WordPress Website Maintenance

Every job has its maintenance chores and running a WordPress website is no different. Installing, Updating, Deleting and Backups are all part of the maintenance tasks that should probably be done monthly on your WordPress Website. Automate some of these tasks using plugins.

If you have a WordPress website with 5 pages or a site with 100 or more posts, some of these maintenance tasks are exactly the same either way.

It is important to keep WordPress up to date and your Plugins up to date.This is due to security as well as new features, as slight bugs can be exploited by hackers. So don’t fall months behind in updates or you may become the victim of a hack attack.

WordPress may indicate an update is available 2-4 times a month. Rarely, after some updates, some plugins may fail to work as expected. Perhaps one phrase was changed that their code referenced and this set up a conflict or meant something would not work.

It can be wise to wait a few weeks before updating so that these issues are encountered and fixed by plugin authors before you update. Most major plugin authors have the beta version of the updating WordPress to test that their plugin is still working as expected prior to its release. I noticed that info is now available in the dashboard re plugins compatibility with updates.

If you wait too long – there’ll always be another update… so my advice is to just do it, then it is done. Try and visit every site you own at least once a month to do maintenance.

Backup WordPress

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Image by flemming. d5000 via Flickr

First install the Backup plugin. This is only common sense and its settings allow you to store rolling backups on your server and have the latest emailed to you as well. With such automated ease, its a complete no-brainer to spend the extra 5 minutes needed to install and set up a backup plugin.

If you want a complete mirror image backup, you can also automate a backup of your content folder with your plugins, theme and uploads .

Alternatively you could use a Clone plugin. It depends on how many sites you have and how important they are as to how often and how exact you want your backup to be.

Update WordPress

When you have checked you have a recent backup, you can start the update. The first time you do this, read the documentation, that is what it is for, so you know what you are doing.

My normal procedure is to first go to the plugins page, tick the top check box to select all, and deactivate all plugins. I may make a mental note first of what was active and what was not.

Then I click on the update WordPress automatically link. In general this takes only a minute or two and its done. I return to the updates page and select to update any plugins that need it.

Then I return to the plugins page and tick the check box to select all the plugins. Before choosing activate however, I run my eye down the list and deselect some plugins. At the top I can see “recently active plugin” tips to help me remember how I was set up before. When I’m happy with my choices I select activate and apply.

Recently WordPress paginated the plugin page. This caught me out at first. Now I go to screen options and increase the number of plugins to a page. If you have over 20 check this out so you don’t forget to reactivate plugins on page 2!

Lastly I reassess if I still want to keep plugins that are deactivated. Often I may have experimented and have plugins here that should be deleted. If they take up space and serve no purpose – delete them. The less plugins you use, the less heavy WordPress is. If you start to feel the lag in the front or back end of WordPress – its time to install a cache plugin.

Cache Plugin

With a premium theme and more than 20 plugins you will find that WordPress struggles to keep up to speed, compared to a fresh install with the 2010 theme. That is a price you don’t have to accept for using WordPress as a CMS. I didn’t use a cache plugin for ages because I was scared, they seem so complicated!

The first I downloaded was W3 Cache and I spent hours trying to figure out what the heck I was doing. Honestly, I still have no idea if my choices were good orĀ  bad! Now I skip that cache plugin on most sites for the much easier to use Quick Cache or Super Cache. These “install, activate and enable” cache plugins seems to do the job just fine but without the stress.

Then on this site I activated Quick Cache and got a white out screen for my whole domain name.

Scary stuff! OK, I went to ftp, navigated to the wp-content/plugins folder and deleted the plugin. Phew! my site came back. Another plugin I use on this site conflicted with Quick Cache, (not surprisingly as for the purpose of examples I use so many plugins on this site). So I installed DB Cache Reloaded Fix on this website. No further problem.

What I’m saying here is – any cache plugin is better than none. Although you have more control with some (W3 and Super) this is only useful if you can control it! If not a simple version which sets no-brain required defaults is better. Any of the 4 cache plugins will do the job.

The difference this makes to speed up your site is worth the occasional potential problem.

Optimize Database and Remove Revisions

A backup plugin makes it easy to optimize your database. This removes fields that are created when you activate and later delete a plugin.

WordPress also keeps auto saves of posts as you write and edit and save. These are called revisions and although keeping the latest two or three is sometimes a small miracle, returning hours of writing to you when it could have been lost due to a connection drop out – keeping 20 or more revisions is pointless and slows the database. The better delete revision plugin will remove these when you are happy with the final post. I run this plugin after I update WordPress and then as a final step also optimize the database.

These are the Plugins I have used and can recommend.

Maintenance Plugins

Better Delete Revision

Cache Plugins

Cache Plugins (with easy to use defaults)
Quick Cache
DB Cache Reloaded Fix

Cache Plugins You Have Control Over
W3 Total Cache
WP Super Cache

Recommended Backup Plugin

WP-DBManager

Manages your WordPress database. Allows you to optimize database, repair database, backup database, restore database, delete backup database , drop/empty tables and run selected queries. Supports automatic scheduling of backing up, optimizing and repairing of database.

These are plugins I may try out

X Cloner Backup & Restore will backup and restore both files and database.

eFiles Backup will back up wp-content file (theme, plugins, uploads) for small sites

EZPZ One Click Backup easy but options rich backup to external server and dropbox

I’m also keeping an eye on this backup plugin which also does a back up to dropbox. Currently it’s still not absolutely stable for large websites, and like EZPZ has issues with Windows servers, but unlike EZPZ is trying to resolve these.

Join Dropbox – It’s Awesome

Being able to save backups at dropbox would be a good option to have. If you haven’t come across dropbox this is highly recommended, free and something well worth signing up for, installing and five minutes working out how to use it. It is so easy to use and so useful to share things (especially photos, or documents you want to collaborate on) with different computers (home, laptop, phone) or with friends. Check it out…

 

 

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