Why it is important to keep your Ruby on Rails application up to date

Why it is important to keep your Ruby on Rails application up to date

It’s really important to keep your Ruby on Rails application up to date. I know, it would be nice if it just automatically updated itself somehow. But here’s some compelling reasons to do that update:

  1. Security: Number one, two and three reason - update your Rails application to address security vulnerabilities. As new vulnerabilities are discovered, the Rails core team and the community work to patch them and release updates. Running an outdated version of Rails can expose your application to security risks, making it vulnerable to attacks, data breaches, and other security incidents.
    Remember that it’s not necessarily just risks in the “core” or main Ruby on Rails code that your platform uses. It’s also all the dependent libraries and things that hang off that. These will all work more securely if things are kept up to date.
  2. Bug Fixes: Updates often include bug fixes that can improve the stability and performance of your platform or application. Running an older version may mean you’re dealing with known issues that have been resolved in newer releases. Running a really old version will start causing more visible problems. Addressing these bugs can enhance your user experience and reduce ongoing technical maintenance efforts.
  3. Compatibility: Most modern development languages evolve over time. While there are examples of some that seem to do a major release every week, and there are others which never seem to have updated in living memory, Ruby has been one of those “Goldilocks” languages - not too frequent, and not too slow. Over time, Ruby, its dependencies, and 3rd-party gems evolve. Updating your application ensures compatibility with the latest versions of Ruby, databases, and other libraries. This prevents issues related to deprecated features or deprecated gems that could lead to application downtime or errors.
  4. Performance Improvements: Rails updates typically include many significant optimisations and performance improvements. These updates can help your application run faster and consume fewer resources, leading to better scalability and cost-effectiveness, especially as load on your platform increases.
  5. Access to New Features: Staying up to date allows you to take advantage of the latest features and enhancements introduced in newer versions of Rails. These features can improve developer productivity and enable you to provide new functionality or features.
  6. Community Support: An active community of Rails developers and contributors continually supports and maintains the framework. By using the latest version, you benefit from ongoing community support, including access to resources, documentation, and discussions related to the current version.
  7. Easier Future Updates: The longer you delay updates, the more complex and time-consuming they become when you eventually decide to catch up. Regularly updating your application makes the update process smoother and reduces the likelihood of encountering compatibility issues that require significant changes.
  8. Compliance: Typically the first step in any software security audit is to check which versions of code your stack is running. Depending on your industry or type of app, you may even have a requirement relating to software security and updates. Keeping your Rails application up to date can help you maintain compliance with these requirements.
  9. Maintainability: As your application grows and evolves, maintaining an up-to-date code base becomes more manageable. Outdated code can become a maintenance headache, making it harder to add new features or fix issues.
  10. Long-Term Viability: By staying current with Rails updates, you ensure the long-term viability of your application. An outdated application may eventually become difficult or costly to maintain, and it may be challenging to find developers willing to work with older technology.

While updating your Rails application is essential, it’s also crucial to plan and test updates carefully to minimise disruption and ensure that your application continues to function correctly.

Ben Still


04 Sep 2023

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