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Best Practices For WordPress Management

Managing a WordPress site is no small feat. Website owners have to stay up to date with the latest vulnerabilities that can attack a website. WordPress is a highly targeted system according to Sucuri, a well-respected website security firm. There are a lot of best practices for managing a WordPress site, that can help prevent individuals from accessing the website. What are these and how can a business implement these best practices? We will discuss three baseline best practices and what you need to do in order to keep your website safe and up to today’s security standards.

1. Keep Plugins Updated

The first golden rule is to keep all plugins up to date. An approach we take with customers is to have two separate websites, one will be the public facing website and the other will be the development website. Why do we incorporate two different websites? Simple, all change requests are made on the development server in order for the customer to view. We can test if a WordPress plugin breaks the site on an update or causes other components to dysfunction. Once the customer and developer have deemed all components on the site work as expected, we can move on to the quality assurance and review phase. From here, the customer will review the website, with all of the plugin updates, and verify all components are in perfect harmony. Performing the plugin updates on the beta website can be an excellent method to verify all content on the website is displayed correctly, forms are working accordingly, and no issues are occurring after the plugin update. Keeping the plugins up to date is a great WordPress management tip, which helps prevent possible attacks through an outdated plugin. There have been vulnerabilities found within plugins that have been reported throughout the WordPress community. As soon as a plugin update is available, make sure you do so. Maintain all plugins to ensure your website is secured the highest level.

Bonus Tip: Not only is keeping WordPress plugins updated necessary, the same goes for WordPress themes and the WordPress core system.

2. Install A Backup Solution

Backups, backups, backups. How many times have you heard to backup your data? If you have been working with computers the one tip most professionals continuously communicate is back up your data. Same goes for a WordPress website. Backup is an essential component of a website and without a proper plan in place, the day a website crashes can cause a five alarm fire for all parties involved. With the proper tools and services implemented into the website, an effective backup solution will help alleviate any data lost on the website. A plugin we highly recommend for customers is VaultPress. Excellent plugin for backing up and restoring website data. Learn more about VaultPress in a previous blog post we discussed the plugin in more detail. To put it simply, VaultPress is a simple click of a button and the previous day’s site will be populate on the existing site. It really is that simple. Unfortunately, there are many different vulnerabilities found on a weekly, if not daily, basis that have yet to be discovered or announced to the public. The saying goes, better to be safe than sorry, and with backups this is absolutely true. If you are looking for a free alternative, UpdraftPlus Backup and Restoration is an efficient alternative for a free plugin.

Bonus Tip: A backup solution can help with making sure the site is backed up on scheduled basis and saved to services like Dropbox or Amazon Storage services.

3. Secure Logins

Malicious hackers look for are weak security logins and virtual back doors that remain open. A tip is have long passwords, more than 12 characters, mixed with numbers, letters, an special characters. This makes the hackers job more frustrating into attempting to gain access to your website. There are many ways of preventing hackers from gaining access to the WordPress back end, but we will discuss one of our favorite methods. Implementing two-step verification is a great way to deter hackers. The benefit of two-step verification comes from the name, there are two-steps required in order to log into the WordPress dashboard. The WordPress admins or users types in the password associated with the WordPress site, which is followed by a code that is texted to the mobile device attached to the user’s profile. Six Revisions has an in-depth explanation on how to setup two-step verification. The main purpose of two-step verification is to prevent anonymous individuals from successfully guessing the password to the WordPress site or using brute force to log in. Even though the process is an extra 20 seconds, having the piece of mind knowing there is an additional step that prevents access from strangers will help WordPress admins and website owners sleep well at night.

Bonus Tip: We touched on having a complex password. Be sure to incorporate a 12 characters or more password with a mix of capital and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters.

Recap

  • Keep all plugins updated and then test with the copy of the website known as a development or beta site.
  • Implement a backup solution to protect website data. This will come in handy when the time comes, hopefully never though.
  • Two-step login verification is another method to deter hackers from gaining access to the website.

We’d love to hear what other WordPress individuals like to use when managing a WordPress site. Let’s have a discussion in the comments section below!

WordPress Website Goes Down? We're Here To Rescue You

What To Do When Your Website Goes Down

The first thing to do when a website goes down is not panic!

All website owners have experienced this one way or another. The website will be working fine one minute. The next minute, the website is down. Not an ideal scenario. What is a website owner to do? We put together a list of troubleshooting steps you can perform. These steps will help you find the actual problem and resolve the issue. No one likes when a website goes down, especially during peak browsing times. Note these steps are for a WordPress based website.

