Its no secret that WordPress has revolutionised the web over recent years, thanks to its very low entry level which means anyone can run there very own WordPress powered site for very little cost and time, but as your site grows with content, visitors and more, keeping things lean and mean, and more crucially, secure, can be a real chore. Today’s article gives you my pick of the best FREE plugins available which help take the weight off your shoulders.
If you are lucky enough to have never experience a site you own being hacked, its hard to comprehend just how devastating it can be, so taking as much preventative action as you can, right from the offset – is a must, so im kicking off the list with a handy plugin to help do just that.
The 1st plugin id like to share is a newcomer to the WP security space from long standing WP developers WPMU. The plugin is essentially a bundle of tried and tested techniques commonly used for hardening WP all on one easy to use package – this means the plugin can handle everything from 404 error handling, brute force logging blocking as well as locking down your sites files by scanning for any changes and making the files non-writable (so should anyone happen to get into your files, there is little they can do)
If your looking for something with a bit more history however, a fantastic and functionally similar plugin – iThemes Security, is a wonderful alternative.
This next plugin is a personal favourite and is one of my go-to plugins when setting up any kind of WP installation, but what does it do exactly?
Essentially WP Hide fills in where plugins such as the above are a little lacking and helps hide any traces of ‘WordPress-ness’ from your site by rewriting the internal URLs used so they dont have the tell tale ‘wp-content’ (or such) signatures of a typical setup – this makes it much harder for nasty bots to sniff out your site as a potential target and generally giving things a much more stealth feel.
Despite the rather complex nature of what the plugin does, it is actually surprisingly simple to use. Once installed you can simply head to the plugins setup page and enter your own custom urls into the fields provided, its that straight forward, and well worth it for the security improvements it offers.
Ok so by this point you have your site all wrapped up and safe using the tools mentioned above, but that does not mean you can sit back and pat yourself on the back for a job well done, as all your efforts will be for nothing if you have no saftet net in place should the worse happen and your site is the victim on an attack.
This is why having a system in place for easy backups and restoration is must, and where our next UpdraftPlus WordPress Backup Plugin entry comes into play.
The plugin is one of the most popular (1m+ active installs at the time of writing) solutions for the automatic create of usable backups and is highly regarded by all who work with WP. The plugin handles backups of not only your files, but also your crucial database – these backups can be stored locally for you to download manually or even sent to a remote hosting service such as dropbox for the ultimate in fail-safe backups.
Another entry from the lovely boys over behind UpdraftPlus here, but this one aims to keep your most precious content (your database of course) in shape.
Essentially the plugin trims the fat which can accumulate within your database overtime such as data from plugins which you no longer user or extra fluff left by themes/spam etc – this leads to your database being lean and responsive and can save a substantial of stress on your server, especially on larger more established site.
The process for using the plugin I could not be easier too, simply install it, head to its settings and hit the button and your done! But whilst your there you may as well setup a schedule for the plugin so it can do this for you, ahh, the easy life.
Unless your one of them uber-minimalist types, your site likely contains more than a few images – and that’s great – what better way to get your message across than awesome high resolution images? One thing you must consider however is the size of the images your using and how well optimised they are, because although your blazing fast fibre optic internet wont flinch and 20mb+ of data being forced down its neck, other users may not be quite so accommodating so its vital you keep your media in check.
Although nothing beats editing your images on your PC prior to upload (in terms of how well compressed and optimised it can be) – sometimes that’s not possible or you may even want to squeeze a little more out of your media library – introducing Smush.
Smush, from the WPMU team (like our 1st entry above) has been around for years now and has a proven record of helping keep your sites images in check, so if you have an aged site with a huge media library and want an easy way to optimise them all in one go, or if you are starting fresh and want to begin things as you mean to go, then this one is a must.
So the name of this one may be a little on the nose, but the final entry on today’s round-up is a handy tool for keeping your site away from public eyes whilst your making use of the plugins above. Maintenance is a splash screen which replaces your site in its entirety so your visitors know whats going on.
Its not only visual appealing, but also functional it it gives you a neat login so you can still get to work.
Do you have a favourite tool or plugin you swear by when working with WP? or perhaps you have had a bad experience with any of the plugins we have covered and want to share, be sure to hit us up in the comments – we would love to hear from you.