SiteGround New Client Area and Site Tools – part 10

Beware the SiteGround auto-update system takes precedence over the default WordPress automatic background updates (on shared accounts). A euphemism when considering that the tool actually disables these updates by adding this code in wp-config.php:

# Disables all core updates. Added by SiteGround Autoupdate:
define( 'WP_AUTO_UPDATE_CORE', false );

Back then, I didn’t make a big song and dance about this; other than mentioning it in my article about WordPress update:

Of course, I am starting my post with the above excerpt because things have quite changed since. I have good reasons to complain about it now! By “it”, I mean how SiteGround tool did modify my wp-config.php file; not the AutoUpdate tool per se. In fact, it is more about the successful completed migration from cPanel to Site Tools (see part 8) than the disabling of WordPress automatic updates. Thus, let me first retract the following statement:

The good news, however, is that this time, they didn’t mess things up.CogitActive

Indeed, it looks like SiteGround automatic script was not able to migrate properly the SiteGround AutoUpdate tool. Yep, SiteGround could not handle the migration of their own tool!

Quick reminder: why I opted for SiteGround AutoUpdate tool

Needless to stress how critical is it to keep your WordPress installation up-to-date.

You should always update WordPress to the latest version.WordPress
WordPress icon

As detailed in the aforementioned article, WordPress implemented many features over the years in order to streamline the update experience. The built-in update notification system will alert you about any update for WordPress core, themes and plugins (at least for the themes and plugins installed from the WordPress.org repositories). The automatic background update – introduced in WordPress 3.7 – will actually update automatically all the minor releases for WordPress core, i.e. the maintenance and security updates. For the major core releases, as well as the themes and plugins, you still have to update manually. However, what used to be a labor-intensive process became as simple as clicking on Update Now with the introduction of the One-click update feature in version 2.7.

Auto-updates for Plugins and Themes

Until recently, the only way to automatize themes and plugins updates was to leverage the auto_update_$type filter as detailed here – clearly, not a straightforward process. Fortunately, in keeping with their effort to promote better security, WordPress implemented a new feature to make this a breeze.

Since WordPress 5.5, websites Administrators can manually opt-in for automatic updates theme by theme and plugin by plugin.WordPress

Now, you can decide to update automatically — or not! — themes and plugins by switching the Enable auto-updates toggle. By enabling this functionality, you can keep your themes and plugins up-to-date, hence secure, effortlessly. WordPress will send you email notifications about the successful (or failed) auto-update. Moreover, to make sure that your site is running the latest code available, WordPress check for updates twice per day.

For more information, you can read Plugin and themes auto-updates.

“Why did I opt for SiteGround AutoUpdate tool then?”

In three words: backup, backup, backup! As explained in Updates & Upgrade Network, updating WordPress is not risk-free (despite the excellent job and exhaustive testing done by the core team) and it is recommended1 to create a full backup of your site before to update your WordPress installation.

Backing up your website before updating is an important step in case something goes wrong with the upgrade . . . My advice is not to skip this step under any circumstances.Lisa Sabin Wilson

This tool developed by SiteGround to keep your WordPress sites always safe and up-to-date was, and still is, offering three advantages (as compared to the aforementioned WordPress features). First, it can take care of the major core updates automatically (without the need to configure your wp-config.php file2). Second, you can defer the update process (for a maximum of 72 hours); hence allowing a short monitoring period – a necessary precaution – before important updates (i.e. major core releases). Third, the tool has a built-in backup functionality with the possibility to reverse the update – in case something went wrong – by clicking on the Restore button.

SiteGround logo with a referral link to their website
Referral Link

Got my WordPress updates covered, right?

Given the importance of updates, it is not if, but when you should update your installation. In that regard, I kept the default settings in the SiteGround AutoUpdate tool: Immediate for minor releases (because they can include security patches) and 24 hours for major release. Again, to stress how critical is it to keep your WordPress installation up-to-date, I concluded my Updates & Upgrade Network article like this:

There are many ways to update WordPress, but no excuse not to do so. In my case, SiteGround takes (good) care of WordPress core updates (both minor and major releases).CogitActive

Your WordPress version is out of date

“What! How come?”

First, I thought the alert was about a major update (that would have been delayed by 24 hours given my settings). However, not only was I not expecting any major release (the next being plan for March 2021), but also in either case (i.e. major or minor), SiteGround typically send an Upcoming WordPress Update email anyway:

This is a notice that there is a new version (5.6) of WordPress. You are receiving this email because your account [OBFUSCATED] hosts one or more installations of WordPress subscribed to the SiteGround’s WordPress Auto Update service.

