Taking the stress out of WordPress updates

These days, I use the Thesis theme in WordPress to develop most of my own and my clients’ sites, which gives me the benefits of a mature content management system (CMS) plus the ability to skin each site with a customised appearance.

Taking the stress out of WordPress updates

However, although I can design and build sites very quickly, I’m forced to limit the number I take on due to the time it takes to back up and update them (I also offer ongoing maintenance).

If you’ve ever tried to manage more than a couple of WordPress sites, you’ll know what a pain it can be.

Plugin updates and new versions of the CMS appear on an almost daily basis, and you must back up the entire site for safety before applying them, especially if it’s for a client.

Infinite help

Navigating to each individual site, initiating a backup, applying the WordPress update, upgrading all the out-of-date plugins and testing to make sure nothing’s been broken is mind-numbingly boring and time-consuming.

Thank heavens, then, for InfiniteWP, one of a new breed of software services that allow you to update and back up multiple sites at once with a single button-click.

Like most similar services, InfiniteWP works via a client plugin, installed on each WordPress site, that links to a management interface (it’s a software download you install onto your server then run from within a web browser).

If you install it onto a dedicated server, as I have, you can set up cron jobs that email you whenever a plugin update becomes available. Once it’s installed, simply navigate to the address of your installation, log in, and begin adding websites.

In my case, I began by adding all my own WordPress sites so I could test it thoroughly before exposing it to paying clients.

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To add a site, log into its WordPress Dashboard (probably for the last time) and install the “iwp” plugin, which provides security credentials you must enter into the InfiniteWP interface. Once this is done, all updates and backups can be handled from InfiniteWP.

You can organise sites into custom groups, which enables you, for example, to apply different policies to your own sites and those of your clients.

Every time you launch its management interface, InfiniteWP checks whether any client sites need to be updated, and lists those that do. You can then choose to upgrade each plugin individually, update an entire site, or, for the brave/foolish, update all sites at once. (I never update WordPress and plugins at the same time, as that would make it hard to track down any bugs that emerge.)

I still back up every site before applying any updates, and InfiniteWP makes this easy, too: different profiles will back up the database alone or the whole site, and I can choose how many versions to keep before they are overwritten.

These backups are stored on the same server as InfiniteWP and can be restored directly through its management interface (although I haven’t needed to test this yet).

Extended functionality

InfiniteWP is a free download, but a number of paid-for premium add-ons have been developed to extend its functionality. I’ve purchased one that enables me to schedule backups, and another to store the resulting files in an external repository.

In my case, that’s Amazon’s S3 cloud, but Dropbox is also supported. The £32 outlay for each is well worth it: InfiniteWP has made updating and backing up client websites so much quicker that it frees me up to consider expanding the business. That’s the sort of software deal I like.

InfiniteWP isn’t the only product of its type, its main competitors being ManageWP and Worpit.

ManageWP strikes me as the more professional, with more features than either Worpit or InfiniteWP, but it’s licensed by the number of sites you want to manage, organised into bands: if you expand from 49 to 50 sites, for example, you have to pay as much as if you expand to 99 sites.

It also employs a monthly rental SaaS model, run from its developer’s website; with InfiniteWP, you own your local copy and only pay once for each add-on.

If you need advanced features such as site monitoring and visitor stats (I do these outside of InfiniteWP), ManageWP is worth considering, but, for me, InfiniteWP has the right features at the right price, at least for now.

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