|By Rebecca Gill||
|January 3, 2013 10:53 AM EST||
One of the great things about WordPress is the ability it gives us to extend the capabilities of the core software with plugins. The official WordPress Plugin Directory now has nearly 23,000 plugins. That’s an amazing amount of extra features we can add to our websites.
However the old adage is still true: with great power comes great responsibility. Unfortunately there’s a lot of junk in those 23,000 plugins. You can bog your site down to a crawl, expose your site to hackers or even worse if you aren’t careful.
So here are some things to think about when you are looking for plugins to install. If you pay attention to these things you will be much smarter about the plugins you install. And you will save yourself a ton of grief in the long run.
Before I get down to it, please know this. These are guidelines rather than hard and fast rules.
At the end of the day it is your website and you can do whatever you want. There may be other factors in your case that may cause you to disregard one or more of these considerations.
However, if you at least think through the potential consequences of your choices you will be making much more informed decisions. And it just might help you see some “gotcha’s” before they get’cha, if you know what I mean.
Do You Really Need That Functionality?
So you’ve got your new website. You’ve discovered how easy it is to add plugins from your WordPress dashboard. You went a little wild, didn’t you? You keep seeing cool features on other sites around the web and you want them for your site too.
Now you’ve got a hodgepodge of plugins installed. Dozens of them.
Don’t feel bad. We’ve all been there. The first step in recovery is admitting you have a problem, right?
I once had over 80 plugins installed on one of my sites. Now they weren’t all activated. But that’s still nuts!
My rationale was that I needed to “test” plugins to see what they did so I would know whether to recommend them to my clients. OK. Fair enough. But delete them after you’re done testing them.
That site’s down to 15 active plugins. Much better. Because at the end of the day you really don’t need all that crap (can I say that word here?) on your website.
Before you install a plugin ask yourself what the value of that feature really is. Will it attract more readers to your site? Will it add to the bottom line by helping to increase revenue somehow?
Is it necessary? Or is it just flashy and cool?
If it isn’t contributing to a better user experience, or actively furthering your website objectives delete the plugin. Or better yet, resist installing it in the first place.
Does the Plugin List Compatibility with the Current Version of WordPress?
This one is a biggie. I do a lot of WordPress support and am asked to add and configure specific plugins quite frequently. Assuming we crossed the first hurdle and the functionality is truly necessary, the first thing I look at is what version of WordPress is the plugin listed as being compatible with.
For every plugin in the WordPress Plugin Directory you will see an info box on the top of the right hand column. One of the pieces of info there says:
Compatible up to: 3.5
The number there is the version number of WordPress that the plugin developer says his plugin is compatible with. Ideally that number should be the most recent version of WordPress.
There are a ton of plugins in that 23,000 number that have been effectively abandoned by their developers. Many haven’t been updated in years. WordPress recognizes this as a genuine problem. That is why they started filtering out any plugins that haven’t been updated in the last two years so they don’t show in the search results when you use either the search box on the website or in the “Add New” plugin page of your WordPress dashboard.
Those plugins still show up in Google searches so they added a warning notice to let people know they haven’t been updated in a really long time.
Keep in mind out of date plugins is one of the more common attack vectors that hackers use to gain access to WordPress sites. So having an insecure out of date plugin on your website is a pretty big deal.
Now WordPress just pushed out one of their semiannual (approximately) major updates to the core software and it’s the holiday season. So if a plugin lists the previous version it might not be a show stopper in and of itself. However take that into account when you are evaluating the plugin.
What about paid plugins? Sometimes it’s hard to find any compatibility info listed on plugins available for purchase. If you can’t find the info listed publicly before you purchase the plugin, then reach out to the plugin developer. If they don’t give you a satisfactory answer, move on.
The only thing worse than installing a plugin that breaks your site because it hasn’t been updated in years is paying for a plugin that breaks your site.
Are Support Issues Being Addressed?
Every plugin in the Directory has a support forum where people can reach out for help. Since plugins are offered for free there, the plugin developer has no obligation to support their plugin.
However the best ones always do maintain an active presence and answer questions. That’s one of the things I love about the WordPress community. People are willing to help one another.
However if there are a ton of major issues being raised by users and the plugin developer is no where to be found then maybe that plugin is not the best one for your site.
While you are looking at that, see how many times the plugin has been downloaded. If a plugin has been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times and there are only a handful of people with problems, then it’s likely going to work on your site. But if it has only been downloaded a few hundred times and there are tons of people reporting problems, then steer clear.
Is the Plugin Likely to be Supported Moving Forward?
Now this question is obviously going to be a guess at best. What is the disclaimer that financial advisers use? “Past performance is no guarantee of future results.”
