The Latest and Greatest? When To Upgrade Your CMS

cms-upgrades

When a new version of a content management system (CMS) is released, many organizations delay upgrading to the latest edition because their team is comfortable using their existing system (and why spend money on “fixing” something that isn’t broken, or adding new features you don’t currently need?). If this goes on long enough, you might find yourself multiple versions behind, which can have a significant impact on the health of your website.

When you do decide to upgrade, whether by choice or because your CMS is no longer supported, the process could be more complicated due to the delay. If you fall behind in upgrades, you won’t be able to jump straight to the newest version. For example, a recent upgrade project for one of our clients required three separate updates: first from version 8.1 to 8.2, then to 9, then to 10 -- and it took three times longer than a typical upgrade.

CUSTOM CODE COMPLICATES UPGRADES

A CMS is developed assuming that you’re going to use as much out-of-the-box functionality as possible, but it is likely that your team developed some custom code to support various features of your website. When you upgrade your CMS, you will also have to update any custom code so that it continues to function with the new version - and if you’ve put off upgrades, you’ll have to update the custom code for each version as you move to the latest. (In the example above, it is possible that the custom code would need to be updated three times as the CMS is upgraded to the three different CMS versions.)

If your team includes newer developers who aren’t familiar with the legacy code of your website or who weren’t around when the project was developed, they will face additional challenges working through upgrades because they will have to learn about what’s in place and how it functions before they can update it.

UPGRADES IMPACT SECURITY… AND SUPPORT

When a new version of your CMS is released, you may review the new features list and determine that you don’t really need to implement them. However, one of the most impactful features of most upgrades is security updates, which is why it’s critical to stay current. These updates can include support for new laws or industry requirements, in addition to general updates that make your site more secure and bring it up to current development standards.

CMS providers often only support one version back when a new edition is released, which means that if you encounter a problem with an outdated version of their CMS, you might find yourself on your own in trying to fix it. Even if an issue is identified as a bug, that bug will only be fixed in the newer version, and you will likely end up adding more custom code to address the problem or work around missing features. This continues the vicious cycle outlined above. Each workaround adds more complications and increases the risk of things breaking.

To stay on top of upgrades - and keep the process pain-free - it’s important to stay informed on upcoming releases from your CMS provider and create a calendar of upgrades and testing. As a development partner for many CMS providers, we receive advance notice of new versions and can help break down the benefits and determine timing. We’ve helped countless clients manage the process of keeping their CMS current, and can create a CMS upgrade strategy that minimizes disruption for your team. Contact Ascedia today!