Good website performance is critical. Visitors won’t stay long on a site that doesn’t perform well. You spend a lot of time and effort to get visitors to your site so you don’t want to lose them once they get there.
So what’s the fastest way to improve your WordPress site performance? Through caching.
Why caching? Because pulling website content out of server memory to send to a visitor’s browser is a lot faster than retrieving it from your WordPress database. A whole lot faster. Caching will store the most frequently requested data from your website in memory thereby making your website perform significantly better.
What caching plugin is best to use with WordPress? Well, actually, the best caching solution is not a plugin at all. The best type of caching is done before a website page request even hits your WordPress server—through a caching server. And the best caching server out there is Varnish Cache.
Varnish Cache is a very powerful open source caching solution that can speed up your WordPress site by up to 1000 percent! Varnish sits in front of your web server and acts both as a powerful caching server as well as a reverse HTTP proxy. This means Varnish can both handle lightning-fast website page requests as well as an almost unlimited number of simultaneous visitors (something that the Apache web server, which is often used with WordPress, is not very good at). And if configured correctly, Varnish Cache can even protect you against server outages—if the website content is in Varnish cache memory, your content will continue to get served.
One of the challenges of Varnish, however, is that unless you are fairly technical, it is not real easy to set up on your WordPress server. It is a whole lot easier to install a WordPress caching plugin, like W3 Total Cache. But W3 Total Cache doesn’t come close to performing anywhere near the speed of Varnish. (It does some things pretty well, but page caching is not one of them.) And even still these caching plugins require some configuration which is not super intuitive. So what do you do?
Well, fortunately, a number of managed WordPress hosting solutions have pre-installed and preconfigured Varnish Cache for you so you don’t have to. DreamPress from DreamHost is a good example of a managed WordPress hosting service that sets up and configures Varnish during provisioning. And because of that, you do not need to install any WordPress caching plugins. (DreamPress even adds a few other caching solutions to make it go even faster than with just Varnish Cache alone.)
One thing to keep in mind when using a caching solution like Varnish is that when you are adding new content to your WordPress server, such as a new blog post, that new content will not be in Varnish cache. Also if you are editing something major, like the appearance of your website through CSS changes, you won’t see the changes right away. That is until you clear, or flush, the cache.
Because of that, DreamPress includes a Varnish cache management plugin to help you deal with updating and managing changes to your WordPress website. For example, the plugin handles many of these issues for you:
- Whenever you add a new post, page or media object, edit a menu, etc., the Varnish cache plugin automatically refreshes the front page along with the new post, page or media object. This allows you to see your changes on the live site. When content is refreshed, the first time it is accessed, it will initially get pulled from the database. Once it has been accessed by a visitor, it will be back in the cache memory.
- The entire cache is purged whenever you change themes, change permalinks, or press a button that the plugin places in the WordPress dashboard.
- Because the plugin doesn’t know when you do anything outside of WordPress, such as modify the CSS directly, it has a way for you to manually refresh the cache. Again this is done with either one of the purge Varnish Cache buttons. This allows you to clear the cache, so that subsequent requests to a page will pull in the new CSS or other change you have made and make them available in cache memory.
Make sure you are getting the absolute best performance possible with your WordPress website. Choose a managed WordPress hosting service that includes Varnish cache. You will be glad you did.