 

#1 Is Your Web Host Experiencing Issues?

When a website goes down, there are numerous factors that could’ve happen. One of the main culprits is to check with your web hosting provider. Most of the time, the web host is experiencing technical issues. These can range from data centers experiencing power issues to a natural disaster hitting the data center.

These are a bit on the extreme side, but we have experienced these issues in the past. What is a website owner to do in this situation? One solution is to have a backup host ready in the wings. We’ll use a basketball analogy for the backup server. The backup web host can act as a sixth man on a basketball team. The sixth man is typically a player who can be a starter in the lineup. However, he’s more valuable coming off the bench providing his much needed skill set. In this instance, the backup host is waiting on the bench ready to play. You simply switch web host and point the website to the cloned website. Instead of waiting and wondering when the web host will be back up and functioning, you have another web host waiting on the bench.

 

Pro Tip: Make sure when you pick a backup web host you pick a different provider. For example, you can use SiteGround as your main host and BlueHost as a backup. Having the website on different web hosts helps prevent using the same host should issues arise.

 

#2 Did You Update A Plugin Recently?

Plugins are what make the WordPress platform unique to its competitors. Plugins are components that add custom functionality to a WordPress website. Once installed the administrator activates the plugin to begin using it on the website. The idea of WordPress plugins are to add components that a non-developer would not know how to program. In certain instances plugins can be extremely useful. For example, adding a contact form to a contact page. Sometimes plugins are not programmed properly, don’t play nice with a newer version of WordPress, or the source code in the plugin conflicts with other plugins.

If a WordPress admin were to update or add a plugin. There may be a chance you receive the white screen of death (WSOD). In this case you’re pretty much on an island. Not too worry! There are a couple of troubleshooting steps you can take in order to resolve the issue. First, determine if an update caused the crash. Did you update or install a plugin and all of a sudden the WSOD appeared? Below are some basic troubleshooting steps you can take.

 

  1. Determine which plugin you updated (or installed) and find the version before hand. Depending on where the plugin was downloaded, you may be able to revert back to the previous version.
  2. Once you have the old plugin, head to Cpanel or FTP into the website.
  3. Navigate to the wp-content (folders) – plugins (folder) – find the plugin and rename the culprit plugin folder by adding .disable to the plugin
  4. Install or upload the previous version plugin – wait for upload to complete
  5. Refresh the web page and all should be back to normal

 

This is an extremely simplified version of troubleshooting with basic steps. We want you as the administrator of the website to understand that not all plugins are programmed equally. Always perform your due diligence when deciding to install a plugin on the website. Be sure to put emotion aside when troubleshooting. Keep your poise throughout the entire process.

 

Pro Tip: Choosing plugins should be a smart decision. Research each plugin before installing the component on the website. Making sure the developer is consistently updating the plugin is a good sign. Plugins that have not been updated in years should be ignored.

 

#3 Did A WordPress Update Kill My Website?

Updating WordPress core files is a must when maintaining a WordPress based website. There are some instances when a WordPress update made the website goes down. In these situations there are a couple of options you have to remedy the situation. Before we provide the solution, be sure to take a backup of the existing website. First, if you haven’t updated your WordPress website in quite some time, chances the update may break the website increase. Let’s take this scenario and run with it. Let’s say you run a WordPress core update and notice the site becomes inaccessible. Rule number one is to not panic. We determine the core update broke the website. What do we do in this situation?

If you are familiar with the version of WordPress you had previously. Head to the WordPress.org core files release archive and download the version your website was previously on. From here you have two options. One is to upload the old WordPress core files through an FTP client. The only folder you do not replace is the wp-content folder. If you are unfamiliar with FTP, then the second option is to upload all the files, minus wp-content, through cPanel. The cPanel has a specific area called File Management where an admin can upload, edit, and erase files and folders. Once you upload the WordPress core files, head back to the website and refresh. If all is working, success! If not, you’ll need to head to the WordPress release archive to download the version your WordPress website was previously on.

 

Pro Tip: If the website is still functioning odd try disabling plugins by renaming each one .disable. Try each plugin one at a time to see if a plugin is the culprit. If all else fails time to hire a WordPress pro to assist! 😉

 

Let’s Recap!

