Firewalls, proxies and Wordpress
April 13, 2010 4:41 AM   Subscribe

Can a firewall around a self-hosted Wordpress blog prevent widgets or plugins from working? I've had trouble installing some popular Wordpress widgets. When I look through support threads and forums, it looks like I'm doing all the right things. No typos, all settings correct for my situation, etc. No-one else seems to have a similar problem.

I have a blog, hosted with an ISP (not My host has me behind a firewall, which is a feature of all their hosting plans that come with databases.

To get the Akismet plugin running for spam-filtering, I had to edit the php by hand to give it a proxy address to get around this firewall (using instructions given to me in a previous AskMe question, thanks!). But this seems excessive for getting a little tweet-display or related posts widget going.

Is the firewall a possible culprit for my widgets not working? Or was that just an Akismet thing? Will changing hosts help me get a hosted database without a firewall, or do they all insist on it?
posted by harriet vane to Computers & Internet (6 answers total)
When you say the widgets "aren't working", what exactly do you mean? You've uploaded them to the server, but you can't activate them from the Wordpress control panel? (If so, what message do you get when you try to activate them?) Or you are able to activate them, but they don't show up on your site? Or something else?

Does your active theme even support widgets? (Some don't.)

What widget plugins in particular are you trying to use?

Firewalls can definitely create problems, as can crappy budget webhosts that configure their servers in bizarre ways to cram as many customers as possible on one server. The cost savings are never worth the headaches.
posted by ixohoxi at 5:58 AM on April 13, 2010

A firewall around a Wordpress weblog doesn't look so bad right now, considering the amount of Wordpress sites that are currently hacked.

As far as I can tell, the Akismet plugin is an exception, in the sense that the content it shows is not hosted or by your host, or available from your database, but has to be got from elsewhere.

A problem with widgets that aren't working could be that they are protected, and you need to CHMOD the access to them [if you're on an Apache server that is, Windows call this differently]. Since you don't tell which widgets aren't working it is impossible to tell why this could be.
posted by ijsbrand at 5:59 AM on April 13, 2010

What version of PHP do you have on your server? The only problems I've had with perfectly fine plugins not working properly were on servers running PHP4. Upgrading to PHP5 fixed the problems.

Note: If you have other sites on your server that use older PHP code, they may break after you upgrade to PHP5. If you don't have time to upgrade those sites right now, you can ask your host to make PHP5 available but keep PHP4 as the default. Then, on your new WordPress site (I assume you are using the latest version), you can add the following to your .htaccess file (located in the root folder of the WordPress installation):

# Use PHP5 as default
AddHandler application/x-httpd-php5 .php

It tells the server to use PHP5 (instead of the default PHP4) on all the PHP files in your new WordPress installation.

Again, this is only if you are using PHP4 and you have other sites that use old PHP code on the same server. If this new WordPress site is the only site on your server and it is fully up to date, you can upgrade to PHP5 with no issues (and no messing around with .htaccess).

If you are currently using PHP5 and everything else seems to be in order (you followed the plugin directions carefully, changes permissions on cache folders for plugins that require it, etc.), then the firewall is your likely suspect.
posted by stringbean at 6:13 AM on April 13, 2010

If your web server needs to use a proxy in order to create outgoing connections, it will create all kinds of problems for you, yes. You need to define your proxy settings in your wp-config.php file, like so:

define('WP_PROXY_HOST', '');
define('WP_PROXY_PORT', '8080');
define('WP_PROXY_USERNAME', 'my_user_name');
define('WP_PROXY_PASSWORD', 'my_password');
define('WP_PROXY_BYPASS_HOSTS', 'localhost,');

...that could solve most of your problems.
posted by Jairus at 7:15 AM on April 13, 2010

If you're unable to download and install the plugins or widgets within Wordpress, perhaps you can just download them manually from, and ftp them to your server - then activate them?
posted by backwards guitar at 8:14 AM on April 13, 2010

Response by poster: More details, sorry for not including at first:

Widgets aren't working: they throw errors at me (long strings of what looks like scripting) that break either my site or sometimes the Wordpress site managing pages.

My active theme is supposed to support widgets. Server has PHP5.

Attempted plugins: Twitter for Wordpress (, Twitter Widget Pro (, can't remember others but there was a Flickr one.

Widgets/plugins I've had no trouble with: Akismet (edited), Feedburner, one to limit post length, one to create a contact form, one to make thumbnails for my theme.

It seems like the ones I have problems with are ones that draw in info from outside my domain?

Jairus, I'm not at home right now, but will check if my wp-config file is set up as you suggest tonight. Backwards guitar, I have tried doing that before with no joy, I'm afraid.
posted by harriet vane at 6:32 PM on April 13, 2010

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