WordPress plugins help us make our blogs unique and more interactive but as any Open Source scripts they are frequently updated by the authors. Since your overall blog experience relies on a combined effect of the core and all plugins anytime a new version becomes available one question on your mind should be…

To Upgrade Or Not To Upgrade?

Starting with WordPress 2.3 we have a new functionality of notifications when new version of plugin becomes available. I have covered the process of upgrade in my latest video tutorial “How To Upgrade WordPress Plugins Video Tutorial“. But does it mean you should immidiatelly?

I think NOT!

When author releases a new version of plugin it is done with good intentions; be it a new features, a fix or to address a possible security issue. There is no evil thought behind the process, he is not trying to screw up your blog but…

He can only test so much before releasing a new version and due to many different configurations on multiple hosts – new version might not work same way as it does during his testing. In fact, a plugin that deemed to be in perfect working order can make your blog completely out of whack! I generally follow a simple process before installing a new version of plugin:

  1. Get a backup of my database.
  2. Test new plugin on my development blog – I know this is not something available to everyone but if you host provides you with option to host multiple databases, installing exact copy of your blog in a separate folder like dev, test or something to that effect will go a long way. Keep it in sync with production blog but during install choose not to announce it to search engines and possibly make the directory password protected to disable all access to it except for yourself.
  3. Visit author’s blog and review comments. Usually if a new issue discovered it will be posted there. Review requirements specified by author and be sure your blog fits them. If a new release didn’t generate any comments – wait a couple of days and revisit just to be sure. Once you identify that plugin should be safe to install..
  4. Install new plugin and test the functionality it affects. Use a different browser if needed but do test it. It seems like every time I skip this step I get bitten by a problem, so don’t skip this step.
  5. Grab a cookie – you deserve it!

Plugins are essential and keeping them updated is important but we shouldn’t ignore overall blog integrity wen approaching the process. After all – it is your blog and when something is broken – it is up to you to fix it and I much rather prevent it if possible by following simple steps outlined above.