W3 Total Cache - A Versatile Caching Plugin You Need for Outstanding WordPress Loading Time (Review 2021)

W3 Total Cache - A Versatile Caching Plugin You Need for Outstanding WordPress Loading Time (Review 2021)

A faster website means better search ranking, more visitors, and conversions. One way to get your website to load fast is by using a caching plugin. A caching plugin stores a version of your pages in cached so this eliminates the need for WordPress to run PHP scripts. As a result, your site becomes faster and your server becomes more responsive. 

Among many caching plugins in WordPress, which plugin is the best for you?

You should check out W3 Total Cache, the extraordinary caching plugin that offers a complete framework for website speed optimization.

Getting Started

W3 Total Cache (W3TC) is a freemium caching plugin with complete frameworks for website performance optimization (WPO). It offers caching abilities like Page Cache, Database Cache, Browser Cache, Object Cache, CDN integration, and more. Once configured, the plugin provides at least a 10x improvement in overall site performance. Therefore, you can improve both the SEO and user experience of your WordPress site with W3 Total Cache.

With over 1+ million active installs on WordPress, W3 Total Cache is the preferred caching plugin for web developers and experts worldwide. This plugin is not the easiest to use considering the advanced features it offers. However, it already has a big community with a rich knowledge base about how to install and properly configure it, so you can rest assured to use it.

One thing you should know about W3 Total Cache is that you can use the plugin for free. In addition to that, compared to other free caching plugins, W3 Total Cache integrates beautifully with CDN and has object caching, minification, and other advanced features.

What Does W3 Total Cache Do?

W3 Total Cache improves your server performance by caching every aspect of your site, minifying script files, reducing the download times, and providing CDN (content delivery network) integration. Subsequently, your website can load faster and get a better user experience.

Read more: How to Increase Website Speed and Get A Lightning Fast Website in 2021

How Does W3 Total Cache Work?

W3 Total Cache is a complete framework: caching, minification, lazy-loading, and CDN integration. What’s different with W3 Total Cache is the plugin remedies numerous performance-reducing aspects of any website going far beyond merely reducing CPU usage (load) and bandwidth consumption for HTML pages alone. Most importantly, it’s the only plugin designed to optimize all practical hosting environments small or large.

The main focus of W3 Total Cache is caching all aspects of a website, including:

  • Pages and posts
  • CSS and JavaScript
  • Feeds (site, categories, tags, comments, search results) 
  • Search results pages (i.e. URIs with query string variables)
  • Database objects
  • Objects in memory or on disk
  • Fragments in memory or on disk

Apart from that, it uses caching methods, such as Local Disk, Redis, Memcached, APC, APCu, eAccelerator, XCache, and WinCache

As for the minification & defer, W3 Total Cache uses several open-source tools to attempt to combine and optimize CSS, JavaScript, and HTML. It works by minifying script files including:

  • CSS, JavaScript, and HTML with granular control
  • Posts, pages, and RSS feeds
  • Inline, embedded, or 3rd party JavaScript & CSS with automated updates to assets
  • Defer non-critical CSS and Javascript for faster rendering
  • Defer offscreen images using Lazy Load to improve the user experience

Equally important, the plugin requires no theme modifications, modifications to your .htaccess (mod_rewrite rules), or programming compromises to get started. The options are many and setup is easy.

Please note that prior to W3 Total Cache installation, you need to make sure that you uninstall all other caching plugins. If you do not do this prior to installing, the plugin will have issues upon activation.

What Are the Features of W3 Total Cache?

Some key features of W3 Total Cache included in the free plugins are:

  • Page Caching
  • Browser Caching
  • Database Caching
  • Object Caching
  • Minification
  • Automatic CDN support
  • Lazy Loading of Images/Media

Page Caching

As it should be, W3 Total Cache provides page caching. It is responsible for creating static cache pages for each page that is loaded, so it is not being dynamically loaded upon each page load. Having this enabled will significantly decrease your load time on the website.

Browser Caching

With W3 Total Cache, you can set up browser caching with a time limit. Therefore, every time a user visits a website, the plugin will download all the images, CSS files, JavaScripts, and other static files in a temporary folder to enhance the user experience. This way when the same user goes to the next page, it will load much faster because all the static files are in their browser cache.

Database Caching

There is database caching included in W3 Total Cache to reduce the server load by caching SQL queries. This eliminates the processing time of querying the database. However, this feature seems to put a lot of load on the server. Therefore, we recommend you turn it off. Instead, it ended turning on the built-in SQL caching for you. 

Object Caching

For you who have a highly dynamic website, then using Object Caching in W3 Total Cache will help. This is mainly used if you have complex database queries that are expensive to regenerate. However, this feature is unnecessary for most beginners.