That said going with a particular plugin because it looks good today, only to have it abandoned and have to change to anther solution down the road can be a major pain. This is doubly true if the plugin has a shortcode associated with it that you use. Going through and changing out shortcodes because you need to switch plugins can be pretty tedious, especially if you have a big site with lots of posts using that shortcode.
So what are the indicators that a plugin is likely going to be supported moving forward?
You can look at how long the plugin has been available. If it has a track record of being updated hopefully that means the developer is committed to keeping it going.
How many other plugins does the developer have in the Plugin directory? You can click through the developer’s name on the plugin page and see. If he has several and he seems to be keeping them up to date, then hopefully he’ll keep this one updated too.
That brings us to the last (finally!) big question I look at.
Does the Plugin Developer Have a Profit Base?
To me this question is a big one. A plugin developer that has a reliable income stream that is WordPress related is much more likely in my eyes to keep up with developing a plugin they upload to the Directory than someone who is just playing around.
Sometimes this profit base looks like a premium version of the plugin. Some people get frustrated by paid plugins. But to me that indicates the author is serious about maintaining and improving their plugin. They’ll have to keep it up if they expect new people to pay for it.
Other times the plugin is related to the developer’s main service. For example the NextGen Gallery plugin is now maintained by a company that specializes in developing WordPress websites for photographers. The plugin is free for anyone to use and the developer maintains it because it ties directly in with their own business. It’s in their own best interest to keep up with the plugin.
Or maybe the plugin developer runs a WordPress development/design business. If they’ve been working with WordPress for a few years and it’s now a major income stream for them, then odds are they will likely continue developing the plugin moving forward.
The bottom line is really pretty simple. Taking just a little bit of time to think about your site’s needs and researching the plugin just a little can save you some significant frustration. It can save you from installing a plugin that immediately breaks your site because it hasn’t been updated in years. And it just might keep you from having to go through a painful transition down the road when plugin that is mission critical for your website has been abandoned.
Internet of Things (IoT) will be a hybrid ecosystem of diverse devices and sensors collaborating with operational and enterprise systems to create the next big application. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Bramh Gupta, founder and CEO of robomq.io, and Fred Yatzeck, principal architect leading product development at robomq.io, discussed how choosing the right middleware and integration strategy from the get-go will enable IoT solution developers to adapt and grow with the industry, while at th...
Jun. 29, 2015 06:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,634
"We provide a web application framework for building really sophisticated web applications that run on a browser without any installation need so we get used for biotech, defense, and banking applications," noted Charles Kendrick, CTO and Chief Architect at Isomorphic Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @DevOpsSummit (http://DevOpsSummit.SYS-CON.com), held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York
Jun. 29, 2015 04:16 PM EDT Reads: 358
"Plutora provides release and testing environment capabilities to the enterprise," explained Dalibor Siroky, Director and Co-founder of Plutora, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @DevOpsSummit, held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City.
Jun. 29, 2015 03:34 PM EDT Reads: 357
The time is ripe for high speed resilient software defined storage solutions with unlimited scalability. ISS has been working with the leading open source projects and developed a commercial high performance solution that is able to grow forever without performance limitations. In his session at Cloud Expo, Alex Gorbachev, President of Intelligent Systems Services Inc., shared foundation principles of Ceph architecture, as well as the design to deliver this storage to traditional SAN storage co...
Jun. 29, 2015 03:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,758
Public Cloud IaaS started its life in the developer and startup communities and has grown rapidly to a $20B+ industry, but it still pales in comparison to how much is spent worldwide on IT: $3.6 trillion. In fact, there are 8.6 million data centers worldwide, the reality is many small and medium sized business have server closets and colocation footprints filled with servers and storage gear. While on-premise environment virtualization may have peaked at 75%, the Public Cloud has lagged in adop...
Jun. 29, 2015 03:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,182
Discussions about cloud computing are evolving into discussions about enterprise IT in general. As enterprises increasingly migrate toward their own unique clouds, new issues such as the use of containers and microservices emerge to keep things interesting. In this Power Panel at 16th Cloud Expo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed the state of cloud computing today, and what enterprise IT professionals need to know about how the latest topics and trends affect t...
Jun. 29, 2015 01:19 PM EDT Reads: 635
The Internet of Things is not only adding billions of sensors and billions of terabytes to the Internet. It is also forcing a fundamental change in the way we envision Information Technology. For the first time, more data is being created by devices at the edge of the Internet rather than from centralized systems. What does this mean for today's IT professional? In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed this very serious issue of pro...
Jun. 29, 2015 12:19 PM EDT Reads: 547
SYS-CON Events announced today that BMC will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. BMC delivers software solutions that help IT transform digital enterprises for the ultimate competitive business advantage. BMC has worked with thousands of leading companies to create and deliver powerful IT management services. From mainframe to cloud to mobile, BMC pairs high-speed digital innovation with robust...
