the sidebar (under Dashboard). Update all Plugins and Themes that have an update available. If you are using the Jupiter Theme we have a detailed Jupiter theme update process.
  3. TEST Your Site
    Visit your website and make sure nothing broke. Testing the site is vital, making sure that everything that was working on live is still working. You should look at as many pages as you can and pay special attention to pages that have any custom features or functionality (e.g. Events, Forms, Custom Post Types, etc…). If everything looks great after testing you are done. Yay! If you notice something that needs to be fixed, you may be able to edit the page and fix it, but if there is a substantial bug you notice you can contact us to help you fix it.