We provided a list of basic troubleshooting steps for the average user to perform when a WordPress website goes down. Web hosts can be the main culprit at times. Having a backup server in the wings can be the star bench player you need during crunch time. Keeping a website updated means having plugins, themes, and WordPress core files updated to the latest version. Even though some updates may implode a website. We provided a list of steps you can take in order to resolve any of the issues mentioned above. For all the DiYers give these steps a shot. If you run into any issues, holler at us in the comments section to collaborate. If you’re afraid of breaking more of the website we can chat in the comments as well. Good luck and may the WordPress force be with you!

Keep WordPress Update :)

Why It’s Important To Keep WordPress Updated

In the early days of WordPress, the platform was considered insecure and unstable. Most companies did not want to place their business site on the platform. The stigma has slowly dwindled away with big corporations adopting the platform for a high end website. WordPress.org has a showcase of enterprise size companies who have designed sites on WordPress. The platform is powering sites such as the New York Times and the kings of rock n roll The Rolling Stones. There have been some scares this past year most notably the highly publicized XSS vulnerability that affected dozens of plugins, including Gravity Forms and Jetpack – and people started to worry again. The way to manage a WordPress site is to make sure all of the plugins, themes, and core files are up to date to the most stable version.

 

Let’s discuss best practices for site updates:

  • Why is it important to keep your site up-to-date
  • Best practices to keep the website updated to the most stable version
  • Which components need to be updated

 

Why It Is Crucial to Keep WordPress Updated

The obvious reason you should be updating the website is security. Each update patches bugs that have been newly discovered during the newest iteration of the platform. Hackers are always looking for vulnerabilities in a system and the goal of the update is to find these bugs before anybody else and squash them. A content management system (CMS) that powers more than 20% becomes a target for individuals to look for security holes. Whether these holes are found in themes, plugins, or core files, making sure the components are on the latest version provides a peace of mind. Customers we have interacted with in the past have had dozens of updates that need to be pushed out and when pushing out the updates the customer is assured the site is up to date and more secure. A good example to compare these updates with Windows update. You receive a little notification about updates that are required to be run in order to provide the highest possible security.

When we encounter a site, the first action item we perform is an audit on the back end of the site. If there are numerous updates that need to take place, the best plan is to clone the current site and perform these updates on a test server. We’ll discuss this in more detail in the next section. The point is make sure you have an updated site were all security holes are plugged and can prevent any damage to the website.

Updates aren’t just for security. More often than not an update will improve the performance of WordPress itself or of a plugin or theme. When WordPress releases an update performance to the site may improve. For example, there may be code within the platform that had been used in the past, but has been slowly useless and becomes obsolete. This allows the engine for the site to improve and run faster. Same goes for theme or plugin updates, performance can improve. Whether the author removed unnecessary code that slowed down the site or updated the code to run faster, the update will help increase the performance of the site. The faster the website, the more likely visitors will interact and engage with the content.

Lastly, updates can squash bugs that have lingered within a plugin, theme, or WordPress itself. These are potential bugs on the back end that gets cleaned up. Bug squashing is not a sexy task, but necessary to make sure the code is clean and the consumer does not experience any issues now and in the long run.

Best Practices To Keep WordPress Updated Completely

With the importance stressed in the previous section about keeping your site updated, we will provide some great steps in order to keep your site updated without any issues occurring. We will provide a high level overview of what we perform for our customers. To get the details of setting up a WordPress site and how to setup a stage website, you can read the article by Patrick Garman.

To begin, the best idea of working with a website is to have a copy of the website on a separate server, we call this a stage website. A stage website is an exact copy of the production website, but only accessible from the development team and the customer. The stage website acts as the development environment where code changes are made and components are updated to determine if anything breaks the site. The best aspect of having a staging environment is the ability to break anything and have no consequences. For example, if a plugin, theme, or core update is pending, you can test the update on the development site and make sure all components look good. On the other side, if an update is pending and pushed on the development site and components begin to break, chances are you know what happen and can resolve the issue almost immediately. The good news is the development server went down and not the main website. Having the development site helps prevent a fire alarm for all parties involved.

The staging site is a trick website developers have been using for quite some time. The practice provides developers and customers to test new feature changes on the stage site before the production (public facing) site see’s the changes. It ensures a smooth transition were all features are quality assured before seeing the light of day.

What Components Need To Be Updated?