Jun. 29, 2015 12:15 PM EDT Reads: 2,500
Even as cloud and managed services grow increasingly central to business strategy and performance, challenges remain. The biggest sticking point for companies seeking to capitalize on the cloud is data security. Keeping data safe is an issue in any computing environment, and it has been a focus since the earliest days of the cloud revolution. Understandably so: a lot can go wrong when you allow valuable information to live outside the firewall. Recent revelations about government snooping, along...
Jun. 29, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,094
There will be 150 billion connected devices by 2020. New digital businesses have already disrupted value chains across every industry. APIs are at the center of the digital business. You need to understand what assets you have that can be exposed digitally, what their digital value chain is, and how to create an effective business model around that value chain to compete in this economy. No enterprise can be complacent and not engage in the digital economy. Learn how to be the disruptor and not ...
Jun. 29, 2015 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,077
DevOps tends to focus on the relationship between Dev and Ops, putting an emphasis on the ops and application infrastructure. But that’s changing with microservices architectures. In her session at DevOps Summit, Lori MacVittie, Evangelist for F5 Networks, will focus on how microservices are changing the underlying architectures needed to scale, secure and deliver applications based on highly distributed (micro) services and why that means an expansion into “the network” for DevOps.
Jun. 29, 2015 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,201
Internet of Things is moving from being a hype to a reality. Experts estimate that internet connected cars will grow to 152 million, while over 100 million internet connected wireless light bulbs and lamps will be operational by 2020. These and many other intriguing statistics highlight the importance of Internet powered devices and how market penetration is going to multiply many times over in the next few years.
Jun. 29, 2015 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,822
"We got started as search consultants. On the services side of the business we have help organizations save time and save money when they hit issues that everyone more or less hits when their data grows," noted Otis Gospodnetić, Founder of Sematext, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @DevOpsSummit, held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City.
Jun. 29, 2015 10:46 AM EDT Reads: 464
It is one thing to build single industrial IoT applications, but what will it take to build the Smart Cities and truly society-changing applications of the future? The technology won’t be the problem, it will be the number of parties that need to work together and be aligned in their motivation to succeed. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jason Mondanaro, Director, Product Management at Metanga, discussed how you can plan to cooperate, partner, and form lasting all-star teams to change the world...
Jun. 29, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,975
One of the hottest areas in cloud right now is DRaaS and related offerings. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Dale Levesque, Disaster Recovery Product Manager with Windstream's Cloud and Data Center Marketing team, will discuss the benefits of the cloud model, which far outweigh the traditional approach, and how enterprises need to ensure that their needs are properly being met.
Jun. 29, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,860
Containers have changed the mind of IT in DevOps. They enable developers to work with dev, test, stage and production environments identically. Containers provide the right abstraction for microservices and many cloud platforms have integrated them into deployment pipelines. DevOps and Containers together help companies to achieve their business goals faster and more effectively. In his session at DevOps Summit, Ruslan Synytsky, CEO and Co-founder of Jelastic, reviewed the current landscape of...
Jun. 29, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,935
Malicious agents are moving faster than the speed of business. Even more worrisome, most companies are relying on legacy approaches to security that are no longer capable of meeting current threats. In the modern cloud, threat diversity is rapidly expanding, necessitating more sophisticated security protocols than those used in the past or in desktop environments. Yet companies are falling for cloud security myths that were truths at one time but have evolved out of existence.
Jun. 29, 2015 09:45 AM EDT Reads: 1,921
The Internet of Things is not only adding billions of sensors and billions of terabytes to the Internet. It is also forcing a fundamental change in the way we envision Information Technology. For the first time, more data is being created by devices at the edge of the Internet rather than from centralized systems. What does this mean for today's IT professional? In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists will addresses this very serious issue o...
Jun. 29, 2015 09:45 AM EDT Reads: 2,353
SYS-CON Events announced today that JFrog, maker of Artifactory, the popular Binary Repository Manager, will exhibit at SYS-CON's @DevOpsSummit Silicon Valley, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Based in California, Israel and France, founded by longtime field-experts, JFrog, creator of Artifactory and Bintray, has provided the market with the first Binary Repository solution and a software distribution social platform.
Jun. 29, 2015 09:20 AM EDT Reads: 539
In the midst of the widespread popularity and adoption of cloud computing, it seems like everything is being offered “as a Service” these days: Infrastructure? Check. Platform? You bet. Software? Absolutely. Toaster? It’s only a matter of time. With service providers positioning vastly differing offerings under a generic “cloud” umbrella, it’s all too easy to get confused about what’s actually being offered. In his session at 16th Cloud Expo, Kevin Hazard, Director of Digital Content for SoftL...
Jun. 29, 2015 09:00 AM EDT Reads: 1,913