Over the years, WordPress has become a conglomeration of moving parts that need independent management. We have the WordPress core itself, then the themes, and plugins. Each of these can have different policies and frameworks - and the complexity only increases as time goes by. The WordPress team attempted to address this issue using the Jetpack "automatic updates" feature that allowed plugins as a whole to be automatically updated whenever possible. But this is only a small step in true automated management.
Consider that we can easily have dozens of users on a typical WordPress site. What if we want to allow only some of them to update certain plugins or themes? True, we have the concept of "roles" that can address this issue. However, it's anything but transparent, and it's not easy to fine tune specific capabilities. In addition, when your site is on auto-pilot, you might want to receive e-mail notifications of major or minor core updates so that you can perhaps log in and do it yourself.
All these issues point to a need for a single plugin that takes care of all update related issues in one fell swoop. Something that can manage plugins, WordPress updates, theme updates, user permissions, logging, and notifications. That plugin is called "Easy Updates Manager".
Easy Updates Manager for All Update Requirements
After downloading and installing the plugin, you can access the settings under the "Dashboard" option in the WordPress administration interface. There, you can get a broad overview of what the plugin handles, and turn on/off the individual modules which include plugins, themes, and core WordPress updates.
As for notifications, you can scroll down to the section where you can enable or disable the option to send you an e-mail whenever a core WordPress update is available as shown here:
Selecting the Type of Updates to Install
WordPress has a number of updates that most sites don't use. These are called "development updates" that test all kinds of tentative features that might not make it into the final release version. Think of them as the equivalent of "nightlies" as they apply to browser builds like Chrome and Firefox. They're not always safe to install on production servers, and most sites have no use for them. But using the "Easy Updates Manager", you can enable development updates as well in the "General" tab like this (they're off by default):
Choose Which Plugins to Automatically Update
Not all plugins are built equally. Every site has a few critical plugins that keep it humming smoothly, and which always need to be up to date. On the other hand, there might be plugins that you specifically don't want to update. For example, the newer versions might break your site. Or you have some customizations in the code that you don't want to overwrite. In this situation, you can enable the "Select Individually" option in the "General" tab. This will allow you to specify while plugins you want automatically updated as shown on the Dashboard here:
As you can see, I've disabled automatic updates for all but three plugins that I think are critical. The rest I can do manually if I need to later on.
Selecting Users with the Power to Update
This is an easy way to allow only certain users to update WordPress with the default settings. First, disable all updates using the plugin. Next, go to the "Advanced" tab and select which users to exclude from the plugin as shown here:
These users will now revert to default WordPress behavior that's not covered by the plugin - meaning that they can update stuff depending on their user role. It's a convenient way to have complete control over who is allowed to make core changes to your site.
Using this plugin and its tools, you should have a user friendly way to manage every aspect of WordPress updates - including notifications when necessary.