Updates & Upgrade Network

Previously on the CogitActive Saga:
Other than the actual dashboard (Dashboard > Home), there are two additional screens under the Dashboard menu: Updates and Upgrade Network.

Even though I briefly mentioned them in the Network Settings post, I did not address these two sub-menus – Updates & Upgrade Network – located on the left side of the Network Admin screen. Obviously, they take you through the process of updating WordPress and Multisite. From there, you can update WordPress, themes and plugins1.

You should always update WordPress to the latest version.The WordPress codex

This statement2 should be enough on its own. Still, let me expound first why it is critical to keep your installation up-to-date.

Why updating is imperative

The stick

Keeping your site updated is important for security.

WordPress itself is secure (see A CMS platform). However, the sheer popularity of WordPress is enough to draw in hackers looking for the next vulnerability to arise. Fortunately, WordPress does a great job of patching up security holes as soon as they are detected. However, if you don’t apply these patches by updating WordPress, your site isn’t protected. It’s that simple.

It is noteworthy that these issues are not limited to WordPress core, quite the contrary. In fact, plugins are the biggest source of vulnerabilities. As for themes, even though less affected, they are not spared.

The carrot

While security is, without a doubt, the most important reason why you should keep your site updated, there are other incentives to apply new updates.

First, new features and functionalities are packed within each new (major) release. While some are just fun to use, other will clearly boost your efficiency and productivity (see Gutenberg). Besides, it would be a shame not to take advantage of these enhancements.

Second, in addition to fixing bugs, each new release comes with optimization geared at making your website faster. Updating to the most recent release ensures that you have access to the most stable version available and stay up-to-date with new industry standards.

WordPress updates

Ultimately, it is not if, but when you should update your installation. Definitively, as soon as updates become available; in particular, for security updates.


WordPress comes with a built-in update notification system that detects any update for WordPress core, as well as installed themes and plugins3. When updates become available, a message will appear in the dashboard, as well as notification bubbles that indicate how many updates are pending.

Even better, in an effort to promote better security5, WordPress automatically applies minor core updates in the background. Thanks to this feature – introduced in version 3.7 – the latest vulnerabilities are patched up right away. However, by default6, these automatic background updates are limited to minor releases, i.e. maintenance and security updates7. For the major core release, as well as for themes and plugins, you still have to update manually.

Manual update is a labor-intensive process as described in this detailed-upgrade-instructions article. Now, in keeping with the idea to streamline the update experience overall, WordPress introduced the One-click update feature (in version 2.7). As suggested by its name, you just have to click the button ‘Update Now’ to start the process off2.

You shouldn’t need to do anything else and, once it’s finished, you will be up-to-date.The WordPress codex

It’s time to introduce the Updates sub-menu as it controls the update process in the network. From there, you can indeed update WordPress core, themes and plugins. Thanks to the feature described above, updating your WordPress installation, as well as individual themes or plugins, is a simple one-click procedure. Definitively an easy, quick and reliable method to update your installation! You can even Check Again for updates by clicking on the thus called button.


Clearly, WordPress is doing an excellent job in making the update process as stress-free as possible. However, updating WordPress is not risk-free. This could corrupt or break your site in the event that something goes wrong. Moreover, despite an exhaustive testing process, there is always the possibility that the core team misses bugs.

In addition, major updates introduce significant functionalities (see Gutenberg) and often involve changes that require themes and plugins to adjust their code as well. Hence, an update could be incompatible with your plugins and theme and could stop them from working properly.

For these reasons, it is recommended to create a full backup of your site before you begin (at least for major core updates). If there is any issue, you will be able to restore your website.

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

SiteGround Auto-Update Tool

SiteGround logo with a referral link to their website
Referral Link

SiteGround has developed a tool in order to keep your WordPress sites always safe and up-to-date8. You can access it in cPanel by clicking on the WP Auto Update icon (located in the WordPress Tools section). There, you will see a list of your WordPress installations opted for auto-updates; by default, those installed by Softaculous or the Setup Wizard (see Installing WordPress), but you can add others manually as well.

In the settings, you can control three things: major release, minor release and if you want your plugins to be updated together with the main WordPress update. For the first two items, you can set different update intervals, i.e. how soon after a new version is released you’d like to get your WordPress autoupdated8. Basically, you can defer the update for a maximum of 72 hours.

The last option, which I set to Yes, is a little misleading insofar as the tool will check if plugins are up-to-date only when performing a WordPress core update. The minor release option, which doesn’t bring much compared to the aforementioned WordPress automatic background updates, is set to immediate by default and it would be unwise to change it. Now, the real advantages of this tool are yet to be revealed and have to do with major releases.

First, without the need to configure your wp-config.php file6, you can have the major core updates taken care of automatically. Second, as pointed out earlier, major updates introduce significant changes, which can also bring their own toll of bugs. Allowing a short monitoring period before to update (up to 72 hours) is a necessary precaution; hence my setting to 24 hours.

Last, but not least, as highlighted earlier, it is important to create a full backup of your site before to start the update process – a functionality built-in in the tool. If something goes wrong with the update, you can simply reverse your site to its state before the update by clicking on the Restore button.

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 );

Upgrade Network

Remarkably, almost everything I have covered until now applies to regular WordPress installation as well. From the WordPress automatic background updates to the SiteGround Auto-Update Tool. Even the WordPress Updates screen (accessible via the Updates sub-menu) is not specific to Multisite.

The only difference is the Upgrade Network sub-menu. Indeed, as the Super Admin of a Multisite network, there is one additional step before your update is complete. It involves upgrading all sites in the network so that they all use the updated feature sets.

After completing the previously described update process (whichever method you used), your main site is up-to-date, but not all the sites in your network have switched over to the latest version.

Thank you for Updating! Please visit the Upgrade Network page to upgrade all of your sites.

Again, the process couldn’t have been made any easier. As explained in the codex, clicking the Upgrade Network button will step through each site in the network, five at a time, and make sure any database updates are applied1. That is it – in one click, the update is applied to all sites right away9.

When the upgrade has successfully completed, you should see a page with the message “All done!”Jenni McKinnon

To conclude, 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). However, I have to update all of my plugins and my theme through the WordPress dashboard – a one-click task!

1 See Network Admin Updates Screen. ^
2 See Updating WordPress. ^
3 Conveniently, some plugins – security plugins, in particular – provide e-mail notifications whenever an update is available. ^
4 This may not work with themes and plugins downloaded from third-party websites, i.e. not from the WordPress.org repositories. ^
5 See Configuring Automatic Background Updates. ^
6 It is possible to configure these automatic updates by defining constants in wp-config.php, or even to fine-tune them with filters, as detailed in the above article. In fact, they can even be disabled completely, yet, disabling these updates is strongly discouraged5. ^
7 Nonetheless, in special cases, plugins and themes may be updated5 as well. Beyond these special cases, plugins and themes updates can actually be included with the help of filters6. ^
8 See SiteGround Auto-Update Tool Tutorial. ^
9 Jenni McKinnon (2016) The Ultimate Guide to Updating WordPress and Multisite. wpmudev. ^

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