One plugin I’ve seen on a lot of these lists is WP Super Cache, a caching engine designed to produce static HTML pages and load your blog faster. WP Super Cache is a good plugin, don’t get me wrong, but is it really the fastest?
If you’re really looking to speed up your WordPress blog, I recommend you check out the W3 Total Cache plugin.
In this article, I’ll educate you about this plugin and show you what you can do to give your blog a blazing fast speed.
What’s All The Hype About?
Before I show you how to set up this plugin, I figured I should give you a little more incentive to check it out. According to the plugin page, W3 Total Cache is:
the fastest and most complete WordPress performance optimization plugin. W3 Total Cache improves the user experience of your site by improving your server performance, caching every aspect of your site, reducing the download times and providing transparent content delivery network (CDN) integration.
It boasts a significant improvement (at least 10x) in overall site performance, as well as “instant” second page views.
Don’t know what a CDN is? Read on and I’ll show you how to set all this up.
Getting Started With W3 Total Cache
Once you’ve installed and activated the plugin, head over to the settings page.
On the General Settings page, you should see a few messages at the top of the screen. One may ask you to ’empty page cache’. Go ahead and do that and make sure you disable/uninstall any other caching plugins (like WP Super Cache) for the time being.
W3 Total Cache’s default settings are fine to start with. Go ahead and check the box under General to turn caching on.
You should already see an increase in speed just from using W3 Total Cache, but to throw your site into warp drive, I’ll show you how to set up a CDN.
Why Use A CDN?
If you are hosting your own WordPress blog, chances are you are renting server space from somewhere. Regardless of what hosting provider you are using, your server is probably in another state/country. Add that to the fact that it’s a shared server (probably a busy one) and sometimes it can take a while to load all of your files (images, etc.).
A content delivery network allows you to eliminate this delay. A CDN will use a server close to you to deliver your content when called upon. It’s this efficiency that allows your website to load faster.
Setting Up Amazon CloudFront
Still on the General Settings page, scroll down until you see the Content Delivery Network settings. Check the Enable box, and under CDN Type select Amazon CloudFront. Save your changes and you should now see a bunch of new messages at the top of the screen.
Go to the CDN Settings page from the drop-down menu at the top and scroll down to the Configuration section. To fill in this information, you’re going to have to input some data from Amazon.
[Note]: Technically Amazon S3 and CloudFront are not free, but they’re awfully close. It costs roughly 15 cents per GB of monthly bandwidth transfer, which most of us won’t come close to using. Not a bad way to make use of the change you find in your couch.
Once you’ve signed up, head to the Account tab and select Security Credentials.
You’ll want to copy your Access Key ID and Secret Access Key and paste them into their respective WordPress fields.
Now, you can scroll up to the top of the Amazon web services screen and click on the Sign in to the AWS Management Console link. This will take you to your management page.
Click on the Amazon S3 tab and select Create Bucket. Name your bucket (preferably something short) and go back and enter in that name in the Bucket field of WordPress.
In the management console, select the Amazon CloudFront tab. Click Create Distribution, select your bucket under Origin, and click Create. When the State column goes from ‘InProgress’ to ‘Deployed’ (takes a few minutes) we’re ready to move on.
See where it says Domain Name? Copy what’s in front of
and paste it into the hostname field in WordPress. Click Test CloudFront upload and save your changes to make sure everything checks out.
Finally, head to the top of your WordPress screen and click on export your media library. Click Start and it will upload your existing media files to your CloudFront account. When finished, go through the other buttons and do the same thing.
[Note]: You only have to do this once, when you first install the plugin. Everything you upload to your media folder from here on out will automatically get copied over to your CloudFront account.
The first time you visit your website after setting up W3 Total Cache it should load at normal speed or even slower than usual. Don’t be alarmed, as this is normal. Click refresh and see how much it speeds up your WordPress blog!
What do you think of this plugin? Let us know in the comments below.