Just as we don’t “ban” any plugins we also don’t “force” any plugins. Our goal is to provide a truly natural WordPress hosting environment free of manipulation so that even expert WordPress users feel at home with our setup. That being said, just as we strongly request you avoid certain plugins (i.e. newsletter plugins, etc), we also strongly recommend that you retain a few plugins, in particular the ones that our team installs during setup/migration. Specifically, these would be the CloudFlare plugin, the Comet Cache plugin, and for Business plan or higher customers, the CDN Linker plugin as well.
To be able to clear your CloudFlare cache, the CloudFlare plugin is mandatory. The Comet Cache plugin is the best cache plugin around, especially for WooCommerce, so we definitely recommend keeping that and not using a different cache plugin. With our optimized Nginx server setup, Comet Cache pairs very nicely with it, keeping data very simple, clean, organized, and loading super fast. We strongly dislike the W3TC plugin as its full of bugs, does not clean up after itself, and causes our customers more headaches than it solves — in fact, it can often hurt server performance more than it helps it.
The CDN Linker is our favorite way to link to MaxCDN although you are free to use another method if you wish. However there are not many alternative plugins out there that can handle this function currently, although LittleBizzy is in the middle of developing a new MaxCDN plugin for WordPress!
Just as we recommend plugins, we also DON’T recommend certain plugins. For example, most security plugins out there (Limit Login Attempts, Sucuri, WordFence, etc) severely hurt your website’s loading speed because they are constantly scanning and logging all your visitors (not to mention severely bloat your database). Therefore we highly suggest you don’t install any security plugins as CloudFlare already does a fantastic (and free) job at keeping your site safe, besides our very secure Nginx server block rules too. We also recommend taking great care with any newsletter plugins such as MailPoet that send out emails to your customers because they can not only get your server/domain penalized, but also jeopardize our relationship with SendGrid and DigitalOcean if you don’t properly monitor your sending/bounce rates; we may need to permanently ban customers who get in trouble sending out spam emails, etc.
September 2015 update: we also now recommend the Disable Emojis plugin and Disable XML-RPC plugin for all WordPress websites.
We also don’t recommend image compression plugins because they use a ton of server resources and don’t help performance whatsoever. The only thing they do is they can decrease overall page size, but you can also accomplish this by simply cropping images to a reasonable size and pre-compressing them using Photoshop, JPEGmini, TinyPNG, and what not.