Is it Time to Update/Upgrade Your Website Software?

Robert HoldemanInternet Safety, Website Tips, Website Trends

Software updates and upgrades have become commonplace and are typically no longer to be feared, as they once may have been.

Most of us think of updates or upgrades in relation to the software that’s loaded on our pc, laptop, tablet, or smart phone. We may perform the update ourselves or sometimes we wake up to find that an automatic update has taken place overnight – for good or bad.

Your organization’s network file servers are probably kept current with upgrades by in-house or consulting IT professionals. Cloud-based applications are updated by the companies that provide the online services we use as part of their business models.

But, what about your website? When was it last updated? Why does it need to be kept “current”?

We usually think about an update to our website in terms of the visuals, the look and feel. Or maybe it’s the content, the copy and the photos. While that is certainly true, there are other, even more compelling reasons to keep your website up-to-date with current technologies.  Here are some, in order of importance:

  1. SECURITY – Thanks to the world wide web, visitors from all over can walk right in your front door, via your website, opening up your business to many new opportunities you would never have otherwise had.  But there are some bad actors out there who employ nefarious means to use your website for their own purposes and they seem to never sleep.  That’s because they may be half a world away and use their own tireless computers as weapons to infiltrate to your website’s “back room”, to keep the front door analogy going.  Updates and patches to your website software are needed to combat vulnerable holes that are being uncovered by these actors every day.  If you don’t stay current, you may wake up one day to see your website taken over by someone wearing an eye patch and talking like a pirate!
  2. BROWSER COMPATIBILITY – Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, etc. –  all are in use today, and have their pros and cons.  It mostly comes down to comfort level… we use the one we are most familiar and comfortable with, but sometimes a browser update will change that.  As browser updates are released you may find that your website may not look like it did on an earlier version or that it may even cease to do what it did before the update, requiring modifications that you hadn’t planned for.  Sometimes it can’t be helped or corrected, like when Internet Explorer (IE) 9 was released by Microsoft.  (This version lasted only a few months in release and is not supported by Microsoft any longer.  Statistics show that only 1.6% of browsers in use in August 2014 were IE9, so before you spend lots of money to try to fix the issues, you may want to update your own browser and recommend the same to your website visitors.)  Since its inception 6 years ago, in September, 2008, Google’s browser Chrome has gone from 3.1% usage to 60.1% today!
  3. FUNCTIONALITY – Another result of browser updates or upgrades may be that some functions of your website will not work correctly.  It may be your content management system, a module, widget, or plug-in.  You may need to update your website platform and/or the specific module, widget or plug-in to a compatible version.  If you have any custom programming in place this may also need to be corrected by a web programmer.

That covers the why… the basic reasons for updating or upgrading.  Next time I’ll go over the what… things to consider before starting and what to expect along the way.