Learned it the hard way: Why you must keep your WordPress installation up to date

I learned the “maintenance” lesson THE HARD WAY a few years ago with a client of mine.

Back in the day, bulletin boards are another type of software that allows “regular people” to post questions and answers to a web site. These bulletin board sites did exceptionally well with the search engines because of the laser focused content. An active bulletin board could grow to several thousand tightly targeted pages very quickly. Not only were they “sticky” but because they were user driven, they naturally built threads around commonly used search terms.

While those were wonderful reasons to launch a bulletin board back in the day, what REALLY made them attractive was you could ALMOST set them and forget them.

Notice I said ALMOST.

I installed the bulletin board software and set it up for my client. Because my client already had a HUGE newsletter mailing list on the topic, it didn’t take long for the bulletin board to take off. People were posting questions and answers and before long, the conversations were occurring without my client’s input. She turned her attention to other projects and soon the bulletin board was on autopilot.

Well, during this time, several security holes were discovered in the bulletin board software, so the programmer issued an update. Then another, then another. About 6 updates were published in a year. Because my client wasn’t logging in and wasn’t involved in the programming community, she didn’t know about the security holes. As a matter of fact, she learned when she logged into her board.

What was once a thriving community was now FILLED to the brim with spam links. Over 13,000 in some categories. My client contacted me in a panic. The bulletin board wouldn’t allow mass deletion of the spam. She had thousands of bogus users who had literally driven the interested people from the site.

I went in to look at the installation. All the “switches” that had been set to prevent this were tripped. Not only that, but even when the site was closed to new activity, the spammers were still able to get in and post their spam links.

In the end, we had to take the board down. What was at one time a thriving community was no more.

What had attracted the spammers in the first place were my clients INCREDIBLE rankings in the search engine with the site. It was that success that attracted the “wrong” element and because no one was watching it closely, it was destroyed within a matter of 8 months.

Honestly, you don’t have much to worry about when your blog is NOT popular…. it’s when it becomes highly ranked on a desirable keyword that you have to become VIGILANT! My client’s problem was she wasn’t AWARE her keywords were doing so well until it was too late.

That’s why, when I created Acumen Web Services, I include the Cyber Angel Hosting package… to prevent a repeat of that horrible experience.

The WordPress 2.3.x upgrade now “warns” you when your installation is out of date. Some updates are “minor” while others are major. Just remember, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Staying up to date on WordPress updates

WordPress blogs are absolutely incredible. They’re so incredibly powerful yet so easy to use. There’s only one “downside” to WordPress blogs and it relates to how easy they are to use.

WordPress is so easy to use AND it’s becoming increasingly popular. As a result, it has to be constantly updated as the “bad guys” on the web discover tiny little holes which they can utilize to take over your blog and put it to evil uses (such as spam). Some upgrades are no big deal. Others can crash your blog.

Before you install any update, first grab a back up of your database. Then, deactivate all your plug ins. Then, you’re ready to begin the update. Be sure to check the boards at WordPress.org to learn from the mistakes and missteps of others!

It’s your blog and it’s up to YOU to make sure the maintenance gets done.

If you don’t want all that hassle, consider an Acumen Web Services self hosted WordPress installation. Acumen Web Services offers cyber-angel hosting which means they’ll take care of the updates and upgrades for you.