Technology evolves quickly, and each time you start looking into it, you discover something new in the bundle. But, we have witnessed most people who have their website based on the Ruby on Rails, just don’t heed to upgrade their website to the latest one. At times, the website starts creating issues, and it leaves with no option but to update the website to the latest one. And, when you wake up, you find your Ruby on Rails website or app a few versions behind what is up in the market.
When you are a few steps back that does not mean you can at once or at least simply jump to the latest ruby on rails version. No, you need to move ahead step by step if you want to smooth upgrade, though jumping from Rails 4 to the latest one will be possible as the new release has come up with such support.
That means you need to upgrade your app to one major version to the next one (5.0, 5.1, 5.2… 6.1.0, 6.1.1, etc.) if you want a hassle-free upgrade.
So, our effort is to help you understand the importance of upgrading:
why it is necessary how to implement it.
Why is it Important to Upgrade?
The release (irrespective to the technologies) comes with a new set of features, functionalities, and most importantly, the security updates among to name just a few. And, Ruby on Rails is no exception to that. Here’re the issues which you might face, in case your website/app is not upgraded to the latest version.
Your website or application, irrespective to the technology it is based on, contains some of the most vulnerable data or contents which need to be protected against any sort of attacks, hacks, thefts or simply being stolen away by online robbers. Protecting your data and sensitive information should be in the priority list. The regular update is the first and only option you have to go with. It would not be a wise decision to wait until your website gets into some serious security issue.
Before you trapped into…
You need to upgrade your Ruby on Rails website to the latest version so that your data remain safe and protected.
Top Reason We Upgrade Security Patches
Ruby on Rails continuously releases security patch, which is created against the current security threat. If the app is updated with the security update, it will lessen the vulnerability of the app or website by being disabling the ability to execute third-party code or preventing any injection with the wrong intention.
Not only that, the security update will help you;
Protects your brand reputation: Reputation is the most crucial element of online business. The users’ confidence will boost up towards your brand.
Save time: When you try to fix up the existing bugs, it will, first of all, create uncertainty (whether it will be sorted out or not). Besides, it will consume lots of days -even weeks. So, even if you have fixed the bug, it has eaten away the most valuable time in such a harsh competitive business environment.
Control over your app: Hackers find it easy to source code of the app which not timely updated. So, you will not want to give this free hand to the hackers.
Legal complication: If you are not upgraded to the latest RoR security updates, you are breaking the law, in some countries. Having sensitive users’ data needs to be protected by all means. You would not want to do that.
Every Ruby on Rails release comes with the improvement, which runs faster and smoother. Ruby and Rails both receive updates separately, though the Ruby gets updated according to the Rails complaints. Application response time requirement increases every year, and updating will worth you more than anything you could do for your business applications. Will you still want to give the update a miss? Of course not! Then You need to meet the term by updating into the latest one.
Ruby Language Improvements
When it comes to updates, Ruby and Rails run parallel to each other. Ruby receives updates accordance with the Rails, containing performance, security and other essential factors. Both Ruby on Rails should be updated frequently so that would meet each other’s compliance.
Bugs have been the natural partner of the development process since its inception. In programming, it is inevitable, though creators or the community itself fix these bugs. If you don’t upgrade you website or app, you are supposed to give a miss to the most critical concern. At times, bugs occur, and you need to improve your website or app to remove the bugs. Bugs affect your website by creating multiple issues such as memory leaks, poor garbage collector performance, etc. A simple upgrade can save you from your all these, quickly.
Ecosystem relates to the various programming libraries and gems which get improved and updated as the Rails (get improved). The libraries and gems also receive performance and security patches updates, time and time again. Gems are significant for Ruby on Rails website or application as their number is constantly growing, and they are all meant to support developers some of the most crucial and fundamental problems. New updates will simply keep you in the loop of all the changes which these dependencies have received. When you don’t update your app, it will become tough for other developers to work smoothly with it, if any issue occurs.
Ease of Upgrades
As we have discussed in the opening line “When you are a few steps back that do not mean you can at once or at least simply jump to the latest one.” When any update releases, there are ton blogs to help you out how. However, as time passes by, things become very complicated. You will hard to find the reference, simply.
These are some of the top issues you will encounter with if you are not updated with the latest one while I have also suggested the improvement when your website or app is upgraded to the latest one.
In the following paragraphs, we will explain to you how you should upgrade the app/website and what are the essential elements and things which you need to keep in mind before after the upgrade.
Things to consider before upgrading
First off, you are not going to do it by yourself and getting a RoR professional to do the task, right? That’s advisable. However, you must be aware of terms of it so that you will know what is going on with your application and can step in when needed. Here are some suggestions which will help you in various ways, for sure.
Don’t Go Blind with Gems
Updating your website with dependencies like gems will cause unexpected bugs and side-effects. RubyGems and bundler are fantastic, but the overusing gem can create issues like to slow down the performance of the app and come with unexpected bugs. Whereas some gems are coupled with Rails, in such cases, update them along with Rails. Besides, here are some of the essential factors to consider.
