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WordPress Caching, Part 1: The Basics

Caching (on the internet) is the act of storing computationally expensive calculations in a way that can be recovered very quickly with the smallest possible impact on the server.

Or, in short, ‘speeding stuff up’.

In this series of posts I will be showing you how you can speed up your WordPress blog. I’ll start with the basics and then move on to how I cache external data in my WordPress theme – Elemental.

WordPress Caching, part 1

Caching Plugins

By far the most popular caching plugin is WP_Super_Cache, but there is a new plugin which I have tested recently called W3 Total Cache.

WP_Super_Cache is a plugin that stores copies of your generated pages as flat html files. This then means that, unless something changes (new post/ comment), subsequent visits do not need to touch the database saving a lot of processing and generally speeding up your website.

W3 Total Cache does everything that WP_Super_Cache does and more. It also helps you manage your CDN (Content Delivery Network), cache database queries, and minify JavaScript and CSS. This plugin was developed by Frederick Townes, the CTO at Mashable, which is a high traffic site so it’s definitely worth taking a look if you’re interested in getting the best speed… however it’s a lot more technical than WP_Super_Cache so requires more configuration. The benefit of W3 Total Cache is that it caches as much, or as little, as you like. Additionally it can cache as flat text files (like WP_Super_Cache) or using memory caching solutions like Memcached.

WordPress built in caching

Something many WordPress developers don’t realise is that WordPress has caching functionality built-in.

Ever since WordPress version 2.0 there has been a caching class used to store previously calculated data. However these are best used when combined with server software such as Memcached or APC to speed up the site massively. Unfortunately many users, especially those on shared hosts, can’t use these services which is one of the reasons plugins like WP_Super_Cache have become so popular.

Any caching you can add to your website will improve performance, and this series will focus on the types of caching that can be applied to plugins and themes, that will benefit everyone. Caching that will speed up any blog – including those on shared hosts that do not have access to MySQL/ PHP settings, or the ability to install software such as Memcached and APC.

In WordPress Caching, part 2, I am going to show you how you can make use of the built-in caching to speed up your themes and plugins, even if you don’t have the server-side software (such as Memcached) installed.

Ben View All

Ben is a lifelong Nintendo fan who also likes to build websites, and develop games. He also buys way too much Lego.

14 thoughts on “WordPress Caching, Part 1: The Basics Leave a comment

  1. Im not 100% sure on this but

    “W3 Total Cache does everything that WP_Super_Cache does and more.”

    I don’t think that is right. WP Super Cache & W3 Total Cache, but cache WordPress, but go about it differently. W3 Total Cache doesn’t make html files.

    Sorry if Im wrong about this!

    • W3 Total Cache does indeed make static files. That’s actually what I am using on this blog right now. It also lets you use memcache or other caching systems as well. It’s really a very cool system. I’ve been testing it on Binary Moon for a month or two now and it’s been going really well.

      • ah sorry my mistake 🙁

        I really need to read up about the setting in it. Thanks for the great post

      • no problem – I had the same thoughts before I started using it. I stuck with W3 Total Cache for ages because I thought my server didn’t support memcache or any of those other systems.

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  4. I was using WP Super Cache for a long time and satisfied with it. But when W3 Total Cache becomes a popular plugin, which is said everywhere, I start using it. And it doesn’t disappoint me. It has many features, especially the minify and using CDN. Now I use it for all my WP blogs 🙂

    • Yeah – w3 total cache is really nice. I notice the site you link to is on blogspot though. Do you have other sites as well?

  5. W3 Total Cache does page caching and it’s really nice. GZIP compression has some issues on certain browsers though.

    • Hi Steve – you’re probably better off asking the plugin developers how to get them working, but I’ll give it a go 🙂

      Firstly, if you’re having problems I would go for WP Super Cache – it’s a lot easier to install and setup. All you have to do is upload the plugin to the plugins directory on your server (wp-content/plugins) and then enable it. After that it tells you if theres anything else you need to do to make it function.

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