How To Update Your Site


Updates to WordPress, WooCommerce, Storefront, and your extensions are a fact of life. Our developers are always hard at work releasing updates that add new features, solve issues, tighten security and, in general, make your store better than ever.

But how do you test an update without potentially causing issues? Let’s cover a few of the common ways.

Backup ↑ Back to top

Any store powered by WordPress and WooCommerce has two places where data and content are stored.

  • One is your wp-content folder, where your themes, plugins, and any uploaded content is located.
  • Another is the database that organizes and stores your products, orders, posts, pages, etc.

With precious data and content stored in different places, how do you safeguard it and keep it backed up?

Automatic backups ↑ Back to top

The most efficient and reliable approach is to use an automated site backup service for which we recommend Jetpack. Besides not having to rely on memory and manual procedures, you instantly benefit from:

  • Unlimited storage space.
  • Automated, regular backups of your entire site including database, content, media, plugins, themes, and settings.
  • Instant restore service so you can revert to an older version with one click if something goes wrong.
  • Direct access to 24/7 expert support.

Manual backups ↑ Back to top

To to do things manually, there are two parts to backing up your store:

  1. Go to Tools > Export – to export all of your site content. This contains all posts, pages, comments, etc. in an XML file.
  2. Log into your site via FTP and go to the wp-content  folder to back up your theme files and plugin files. We strongly recommend making a backup of theme files if you made any customizations.

Learn more ↑ Back to top

We provide expert priority support for Jetpack customers but not third-party plugins.

Nonetheless, the two key points are:

  • Back up both your database and your site files constantly.
  • Test your backups regularly.

Testing ↑ Back to top

Let’s cover how to keep your site making money, bug free, and updated with the latest and greatest features. Just fair warning, this can be technical and complex.

If any of this sounds daunting, we recommend working with a developer who is trained to handle these tasks for you. Our WooExperts are standing by.

Terms To Know

Before getting too involved, let’s review a few terms we’ll be using. Some may use other terms like a dev environment, testing environment, and production environments, but we’ll stick to the basic three:

  • Local – being on a personal computer, generally not accessible from the web.
  • Staging – being where you test updates. Should replicate the same server setup as the live site.
  • Live – being the live site. Where customers and users are visiting and purchasing.

Keep in mind this is a simplistic overview, and there are many tools and ways to do this. There aren’t absolutes in how you test updates, just as long as you do not test them on a live site. If you have a developer working on your site, ask them about their process for testing updates as well.

Local ↑ Back to top

Most of those developing professionally will start their projects on a local install. Meaning they’ve got WordPress set up on their computer, and their computer acts like a server hosting their local site(s). Using a code editor, you can then build, update, and test updates on your own computer.

While working on a local install, we highly recommend using version control, whether that is Git or SVN, or something else. It stores previous versions in case you need to revert back, and can even make it easier to deploy a site to staging and production.

Staging ↑ Back to top

To test an update without using a local site, it’s best to create a second WordPress install with your host and restore a backup of your live site to it. VaultPress can do this for you, and many WordPress hosts offer tools to set up a staging environment

The server setup serves as a replica of your live site, so you can test and update but in a safe environment. You can also share the staging site with others to let them help test, and test on different devices, test load time, and more.

Live ↑ Back to top

Should all go well on staging, then you are ready to update your live site. You can do this however you prefer or arrange with a developer. Some developers may have Git set up to deploy from your master branch, or you yourself can click the Update button knowing you tested these updates and it’s safe for your live site.

Of course, your backups are on standby to restore in an instant if anything unplanned occurs. That way there’s no down time and no money is lost.

Figure out what tools and strategies work best for you and your team or developer, and put a good testing process in place.

If you put the time upfront into testing updates, you save yourself both headache and money in the end. Guaranteed!

Questions ↑ Back to top

Still have a question and need assistance? Get in touch with a Happiness Engineer via the Help Desk.

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