When it comes to developing an efficient, conversion-generating WordPress site, speed is crucial. Studies have shown that users will leave a site that does not load in seconds. While there are many caching tools that can help you improve your site’s performance, it can be difficult to decide which one will best suit your needs.
The two main contenders for the title of best WordPress caching plugin are
- W3 Total Cache: a feature-rich solution that offers a variety of settings to meticulously configure the caching of your site.
- WP Super Cache: a more simplified but no less powerful option, which is very suitable for high traffic websites.
In this article we’ll explain why using a WordPress Cache Plugin is a smart decision. Next we’ll make a direct comparison of WP Super Cache vs. W3 Total Cache. Let’s get started!
##Why you might need a cache plugin on your WordPress site
Before analyzing WP Super Cache vs. W3 Total Cache, it is important to clarify what caching is and what it can do for your site. Essentially, a “cache” is a temporary area of high-speed access. It stores recently used information, so it can be quickly accessed later. As such, caching can be used to save and display a “static” version of your site’s content to visitors.
There are several reasons why caching is beneficial for your site. There are several reasons why caching is beneficial to your site:
- Significantly improve speed and performance: this is because caching allows frequently accessed files to be obtained from a proxy cache, which is a much faster process than obtaining files from a remote server.
- Reduce your site’s bandwidth consumption: this means less network congestion and (potentially) more money saved.
- Ensure that your site’s content is available at all times: for example, if your site is interrupted due to a network failure, the cached content can still be displayed to visitors.
- Improve search engine optimization (SEO): Because search engines use speed as a positioning factor, reducing your site’s latency can be beneficial.
- Reduce the load on your server: in addition to improving speed, this can also free up server memory.
Considering the many advantages of caching, developers will be pleased to know that there are numerous WordPress plugins that make the process extremely easy. WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache are two of the best and most flexible options. With that in mind, let’s explore WP Super Cache vs. W3 Total Cache, and see which plugin takes the crown.
WP Super Cache vs W3 Total Cache: Direct Comparison
In this next section we’ll look at the key differences between WP Super Cache vs. W3 Total Cache. We’ll also discuss how each scores in terms of installation, major features, pricing, and support.
Let’s start by taking a closer look at WP Super Cache:
WP Super Cache was created by Automattic, the company behind WordPress. It allows you to generate static HTML files that your web server can display to your site’s visitors. This is a much faster alternative to WordPress PHP script processing, which can be expensive and slow.
WP Super Cache has three methods for delivering cached files. Expert’, the fastest method, can help ensure that your site performs well under pressure from heavy traffic (making it useful for scalability). The ‘Simple’ method is not as fast, but allows files to be delivered with sections that remain dynamic. The last method, ‘WP-Cache’, works for users who are logged in. It ensures that they receive reliable performance when performing actions on your site.
Since WP Super Cache is simple, relatively light, and easy to set up, it is a good option for those who are relatively new to WordPress. It can also synchronize with your Content Delivery Network (CDN), which means you can increase your site’s speed even more.
Like WP Super Cache, W3 Total Cache can be integrated seamlessly with your CDN. However, it also saves bandwidth by minimizing and compressing the files on your site. In fact, the versatile compression and rendering settings of this plug-in can improve speed and overall performance by up to 10 times. It also contains features to significantly reduce your site’s download times, further enhancing the user experience in the process.
W3 Total Cache differs from WP Super Cache in that it works independently of the server used. This means that it can serve as a reliable caching solution, regardless of your hosting provider. In comparison, WP Super Cache works better on low-powered servers.
We’ll take a closer look at the features of W3 Total Cache vs. WP Super Cache below. First, let’s see how easy each WordPress Cache Plugin is to use. Ease of Configuration
As with any WordPress Plugin, you can install WP Super Cache or W3 Total Cache by navigating to Plugins > Add New on your desktop. Then, simply type the name of the plugin you want to install in the search bar. Click Install Now and don’t forget to Activate the Plugin when that option appears:
WP Super Cache vs W3 Total Cache
With that solved, let’s see how these plugins diverge in terms of configuration. We’ll start with W3 Total Cache.
You’ll notice that when you install and activate W3 Total Cache, a new menu called Performance will appear in your panel. To complete the plugin’s configuration, you need to go to Performance > General Settings, and then scroll through all the settings that appear. Select Save all settings for each option when you are satisfied with the settings you have chosen:
The W3 Total Cache General Settings page
This process can be intimidating, especially if you’re new to caching. Fortunately, W3 Total Cache has a FAQ wiki that provides information on how to best configure the plugin for your site.
The WP Super Cache configuration process is much easier by comparison. Once you have installed and activated the plugin, go to Settings > WP Super Cache on your desktop. You should see two simple options for enabling or disabling the cache. Choose the Cache on option, press the Update Status button and you’re done:
For this round of WP Super Cache vs. W3 Total Cache, it is quite obvious that the former wins. However, this is largely due to the fact that WP Super Cache doesn’t have as much functionality as its opponent, and is more suitable for simple caching for low-powered servers.
