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 4 weeks, gather the load times from our Desktop Speed Test using GTmetrix
  3. Next measure the impact of each strategy by comparing the average speed before and after
  4. Ultimately decide whether the strategy works?

Speed Study #6: CloudFlare & W3 Total Cache

With the success of CloudFlare and WP Rocket in Speed Study 5, let’s turn our focus to seeing how CloudFlare performs with W3 Total Cache.

The theory here is that by using a CDN (Content Delivery Network) your site’s content can be loaded from multiple locations around the world, rather than just 1. When someone visits the site, the CDN will direct them to the closest location. This results in the site loading quicker. The real question is whether it’s worth the effort in setting it up?

To perform this study, I will install CloudFlare and W3 Total Cache on our 8 sites. I took screenshots of the steps here.

W3 Total Cache Logocloudflare-logo

All Setup

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

Next up is 4 weeks of testing – I can’t wait to find out what sort of an impact CloudFlare and W3 Total Cache will have….


The Results – 4th December 2016

After 4 weeks of testing, lets take a look at how much of an impact installing CloudFlare & W3 Total Cache has had on our 8 hosts. In the table below, I’m comparing the average of the 4 weeks prior when CloudFlare & WP Rocket was setup, with the 4 weeks after with CloudFlare & W3 Total Cache:

Speed Study 6 - CloudFlare & W3 Total Cache Results Table


So before we get into the details, let’s first remember the previous Speed Study results:

  1. Imagify achieved a 14% improvement in Speed Study 1
  2. W3 Total Cache achieved a massive 37% speed improvement in Speed Study 2
  3. WP Rocket improved our load times by 3% in Speed Study 3
  4. Then KeyCDN achieved a further speed improvement of 25% in Speed Study 4
  5. Then CloudFlare achieved a further 15% improvement in Speed Study 5

So how did CloudFlare & W3 Total Cache go? Unfortunately the trend of improvements has come to a grinding halt, with the results showing a massive slowdown of 61%!!

When it comes to making a call on whether CloudFlare & W3 Total Cache is worth installing together, the answer is a resounding NO!!

Individual Host Performance

Let’s now take a look at how our individual hosts performed with CloudFlare & W3 Total Cache:

Speed Study 6 - CloudFlare & W3 Total Cache - Individual Host Performance

Major Observations

  • All of our 8 hosts experienced a slowdown due to the combination of CloudFlare & W3 Total Cache.
    1. A2 Hosting was the least affected, slowing by 7%.
    2. Our other 7 hosts were impacted significantly, ranging from 28% to 106% slower.
  • The overall observation from where I sit is that the combination of CloudFlare & W3 Total Cache has performed very poorly for 7 out of our 8 hosts, and would NOT be recommended!!

What’s Next?

With the combo of CloudFlare and W3 Total Cache proving to be a nightmare, let’s now see how another popular free caching solution will perform. Speed Study #7 will focus on what speed improvement is possible with CloudFlare & WP Super Cache?

Speed Study #7: WP Super Cache