As a WordPress website owner, you know how important it is to keep the website updated and ways to test updates when needed. Let’s discuss in more detail all of the components involved for updating. Starting with plugins. Plugins are defined by WordPress as a way to extend and add to the functionality that already exists in WordPress. There are numerous types of plugins, everything from converting a regular WordPress site into an eCommerce site to adding a simple contact form. By keeping WordPress plugins updated, you ensure all components are working on the latest version and prevent most security vulnerabilities. Updating a plugin can help with enhancing the website’s speed. The developers who manage these plugins are continuously modifying and stripping unnecessary code from the plugin, which in turn will help increase site load speed. Same argument can be said about theme and WordPress updates. By being on the latest version, you ensure the site’s security and enhance the site’s speed.

Whether the updates be the plugins, website’s theme, or WordPress core files, having the site updated to the most stable version provides peace of mind. Keep the website up to date and always ensure you are the safest you can be with having the site updated.

Is WordPress Right For You?

You may have heard of WordPress and all of the recent issues the platform has experienced over the last several weeks. We are here to tell you that WordPress is right for you and will explain why this platform is still one of the best platforms a website owner can use. Let’s begin with the obvious – WordPress is not a perfect platform, heck what platform is perfect. WordPress suffered some recent hacks from nefarious individuals looking to collect sensitive data. WordPress may have flaws with bugs being discovered, but the platform as a whole is one of the most used and secure systems used within the web design industry. Yes you read that correctly, security is an aspect the WordPress community takes seriously. Without further ado let’s discuss the real reasons WordPress is the right website platform for you and your business.

WordPress System

There are two different WordPress systems that are available to the general public. WordPress.com is the free platform that hosts blogs and websites for free. The free platform is managed by the good folks over at Automattic and is a closed ecosystem that offers limited customization. The other instance of WordPress is an open-source software which is located on WordPress.org available for download. You can download the latest version of the WordPress open-source software and install the files on a web host such as Bluehost, HostGator, and others. The open-source WordPress system is one of the most used software that powers millions of websites around the web. If the software is good enough for companies like Vouge, Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art, and the New York Post it’s a safe assumption that the platform is good enough for any business.

Manage WordPress Website

This section was actually covered in depth in another blog post, but the importance of proper WordPress management is so critical we thought we would reiterate the importance of WordPress management. Before we continue, we will be discussing the open source software version of WordPress going forward. WordPress itself is famous for its many aspects the system comes with. Everything from themes, plugins, and custom post types, the platform comes equipped with additional components to enhance the website. Once the open-source software is installed, you now have the access to the dashboard where you will be doing all of your content updates, design modifications, and adding plugins to enhance the functionality of the website. All these little nuances provide enhancements to the site and are aspects you must manage. Plugins, themes, and WordPress itself are constantly being updated which help keep the open-source software secure. Making sure all of these components are up-to-date and functioning properly is key to having a website secure and performing at an optimal level.

WordPress Dashboard
WordPress Dashboard

Why WordPress Is Right For You!

If we were unable to convince you of how secure and safe the platform is, lets discuss the security in more detail. The recent activity that caused a stir in the WordPress community was a vulnerability that left the WordPress instance open to attack. The discrepancy was found in the default twenty fifteen theme inside the genericons package. Once the vulnerability became public, the WordPress team got together and within a respectable amount of time delivered a patch to resolve the vulnerability. Here is a great example of how fast the community got together, put in place a solution, and was able to push out the update within a week. If this were to happen to a non WordPress site, chances are the website would have remained exposed without the webmaster or customer knowing. The community within WordPress are friendly and helpful individuals who assist when possible. You can visit the forum were lots of questions are answered about multiple issues. Security has and will get better over time.

Conclusion

There is no bullet proof firewall that will block intruders from accessing data on your website. However, there are ways to help slow down such attacks and having a proactive management approach is one of them. When working with customers, we ensure the WordPress instance is locked down with difficult passwords to guess, security protocols to prevent brute force entry, and other secure methods. Let’s chat in the comments section below about WordPress and perhaps you disagree with what has been proposed in the blog post. We’d love to hear from you!

Why You Should Outsource WordPress Support

WordPress is a wonderful software lots of businesses are adopting for their website needs. The platform provides a built in content management system (CMS) that allows for simple updates to the website. Managing a WordPress website is certainly a full time job. As a business owner, the time and resources it takes to manage a website takes away from resources focusing on generating revenue. Here’s the real question for business owners, can you afford to give up revenue in order to maintain the site? WordPress support is an aspect most, if not all, businesses should be outsourcing to a WordPress management company. We’ll discuss three reasons why. Let’s begin!

