Review: WordPress 4 plugs in, turns on, grows up

The latest revision of the powerful and popular blogging engine does far more than blogs, although the power comes with a price

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Because cross-testing even the most commonly used plug-ins is impractical, the wise thing to do is start with as few plug-ins as needed to get the job done. Rule of thumb: Never add more than one plug-in at a time, and always test everything for each plug-in. Don't hold your breath waiting for this situation to change either. After all, the diversity of plug-ins and themes is a big part of what helped WordPress rise to prominence in the first place.

Another potential pitfall with WordPress is performance. By default, WordPress generates every page dynamically when it's requested. That's useful if you have content that needs to be kept fresh on a moment-by-moment basis, but it can mean slow page load times for a heavily used site. This shows up most blatantly on WordPress sites that use shard hosting, but it can happen even on a dedicated installation.

To address this, numerous third-party plug-ins offer various kinds of static content caching and delivery acceleration methods. WP Super Cache, for instance, bundles a whole slew of different approaches to accelerating a site: static file generation, CDN integration, page compression, and so on. Other plug-ins can speed up WordPress by providing database-layer caching (such as EM Object Cache).

Yet another ongoing issue with WordPress is security. In truth, the core of the program has become far more secure over time, but third-party plug-ins and themes are still targeted successfully for attacks, and they need to be monitored. Add-ons like Wordfence exist to help protect WordPress installations, although in the long run the vigilance of the administrator will make the most difference.

Finally, you'll find no shortage of first- and third-party support for WordPress. Most every hosting company out there -- including enterprise-centric hosts like Rackspace -- touts WordPress as a supported product and offers automated setup scripts. Automattic, the company that develops WordPress, offers its own hosting services in both blogger-grade and professional-grade versions. Dedicated hosts like WP Engine focus entirely on conventional and enterprise-grade WordPress hosting. Third-party outfits, such as Maintainn, provide varying levels of support depending on your ambitions.

On one hand, adopting WordPress inevitably requires a fair amount of work to make it business- and enterprise-ready. Importing existing content, optimizing performance, and integrating WordPress within an enterprise all require some degree of manual work.

On the other hand, the rich WordPress ecosystem will significantly lighten that load. Because so much has been built in, on, and around WordPress, it's relatively easy to find the tools you need, get help working with them, or have something built with them.

WordPress 4.0 is a modest release in terms of new features, but with the new "plug-in first" development philosophy, we can look forward to more of our favorite third-party features becoming part of the core product. Here's hoping that includes the enterprise functionality that makes WordPress into so much more than a blogging platform.

This article, "Review: WordPress 4 plugs in, turns on, grows up," was originally published at Follow the latest developments in applications and open source software at For the latest business technology news, follow on Twitter.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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