Speed is of utter importance in today’s world. And virtual reality is no exception. We desire websites to load faster without any hassles. No one has the time to sit and watch a loading page for several minutes. Therefore what you, as a blogger need is a really good and effective caching plugin for your website in order to get more number of visitors and a higher Google ranking.
In our previous post we talked about why caching is important for your website and how it works. We explained in detail about WP Super Cache and how to get it working. In this article we’re going to tell you about another awesome caching plugin for WordPress – W3 Total Cache.
WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache stand as tough competitors in the market today with Super Cache boasting of the highest number of active users and W3 Total Cache claiming to be the only WordPress Performance Optimization (WPO) framework that has been created for better user experience and page load time.
Why W3 Total Cache
W3 Total Cache is recommended by some top hosting providers and websites like DreamHost, Host Gator, Mashable and Yoast. Plus, it has got several cutting edge abilities that make it even more desirable to be used.
- It offers a free version with optional premium extensions to choose from
- You get a plethora of customization options so you can always find something that works for you and is according to your needs.
- It supports Content Delivery Networks and allows you to export your settings for future use, or in case you want to apply the same settings on some other website.
- It has the options of Page Cache, Database Cache, Browser Cache and Object Cache
- Really efficient
- Great free support from W3-Edge. the people behind W3 Total Cache.
The process to install and activate W3 Total Cache is completely similar to that of WP Super Cache. In your WordPress dashboard go to Plugins > Add New and search for W3 Total Cache. Click on Install and then click on Activate Plugin. Before installing W3 Total Cache however, make sure no other caching plugin is active on your website, because that can lead to activation issues.
As soon as you activate it, a new option will be available in your WordPress dashboard by the name of “Performance”.
Settings and Configuration
The set up options that you get in W3 Total Cache are more advance than those you get in WP Super Cache, so don’t fret if it seems a little daunting at the first sight. Here we will provide you a step-by-step guide to make sure you get the most out of the plugin without much fuss.
Go to Performance > General Settings. Here you can configure the basic plugin settings.
From here you can enable and disable caching by a single click. Check the box under General that says Toggle all caching types on or off (at once). Enabling the Preview mode would allow you to view how your configurations would actually work on the website. Click Save all settings.
The Page Cache, Minify and other options available under the General tab can further be tweaked according to your needs from their individual tabs under the Performance header.
Enabling this allows your website’s pages to be cached so that your pages are not dynamically loaded each time. This helps you avoid utilizing server resources and hence reduces the page load time. For users on shared hosting Disk: Enhanced method is the most appropriate. Hit Save all settings when you are done.
The settings shown below are the ones that are available by default with WP Super Cache.
This feature is an important factor to optimize your website. It saves most commonly used SQL queries as static content which makes it work without requesting for the dynamic data each time. It improves the flexibility and overall performance of the website. Disk should be the method preferred on shared hosting.
Disabling caching for logged in users is preferred, because logged-in users should see the changes on the website in real-time. So enable the first box you see in the Database Cache tab.
Now the features you see under the Advanced section of Database Cache are similar to the Expiry Time & Garbage Collection feature of WP Super Cache.
You can set the time and schedule of cache collection and new cache generation from here. In Total Cache you can also set exceptions for cache creation by entering the suitable information in Never Cache the following pages, Ignored query stems and Reject query words.
This feature reduces the execution time for some operations through caching. It is mostly suitable on a dedicated server and we would advise not using it if you are on a shared server. You can enable it from under the General tab.
You can do further changes from the individual tab. Although there is no harm in leaving it to the default settings. It’s suitable enough.
Browser Cache is certainly an important feature when it comes to reducing server and page load time. It uses the cache available in the user’s web browser and also enables HTTP compression. Due to this, when a visitor visits your website again, it loads much faster than the first time. Simply check Enable from the General tab and then go to Performance > Browser Cache for advanced settings.
The settings shown below would give you optimum results even if you leave the other options given below on the page as they are.
In a previous post about WP Super Cache we told you about CDN in brief. It serves the static files of a website to the users in high performance and speed. Upon enabling you can choose your desired CDN provider. MaxCDN is the most popular paid provider while CloudFlare has the options of both free and paid versions.
Then proceed to Performance > CDN. Under the General heading, configure the types of data files you wish to be available with the CDN.
After that you need to set up a connection with the CDN provider you chose. Check out a very informative article at WPBeginner on using MAXCDN with W3 Total Cache to help you out.
The Advanced section further contains more technical settings which have to be customized according to your CDN provider.
A reverse proxy works almost similar to a CDN. It caches the static files to different servers. The visitors then access those files through the cloud. Since WordPress is more compatible with CDNs, it would not be much helpful to enable reverse proxy too. So we would recommend not enabling this feature if you are already on a CDN.
From here you can establish your Relic account. Your Relic account would give you statistics related to the performance of your site and your server. Enabling this feature is completely optional and it would not have any effect on your site’s performance. It is merely meant for your information and analysis of your site.
If you decided to setup a Relic account with W3 Total Cache, you can then adjust its collection of data and monitoring schedule from Performance > Monitoring.
Over here you can enable the Google Page Speed widget and do additional tweaks to your website. However, you can leave the options in their default states if you are not sure about the features.
This feature would give detailed information about the caching process of each file type in the publicly available HTML comments of the page’s source code. We would recommend not using this option, as Total Cache itself mentions “Performance in this mode will not be optimal, use sparingly and disable when not in use.”
Import / Export Settings
This feature is a very significant edge that W3 Total Cache has over WP Super Cache. It is an extensive function and it allows you to backup your settings and export or import it to/from the same website or any other website of yours.
A really appreciable and useful factor of W3 Total Cache is its support to extensions. It offers some popular plugins as extensions. Go to Performance > Extensions. Enable those extensions which you are using.
That’s all folks. By now you know about each and every feature that W3 Total Cache has to offer. Along with a step by step guide, we also pointed out features which give that extra edge to W3 Super Cache over WP Super Cache. But then again, this extra edge comes at the cost of a minimal reduction in user friendliness in using W3 Total Cache. We hope we got your doubts about setting up the plugin cleared by now, and that you can now utilize most of the plugin features within your comfort parameters. However, if you still have any unanswered query or you hit a snag somewhere, there’s a great FAQ and Support section available to your aid from the W3 Edge team.