Running a business requires some control, someone holding the reigns and actively managing the day to day management to ensure everything ticks along smoothly. Whilst you might have the doors open, the smiling staff in position, the products on display and a website, there just may be something you have not realised that could be damaging your business at that very moment. You could be ‘up tech creek without a paddle’ and not even realise that your online presence may be suffering.
In the corporate IT world, there is a term called “Technical Debt”. As soon as software has been delivered, it’s out of date. It’s out for date for many reasons, the developer might have found a better way to deliver that solution, or more typically some software library has been updated to provide better performance, fix a bug or worse fix a vulnerability.
Here is an example of how this affected two of our clients.
Samantha – eCommerce
‘Samantha’ recently came to us with a WordPress site alongside a ZenCart installation for their e-Commerce functionality. The hosting company was upgrading their hosting from PHP v5.6 to v7 for the ZenCart installation which broke the WordPress site and they had to roll back.
When we investigated the setup, we discovered the WordPress site had been developed many years ago with a theme that was no longer being supported by the developer and was no longer available.
But WordPress has your back as it keeps content separate from look and feel so in theory you should be able to install a new theme, and all is good.
Whilst there was no avoiding the inevitable of having to update to a newer theme, it would have been useful for Samantha to have known this was an issue so she could have planned ahead for an upgrade at a time that was convenient to her – not her hosting company.
Craig – NonProfit
‘Craig’ runs a non-profit organisation and also recently came to us because he wasn’t able to add a new slide to the slider on his website. Our first check is to review the browser console for any errors and isolate any plugins that might be causing a conflict. We discovered yet another example of a theme in use that had been effectively abandoned and Craig was none the wiser. The developer had stopped providing updates to the theme years ago. And worst of all because WordPress doesn’t flag to you that a Plugin or Theme was last updated 6 months or more ago, you falsely think everything is OK because you’ve been updating the software regularly! Pretty frustrating for a busy business owner.
We opted to re-create the exact design in a new theme for Craig’s site so he would be ready for the upcoming seasonal campaigns.
Plugins are in fact more notorious for being abandoned than Themes. Recently an incredibly popular plugin “Broken Links Checker” had been identified as being vulnerable, but the plugin author stated they weren’t going to fix it since they’d developed a paid version – presumably wanting to push more customers down that path. This was appalling given the 700k installations using their plugin. We immediately removed the plugin from our client sites to protect them. As it happens the author has since engaged another developer to resolve the vulnerability.
If you’re maintaining your website software and looking after the security be sure to install the FREE WordFence plugin which will help keep it safe. WordFence will email you when it believes your site has an abandoned plugin – so at least you have a heads up and can look for an alternative. WordFence will also scan your site for malicious files and block attempts of bots trying to hack into your site.