Benefit Of Outsourcing WordPress Support

The concept of outsourcing is not new. A lot of large corporations are outsourcing customer service to provide round the world support. By delegating and outsourcing these tasks to other departments within the company free up other departments to focus on generating revenue for the company. What does this have to do with WordPress support? Simple, hiring a boutique WordPress management firm who specializes in proactively managing a customer’s website allows the business to focus on the business as a whole, while generating more revenue and growing the company. As a business owner you don’t have time to monitor all the fine details of the WordPress site and are better off focusing on running the business. The message is simple, delegate tasks to a professional while maintaining the day to day of the business.

What Comes With WordPress Support

Now the fun part begins. What exactly is a business owner getting with WordPress support? For starters, all of the WordPress related tasks are managed by a professional who is an expert in WordPress. Tasks that take more than an hour or more to accomplish can be delegated to the management company who can finish in half the time. Responsibilities include assuring the entire WordPress website is programmed with tight security. Website security has been a hot topic as of late with lots of websites having vulnerabilities exposed to the public. A WordPress expert can plug these holes up and stays up to date with the latest trends. All plugins and the WordPress database are updated to the most recent releases to ensure security holes are plugged. The main message is WordPress support provides peace of mind to the business owner knowing an expert WordPress team is monitoring all facets of the website.

What Type Of Support Is Right For You

As a business owner, you have a better understanding of the day to day operations and as the official webmaster of the website, plugin updates and posting new content is time consuming. There are a variety of support plans WordPress management boutiques can offer. Everything from updating plugins, themes, and the WordPress core database to securing the WordPress website, updating customer provided content, and making sure the web host is optimized. The plans each company provides can be tailored to a customer’s requirements. Determine the type of WordPress support you’ll need going forward and see how having a dedicated team can alleviate these daily responsibilities.

Conclusion

The message we want our readers to understand is how important it is for business owners to focus on generating revenue for the business. Give the keys to a WordPress support management company who can optimize and streamline the process of updating the website, while sales, accounting, marketing, and other departments focus on growing the business as a whole.

Is Outsourcing WordPress Management Worth It?

The question of whether to outsource the company website to a web design agency is a common one lots of businesses ponder. The answer to the question is not simple. Every company’s situation is unique to itself. Some organizations prefer to have in house designers and developers, while others prefer to outsource the work to an agency that will focus on company main website. All businesses need to focus on generating revenue for the company without needing to worry about website maintenance, plain and simple. This post will provide the pros of hiring a WordPress management company and point out the real benefits of outsourcing WordPress to a trusted partner.

#Time Saving

The real advantage of outsourcing web management tasks is allowing employees within the organization to focus on generating revenue for the company and not wasting time in figuring how to program or code a feature on the website. Let the WordPress agency handle the day to day website operations. The managed service website team will proactively manage the updates for plugins, WordPress core database, and theme patching. In addition, the WordPress web agency will perform daily, weekly, monthly backups. This will assist the WordPress agency on maintaining optimal backups for the site should the website crash or content becomes corrupt. Time saving in any business is essential as most businesses would welcome more time on generating revenue.

#Dedicated Programming Team

As time becomes essential during key business hours, having a dedicated programming team can really help when new features or updates are needed. The dedicated programming provides more than just routine maintenance to the website, the WordPress partner are experts inside the WordPress ecosystem with the knowledge of optimizing the website’s performance for visitors. Supplying the optimal performance for the website’s core audience can assist with conversions, another blog post for another time. The value the partner brings to the business is with managing all web based aspects of the website. A dedicated development team will administer the website with a proactive approach and continue to perform routine patches for the website in the background.

#WordPress Experts

Continuing education is a cost businesses have to incur for training employees. When a business partners with a WordPress management company, it is the responsibility of the web design agency to keep up with the latest trends. The benefit for the business partner comes from an expense perspective. The web design firm must keep up with all new trends and threats towards websites and pays for training for the staff. The cost is not passed onto the customer as the WordPress management company’s responsibility for future programming and feature add-on. An expense for a business that can be passed on to another vendor is always a win for the business. Let the web design agency stay in the know about the latest programming language or feature sets. The business can stay the course and focus on bringing in capital for the organization.