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How to Completely Avoid CMS Plugin Failures

by Matt Zentz

CMS plugins have a nasty way of rearing their ugly head when you least expect it. One small change or update can bring a site to its knees.

Your job as a developer relies on plugins to work consistently so you don’t waste time troubleshooting and fixing them. 


One common way to avoid plugin woes is to build a replica staging site and first apply plugin updates there. This allows you to do a practice update and if something goes wrong it’s not on your live site. Live data is inherently more difficult to troubleshoot than staging data.

WordPress has several staging plugins that help you alleviate this concern. By replicating the data from your live site to a staging site, you can test the updates for all plugins.

Keep in mind that in most content management platforms a staging site will incur additional fees or count towards the total sites for your hosting package.

Even if your clients don’t have an active maintenance agreement with you, you should consider using a staging site solution so you can avoid more involved troubleshooting efforts.

Active Plugins

Be sure to use only actively developed plugins that have a history of frequent updates. This tells you that they will most likely keep up with critical platform and security updates. 

Look for plugins with a proper support policy. Without some way to get support when you need it you’ll be left alone and possibly in the dark.

Avoid plugins with only one or a small number of developers. These have a higher chance of the developers catching the first train to nowhereville and disappearing, leaving you high and dry.

Don’t Use Plugins

Yes, you read that right. Don’t use plugins. This seems ludicrous but it really isn’t. There are many content management platforms, like Marketpath CMS, that don’t depend on plugins. They have better out-of-the-box functionality and let you control the content in ways the plugin mongers can’t match.

Marketpath CMS uses its package manager to add functionality but this only adds assets to a site, like Javascript and CSS, and code doesn't touch the core platform. You get most of the same functionality that a plugin can offer and none of the security concerns or site-breaking updates. Plus each site includes a free preview (staging) site to check out all changes before publishing.
It doesn’t hurt to evaluate other content management platforms. Of course, we like our own but there are plenty to choose from that won’t break the bank. 

Final Thoughts

You know when most problems occur? It’s when you’re swamped and don’t have a minute to spare. By taking a more methodical approach to choosing plugins, applying updates, or avoiding them altogether, you can save countless hours of troubleshooting.

Use Packages, Not Plugins

Marketpath CMS uses packages that don’t break the platform or cause security vulnerabilities. It’s the intelligent way to maintain websites.

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Matt Zentz, founder of Marketpath

Matt Zentz

Matt Zentz launched Marketpath from a small Broad Ripple bungalow in February 2001 with a focus on custom web application development. He built the first, basic version of a hosted CMS called Webtools and shortly afterward expanded his team and created the first version of Marketpath CMS.

Matt has worked for a national consulting firm, taught computer programming to high school juniors and seniors , and led the information technology arm of the auxiliary business units at Indiana University.

Matt graduated from Indiana University in 1999 with a B.S. in Computer Science and has built custom web applications since 1995. Matt is husband to an amazing & supportive wife, has three beautiful children, and supreme master to Archimedes (Archie) the dog. He coaches various kid sports, enjoys building furniture, and plays guitar and piano. Matt is very active within his church community and several area not-for-profits.


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