A lot of blog posts have been written about upgrading Umbraco, but almost all of these are written by developers for developers. Today, we wanted to do something a bit different. Let’s be honest: sometimes geeks enjoy technology for its own sake, without stopping to ask whether it is actually helpful to the business. The benefits of upgrading Umbraco may not be that obvious: we see many business owners stick to the version of Umbraco they have had for years: it's well known and represents less risk.
However, in the software development world, this can actually be flawed logic and today, we are going to review the top 4 (real) reasons why you should keep your Umbraco version upgraded. What benefits this will offer and why is this a worthwhile investment to your businesses infrastructure?
1. Improved security
You’ve probably already heard developers discuss security, and this can be a big enough reason in itself. Almost all systems will have security vulnerabilities, though often difficult to find. The game often played is one of: “find the problem before an attacker does, and fix it” and the only real way to do this is with testing. Lots and lots of testing.
Each day, software like Umbraco is being used by a lot of people in different situations. Umbraco also employ independent auditors to review the code and site to look for security holes, and very occasionally all these activities will bring to light potential vulnerabilities.
When this happens, the Umbraco community will quickly roll out updates: either an upgrade of Umbraco or sometimes (if the fix is needed more urgently) they produce a ‘hot fix’ which basically means they have fixed the particularly vulnerable files and these need copying to the server as soon as possible.
Here at Simon Antony, being certified Umbraco developers, we know how important this is so all sites we host or provide an Umbraco support and maintenance service to, will automatically be updated without you even needing to be involved. It's all done behind the scenes and just allows you to concentrate upon running your business, not the website.
2. Access to new features
As Umbraco grows, it gets more complex and adapts to the changing web: more functionality is built in which helps manage the day to day running of the site. Some of these can seem quite small but make a big difference in ensuring your site runs smoothly.
The “responsive grid” is a new type of editor available to Umbraco 7, designed to edit responsive websites. All sites are now expected to be responsive (to show you how important this is, Google even announced they will use 'mobile friendliness' as a ranking factor and have produced a guide for website owners). The Grid Editor it will let you plan ‘rows’ with ‘blocks’ which is how the modern ‘responsive’ web works.
Without this, in earlier versions of Umbraco, your developer can use other editors such as a Richtext editor, but these aren’t totally friendly to the responsive web and can actually break responsive designs. For instance, inserting an image and setting a width and height will often prevent responsiveness working, by preventing the design shrinking down for mobile displays (the image will prevent it collapsing down as it needs).
Umbraco 7 also comes with better provisions for handling images and other media but a great number of other useful features (such as the Examine dashboard) which will help your developer be more productive and solve niggly snags quicker, costing you less. Without these kinds of features, developers may actually need to build ‘work arounds’ or alternative ways of achieving the same thing, and this can increase development time and cost.
3. Improved dashboard, responsiveness
The newer Umbraco 7 and above includes a new responsive interface which is mobile phone and tablet ready : this means you can use it while on the move.
This can also seem like a small benefit, until that one day you have a meeting at the other end of the country, and suddenly realise you also have that important edit that needs making asap! Because the Umbraco dashboard is responsive, this also means you can preview your responsive site properly and expect it to look as it should.
4. Lower cost development
As already hinted, one additional point to consider: if your site is built on older technology and an older version of Umbraco, it may not support many of the new packages available to Umbraco sites. Or it could be that the best package won’t run because the site is too out of date. This means your developer may need to look at less ideal solutions, or custom write (or retro-fit) something, and this will usually take a lot more time and need more planning - ultimately it will add to the cost of your sites development, when it needn't
We feel that keeping your Umbraco upgraded is a very worthwhile investment in your business. It may not be obvious at first what benefits this yields, but it will pay increasing dividends as time goes on, will ensure your site is more maintainable at a lower cost and keep all your data more secure.