Are you sure your backup is current before you apply WordPress plugin updates?

Published by Vic Drover on


It’s a scary and all-too common story: a WordPress plugin update has taken your website offline and you don’t have a recent backup to revert the changes. Now you’ve got to spend a bunch of time troubleshooting and fixing the problem on the live site before your clients start calling.

We know how it important it is for agencies to have fresh backups for all their customers sites. Watchful keeps track of your backup status on the Sites Dashboard. And we’ve recently added this to the update areas as well.

Now when you visit the Site Updater and the Bulk Updater in Watchful, you’ll see instantly if your sites have a recent backup. You will know immediately if it’s safe to update your clients sites.

Here’s how it works.

Single-site WordPress plugin updates

The Site Updater lists all the pending updates for a given site. And so it is a great tool for updating plugins on a single site.

When stale backup detection is enabled and configured, the Update, Update All and Auto-update buttons in the Site Updater are disabled. A warning message reminds you that the site does not have a fresh backup as shown below.

Site Updater Stale Backup Warning

A simple click of the Let's proceed button will unlock the update buttons if you decide to apply the updates anyway. And some snooze options are available to disable the stale backup warning across all your sites as appropriate.

Multi-site plugin updates

The Bulk Updater is perhaps the primary software update tool at Watchful as it lists the pending updates across all of your sites. And the powerful filtering options make it easy to select, for example, one plugin and update it everywhere.

Since the bulk updater displays updates from many sites, it is a very efficient tool. So the challenge was designing interface elements that preserve the existing update efficiency while indicating the backup status for each plugin on each site.

Instead of requiring an explicit override in the Bulk Updater, we settled on a less intrusive approach compared to the Site Updater (above). The Update button in the Bulk Updater is a different color based on the backup status of the site the plugin is installed on.

For example, a site with a stale backup will display a yellow update button with a tooltip. If the backup is fresh, the button is blue.

Bulk Updater With Stale Backup Notications 2021
Distinct button colors in the Bulk Updater indicate backup status.

Not just for WordPress

Don’t worry Joomla folks! Update warnings for stale backups will work for any site in your dashboard with a compatible backup software installed.

Over to you

We’d love to hear your ideas for useful ways to expand the use backup status in Watchful. Perhaps the addition of an Update Fresh Sites button in the Bulk Updater that would skip updates on sites with stale backups?

Feel welcome to leave any feedback and ideas in the comments below.


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