Minification

The minification feature in W3 Total Cache simply reduces the size of your static files to save you every single kilobyte that you can. The plugin minifies CSS, JavaScript, and HTML files to speed up the loading time.

Automatic CDN support

Apart from the caching feature, W3 Total Cache also provides CDN support. Moreover, W3 Total Cache has some of the most comprehensive CDN options available out of any caching plugin to reduce loading time. It has direct integrations with StackPath, Amazon Cloudfront, MaxCDN, and more.

Lazy-loading of Images/ Media

One more great feature provided by W3 Total Cache is lazy loading. Lazy loading prevents loading off-screen images until needed, speeding up the overall load time of your website.

Usually, you’d have to install an additional plugin specifically built for lazy-loading. But with this feature in W3 Total Cache, you don’t have to get a separate plugin for lazy loading.

W3 Total Cache Pro

The free plugin by W3 Total Cache has provided great features you need for optimizing your website performance. However, with W3 Total Cache Pro you will get additional features, including:

Caching Statistics

W3 Total Cache Pro provides advanced metrics about your site’s performance that help you diagnose previously unknown performance issues with your site, web server, MySQL, etc.

Fragment Caching

This feature allows you to control the caching times for comments, eCommerce, and other interactive elements. Hence, it ensures performance is maintained, while users see the most up-to-date content available.

Full Site Delivery

Full site delivery is a modern technique to get even faster speeds when paired with a CDN. You can use this feature in W3 Total Cache Pro so your users can enjoy a lightning-fast website.

Others

Besides those additional features, W3 Total Cache Pro also provides other options. You will get Rest API caching, extension support for the Genesis Framework, WPML, and more. Additionally, you can optimize your Google Maps with the lazy load for Google Maps.

Why Should I Use W3 Total Cache?

There is a free plugin

You can use all basic features for website performance optimization in W3 Total Cache for free. The features included are caching, minification, lazy loading, and CDN.

Does improve website loading time impressively

According to the speed test result from Google PageSpeed, W3 Total Cache impressively improves website performance by accelerating page loading time. Moreover, the performance boost happened from only a little configuration even in the W3 Total Cache free plugin.

Great caching features

The caching features in W3 Total Cache cover all kinds of caching. The plugin provides browser caching, page caching, object caching, fragment caching, and database caching. Most other caching plugins usually only come with one or two of those options.

CDN support

Not only caching, but W3 Total Cache also has a comprehensive CDN integration. You can use almost all major CDN providers with W3 Total Cache without any hassle.

Great knowledge base

W3 Total Cache is one of the most popular caching plugins for WordPress. Therefore, it has a big community with a great knowledge base on how to. So, you can find tutorials on W3 Total Cache easily on the internet.

Read also: List of 8 Best Plugins for WordPress Speed Optimization in 2021

Is W3 Total Cache Free?

W3 Total Cache offers a free plugin with limited support. You still can enjoy the caching, minification, and CDN features to get a lightning-fast website.

How Much Does W3 Total Cache Cost?

If you want to maximize your website’s speed, even more, you can upgrade to W3 Total Cache Pro. With the Pro version, you can unlock advanced analytics, fragment caching, full site delivery, extension support, and other tools.

The pricing for W3 Total Cache is $99.00 for an annual subscription.

How to Set Up W3 Total Cache?

Setting up W3 Total Cache on your WordPress site is quite tricky for beginners. Follow the following steps:

  • Search and install “W3 Total Cache” in the plugin section on your WordPress admin dashboard.
  • Go to the performance section and click general settings to start your configuration.
  • Scroll down to the page cache option and enable it. Leave the page cache method as “Disk Enhanced”.
  • Scroll down to the minification option then enable the minify option and leave all the rest of the options to their defaults.
  • Enable other features including database cache, browser cache, and lazy loading.

How to Use W3 Total Cache?

For some that like to learn from a video tutorial, you can check out tutorials below :

Pros

  • A comprehensive framework for website optimization
  • Provides free plugin that is great
  • Complete caching features
  • Improve website performance impressively

Cons

  • Plugin configuration is quite overwhelming
  • Not suitable for beginners

What Are the Alternatives to W3 Total Cache?

Besides W3 Total Cache, there are several website speed optimization plugins that you can use:

Conclusion

W3 Total Cache is one of the most popular and versatile WordPress plugins for caching websites. It comes with all types of caching, minification of JS and CSS files, CDN, lazy loading, and more. Considering the complete configuration options, this plugin is suitable for website developers. The plugin provides excellent documentation packed right into the plugin. There are also some excellent tutorials available online. Moreover, there is a free plugin of W3 Total Cache that you can use to boost website performance. However, the configuration setting can be overwhelming for beginners.

References

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