Behind all the glamour of new and redesigned websites, a large part of Infotex’s time and energy is spent “keeping the lights on”, i.e. managing all the little bits that ensure your website remains fit-for-purpose.
Much of this work is never directly seen by clients or website visitors, so in this article we wanted to let you know of a few bits that we’ve been working on recently.
Updates to WordPress & Plugins
WordPress is a platform that never sleeps; powering around 1/3rd of all websites, it is constantly under scrutiny, having features added and bugs fixed. As a result, the WordPress team publishes major updates around 3-4 times per year and some plugin authors push out updates very frequently.
Infotex’s policy from hard-earned experience is that, with the exception of security releases, it is best to apply updates in a timely manner but not immediately after release. This is because it is often the case that new updates to the WordPress core cause compatibility issues with plugins and/or themes, which can be annoying to our customers and time consuming to work around, yet are often patched by the plugin authors within a few weeks.
We have just finished deploying WordPress 5.8.1 to our fleet of sites under maintenance contract.
In the last month, we have also separately installed security updates to plugins which were evaluated by our team and felt to be of an urgent nature – such updates are often installed within hours of their release to keep our clients safe.
We are in the process of changing the architecture for some legacy sites to allow us to perform updates more efficiently (especially updates of commercial plugins). And automated testing will come online soon, to further improve the customer experience – more on this in due course.
Server / PHP Upgrades
Just as WordPress itself is constantly evolving, so are the servers which we host it on.
All of these servers are checked for security updates at least once per week to keep them secure.
We have now started to deploy the latest evolution of our preferred server operating system, called CentOS Linux Stream 8. Stream is the future of CentOS Linux and will allow us to offer newer technology earlier in the lifecycle than was previously possible. We will be migrating sites to this platform over the coming months. In addition, we are working through the process of testing and migrating our fleet of servers to PHP 7.4, which gives the latest features and performance benefits. In some cases this upgrade is requiring changes to our client websites to provide compatibility, but we aim for the change to be seamless.
With SSL/TLS now being a defacto standard on websites and email solutions, we continue to create internal automation to both monitor and renew these sooner (we now typically renew website certificates every 60 days, as short certificates provide additional “defence in depth” security benefits) and have recently renewed and upgraded the strength of the certificate that protects our Flexidial client email system.
Infotex are proud of the technical standards we work to and have recently decided that the time is right to demonstrate this. We are therefore currently working with external advisors to obtain the Cyber Essentials and Cyber Essentials Plus certifications.
For those who are not familiar, Cyber Essentials is a program backed by the UK Government’s National Cyber Security Centre (https://www.ncsc.gov.uk/cyberessentials/overview) to verify that we are providing controls to mitigate the majority of cyber attacks and demonstrate that we can, and do, handle your sensitive data correctly.
To be clear, this is not related to DDoS type attacks but instead demonstrates controls (including timely installation of security updates and use of multi-factor login to our core systems) that will deter the much more common hacker attacks in addition to demonstrating security awareness and controls to reduce the likelihood of Infotex suffering from the ransomware attacks which are sadly so prevalent today.
Related to the above two items, over the last year we have invested heavily in new computer hardware for our team members to ensure that everyone has an environment which allows them to make the most of their skills in turn delivering the best technical solutions and advice for our clients.