While Spring cleaning enjoys the majority of the marketing buzz, I find an autumn review useful as we return to routines after the carefree days of summer and many of my clients prepare for a busy holiday season.
As in the spring, I complete a thorough site review to make sure everything is up-to-date, I’m not using plugins I don’t need, verifying my backups, and changing passwords. I still like to use seasonal triggers as reminders for routine maintenance tasks. Acorns falling on my deck? Time to work on WordPress. First leaf raking? A good time to check passwords. My Japanese Maple finally dropping its leaves? Time to verify backups. Spreading the tasks out over the season also helps me not feel overwhelmed and I’m more likely to successfully complete them.
WordPress Autumn Cleaning Tasks
While many WordPress maintenance tasks are now automated, it’s still a good idea to double check your site.
- Review that plugins and themes are up-to-date.
- Remove plugins and themes that are not used or redundant.
- WordPress Housekeeping provides good tips on the maintaining themes and plugins.
Please remember each new plugin to add new features to draw in new customers or site visitors, they also add in a layer of complexity that needs to be maintained. StudioPress offers 5 Questions to Help You Avoid a Catastrophic Plugin Decision, if you don’t wish to listen to the audio, there’s a transcript at that post. Sucuri also wrote up a nice guide to Understanding WordPress Plugin Vulnerabilities and why it’s important to keep plugins up-to-date and WordPress has a great White Paper on WordPress Security. There is always a tradeoff between functionality, ease-of-use, and security; please don’t forget, your website is your reputation. Curious about why a site might constantly be reinfected? Sucuri again provides answers with: What is Cross-Site Contamination and How to Prevent it
As with WordPress, databases need regular maintenance to perform optimally.
- Review the database backup schedule. Does it accurately reflect how frequently your data changes?
- Test the backup. Why? Databases and files can become corrupted. It’s important make sure they’ve completed their backups so that if there’s an issue, restoration of the site can happen quickly and as completely as possible.
- Optimize the database. Again, WordPress Housekeeping provides good tips on the clean up you can do for your themes and plugins.
While I advocate use of a password manager and keeping different passwords for different sites, I still recommend checking and changing them every so often, especially for my financial institutions, email, server, and my database.
- While you may only log into a certain service to pay an annual bill, log in periodically to verify that you can and that your addresses (email and/or physical) are current!
- Change passwords for the server (and/or hosting account), database password (remember update wp-config.php!), the WordPress user password.
- I also double check settings for my accounts, both at wordpress and other sites, and that the listed email address is current. If the service offers two-step authentication, those settings are reviewed as well.
Why do I change my passwords? Honestly, it’s habit at this point. Because I use a password manager, it doesn’t matter than I need to remember a new one, so it’s not a big deal to change it. Sucuri once again wrote up a nice clear explanation of passwords and security history.
It’s also the time of year for cleaning my computer, both digitally and physically. I clean out temporary files I’ve kept for no good reason. Photos and key files are backed up and verified. I uninstall programs I don’t need and I make sure that everything is up-to-date. This is also the time when I give my keyboard and mouse a good wipe with a rubbing alcohol dampened cloth and a good blast with a can of air. We’re drawing to the close of peak foster kitten season, so my keyboard tends to produce extra surprises.
Originally published on September 20, 2015 and updated for 2017.