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 Vancouver, then São Paulo and finishing off in Mumbai.
  3. Next measure the impact of each strategy by comparing the average speed before and after
  4. Ultimately decide whether the strategy works?

2018 W3 Total Cache Speed Study #2

For the 2nd half of 2018, we have set our hosts a new challenge, and that is how will they perform in new locations around the world. We have performed speed tests exclusively from Dallas, London & Sydney across the last 2 years. So the change up is that we’re now going to test from 3 new locations: Vancouver, São Paulo & Mumbai.

We have just completed testing of Cache Enabler & WP Super Cache and discovered that Cache Enabler improved our site speed the most. It’s now time to give another caching plugin a go.

So this Speed Study will look into how effective W3 Total Cache is at speeding up our sites from their new locations?

2018 W3 Total Cache

How to Setup W3 Total Cache

To kick off this 2018 W3 Total Cache Speed Study, we need to install W3 Total Cache using consistent settings across each site. I used the settings included within our step by step tutorial on How to Setup W3 Total Cache.

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 how much of a speed boost W3 Total Cache can deliver, and is it more effective than Cache Enabler?

The Results – 02 Dec 2018

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

Speed Study 38 - 2018 W3 Total Cache Results Table


Let’s first see how W3 Total Cache performed compared to Cache Enabler? The average load time across our 3 different testing locations is 2.31s for W3 Total Cache, which is 6% slower than with Cache Enabler setup.

When we dig into the 3 locations we test from, all three were slightly slower with W3 Total Cache, with Vancouver experiencing the largest difference of 10%.

Interestingly when we look into the other GT Metrix stats, the Page Size & Yahoo YSlow Score favored WP Super Cache, while Google PageSpeed Scores were exactly the same. While these results are useful, they only paint part of the picture. Your actual load time is always the key stat to measure.

So when it comes to making a call on which caching plugin is preferred, the decision is slightly in favor of Cache Enabler.

Individual Host Performance

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

Speed Study 38 - 2018 W3 Total Cache - Individual Host Performance

Major Observations

  • When it comes to our individual hosts, the comparison between W3 Total Cache & Cache Enabler proved that the majority of our hosts actually preferred W3 Total Cache:
    • 5 hosts experienced faster speeds with W3 Total Cache, ranging from 2% with SiteGround up to 13% with GoDaddy.
    • 3 hosts were slower with W3 Total Cache, ranging from 1% with InMotion Hosting up to a whopping 53% with HostGator. These large differences with HostGator and Namecheap is what’s driven the overall average speed to favor Cache Enabler.
    • And once again, SiteGround has come out on top, as the fastest host using Simple Cache, Cache Enabler, Comet Cache, WP Super Cache & now W3 Total Cache.
    • The overall observation from where I sit is that deciding between W3 Total Cache and Cache Enabler really depends on which host you use. The clear calls you could make here is that if your host is Namecheap or HostGator, Cache Enabler is strongly recommended. While if your host is Bluehost, Lightning Base or GoDaddy, W3 Total Cache would be recommended.

What’s Next?

With Cache Enabler slightly edging W3 Total Cache when it comes to improving our site speed, let’s put a premium caching plugin to the test.

So for our next Speed Study, let’s load up WP Rocket and see whether it proves to be quicker than Cache Enabler?

2018 WP Rocket WordPress Plugin