When Websites stop working, my Phone Rings

None of these are the calls that I want to start my day or end my evening with. Unfortunately, some of them just are:

“My website just stopped working. I didn’t touch it!”

“I get emails in tech-speak telling me I need to upgrade!”

“I log in to WordPress, it tells me to upgrade.”

“Are you kidding me? Did I get hacked?”

But why would a website that that was working just fine suddenly stop. Or one part of it stop?

Do websites wear out, like cars? Websites do not suffer wear and tear. But parts of the website and their infrastructure receive updates.

Why do websites receive  updates? WordPress websites are built on several layers. Any of the layers can receive security or maintenance updates at any time. Some updates are be applied to close security gaps, stop hackers and keep your site current. Others are applied to improve  functionality.

Are the website updates automatic? Is someone changing my site without asking me? Sometimes. Your server will be updated by the hosting company, and depending on your hosting plan, WordPress, the themes and  plugins may receive updates that are applied as part of the plan.

Are automatic website updates a good thing? Overall, your site is more likely to remain stable by having security updates applied as they become available, than by not applying them.

So why is there a problem? Sometimes an update in one place will break a feature in another. When one part is updated and another is not, they stop playing well together. Sometimes a feature that needs to be updated is no longer supported by its developer, so it breaks when another item updates.

Most Phone Calls are about problems in Themes and Plugins

Text and Images:  These only change when a real person goes in to edit them. These changes do not often cause problems.

Themes and Plugins: In our experience as web developers, there are many WordPress websites with vulnerabilities in their themes and plugins.

  • The Usual Suspect:  A theme was applied when the site was built but the maintenance fee was not paid or the key for updates not applied, so everything else has upgraded but the theme is now years out of date.
  • The likely Accomplice: Plugins were added to build the site features, but the upgrade code was not applied and/or the plugin developer stopped issuing updates

WordPress: If you have the right hosting package, these upgrades will also happen without your involvement.

Server: These upgrades will be applied by your hosting company whether you like it or not. A bit like a landlord changing the security system.

So how do we stop the Phone from Ringing Again?

Send your website in for a service. Or Do It Yourself. Just like with your car. These are the things to look for and update

  • Full backups
  • Check the level of your Theme. If necessary, purchase a license, create a child theme with all your customization intact, and upgrade the parent theme. Set the theme to receive ongoing updates in future
  • Check your plugins. Remove and replace the obsolete. Upgrade the current and make sure any licenses are up to date.