One gem at a time
The way to avoid such instances is to take one gem at a time. Wait for some time, run tests, and if it does not have any issue, go for another. That process will help avoid the unexpected incidence, which might occur if you are not attentive. Doing it manually might take time, but in return, you save something significant to your website. When you have time in-between, you can review release notes and go with one dependencies update at a time instead of upgrading all at once.
For that, you can even automate the process by introducing “bummr” -a gem by Lee Pender. If any gem with bugs found out, it will help you find out which gem is the main culprit.
Think about the gem twice
Yes, when you are updating any gem to your app, you just need to wait and think if the gem is really adding value to your app. There are gems which solve complex problems, enhances security and reduces working hours while some carry less importance and may be beneficial for your purpose. Even then if you choose to integrate the gem, you are just adding yet another pressure to the application.
Check if the gem is well maintained
If you are sure to use a particular gem, then you need to check three things before picking up. For example, first, check if the gem or commits are recently updated. Second, if the commits are project is well documented. And the third, if the change log contains essential messages when it breaks between the releases. Generally, maintainers stop looking at the gems between and post-release.
Is it the right time to upgrade RubyGems
You need to be a bit curious here and know when to improve RubyGems. Don’t just update the Ruby as soon it is released. Wait for some time and then update it. If the newly released gems have any bugs or issue, it will be solved by its community or creator.
Think when not to upgrade Ruby
Ruby is very crucial to your Rails app and that is the reason we find developers and investors keep trying on upgrading the gems along with the Rails upgrade. However, it may create an issue as you never know the two may have any contradict issue. In simple term, it is good to update rails first and after sometime think about updating gems. You may feel the need of updating confident Ruby to upgrade Rails to the newer one. In such case, upgrade the required Ruby first, and then go for Rails update.
Avoid Monkey Patches
Monkey patches, primarily used by developers when they copy the code from somewhere else. It happens when the code is re-written to fit into the requirement of the on-going application. Monkey patches are useful in this case, but when it is done carelessly, things will get bad to worse, sooner or later.
It generally changes the behaviour of the code, and as a result, the possibility is high that it will have some hidden bugs. It will mess up with your upgradation and turn the event into a painful one. Developers are never sure about the number of objects depending on the changes, and they would be forced to predict all the effects of the monkey patched method. Now, the problem is when you upgrade the web app to the latest version of the gem, it can mess up or change the process — the processes which are already updated or even doesn’t exist in the website anymore.
So, instead of inviting messed up, you learn the organized way of adding the monkey patches. These can be beneficial in many terms. For example, enhanced documentation to keep sane will make it more smooth and organized. The documentation will have everything such as why it has been done (why monkey patches added), when it can be removed, the reason for doing this and so much more.
Don’t compromise with testing
Testing is the most important part and one need to put all his efforts to cover it correctly. A developer needs to pay special attention over its testing as changes will occur during the upgrade. When you have good test coverage in place, it will help you figure out the problems much in advance before it gets deployed.
You should make sure that developers or development companies provide you with good test coverage, not 100% coverage guaranty as it may have no guaranty of testing correct behavior. You can find out to check if the application has not good testing coverage. There will be recurrent errors while passing through test. Using a tool like simplecov can tell the exact coverage rate. Therefore, you need to add the proper test to avoid low test coverage.
Upgrade One Step at Time
It is advisable to upgrade one version at the time, though you can jump to the latest one from any version you are in. In case you choose to jump to the latest version, then you need to make plenty of changes and go through complexities. However, if you go step by step, such as if you are running 3.2.21 and want to 4.2.1, then the ideal way of doing this is going step by step. For example, 4.0.13, then 4.1.9, and, finally, Rails 4.2.1.
Understanding the Rails Update Schemes
Rails releases updates in three forms, based on the SemVer. They are segregated as X.Y.Z. Each differs and will take time as the version published. Let’s understand them in detail;
Major X: This version release contains some significant changes -even in the API. Developers need to spend more time upgrading the major version. This is like you are improving from Rails 5.2.x. to the Rails 6.0.0.
Minor Y: The version comes up with new features, may or may not have API changes, fixing the bugs, found in the previous minor or patch release update.
Patch Z: It is small, comes up with minor changes, bug fixes, without making any change in the API or mostly contains security updates.
How Much Time Does It Take To Upgrade Ruby on Rails Website/App
There is no predefined time to say, at least through a blog post. You can say that after examining the website. There are various factors involved as far as time to upgrade the RoR website is concerned. They are as follows;
- How many version your website is behind from the newer one (, The older your website is, the longer time it will take)
- The test coverage of website and it can define as excellent and inadequate test coverage (The weaker the test coverage, the longer time it eat away)
- The complexity of your application does matter here also like the more complicated app, or website will take longer to be upgraded
- The number of external libraries for your website or app will also impact on time
However, generally, the time it takes to upgrade the RoR website range from 15 hours to 45 hours. However, if you are current or have been regularly maintaining the application, then it will take more or less 5 to 10 hours to be upgraded in the latest one.
Have you ever thought why people use Ruby on Rails for the business app? There are plenty of reasons behind, but the most important reasons which everyone likes to use RoR technology over others is its security. That’s the primary reason; irrespective to the business you want to use it for. So, you get robust security when you are updating your website consistently and regularly. I wish to avoid the upgrades, and then you wasted your money by developing your website based on Ruby on Rails.