If you use WordPress chances are you probably are running a cache plugin to speed up your site which is a great idea. There are a number of choices out there and many swear by one called W3 Total Cache It is very full featured and offers tons of customization but it also presents a lot of potential headaches . There are numerous optimization tutorials out there and many will offer completely different recommendations. I am not saying W3 is a bad plugin and if you can manage to tweak and customize it so that it not only speeds up your site but also doesn’t alter the appearance or cause any conflicts with other plugins, your theme, or other strange behavior then more power to you.
For several weeks I had been trying to resolve a few issues. As soon as I would fix one a new one would pop up. The final straw was my recent switch to a new server and the Page Cache option on W3 resulted in 404 errors. So I decided to try out a few other cache plugins. In addition to installing and trying them out I ran my site benchmarks on Google Page Speed, GTmetrix, and Pingdom Tools to compare the results to W3.
There are likely dozens of cache plugins and I did not test them all. In fact I only tested around 6 but here are my conclusions. If you want a very simple and straightforward cache plugin that works with very little effort then go with WP Fastest Cache. The only reason I did not pick this one is because I use a CDN and it does not have a setting to include a CDN.
I went with WP Super Cache mainly because it allowed me to add my CDN but also because it offers a bit more power customization than WP Fastest cache. I think it is offers a good balance between the extreme degree of customization with W3 and the barebones of WP Fastest Cache. The best part is I did not have to sacrifice any loss of speed on my site after switching from W3 and in fact gained a few points. So my advice would be to use WP Super Cache if you have a CDN or want a few more options for customization or tweaking and use WP Fastest Cache if you do not use a CDN.
The Straw that Finally Broke This Camel’s Back
Probably one of the most annoying things about W3 Cache is any time you make any setting change at all you will get an extremely annoying popup that you have to dismiss to save the settings. If you are trying to test out various settings to optimize your speed or maybe track down a setting that is causing errors then this becomes extraordinarily annoying.
But even when you have finally found all the settings that work on your site it can be very finicky and can break with updates or new plugins. There seem to be a lot of compatibility issues. I found the minifcation settings especially troubling and it took a lot of trial and error to get my site and menus to function correctly on desktop and mobile devices with W3 cache.
Now I am not saying W3 is a bad plugin. If you can manage to get it set up and optimized for your theme and have no compatibility errors or any other funky behavior with your site then more power to you. I used it for around three months and was mostly satisfied. But I just got tired of having to track down errors several times a month. It was like a really bad codependent relationship and I simply had enough.
I have now been happily using WP Super Cache for over two weeks and it is nice to have a very fast cache plugin that doesn’t constantly ask for attention. It is also nice to know that if I want to make any change to the settings I will not have to view the face of the developer that demands attention no matter how many good reviews you leave or money you donate.