To upgrade or not to upgrade?

Posted by Pixafy Team

As Pixafy grows and helps an increasing number of clients, and works with them for larger periods of time, a common thread of discussion emerges for those clients on common platforms such as Magento or WordPress: Should we upgrade?

There are many that will say that yes, you should always upgrade, every time, no questions asked, and there are others who feel (as the old saying goes) if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

As you’d expect, the reality is somewhere in between.

There are legitimate reasons to upgrade your software, but there’s also reasons where you should take a step back and think. Here’s some of the conclusions we’ve come to here at Pixafy; feel free to share your thoughts and additional comments as well!

Don’t upgrade the moment a major new version comes out. New releases can introduce problems, changes or bugs that aren’t accounted for. If you do plan to upgrade to a new major version, expect to allocate time re-testing areas that already worked, to ensure nothing breaks, and consider waiting a certain amount of time to see if they need to push a “point release,” which is an update to an existing version that will address either major bugs or, more importantly, security issues with the platform.

Do upgrade if security flaws are a major concern. If the version of the software you’re on sees a point release to resolve security issues or big bugs, it’s worth a serious look.  The same goes if a new major release of the software reworks areas due to security issues with old versions.  Point releases are always easier to evaluate than major releases, but both should be evaluated as they come out.  Most of the time, point releases focus on fixes and minor enhancements, while major releases add major new functionality, but even major releases will have fixes for bugs and security problems.

Don’t upgrade just because new features were added. At the time you push a site live, it generally has the features you wanted for that version.  Newer versions of software generally yield some new items to work with, but upgrading just to have access to those features, even if you’re not using them and especially if you don’t know what to do with them, is not recommended.  As with anything, you should evaluate whether that feature set will be helpful to you, and build that into your planning for growth, which will ensure you can maximize your platform’s use as your business builds.

Do upgrade if you’re ready for it. If you’re ready to make changes to your site, timing the upgrade with that is an excellent time to make the switch, as you’ll be sure your new additions are current with what’s out there.  When updating a platform, there may be changes to both the front-end and administrative features, so it’s a clean break when you’re also adding new features for yourself or your visitors/customers.

Don’t upgrade during really busy periods. Despite best efforts on all sides, there’s always the risk that something will go wrong or haywire.  It’s best to time upgrades during slower periods of time for your business, and deploy it when any potential issues will be the least troublesome.  For instance, if most people are on your site during the workweek, a weekend or late night upgrade makes more sense.

Do upgrade if it makes sense. This may seem incredibly vague, but some platforms are easier to upgrade from certain versions to other versions.  Recent WordPress updates have gone relatively smoothly. However, Joomla last year made a major shift when they released version 1.6, making upgrading from 1.5 a challenge.  Magento did the same when they shifted from Community Edition 1.3 to 1.4; these changes make updates past that easier, but create a lot more work.  So it’s important to evaluate the level of difficulty of a particular update.

Do you have any platform upgrade success / horror stories? Do you need help upgrading your site? Contact us or leave us a comment below!