W3 Total Cache is one of the best WordPress cache plugins ever. It has been downloaded thousands of times, and it’s one of the widely used WordPress plugins for reducing the server load. I have crashed lots of shared servers, and this plugin does help a lot. Out of all the plugins; this is a must get! Even though many bloggers and webmasters use this plugin, very few can configure it with the proper settings. Let’s face it when you download and install it you’re probably going to be like, “Oh, crap what do I do?”!
This post will provide you with the in-depth knowledge of how to use W3 Total Cache Plugin, so your site remains optimal.
Now the thing to remember is that each of the caching features comes with a general setting and an advanced setting. For most configuring, the general settings are enough for your site to perform optimally. But, in case you want to use this plugin to its maximum potential, this article will show you everything you can do with it.
Page cache works in a very simple way. It caches your page’s static files so that they are rendered fast when a visitor visits your blog. Page cache reduces the response time of your site and increases the scale of your web server.
The general settings are relatively straightforward. All it contains is the option whether to enable page cache on your site and the method to use.
There are two methods of page cache – Disk: Basic and Disk: Enhanced. For the best performance, select the Disk: Enhanced option.
The advanced settings are for advanced users, and it has quite a lot of options. Sometimes it might overwhelm amateur bloggers or webmasters seeing so many options.
The very first thing that you will find is some more options for the Page cache and how they should perform. Some of the options include caching the home page, feeds, 404 pages and whether not to cache pages for logged in users or more specifically Administrators, Editors and other members on your site.
Next, comes the Preload features. Preloading is an advanced part of caching. There has been a lot of discussions about whether to use Preloading features that come with both the W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache. Preloading the cache does increase your server side responses, but it also creates lots of cache files. The more posts you have on your blog, the more cache files it generates.
It also depends on the type of hosting. It would not be a good idea if you had hundreds of posts on your blog and a shared hosting. So, my best suggestion would be if you want to use the Preload feature, ask your host first. Some hosts are not too optimistic about customers using the preload because it eats up their disk space.
Then comes the Purge Policy settings. Purging of cache simply means you delete the old cache files so that new ones can be generated. Ideally, you want to purge your cache of some pages when your posts are updated, or a new post is published like the home page, the post page itself and your blog feed. In this case, the default setting is enough.
After this you will find some more advanced settings which I would recommend to leave them as it is. Too many changes can mess up your blog completely. Believe me I am speaking from years of experience.
The general settings consist of some simple settings which include enabling Minify and choosing the methods of minification. It is also best to leave the minify mode to Auto. You can choose Manual, but then you will have to manually specify the HTML, JS and CSS files that you want to minify which could be time-consuming depending on your site. Not to mention you could screw stuff up.
Also, note here is that if you’re using a CDN that minifies files, this one will be automatically turned off. For example, I use Cloudflare and so the setting on W3 Total Cache is turned off.
Also, while choosing minifiers for HTML, CSS, and JS, it is best to choose the default ones and not to tinker much with other ones.
The advanced settings consist of a lot of features, and I’m going to focus on what’s important which is the Inline minification. Inline codes simply mean the codes that are present on your site and which are not requested externally by an https protocol.
It is recommended that you enable minification for inline HTML, CSS and JS because it renders your pages quicker and results in a quicker server response.
Here’s an image of recommended settings that you should follow.
Database caching is also a great way to reduce your server load time and it also decreases the time it takes to create posts and pages. However, there have been certain issues when caching databases has caused a problem on the server side for some sites. It has also been known to increase the load on the server. So, it is recommended you ask your host first.
For using database cache, I would recommend that you ask your host about it before turning it on. When it comes to settings, just enabling it should be on. You can leave the advanced settings as it is. Tinkering with databases is not recommended because WordPress runs on PHP and MySQL databases and any problem could mess up your site.
Object caching is suitable for highly dynamic sites which contain complex database queries. It reduces the response time for queries and some common operations.
The browser cache is the most significant cache and should always be enabled. When it is enabled, the static files of your website (HTML, CSS, and JS) are cached in your visitor’s browser, and whenever they come back to your site, those cached files are used for rendering and the rest are loaded from the server resulting in a reduced load time.
The general settings are fairly simple which you just have to enable it.
The advanced settings have a lot of options. The Advanced settings have options for individual settings for HTML, CSS and JS and general settings for making the features enabled on all of them. So, using the general settings is enough.
I recommend you see the image below for the options that you might want to use.
W3 Total Cache also lets you integrate CDN with it. It results in a better caching plugin and a very fast site performance since your site is now connected to a CDN.
You get a lot of options for integrating CDNs. But remember that, you will also have to individually configure the settings, FTP and zones and all that fun stuff.
If you’re using CloudFlare as a CDN, then it’s relatively easy to integrate with W3 Total Cache. All you have to do is use the API key which you can find in the Accounts section.
You can also use the Rocket Loader that comes with Cloudflare which asynchronously loads all the JS files enabling your other contents to load freely on your site. It also supports minification of HTML, CSS, and JS files.
Currently, it has 23 data centers around the world, so if you’re looking for a free CDN to speed up your site, then Cloudflare is the way to go.
It’s true that there are too many settings to configure when you’re using W3 Total Cache, but it’s also one of the best to make your site run smooth.