WordPress 3.8: An Introduction to Auto UpdatingWordPress is a Free and Open Source Software (FOSS), which means that it is constantly being updated and revised. The newest version of WordPress, version 3.8, was released in December 2013 and includes a number of significant upgrades. In the first part of this blog series, we will discuss why it is important to update to the latest software version.

The Importance Of Updating

It is very difficult to present the argument that something which doesn’t appear to be broken must be “updated” or fixed. However, the vast majority of software in use today – including software that powers virtually every device connected to the Internet – requires regular updates from software developers in order to remain secure, fully functional, and concurrent with the original design of the software. This includes WordPress, its blog publishing platform and content management system. In addition to maintaining the existing state of the software, updates also provide the benefit of adding new features as well.

Automatic Software Updates

You may have noticed that many of the devices you use on a regular basis receive software updates. Microsoft continually provides updates to the actively supported versions of its software products, the most prominent example being Windows. The operating systems that power your smartphone, including Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, also receive regular updates. The applications that you use on a regular basis, including applications that are installed on PCs and the “apps” installed on mobile devices, receive updates through the software developer and/or the app store installed on the device. And although they may be less noticeable to users, there are IT professionals who spend countless hours maintaining and updating software for corporations as well. Your WordPress installation is no different – it requires regular software updates in order to remain secure, fully-functional and up-to-date.

Fixing Coding Errors And Bugs

There are three main reasons that software developers issue updates for software. First, coding errors and bugs are uncovered in the code that poses security risks to the devices’ users. These errors and bugs can present “holes” that individuals or automated “botnets” can utilize to compromise and take control of a computer, a server, a device or even a network.

Software Malfunctions

Second, these same errors or bugs can cause the software to malfunction or crash, causing a disruptive and poor experience for the user. A software update can provide a user and administrator experience that is more stable and reliable.

Unintended Consequences

Finally, and more rarely, software updates can be issued when a software developer uncovers an unintended consequence or unauthorized use of a feature or bug built-in to the original software. For instance, if it is determined that a software application is providing too many privileges to a user, or if it allows users to use the software in a manner that the original developers did not intend, then a software update can correct these issues.

Do You Really Need To Upgrade?

It is not uncommon to discover software that requires updates to be perfectly functional. If the software powering a web server has a security flaw, but no individuals or botnets have attacked the server, then it will continue to function normally. The same applies to buggy software if a user doesn’t actively utilize the feature that contains the bug. However, ignoring a software update just because a flaw or bug hasn’t been revealed can prove to be disastrous. A server or device can be hacked right before the launch of a new product or service, or right before a holiday or exceptionally busy period for a business or organization. A broken feature or bug in a piece of software can be revealed at inopportune times as well, which can result in lost work, missed deadlines and ultimately in significant professional and corporate failures. Finally, users can utilize software flaws to exceed their authority, which can also result in damaged systems, lost productivity and potentially even civil and criminal liabilities for unauthorized access and actions.

In the second part of this blog series, we will discuss how the new auto-update feature built into WordPress can streamline the process of updating your WordPress installation.