The following WordPress installations on your account will be updated to the newest version (5.6) shortly, depending on your autoupdate settings.

Being a minor release, the SiteGround AutoUpdate tool should have taken care of it immediately (given my settings). Besides, even if for some reasons the tool would have been disabled during the migration, the automatic background update feature of WordPress should have taken over. Unless…

Beware the SiteGround auto-update system takes precedence over the default WordPress automatic background updates (on shared accounts). A euphemism when considering that the tool actually disables these updates by adding this code in wp-config.php:

# Disables all core updates. Added by SiteGround Autoupdate:
define( 'WP_AUTO_UPDATE_CORE', false );

Ta-da!

First, I double-checked my wp-config.php file. Sure enough, the line of code added by SiteGround was still here. However, there was something else! Now, there will be another time for that (i.e. the next post); even though this is somehow related to the matter.

Although the access has changed (cPanel > WordPress Tools > WP Auto Update vs. Site Tools > WordPress > Autoupdate) and the interface is different, the main functionalities remain the same:

To ensure your website is secure and up-to-date, we automatically update all your WordPress installations hosted with us. You can set up different autoupdate schedule depending on the type of the available WordPress release – major or minor. For an extra peace of mind, before every autoupdate we do a full website backup that you can easily restore to.

Not surprisingly, the status for my site was not “Up to date“. Instead, there was an “UPDATE SCHEDULED“, but I noticed two potential bugs that could impede the process to go through. First, instead of displaying correctly the latest WordPress version, namely WordPress 5.6.1, there was the following message:

WordPress unknown now available

Second, the AutoUpdate settings were as follow:

  • Major Release: 24 Hours
  • Minor Release:
  • Update Plugins: OFF

While the first one was set correctly (i.e. 24 Hours), the last two were not (see Updates & Upgrade Network). The culprit was obviously (?) the Minor Release set to “” (i.e. nothing). Choosing “Immediate” in the drop-down menu was, however, not enough to fix the problem (at least not immediately). As it was only a maintenance release and not a security release, I didn’t “force” the update with the UPDATE NOW button; I wanted to know if the tool would be able to work…

24 hours later and still no update.

My settings were now correct, but the tool was still not recognizing the new version of WordPress – unknown! Given the critical importance to keep my WordPress installation up-to-date (you know!), I didn’t want to wait any longer. Still, I was a little reluctant to use the tool; how would it handle this unknown update. Therefore, I decided to use the good old WordPress One-click update. However, the following reminder stopped me in my tracks:

Important: Before updating, please back up your database and files. For help with updates, visit the Updating WordPress documentation page.

“Am I facing a catch-22 situation?”

I ended up updating my installation manually directly within WordPress. Everything went smoothly. I clicked on Upgrade Network (see Updates & Upgrade Network) and I was done. Of course, I will not receive the typical WordPress Site(s) were Updated email from SiteGround:

This is a notice that the website(s) listed below were automatically updated to the newest version (5.6) of WordPress today, as indicated in the settings of your WordPress Autoupdate Tool. Please bear in mind that if plugins autoupdate is enabled, your plugins may have been updated to their newest version.

We kindly ask you to review your website and make sure there are no problems after the upgrade.

Regards,

The SiteGround Team

One last word

I want to believe that the next releases will be handled correctly; again, I am not blaming the SiteGround AutoUpdate tool, but the migration process for that matter. That being said, given the nice and constant improvements implemented by WordPress (see above), this tool may eventually become obsolete (the only remaining benefit could be the backup). Then, I wonder if there is a way to opt-out from the tool? I could not find any obvious instruction on how to do so. Maybe by choosing “” (i.e. nothing) for both major and minor releases, actually? Of course, I will have to remove the extra code from my wp-config.php file because I don’t expect SiteGround to clean up behind them.

To be continued…


1 While particularly true for major core updates that introduce significant functionalities (e.g. Gutenberg), this recommendation is not limited to the latter. Here is what WordPress has to say concerning the implementation of their new feature: Before enabling auto-updates on your plugins and themes, you may want to make sure you’re able to rollback to a previous version of your website in case things go wrong. ^
2 See Configuring Automatic Background Updates. ^

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