Under the hood, both plug-ins offer robust features to help you improve website performance and user experience. The main point of difference boils down to how versatile these features are, and how they can be configured to better address your site’s caching requirements.
Again, we’ll start with W3 Total Cache. Some of the key features of the plugin include:
- Ability to import attachments directly into a CDN or WordPress media library.
- Browser caching through the Cache-General-header field.
- Full mobile support.
- Caching for search results and database objects.
- Works with CDN.
There are some important advantages that W3 Total Cache has over WP Super Cache. The first is that the premium version offers Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificates, which add an extra dimension of security to your cached data. SSL certificates can also play a role in improving your site’s SEO.
As mentioned above, another great advantage of W3 Total Cache is that it can insert scripts into Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP). This can help ensure that your site’s performance is optimized for users accessing your site from mobile devices.
Finally, we should mention that one of the main strengths of W3 Total Cache lies in its pre-caching capabilities. You can easily adjust the intervals at which your site is cached, both in disk and in memory.
Now, let’s move on to WP Super Cache. Some of the key features of the plugin include
- Extensive mod_rewrite capabilities for static caching (which is significantly faster than PHP-generated HTML caching)
- Automatic page compression.
- Basic caching functions.
- Works with CDN.
- Easy to use export capabilities that allow you to transfer your caching settings to additional sites easily.
- Compatible with mobile devices.
WP Super Cache has the advantage over W3 Total Cache in a couple of crucial areas. For one thing, it can configure your settings to change the order in which your WordPress Plugins load. This means that you can prioritize your most important, user-related Plugins to load extra fast, improving the user experience in the process.
However, for this round of WP Super Cache vs. W3 Total Cache, we have to give W3 Total Cache the win. Although its many features can be intimidating, they will give your site a significant performance boost if used correctly. This is particularly important if you are developing a WordPress site for a company or an eCommerce site
Although WP Super Cache is a fairly powerful WordPress caching plugin, capable of running on high traffic sites, it is completely free. Considering that WP Super Cache is consistently ranked among the best WordPress cache plugin options, it’s a great choice if you have a limited budget but need a viable solution.
The free version of W3 Total Cache also contains an excellent feature set, as well as an extensible framework. It is fully compatible with Cloudflare and New Relic performance improvement software, as well as the WPML Plugin (allowing it to be easily translated for multilingual sites)
W3 Total Cache Pro (available for $99) offers many additional features. These include:
- Fragmented cache: This extends caching capabilities to dynamic site components (i.e. a logged-in user’s profile page or an online store product page).
- Unique Extension Framework: Third parties can contribute to troubleshooting your site, without requiring access to the core as a developer. In turn, this can significantly deflate your site and improve overall performance.
- Genesis Framework Support: W3 Total Cache Pro can deliver fragmented caching for this extremely powerful WordPress theme, increasing overall load speeds by up to 60%.
In addition to the benefits offered by W3 Total Cache Pro, users have the option to purchase premium solutions specific to the plug-in. These include performance auditing, troubleshooting services, and a full Plugin configuration service. Prices for these solutions range from $250 to $350.
When weighing WP Super Cache vs. W3 Total Cache in terms of cost, the best choice comes down to what type of WordPress site you intend to develop. If you have a simple website to promote your business, which requires minimal user interaction, WP Super Cache can serve as an efficient and cost-effective solution.
However, if your site (or multisite network) contains a variety of e-commerce features, it is worth investing in the fragmented caching solutions offered by W3 Total Cache Pro. This is also a perfect solution if you want to further increase the performance of your site through CDN mirroring. Support
Support is an important factor to consider when choosing the best WordPress caching plugin. Often, it can be difficult to decide which particular caching features will most benefit your site (especially if you’re not familiar with the terminology).
The good news is that both WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache are well supported. In addition to having frequently updated support forums on WordPress.org, both options are supported by comprehensive areas of FAQ.
Let’s start by taking a look at WP Super Cache support. After installing, activating, and opening the plugin, you will immediately see the Need Help? menu:
WP Super Cache Menu Need help?
From this menu, you can instantly access the main support functions of the plugin. In addition to the FAQ page and the support forum, there is also a Debugging tab. This useful feature allows you to type in an IP address to debug the plugin, as well as set up your cache to clear the data when an error is detected.
The WordPress.org for WP Super Cache page also contains a useful summary of recommended settings. This is useful if you don’t have caching requirements specific to your site.
Of course, because W3 Super Cache contains more advanced features than WP Super Cache, its FAQ and support forum are much more extensive. There are also many online guides to optimally configure this robust WordPress cache plugin for maximum performance.
Once you start exploring the many configurations of W3 Super Cache, you may find complex issues specific to your site’s configuration. To help you quickly resolve these issues, the Plugin offers Premium Support Response (although the price is quite high, $250).
When analyzing WP Super Cache vs. W3 Total Cache in terms of support, the second option is the winner. Although you may have to pay for premium support, W3 Total Cache allows you to solve complex problems quickly and reliably (without having to read the documentation carefully). It also includes a free option to submit bug reports..