The Speed Study Goal

My goal with conducting these Speed Studies is to find out which strategies are the best at improving our 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?

Cloudflare & W3 Total Cache Speed Study

With Cloudflare proving to be a massive boost to speeds with WP Rocket in Speed Study #16 but disappointing with WP Super Cache in Speed Study #17, its time to see how W3 Total Cache performs?

To kick off this Cloudflare & W3 Total Cache Speed Study, we simply deactivate WP Super Cache and install W3 Total Cache. With Cloudflare already good to go, I followed our step by step tutorial on How to Setup W3 Total Cache with Cloudflare for each of our test sites.

All Setup

I have now followed this process on all 8 of our Live Test Sites.

Next up is 3 weeks of testing – I am curious to see whether Cloudflare & W3 Total Cache will outperform the impressive results of the combo of Cloudflare & WP Rocket?

The Results – 27th Aug 2017

After 3 weeks of testing, lets take a look at how our 8 hosts performed with W3 Total Cache paired with Cloudflare.

Speed Study 18 - Cloudflare & W3 Total Cache Results Table


So how did Cloudflare & W3 Total Cache perform compared to WP Super Cache? Well pretty amazingly, with the average load time across 3 different testing locations clocking in at 1.03s, which is a whopping 38% faster than WP Super Cache & Cloudflare.

When we dig into the 3 locations we test from, Dallas was the closest at 24%, but massive improvements were seen in London & Sydney, where speeds improved by 39% & 44% respectively. The good results continued when we check in on Page Size, Google PageSpeed Score & Yahoo YSlow Scores, will all 3 experiencing positive results.

So when it comes to making a call on whether Cloudflare performs better with W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache, the decision is really easy in picking W3 Total Cache.

It is worth noting, however, that when we look at the load times of W3 Total Cache alone (see Speed Study 14) adding Cloudflare is really helpful, as the average load times were 1.66s, which is a 38% improvement. So pairing Cloudflare with W3 Total Cache is highly recommended, especially when you consider that it’s a FREE solution!!

Individual Host Performance

Let’s now take a look at how our individual hosts performed:

Speed Study 18 - Cloudflare & W3 Total Cache - Individual Host Performance

Major Observations

  • The results are very impressive across the board when it comes to our individual hosts:
    1. GoDaddy & Lightning Base had the smallest improvements of 11% & 21% respectively
    2. The other 6 hosts experienced significant speed spikes, ranging from 39% with HostGator all the way up to 46% with Web Hosting Hub.
  • The overall observation from where I sit is that Cloudflare and W3 Total is a clear winner compared to WP Super Cache. But before I can declare W3 Total Cache as the best combo with Cloudflare, let’s check out the summary post that also incorporates WP Rocket.

What’s Next?

With Cloudflare proving to be highly beneficial for all caching solutions, lets find out how a traditional CDN performs when its added to the mix.

So Speed Study #19 will focus on what speed improvement is possible when we bring W3 Total Cache, Cloudflare and KeyCDN together?

Speed Study #19: Cloudflare + W3 Total Cache + KeyCDN