On a bigger site that had some serious 'heavy lifting' of big .gifs and a huge need for speed, I installed w3 total cache. Here's my experience. Both the good and the bad, here it is.
w3 Total Cache Reviewed
I’ve installed this probably a dozen times on folk’s sites. But each time it was mainly for minifying, simple caching, and speeding up a few files. But this time around, I needed to get as much speed as possible.
Now, the most thorough, robust, and personalized option for w3 Total Cache is the “Linux Server Optimization & Plugin Configuration”. So that’s the one I went with. I simply had to speed up this wordpress site as much as possible. This site is going to be getting a few thousand hits, ads are going to be flooding the site, social media campaigns are going to be launching, and so, I’m anticipating this site to get a pretty decent number of hits. Add to that the fact that we don’t want people abandoning the page after we’ve paid so much to get them to view it in the first place, and the $200 seems like a pretty small investment. I did go ahead and upgrade to w3 Total Cache Pro since it seemed to add a bit more tweaks and twerks to the site’s performance as well. At this point, I’ve invested $300 in total to the folks over at w3 Total Cache. Not a big deal. Especially since this project definitely justifies the cost. There were a few mishaps with the communication between me and one of the founders of w3 Total Cache. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t in the site at the same time he was. And, perhaps I wasn’t patient enough, but after a few days of no returned email, I started tweaking around in there myself. Then… I get an email that said, “Please don’t adjust W3TC settings while we’re working on the site”. DOH! How the heck was I supposed to know that he was indeed working on the site? I asked, didn’t get a response, so I started working and twerking myself (Do not picture me twerking. Too late, isn’t it?) Ok, so that part went off a little bit awkwardly, but I’m all about results.
So, after the folks over at w3 Total Cache were done, here’s the results.
Now, go look at this page: http://storage-depot.com/self-storage-in-brownsville-281/ The layout might not be what you (or I) like, but that’s not up for debate right now. What I want you to look at is all of the .gif files that are being cranked out. There’s almost a dozen different animated images that are making the size of the page over 7 meg!! Helloooooo-oooooo!!! Did you read that, right? SEVEN MEG of data is being cranked out to visitors in around ONE SECOND! Now, let’s go for some pros and cons here. Remember all those images? Well, when it comes to resizing .gifs – I’m just not that into you! If I owned any of the plethora of Adobe toys, I could make those a lot smaller and the page would load even faster. And the only snafu with w3 Total Cache was the brief communication hiccup. I did purposefully choose a hosting provider that has a data center in Dallas Texas. So that adds a bit of speed here. I did go ahead and purchase a MaxCDN account as well. So that helped. But let’s look at exactly what the folks over at w3 Total Cache did to make the site load so fast.
- They go through each and every plugin file by file to see which files can be cached, and (much more importantly) which files can NOT be cached. This ensures that your plugins run appropriately while still delivering maximum speed.
- I gave them login credentials to the server I was running and they tweaked it to appropriately cache what my particular site is running. This is especially helpful since server configurations differ vastly from one setup to another. Don’t just think that something you read off a Google search particularly applies to your setup. Sometimes it might help, and other times it might crash your site (not that I’ve ever done that… this week.)
- Lastly, they looked at all the theme’s files. In this particular site, I’m using the X Theme. It’s one of those themes that has a ton of options and tries it’s darndest to stay light. While the theme itself is great, having someone go through and determine what files are and are not being used in our setup was important. Let’s speed up the files we’re using, and those that we’re not need to be ditched. Some files need to be cached for performance, and – again – some files will break the functionality if you try to cache them.
Now, could I have ever known and figured out which files needed to be cached and which files were the particular culprits if I had just simply gone with a default install of w3 Total Cache? NOPE! Not at all. I might have eventually figured out which levers to pull in which direction, and what button to push on which screen, and what files were helpful vs. which files were slowing things down…. EVENTUALLY! And, who knows how many times I would have broken the server as I tweaked and “experimented” in there!
w3 Total Cache Conclusion
Would I do this again? Absolutely! That’s the bottom line.
