When you create an open-source WordPress website, you are provided with a default theme and two plugins. A plugin is a piece of software that provides extra or extended features to your WordPress website. These plugins add functionality to your website.
While plugins are an essential part of your WordPress website, they are also a piece of code that must be kept up to programming standards to be secure against hackers. So while they are essential in the development of your site it is important not to let them become low-hanging fruit for hackers.
Let’s explore plugins, and the purpose they have in web development.
There are a variety of plugins that can do a variety of things for a website. For example, there is WooCommerce. WooCommerce allows you to turn a standard WordPress website into an eCommerce store. Plugins allow you to make a nice-looking and functioning website. With plugins, a person can build a website without needing to know an advanced coding language.
WordPress plugins are just like updates on a computer. They need to keep up to date with the latest coding structures. This allows them to function as they should and work properly with the latest WordPress version.
Think about all the updates that your Windows operating system has. Microsoft sends you an alert telling you to update your system, right? The same is true for WordPress plugins. While you won’t see an alert on your computer for them, on the backend of your website, you will see when an update is required to secure your plugins.
A developer or development team handles publishing the updates. Our team at IGV reviews your website plugins several times a week to ensure there are no pending updates to your plugins. To perform an update, our team must first make sure that the update is compatible with your version of WordPress.
If you have paid plugins on your website, you will be required to enter your license key to update your plugin. If you are using a free version of a plugin, no license key is required. Often your developer will suggest that you pay for the plugin for additional support as required for functionality and questions about how you can use the plugin. Sometimes you get what you pay for.
Most developers have a core list of plugins that they use to develop most of their sites. These plugins are vital to the basic functionality of your website. Some of them include:
On occasion, a plugin will find itself becoming deprecated and abandoned. This means that the plugin has not received any new updates or has not been tested with the latest WordPress version. WordPress will label a plugin as abandoned if the plugin has not received an update in over two years. This can happen based on several of the following reasons:
When a plugin is no longer supported, it is nothing to ignore! You may see that your website is working fine for the moment, but it can turn bad for the website in an instant. Your website is at higher risk for security vulnerabilities.
What happens when you let it go for weeks on end? Your plugins may not be functioning properly on the front end of your website, and you might not even know it unless a customer tells you about it. Updated plugins ensure the website functions as intended. When you update your plugins regularly, you reduce bloated code. Updates to plugins prevent code conflict with future updates. All these factors are important to keep your website running smoothly.
At IGV we do not recommend that you automatically just update all your plugins. If you have a managed service contract with us, you do not have to worry about monitoring your plugins. We will do that for you. It is a good piece of mind for the investment you made on your website.
If you are not with a managed service provider like IGV, we do not recommend that anyone just automatically update the plugins! Make sure you review your plugins before you push the update button. It is a great practice to get in the habit of. Often, a plugin update can break your website with conflicting code. If you can test the update in a sandbox environment, that is preferable.
If you must update your plugins on a live website, we recommend you make a backup of your site, then update your plugin after business hours to ensure the least amount of disruption to your customers. When in doubt, ask for help.
IGV recommends you check your website weekly for updates. You can stave off a lot of headaches for your business.
Plugins are open-source code. They are developed by companies and individual developers and offered to the public for use on their websites. As we talked about earlier, sometimes the plugins are not updated, and after two years, they are considered “abandoned.” So how do you check to make sure your plugins do not fall under this category? What should you do?
First, check to see if the plugin is even needed on your website. Then visit the plugin website to see if the author said anything about updates to the code. If you do not find an update for the plugin, you should replace it with a different one that meets the same requirements for your website. You may want to read through the reviews of the plugin before you choose the replacement. Often the reviews will throw up a red flag if the functionality is not what it appears to be or if the plugin is “buggy.” Again, if you need help, ask.
Hiring a managed service provider like IGV ensures that your WordPress website is monitored weekly for updates. Before we auto-update your plugin, we make sure that it is compatible with your theme. If the plugin is deprecated, we research alternative solutions. At the end of the day, hacking costs you dearly, and you pay too much for your website for it not to work efficiently.
Contact IGV now for more information on how to protect your website!