This is the holy grail, what all us WordPress site owners are looking for. Everyday we look for ways to make WordPress perform better than it did before in order to provide the end user with the best experience possible. There are lots of ways to speed up WordPress just by following basic rules like choosing a well coded theme without a lot of junk, not using a tremendous amount of plugins, and reduce the number of external calls and queries you site makes. But the truth is that these adjustments will only get you so far. Once you have done all you can do with that, then its time to take this to next level.
The real game changer in terms of site performance especially on WordPress based sites is the proper use of caching. Most of you have heard of and or use WP-Super Cache and for years it has been the king of the castle when it comes to caching for WP and was considered a must have plugin if you were running WordPress, until now. While WP-Super Cache is an excellent plugin it is limited and while it has improved on its core functions it hasn’t added any new innovations and like with all things eventually a new kids comes onto the scene. W3 Total Cache is that new kid and its gets our full endorsement as the best caching plugin available for WordPress, one that we use right here at ZoKnowsGaming.com. W3 Total Cache is the brain child of Mashable.com CTO, Frederick Townes, and if you are not using it then you are missing something excellent. W3 Total Cache gives you much more granular control than WP-Super Cache and will work in both a shared hosting environment as well as with a dedicated server though a bit more configuration is required with dedicated servers to get maximum performance. W3 Total Cache allows you to adjust the caching of things like the Page Cache, Database Cache, Browser Cache and Object Cache just to name a few.
For those of you that don’t know, the real value of caching plugins is that they allow you to serve up “static” copies of files your site would otherwise serve up dynamically as the user request it. The net result of not having to do that is improved site performance and speed. Now alone W3 Total Cache would be awesome, but this is where that innovation that I was talking about comes into play. W3 Total Cache also allows you to implement your very own Content Delivery Network (CDN), which basically caches your sites static files on servers all over the world and then serves them up from the “node” closest to the user. In more detail, instead of a user in Los Angeles coming back to your site that is located in Washington, DC for certain files if your CDN service provider has a node in LA then those files get delivered from LA where they are and it all happens in milliseconds. Now anyone who has ever tried improving their WordPress based site has probably used the Y Slow plugin and you have probably seen on their where it suggest you use a CDN to improve site performance but you probably thought that it was either too complicated or too expensive for you to do, well I am here to tell you that its not.
W3 Total Cache gives you the ability to use several different CDN provides such as MaxCDN and Amazon Cloudfront, at ZoKnowsGaming we decided to go with MaxCDN quite simply because their was an easy guide on how to implement it using W3 Total Cache and because as of the writing of this article they had a sale where you get 1 TB for only 39.99. On a decent size website that gets solid traffic this should last you roughly a year, give or take a few months. You go in and set up the MaxCDN account following the instructions, and then the only thing that requires a bit of skill is adding an ANAME for the CDN to redirect content through, but you could probably even ask your host with help in doing that, this has to be done wherever your domain name is registered, not necessarily where its hosted though.
So who else already uses or is planning to use after reading this article, W3 Total Cache and MaxCDN (or some other CDN service) on their WordPress based site? Did you ever think it could be this easy and affordable to set up your very own CDN? Let us know.