Here’s the bottom line explained a bit more thought…. If you look at all the times that w3 Total Cache has been downloaded, look at their own website at all the work that W3 Edge is doing / has done, and look at all the support requests that they have…. Now, think back a minute to the (VERY MINOR) snafu when there was the communication glitch. Now, I want you to put all that together into a nice little business plan based (primarily) on two guys. Seems like a lot doesn’t it? I’m not too sure how long these guys spent on my account, but let’s remember that they’ve been paid $300. Let’s say that over the course of a week, they worked on my account for a total of 10 hours. That only comes out to only $30 an hour. Now, I know that the cost of living here in Texas is pretty cheap, but $30 an hour is not exactly going to feed my family of 5! …especially if I had to wonder / worry about support requests on the public WordPress repo, take on other projects, and take on several paid installs of w3 Total Cache.
I really think they should be charging more!!
if I could make that last like bust out some blinky sparkledy myspace looking text... I WOULD
Look there’s no way in the world that I think these guys can continue offering so much gooey awesomeness for what I pay in groceries. That’s just not possible! Do I think everyone with a WordPress site should indeed hire the folks over at w3 Total Cache? Absolutely! Look, their business isn’t mine. But if they’re going to offer all of this for $300 then I’ve got to bag it up – in a heartbeat!! Imagine what would happen if Joost de Valk, founder of Yoast / WordPress SEO only charged $300 for any of his Website Reviews… wow. I’d be on that like a
Southern Baptist on a porn channel (that was wrong)… but hopefully you get the point.
After going through this experience, I’d recommend w3 Total Cache to anyone, anytime, every time!
I’ve been told I needed to add more content to make this review a bit more complete. Ok, here goes!
I didn’t take screenshots of GTMetrix and Pingdom speed tests. I should have, I could have, and – had I known I was going to give W3TC a write up – I would have. Alas, I did not. But again, go look at the site. All those animated images, with all the plugins, with all the extra cookies and scripts, that’s a lot of back and forth to and from a few different servers. Here, let me put it like this:
Now, if it takes their own site over 5 seconds to load, how much work do you think the guys at W3 Total Cache had to do do get all my site’s junk to load around 1 second? A LOT!
Before anyone else takes on the paid portion of W3 Total Cache, I want to give a bit of helpful advice / thoughts:
1. Make sure you’ve got all your content in there already.
It will work best if they can see what all needs to be tweaked and what can even possibly be left out and excluded from your theme to speed things up. Some of these bloggers crack me up with their “default” or “best” settings for W3 Total Cache. Are you friggin kidding me?!?! The best setting for your site is 100% percent determined by what you’ve got going on inside your site!
2. Install whatever plugins you’re going to ultimately want to use.
3. Get all your things together and let these guys sort it out.
Some files may need to be minified,and for others, it might break the theme. Some files might not need the version on there. While it might be crucial to another file’s functionality. Give ’em your server info as well. I had a CentOS 6.4 x64 cPanel Nginx (PHP5.4 MySQL5.5) package that I got from ASmallOrange.com. Again, I gave them the login info and they went in and
twerked tweaked all the server settings as well. Now, this is definitely something I would not have touched.
4. htaccess file for speed.
Now, of course to hold all this together I needed an appropriate and specific htaccess file as well. Again, could I make one? Sure. Here’s one! But now I needed one specific to what they’ve done, the server tweaks they’ve made and the settings that they’ve changed on the server. And did they do it? Absolutely!
Again, I hope this helps you decide if you’d like to have the folks at W3 Total Cache set things up for you. For me, as well as for most folks, I think it was well worth the money!
Seriously, look at it this way for a second. Let’s say it took me 40 hours to do what they did. I break something, I fix it. I break the server, I fix it. I minify too much, then I have to backtrack …to fix it. I read the wrong article from a Google search and totally screw my server, reinstall wordpress, get everything back into the site ….to fix that part, then … you see where I’m going here, so I can quit, right? So, I traded $300 for 40 hours of my own time which comes out to $7.50 an hour. Do I make more than $7.50 an hour? Absolutely! And I would hope you do as well. So, when you look at it in a more pragmatic business sense it really, Really, REALLY was a great value for me.