After a long crypto winter, the price of Ethereum (ETH -6.49%) has been increasing in recent weeks. In fact, over the past month alone, it's up nearly 55%.

This surge is partly due to developers setting a tentative release date of Sept. 19 for "The Merge," Ethereum's upcoming update. This upgrade will help move the network from a proof of work (PoW) mining protocol to the more efficient proof of stake (PoS) system.

Many investors are excited about The Merge and believe it will help push Ethereum to new heights. But will this upward momentum last? And with the crypto market still on shaky ground, is it really the right time to invest? Here's what you need to know.

Is it really safe to invest?

Cryptocurrency is a notoriously volatile investment, and Ethereum is no different. For that reason, it's wise to take a long-term approach and try not to get too caught up in the day-to-day movements.

Ethereum has had a strong month, but it's almost certain it will experience a downturn at some point. That's normal, and short-term ups and downs aren't as important as an investment's long-term potential.

In other words, there's not necessarily a right or wrong time to invest in crypto. If you invest when prices are up, there's always a chance that a downturn is around the corner. But if you buy during a slump, prices could quickly rebound. The best way to mitigate that uncertainty is to keep a long-term outlook.

If you're considering investing in Ethereum right now, be sure you're willing to hold your investments for at least a few years. Again, there will likely be more volatility in the coming months, but the best investments are the ones that see positive average returns over time.

Should you buy Ethereum right now?

While nobody knows for certain how Ethereum will perform over time, it does have a promising future -- especially once it completes The Merge update. Ethereum has consistently held its spot as the second-most popular cryptocurrency behind Bitcoin, and it's the clear leader when it comes to decentralized applications like non-fungible token (NFT) marketplaces and decentralized finance (DeFi) projects.

After it completes its shift to a PoS protocol, the network should be even stronger. A PoS system will dramatically improve Ethereum's speed, resulting in faster transaction times and lower transaction costs for users. It will also be far more energy efficient, using approximately 99.95% less energy than its current system.

This update will also make it easier for Ethereum to compete with smaller networks like Solana and Cardano. Currently, the biggest advantage other platforms have over Ethereum is speed. But once Ethereum moves to PoS, it could potentially handle up to 100,000 transactions per second -- outpacing even Solana's impressive 65,000 transactions per second.

What are the risks?

Ethereum has strong potential for long-term growth, but there are risks to consider, too. Despite all of its advantages, Ethereum is still speculative at this point. Its success depends on the public accepting decentralized applications, and if consumers aren't on board with NFTs, DeFi, and other smart-contract projects, Ethereum could have a tough time staying relevant.

Also, there will likely be more volatility on the horizon, especially as Ethereum rolls out its future updates. Again, its long-term performance is more important than short-term turbulence. But volatility within the crypto sector can be extreme, so it's important to consider whether you can stomach these ups and downs before you invest.

Ethereum is one of the strongest cryptocurrencies out there right now, but there are no guarantees it will succeed over time. Crypto isn't the right investment for everyone, and by weighing the risks and rewards, it will be easier to decide whether it's a good fit for your portfolio.