The Why?

Let’s start off with why I performed these tests in the first place?

There are plenty of tests that show how much Caching plugins help improve load times. The problem with these tests is they’re a one off – and are prone to error at best and manipulation at worst. What I was really interested in finding out was do caching plugins, when combined with MaxCDN & Cloudflare, actually improve site speed over a longer timeframe?

So to perform these tests, I’ve progressively setup Speed Studies on our 8 Live WordPress Sites over the last 9 weeks to find out which MaxCDN Cloudflare Caching combo is truly the fastest.

The Speed Study Goal

My goal when I conduct Speed Studies is to find out which strategies are the best at improving site speed.

I’ll implement each strategy using the following approach:

  1. Setup the strategy on all 8 of our live test sites
  2. Then for the following 3 weeks, use hourly monitoring via GT Metrix to independently gather the load times. To eliminate the possibility of location bias, I change the test servers each week, starting in Dallas, then London and finishing off in Sydney.
  3. Next measure the impact of each strategy by comparing the average speed before and after.
  4. Ultimately decide whether the strategy works?

The Contenders

Let’s quickly run through the 3 WordPress Caching Plugins that were tested with MaxCDN & Cloudflare:

WP Super Cache

WP Super Cache is a free caching plugin, with over 1+ million active installs.

W3 Total Cache

W3 Total Cache is also a free caching plugin with over 1+ million active installs.

WP Rocket

WP Rocket is a premium caching plugin that costs $39/year for 1 site.

The Results – 31 Dec 2017

After 9 weeks of testing, let’s take a look at how our individual hosts performed with MaxCDN, Cloudflare plus each Caching plugin:

Fastest MaxCDN Cloudflare Caching Combo - Individual Host Performance

Major Observations

  • When we look into which MaxCDN Cloudflare Caching Combo produced the fastest load times for each host, we find that:
    1. MaxCDN, Cloudflare & WP Rocket was fastest for 4 of our 8 hosts. It also recorded an overall average load time of 2.16s
    2. MaxCDN, Cloudflare & W3 Total Cache was also fastest for 4 of our 8 hosts and recorded a slightly slower average load time of 2.22s
    3. WP Super Cache was off the pace with an average load time of 2.59s
  • Therefore the overall observation from where I sit is that if your looking for a MaxCDN, Cloudflare Caching combo to help speed up your site, I would recommend going for W3 Total Cache as it is almost the fastest, plus more importantly, it is FREE!!

MaxCDN Impact

When we compare how our individual hosts performed with each Caching plugin with Cloudflare but without MaxCDN:

Fastest WP Cloudflare Caching Combo - Individual Host Performance

Major Observations

  • The previous results from the tests of Caching plugins with Cloudflare but without MaxCDN, show that:
    1. Surprisingly, the addition of MaxCDN actually slowed down the average load times for all 3 caching plugins. And the slower speeds were significant, ranging from 57% slower for WP Super Cache out to 115% for W3 Total Cache. This is not what you would expect out of MaxCDN, considering it is a premium product that has a minimum usage charge of $9/month.
  • Therefore in our quest to find the best path to a fast loading site, I would continue to recommend Cloudflare + W3 Total Cache as they are clearly stepping up our site speed, and at the bargain basement price of FREE!!

So the Best Combo is…

Fastest WordPress Caching Plugin
Fastest WordPress Caching Plugin