Beyond Super Cache: W3 Total Cache

Donncha O Caoimh’s WP Super Cache plugin has become very popular in the WordPress community, especially with bloggers with medium-traffic blogs on shared hosting plans.

But what if you’re running on your own server, be it VPS, dedicated, or something else along those lines? What can you do to squeeze some extra performance out of your high-traffic blog?

Enter W3 Total Cache, a plugin that the infamously slow-loading blog Noupe has recently started using to combat the sluggishness that their constant social media hits cause. It can do a lot of things, including:

  • Offloading static content to a CDN, if you have one.
  • Minifying and compressing your CSS and JavaScript files, and caching them in memory or disk.
  • Caching RSS in memory or disk.
  • Ensuring that browsers cache things, such as images, CSS and JavaScript on their end for future page loads.
  • Caching database objects in memory.

The plugin’s biggest feature is probably its support of various memory caching systems, such as memcached, APC, and XCache to store things in memory. This makes things very fast. Hard disks are a major bottleneck in servers. If you put frequently requested information in RAM, it can be served a lot faster. Try visiting a page on Noupe. It may load a little slow the first time if the page hadn’t been viewed recently, so you may have to load it again a second time. Things are real fast once they’re in the RAM cache.

I’m thinking of trying it out for myself in the future, once I go through with my plans to move from Apache to NGINX server software, which should free-up a bit of my RAM.