Caching Battle on WordPress: Varnish vs W3 Total Cache vs WP Super Cache

How to choose the best plugin for your website?

Every website is different, so it’s not possible to unilaterally declare one as “the best”. Your subjective experience with caching plugins will depend on the other plugins you’ve installed, your hosting server, and other factors.

Please don’t forget to take a backup of your website before installing any of these plugins.

Still…I’ll give you a few pointers to help you choose the most suitable one (or combination) for your website.

1. Looking for a quick, hassle-free solution to speed up your website (maybe during an expected traffic spike)?

Then you’ll like WP Super Cache.

When properly setup, you’ll find that the performance of the plugin is near to W3TC. Kim Tetzlaff performed a caching test and found the following results after setting up with Super Cache optimally.

Image from: dashboardjunkie.com

2. If you’re experienced with WordPress and looking to improve your site’s performance drastically, then W3 Total Cache is your best bet.

It will let you compress files (GZIP compression), integrate a CDN, and even dabble with your source code (minification).

Chris from RankXL saw huge loading times when he installed CloudFlare.

Image from: rankxl.com

But as soon as he installed W3TC and integrated it with CDN, his loading times were reduced drastically.

Image from: rankxl.com

Yep, that’s 362% improvement from 10 minutes of work.

And these results were seen on a Bluehost shared hosting plan.

A limitation with W3TC is page caching:

It’s difficult to guess the time for which you want a page to stay cached.

3. Varnish isn’t used as a standalone caching solution by most beginners because it needs to be installed on the server. It isn’t as easy as installing other plugins.

But when you combine it with one of the other cache plugins we discussed in the article, it’s a potent performance booster (as per WordPress codex).

Note that caching plugins will need to be tested on a live website. You’ll need to clone your website (closed to regular visitors) and create a staging environment for checking the performance of these caching plugins.

So you’ll need to install a plugin like WP Staging. The drawback is that it doesn’t keep records of the edits you make. Hence you’ll need to note all edits and perform them manually on a production site.

Alternatively, I’ll refer you to refer this tutorial by WPBeginner for creating a staging environment.

Conclusion

It’s a search engine ranking factor. It can improve your user experience. And even lift your sales. So optimize your website right away. Caching will ensure that you’ll have static pages that can be served to the visitors. You won’t need to send requests for every visitor.

On WordPress, W3 Total Cache is hands down the most powerful caching solution. But it’s not beginner-friendly and doesn’t take care of page cache very well.

Based on your requirements, expertise and available resources, you can choose the perfect caching plugin from the 3 I shared in the article.

Have you experimented with caching? Which is your favorite plugin for ensuring fast loading times? I would love to hear in the comments below.

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Written by Chintan Zalani

Chintan Zalani's work has been published in major international newspapers, blogs and websites namely Times of India, Aol Huffington Media’s CoolAge.in, Android Authority, AdPushup, ShoutmeLoud and LinkOLogy.