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Build a Performance Optimized WordPress Site using WPMU DEV and Cloudways

September 20, 2019

9 Min Read
Reading Time: 9 minutes

Captain America was created in a laboratory experiment with micro-injections of serum and doused with ‘vita-rays’, turning him into a super-soldier considered as one of the greatest comic heroes of our generation. However, you must be thinking, “how is the Avengers’ leader relevant here?”. Well, akin to how he was developed into a superhero, you can turn your website into a powerhouse if you know where to look for the resources.

And with this exclusive discount link, WPMU DEV is offering Cloudways readers an additional month free. Get started with 60-days of WPMU DEV absolutely free.

Today, we’ll demonstrate how you can easily create a WordPress website using an optimized and secure WordPress Cloud Server and WPMU DEV products and give the website superpowers using all the resources available!

Login to Hosting and Launching a Server

Sign up by visiting Cloudways Platform and verify your email.

Launching a server and installing WordPress on Cloudways WordPress managed Hosting isn’t a difficult task. You just have to select WordPress and fill in the following fields:  Name your App, Name your Server, Select Project, Server Size,  and Location and then simply click on “LAUNCH SERVER“.

Wait a few minutes for the process to complete, and you’re done!

Now, go to the “Applications” tab on the top left where you’ll see your recent WordPress installation and launch it.

We’re done with installing WordPress on the Optimized server.

From Admin Panel tab, navigate to WordPress’ admin panel and login with credentials that were listed there.

What is WPMU DEV?

WPMU DEV basically gives WordPress superpowers with its assortment of plugins for performance, security, SEO, and site management.

For this post will be looking at WPMU DEV Pro features. You can follow along with free with the Cloudways exclusive 60-day no-obligation trial. You’ll need to verify your account with a credit card but you will not be charged and you can cancel anytime without a hassle.

If you’re not ready for all that, they give many of their products away free on The free plugins are great for most users but if your running a business on the web you’ll definitely want to check out the full membership. It’s an amazing value.


WPMU DEV Pro features are activated simply by connecting your live account through their dashboard plugin.

To get started, upload and activate the WPMU DEV Dashboard plugin to your WordPress install.

This will add a new tab to the left pane like in the image below. As illustrated, now you can access WPMU DEV in all its glory by using this simple plugin.

Important: Free WPMU DEV plugins can be accessed without the WPMU DEV Dashboard plugin from the repository. For this example, we’ll be using the WPMU DEV Dashboard to quickly access all their tools.


WPMU DEV builds tools trusted by developers, agencies, and system admins to make WordPress sites faster, safer, easier to find, and more engaging. From Smush image optimization and Hummingbird Performance booster to Defender security and SmartCrawl SEO, no matter what feature you want to add to your WordPress website, WPMU DEV provides everything you need to build and manage the best WordPress sites. You can find a list of their plugins here.

For this post, we’ll cover their 3 most popular and commonly used plugins.

  1. Defender Pro
  2. Hummingbird Pro
  3. Smush Pro

Security With Defender Pro

“It’s not easy to hack a website until you provide a gateway”. WordPress is the most popular CMS for a reason, but fame has its disadvantages, and thus your WordPress site needs the best security solution possible.

With that in mind, Defender Pro is a simple powerful solution for adding the best security hardening tactics quickly and without needing a degree in web security.

From your WordPress Admin Panel, navigate to “WPMU DEV > Plugins”. Search for “Defender”, install and then “Activate” it.

After successful installation, you’ll see a new “Defender Pro” tab in the dashboard.

Defender Pro will scan your site for vulnerabilities and make Harding recommendations you can implement with a click. Security features include:

  • Brute Force Lockout – Limit login attempts to block password guessing
  • File Change Detection – Scan plugins, themes and WordPress core for code injections
  • 404 Lockout – 404 detection to stop bots scanning for vulnerabilities
  • Audit Logs – Logs of every user action from file modifications to settings changes
  • Email Notifications – Customizable reports and automate email notifications
  • IP Lockout – Timed or permanent site bans with both manual and automatic IP controls
  • Security Key Updater – Change security keys on a schedule
  • Automated Scans – Regular automated scans and reporting
  • Blacklist Monitoring – Check safe web services and get warnings if your site has been flagged
  • 2-Factor Authentication – Protect your site with both a password and a phone
  • Remember Me Checked – Set how long “Remember me” keeps users logged in
  • Whitelist IP – Make exceptions to lockout rules
  • Security Tweaks – Add security measures based on recommendations
  • Hub Security Manager – Monitor security issues, updates and backups for multiple sites from one place
  • Snapshot Backups – Defender includes 10GB of cloud storage and automated Snapshot backups

1. Security Tweaks

Depending on your needs, defender adds more than a dozen Security Tweaks you can quickly implement to make it more difficult on Hackers. Defender scans for vulnerabilities and provides one-click solutions to fix them.

2. File Scanning

The scan feature lets you test your website’s core integrity and searches for vulnerabilities in the theme, plugins and the content area, etc. Once it is done scanning, it will provide you with the best solutions to fix any issues that were found on your website.

As shown below, it also gives you the options to “Resolve”, “Ignore” and “Delete” the issue.

3. Automated Scans

Automating your WP Defender is highly recommended so that the plugin regularly scans your website and keeps emailing you the reports. You can select at what frequency you want the automated scans to scan your website and send you reports.

4. Audit Log

5. Backups

Plus Defender works with Snapshot to offer secure cloud backups and including 10GB of storage. If you fall victim to a hacking attempt or any serious issue, you can easily revert to a previous version.

6. IP Lockout

Defender Pro includes all the tools you need to manage access based on IP address. From login failed attempts and 404 detections to IP Banning and Whitelisting.

