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13 WordPress maintenance & security plugins for a fast, secure, and sustainable website I use on my sites and my clients

13 WordPress maintenance & security plugins for a fast, secure, and sustainable website

WordPress security and performance plugins are such a big topic.

There are so many opinions online suggesting what you should use, and now, mine is one of them, lol.

Note: If the topic of WordPress maintenance is still foreign to you, check out WordPress = Prime target for cyber attacks? & What to do about it? and Secure website = Eco-friendly website? | Environmental benefits of keeping your site secure. And you will understand why web maintenance matters, especially for self-hosted WordPress sites.

I understand it can be difficult to pick one plugin over another because every website is unique. But knowing that you can always change your mind will give you more freedom to experiment with the plugins you’re eyeing and either keep them or remove them later.

Let me share with you the plugins (free and paid) I use for my WordPress sites and my clients’ that help improve the site’s speed, security, and sustainability—combined with regular maintenance, of course. Without a maintenance routine, they wouldn’t work in your favor much.

I’ll also share the price, where to get them, and resources to configure them for your site.

For added security layers, scanning, and monitoring:

Tool#1: WP Umbrella – a game changer tool that lets me manage and do web maintenance for multiple websites in one place. I use it to back up site files and databases, update plugins, themes, and WordPress core, clear cache, scan the sites for vulnerabilities, and monitor site performance. If you manage multiple websites, I highly recommend WP Umbrella. It saves you so much maintenance time.

Tool#2: Patchstack – a tool that detects vulnerabilities in plugins, themes, and WordPress core and patches them before letting them compromise your site’s security. You can also monitor and patch multiple sites all in one place.

Tool#3: Sucuri – I use a free version of this tool to help check whenever WordPress core files are modified or a new file is injected in my database. The plugin also offers other full-on security features such as security activity auditing, remote malware scanning, website firewall (paid), etc.

Tool#4: WPS Hide Login – I use this plugin to hide the login page on all my sites and clients’. You can simply create a custom login URL e.g. “/redcarpet” to replace the default, easy-to-guess “/wp-login.php”. 

For backing up:

Tool#5: UpdraftPlus – an easy-to-use backup tool that can make a backup of your WordPress files and database. You can also select if you want to transfer the backups to your remote storage or keep them on your server.

Tool: WP Umbrella – Using this plugin to backup your sites alongside other security and maintenance features is a good way to keep your site lean. If WP Umbrella’s backup function works well for you, you may not need UpdraftPlus.

Note: Since I’m managing multiple sites, I’m in a transition to using WP Umbrella for backing up the sites and then removing UpdraftPlus. But I still find that backing up with WP Umbrella takes much longer than using UpdraftPlus. That’s why I still keep UpdraftPlus on my sites.

For file caching: 

Caching plugins help reduce page load time tremendously by serving data from previously stored memory. Watch this video to get a simple explanation of what caching is and how it works.

Before choosing a caching plugin, you should understand what type of web server your web host uses for your site.

In the past, I used W3 Total Cache on all the sites I manage. One day, I discovered that it didn’t improve one of my client’s site speed, no matter how I configured it. Eventually, I reached out to the web host support team and learned that the server uses a different caching technology that required a different caching plugin. Therefore, I switched to LiteSpeed Cache. Her site speed instantly became blazing fast.

To check what web server your site is using, on the WordPress dashboard > Tools > Site Health > Info Tab > Server > Web server.

Tool#6: W3 Total Cache – is recommended if your site is hosted on Apache or Nginx.

Tool#7: LiteSpeed Cache – is recommended if your website is hosted on a LiteSpeed server.

For optimizing database:

Tool#8: WP-Optimize – a plugin I use once in a while to optimize the database and bulk clean post revisions, trash posts, etc. Once I completed the tasks, I removed it. 

For optimizing images:

Tool: LiteSpeed Cache – Besides caching functionality, it offers a superior-level image optimization by replacing original images with the WebP version for free. WebP image file sizes are much smaller than PNG or JPG. As a  result, they load faster and take up less space. This is why I now use this tool for both caching and image optimization to reduce plugin redundancy on some of my websites. 

Tool#9: Smush – I have used Smush on my sites and clients’ sites for several years before switching to LiteSpeed Cache (for the sites compatible with LiteSpeed Cache). I still use Smush on some of my client sites. Although it doesn’t offer a WebP image version for free, it’s still a solid image optimizer that is amazing at compressing and lazy-loading images.

For optimizing content:

Tool#10: Yoast SEO – Honestly, SEO work is always a beast to master. But setting fundamental SEO practices for each blog post and the entire site is always better than doing nothing. I use Yoast to set a focus keyphrase, meta descriptions, and improve keyword usage on blog posts whenever I can. 

For blocking spam:

Tool#11: Akismet – If your site needs a comment section for your readers to engage with your content, use Akismet to filter out spam. But if your site doesn’t need a comment section, turn off the comment function, and remove Akismet from your site.

Tool#12: Advanced Google reCAPTCHA – A Google spam blocking service you can use on your login page, registration page, and comment form. It has a way to differentiate human and bot interactions and allows only the legitimate interactions to be submitted.

For easy access to web files on the Dashboard:

Tool#13: WP File Manager – This tool saves you time from having to access your web files through the web host or FTP. You can directly go to your file from the WordPress dashboard. If you disable file editing from the dashboard, you can only view the files. Otherwise, you can both view and edit them from there. 

Lastly…

It’s important to learn how to configure these plugins properly to make sure they integrate well with your site and improve its speed and security. Fast and secure websites are a good sign of a well-maintained and well-optimized site. As a result, your site becomes more sustainable. 

Have you tried any tools I mentioned here? What’s your favorite? Let me know!

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