Update this, upgrade that, who has time? And is it really necessary?

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It seems upgrades have become one of those annoying things we all love to hate, like robocalls, spam emails, and junk mail. Who has time?!? But unlike all of those things, upgrades are not something extra trying to be peddled over the internet, they can contain critical upgrades, security patches, and important new features brought about by feedback from the software user community. Websites are no different.  The software running your website will need upgrading in order to keep up with the latest website technologies. Since most of us now use computers on a daily basis, we’re familiar with computer upgrades, whether it’s your operating system or software updates on your computer. The same applies to your Content Management System (CMS) website such as Joomla, WordPress, and Drupal. CMS upgrades bring security and bug fixes, new CMS features and can help your site run faster. Not only should you keep your site up-to-date for your users to notice you, but also for search engines to notice you!

Security!

The main reason to keep your CMS up-to-date is security! An out-of-date CMS or any software makes it more vulnerable to hacking and viruses. Unfortunately, hackers are always coming up with new ways of attacking websites so your CMS needs to stay ahead of the game. Your CMS creators, such as Joomla, WordPress, and Drupal release patches and upgrades to counter these attacks. Emergency security patches are the most time sensitive and should not be ignored. These updates are usually released in minor updates, such as Joomla 3.0.0 to 3.0.1. You don’t always need to do all of the minor updates, but if the upgrade includes a security patch, do it.

New Features!

One of the most visible reasons to upgrade your CMS is for the new features. You have invested a lot of money into your website so you should make sure you’re getting the most out of it. These new features could help you with efficiencies, staying on top of today’s hottest web design trends or just adding something new that your competitors aren’t using. If you want to stay ahead of the game in your industry, utilizing new technologies is a great way to do that. These new features usually are released in a major platform upgrade, such as moving from Joomla 2.5 to Joomla 3.0 and can take longer for your web developer when upgrading your website, but they are definitely worth it!

Compatibility With Other Software

Most people don’t think about the impacts of not keeping their site up-to-date in regards to their other software. For instance, if you want to integrate your CMS with a CRM (Contact Relationship Management) tool such as Salesforce, HubSpot, Classy,  Donor Perfect, or Donor Pro you may need to have the most up-to-date version of your CMS to even integrate the two systems. These web platforms may determine what version of CMS you should be on.

Can I Do The Upgrade Myself?

The short answer is YES, but I don’t recommend it. Kind of like trusting that all your prescriptions being filled at one pharmacy will eliminate any dangerous drug interactions, it’s a good idea to consult with your web developer before any upgrade to be sure all software will still be compatible after the upgrade. They understand how your CMS interacts with the theme and other extensions. Most of the time, it’s not just your CMS that needs an upgrade; the additional extensions have updates too and those are just as important. In some cases, an extension won’t be compatible and you’ll have to find a different extension to take its place. The most important reason to have your web developer conduct the upgrade is because upgrading one extension could have impacts on other extensions. You don’t want to start the upgrade and be left with a broken site. In addition, your web developer has the tools to do proper backups of your site before they start the upgrade. Upgrades can be very simple or very complex depending on how many versions behind your CMS or extensions are and how many upgrades you need. Upgrades to your theme can be especially tricky as it holds the look of your site, any mishaps could completely change your brand. To have a smooth upgrade, have the professionals do it for you! 

 

When Should I Update My Site?

Joomla, WordPress, Drupal, your extensions and themes release multiple updates every month, so it can be hard to know when to update your site. The best way to determine when to do the upgrade is to look and see if any update or patch is marked critical or emergency, especially with security. Those you don’t want to mess around with, you need to do them ASAP. If your CMS is a major version behind, you will want to plan that with your web developer as those do take longer and as stated above, that’s when you can get extra features and you want to take advantage of those. I recommend doing a major upgrade to your site every year. During these times, you may want to consider giving your site a design facelift.

Budgeting For an Upgrade

If you are trying to budget for upgrades to your site, it’s best to factor in about 1-2 updates for your site per year. The best way to budget for upgrades is to ask your web developer if they offer maintenance packages that include upgrades. They will be able to look at your CMS, extensions and theme and determine what would be best for your website. Not all websites can be upgraded the same way, so be sure your web developer is familiar with conducting CMS upgrades and has a solid process for handling unexpected occurrences during the upgrade. At Courtland, we take away the guess work and send out reminders for you when it’s time for an upgrade to your site!

As you can see, if you’re not keeping your CMS up-to-date you are endangering the security of your site and your users and could be missing out on opportunities to get the most out of your website! If you have any questions about upgrading your website or want to learn more about how Courtland can fit upgrades into your budget, please contact us.

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Written by Sandi Beach, Courtland Consulting’s Creative Division Manager

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