7. Advanced Settings

Defender Pro also gives you the ability to mask your login by moving it to a URL of your choice and give users an added layer of security with two-factor authentication.

8. Hack Cleanup

What if you’ve already been hacked? The WPMU DEV support team will clean it up. According to WPMU DEV, their experts will scan your site to find and fix known vulnerabilities, permanently remove malicious code and configure Defender so it won’t happen again.

Hummingbird Pro Speed & Performance

Hummingbird is a performance and a speed-focused plugin, Hummingbird allows you to control concatenation and minification of the files, gzip compression and caching. WPMU DEV members also get custom performance reports and uptime monitoring.

To install, navigate to “WPMU DEV > Plugins” and search for “Hummingbird”. Click on “Install” and “activate” it.

Hummingbird performance mixed with good hosting is designed to help you get a 100 on Google’s PageSpeed test. Here’s what you can expect from Hummingbird Pro:

  • Performance Report – Scan and recommendations for improving performance
  • Asset Optimization – Minify, combine, optimize and position files to improve page speed
  • Gzip Compression – Compress HTML, JavaScript, and Style Sheets
  • Complete Cache Suite – Full-page, browser, RSS and Gravatar cache
  • Cloudflare Cache-Control – Integrates with Cloudflare Browser Cache
  • Hosted File Optimization – WPMU DEV’s CDN
  • Image Optimization – Smush Pro integration to resize, compress and optimize images
  • Uptime Monitoring – Monitor your website’s response time and downtime
  • Hub Performance Manager – Monitor performance for all your sites in one place

1. Performance Test

Performance is another essential part of any website. Hummingbird scans your site for performance improvement opportunities and gives you all the tools you need to quickly optimize for speed and efficiency. Get mobile or desktop performance results and improve your user experience.

2. Caching

Caching stores temporary data on your visitors’ devices so that they don’t have to download assets twice. This results in a much faster turnaround page load speed. Enabling caching will set the recommended expiry times for your content. Hummingbird Pro has a complete cache suite including:

3. GZIP Compression 

Gzip compresses your Javascript Style sheets and HTML before sending them to the browser. It reduces the time it takes for the files to transfer since they are much smaller in size in comparison. With Hummingbird Pro, you can easily enable GZIP on any server.

4. Asset Optimization + CDN

Hummingbird detects all your site assets and lets you compress and rearrange files to make it incredibly efficient. This feature is more advanced and can break styling, but Hummingbird makes it easy to test different compression configurations and revert with a click if you are not happy with the results.

Plus, Pro users can serve CSS, JS and other compatible files from the Hummingbird CDN, effectively taking the load off your server so that pages load faster for your visitors.

5. Advanced Tools

Access additional tweaks for improving site performance and schedule daily, weekly or monthly automatic cleanups or your database to remove unnecessary data that are slowing down your servers.

6. Uptime

Get stats for your website uptime and downtime. As you can see on Cloudways server, our WordPress site has 100% uptime.

Smush Pro Image Compression + CDN

According to Google, images make up two-thirds of the average web page size. That is why it is recommended optimization should be automated.

With over 1 million active installs, Smush was voted user’s choice the best-automated image optimization tool for WordPress. Compress your images while maintaining their quality to dramatically improve your website’s page speed.

To install, navigate to “WPMU DEV > Plugins” and search for “Smush Pro”. Click on “Install” and “activate” it.

Here are some features of WP Smush Pro:

  • Auto-Smush – Automatically optimize images on upload
  • Bulk Smush – Optimize your existing media library with a click
  • Lazy Load – Defer offscreen images with the flip of a switch
  • Perfect Fit Image Resizing – “Serve Scaled Images” as recommended by Google
  • Super Smush – 2x compression over lossless
  • Image CDN – 10GB delivery from the 65 Tbps 45 location
  • NextGen Conversion – Convert and share WebP images
  • Restore Originals – Store original files with quick restore
  • Compress images in any directory – Optimize images stored in any folder

Custom Image Sizes – Select which image sizes should be optimized.

1. Bulk Smush

Start by optimizing your existing library with a click.  Even when hosting with a quality host like Cloudways, If you’re not optimizing your images this will drastically improve site performance.

2. Directory Smush

In addition to Smushing your media uploads, you may want to smush non-WordPress images that are outside of your uploads directory. Get started by adding files and folders you wish to optimize.

3. Integrations

Smush Pro is built to work with just about any configuration and plugin imaginable but has special integrations with both the Classic Editor and Gutenberg, Amazon s3, NexGen Gallary, and WPBakery Page Builder. Toggle on the integrations you need.

4. Lazy Load

This feature defers the loading of below the fold imagery (images out of frame) until the page has loaded. This reduces the load on your server and speeds up the page load time.

5. CDN

The Smush Content Delivery Network (CDN) takes a load off your servers by moving image delivery to a fast dedicated network of servers located all over the world. This puts your images closer to your visitors and loads your pages faster. The CDN also does NextGen WebP compression as well as perfect fit resizing. Like everything else in Smush Pro, you don’t need any technical skills to make the move. Just activate and Smush will do all the heavy lifting.


In this post, we covered just 3 of the plugins and services available with a WPMU DEV membership. If you’re managing multiple sites, need WordPress support, are looking to automate maintenance, or are looking for ways to make your site more interactive checkout the WPMU DEV all-in-one security, performance, marketing, and site management tools. Take your WordPress website to the next level with Cloudways and WPMU DEV.


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Mustaasam Saleem

Mustaasam is the WordPress Community Manager at Cloudways - A Managed WordPress Hosting Platform, where he actively works and loves sharing his knowledge with the WordPress Community. When he is not working, you can find him playing squash with his friends, or defending in Football, and listening to music. You can email him at

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