When your site starts crashing and slowing down, you have too many plugins.
Right now I have 29 plugins. I have tested all of them with GTMetrix and they don’t slow my site down. In fact, I buy plugins if I notice a slowdown in GTMetrix. Website speed is so important to Google.
How do you know when plugins are causing a problem? I use a great troubleshooting plugin called P3. With this plugin it shows you how your plugins are loading and identifies it more easily if you find GTMetrix confusing. I have used this in the past to identify exactly what a plugin is doing that is causing a problem and then contacting the plugin author to fix it.
Contacting the plugin author has had mixed results. A few thank me and fix it. Others just ignore it. If it is a dealbreaker in speed/security then I move on to another plugin. Plugins are great, but you can’t get lazy. A lazy webmaster has a poor site.
I have increasingly bought plugins since many free plugins have serious issues. It is understandable why a small site might want to use them, but I can’t risk my company in that way. Many times companies don’t give you a web budget, but when you present that buying a $10 program will keep their customer information safe they will agree to that. I always try to show a company what it may be risking if they don’t buy plugins that have good security and support.
When you start with plugins you don’t know what are the good ones and which are problems. You can really save yourself lots of heartache if you do serious research on each one. It is easy to just install the first plugin that sounds good, but often those are the worst ones. I have learned over the years that many very popular plugins are terrible and do terrible things to your sites reliability and security.
I have read reviews of people who say they have 100 plugins and are ok. I wouldn’t personally do that many, but the upper limit for me to feel comfortable with might be 60. It is common for many websites to have 30 or more. Plugins need to be controlled, so this isn’t a license to just install without planning or auditing. Justify the reason for each plugin and ask yourself if you really need it.
Plugins are fun, but remember they are a risk as well as a reward.