Must-Have WordPress Plugins

Wordpress plugins have been a much-discussed topic since programmers first began writing them for WordPress.org blogs. Today, plugins come in all shapes and sizes, and their capabilities are virtually limitless. As a stand-alone function, WordPress is, in my opinion, an unparalleled CMS (content management system); extended with a few carefully chosen plugins, it will do almost anything you can imagine.

The problem arises when people begin randomly adding plugins to their WordPress blogs. All over the internet there are lists similar to:
WP plugins

  • 10 best WordPress Plugins
  • Best WordPress plugins
  • 30 Powerful WordPress Plugins
  • Ultimate collection of WordPress plugins

In most cases, apart from a handful of basics, many of these lists are nothing more than a reflection of their author’s personal opinion. The plugins he or she names are probably perfect for the structure of his or her WP blog, but are simply not necessary for the blogs run by an average reader.

A blogger can read just a handful of these lists, install all the plugins they recommend, and end up clogging up their blog with scores of plugins, 99 per cent of which are completely unnecessary.

Many are poorly written, inefficient, resource hogs, creating a slow site and heavy server loads. You could end up receiving a complaint from your service provider because you are hogging too many server resources. There is even a plugin called PluginHogDetector which will help you track down the CPU hogs. No, I’m not recommending you install it!

There are four basic “must-haves”:

  1. Akismet: Literally used by millions, Akismet is the very best WordPress plugin to defend your blog from comment and trackback spam 24/7. You will be required to sign up for a free Akismet API key, and configure the plugin. Each time a new comment, trackback, or pingback is added to your blog, it’s first submitted to the Akismet web service which runs hundreds of tests on the comment, and returns a “pass” or “fail”. This means you won’t be wasting your time sorting and deleting spam comments from your blog.
  2. wordpress plugins

  3. BackupBuddy: A backup, restoration, and migration plugin; it’s the only one which fully backs up 100% of your WordPress site. It mystifies me how many bloggers only use DB backup which excludes backup of your files, plugins and settings, SEO settings, SEO data for every post, theme settings etc. BackupBuddy is much the best solution for backup and I have scheduled the settings to backup all my sites every day. You can also use BackupBuddy should you ever need to move your site to a new host.
  4. WordPress Firewall 2: This plugin provides a layer of security to your site by investigating web requests to your blog and blocking the most obvious attacks. The types of attacks it blocks are as follows:
    • Directory Traversal
    • SQL Injection
    • WordPress specific SQL Injection
    • Executable File Upload
    • Field Truncation
    • Remote File Execution

    When a suspected attack occurs on your site, it is blocked it and you will be sent me an email detailing the specifics.

  5. Login Lockdown: Login LockDown records the IP address and timestamp of every failed login attempt. If the plugin detects more than a certain number of attempts within a short period, from the same IP range, then the login function is disabled for all requests from that specific range. This helps to prevent “brute force” password discovery. Currently the plugin defaults to a 1 hour lock out of an IP block after 3 failed login attempts within 5 minutes. This can be modified via the Options panel. Administrators have the option to release locked out IP ranges manually from the panel.
    Over and above these four plugins, it’s up to the individual blog owner to decide which additional plugins to use. Never install a plugin simply because so-and-so recommends it, because in all likelihood, you don’t need it.

Begin by running you blog with just the four critical plugins I’ve listed above installed. This way you have spamming, backup and security covered. Then, if you have some specific tasks you need to automate, by all means search for, and install plugins to cover them. Just use your discretion, install them one at a time and make sure there are no conflicts or issues with resources before installing another.

Anne Pottinger

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