Why You Need To Upgrade Your Sitecore CMS

A common question I frequently get asked by marketing and business folk involves upgrading. Anyone who has worked with a CMS system for a long period of time will usually have a horror story about an upgrade; the upgrade might have been promised to take a few hours but ended up taking months. In general, I think there’s a big misunderstanding about upgrades and prioritizing it within the business compared to implementing some new feature within the website.  This lack of upgrade prioritization then ends up making the business folk even more frustrated down the line, as developers appear to take longer and longer to do things, that seem like it should be easy and quick to implement.

Sticking with your current version might seem like the quickest and easiest option, but running your website with an out of date version has significant risks. In today’s guide, I’m going to uncover some of these risks as well as some of the benefits of adopting an upgrading mindset as using an out-dated CMS and fixing issues as they arise, can incur more costs in the long run.

After a website has been delivered, website maintenance can easily be overlooked.  This is a very common theme in a lot of organizations.  It’s a lot more fun to focus on the next shiny thing, rather than think about maintaining your current investment.  A good analogy of this website neglect is driving; anyone who owns a car will be aware of how important keeping your oil and water topped up, your tyres inflated and every year sending it to the garage for an MOT.  To ensure your car runs optimally, time and money are set aside every year.  Websites have a lot in common with running a car, although this maintenance period is often neglected, I mean if the website runs, who cares?

In most companies building a website is a sizeable investment.  I’ve worked on projects that have cost over a million. After they have been built though, practically no time then gets allocated to maintaining the sites and then within two years, the company then spends another million to re-write it as it’s become out of date.  How much cheaper and how much less development time would need to be wasted if a maintenance plan was agreed and followed?

The reason why this article is in the marketer’s guide and not in the developer sect organizations a lot of organisations, marketing decides where IT should focus and from my experience .  I think a lot of developers understand the importance of maintenance, but fail to elaborate why they should spend some time maintaining the website.  Marketing always has great ideas about improving their social reach or honing the funnel, but lack this technical understanding.  In this guide, I’m going to cover a few points you should consider the next time you need to write your company’s roadmap, with a hope that some maintenance time gets added into this mix!

Support:  Most CMS vendors will only offer support for the last x version.  Sitecore for instance no longer supports version 6.  If you ignore the upgrade issue for too long, then you’ll face the very real possibility that when something goes wrong, you’ll be out of warranty and no one can help you.

Security:  If you aren’t using the latest update to Sitecore your website simply isn’t as secure as it could be.  Since money was invented, people have tried to illegally get wealthy from other people’s money and the digital age is no different.  The UK alone now loses over four million a year.  Criminals are constantly trying to find new and inventive ways to hack your website and steal your data.  Keeping your CMS up to date with the latest version significantly reduces the vulnerability of your site.

An out-dated CMS system will have known vulnerabilities and opens your site up to attackers.  If someone can find out which version of the CMS you are using and then went through the security updates to see which ones it doesn’t cover, they can easily find vulnerabilities into your system.

Technical issues and bugs that are discovered with previous versions of a CMS are often resolved through updates. These fixes address common problems such as coding errors, bugs and incompatibility of plugins, all of which can lead to broken functionality on the site which is generally a painstaking issue for web editors and users alike.

New Functionality:  This point is usually the main reason why people upgrade and it’s probably the most exciting.  As CMS systems evolve over time, new functionality is also introduced.  Upgrading your CMS will often get you a number of useful functionality that can save you countless hours in content editing and improve your business workflows and system.  Every CMS company will get countless feedback about what their customers want.  From this feedback, Sitecore will focus on the ideas that people scream the most about, which in turn means every new release will have something that you will probably want.

If you’re sad like me, you’ll read literature like the annual Abode Web Trend.  Each year a number of key things that will help your business to grow are highlighted.  Current trends include topics like personalization, video, oni-channel management etc…  On average, a major upgrade of a CMS is released every few years and with these major updates and bundled up in these releases are usually things to help you make the most of the latest trends  This is really useful, as it means Sitecore can worry about what you will want in the future and you can concentrate on growing your business.

Save Money.  The more frequently you apply the latest patches the quick and less painful it will be.  In general, people often leave upgrading as long as possible because it’s perceived as an expensive and lengthy process.  If, on the other hand, you put aside some time every month for upgrading, the process will usually take a lot less time.  A general rule of thumb, the longer you leave it, the longer the process.  Ask most developers and they will unanimously tell you that jumping from a very early version to the latest and greatest presents complicated technical challenges.  In some cases, it might involve a complete rewrite of your website.  Keeping on top of it will definitely help minimize these risks.

Upgrading Takeaway

A CMS upgrade can be a lengthy and complicated process, however, like your car, frequently assigning some time to keep your CMS upgraded will not only give you new features to play with, it will make your site more secure and will save you money in the long run.  In those terms, it seems silly not to!  If you want to upgrade, my recommendation is to work with experienced web developers who have had experience upgrading and know the ins and outs.  If you want to upgrade but you are unsure how to go about it, then feel free to ask me from the contact page, as it’s likely I can point you in the right direction.

Jon D Jones

Software Architect, Programmer and Technologist Jon Jones is founder and CEO of London-based tech firm Digital Prompt. He has been working in the field for nearly a decade, specializing in new technologies and technical solution research in the web business. A passionate blogger by heart , speaker & consultant from England.. always on the hunt for the next challenge

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