Intro to Browser, Server Caching, and WordPress Cache Plugins

[This post is part of the Ultimate Guide to Launching a WordPress-Powered Blog series.]

One of the next things that you might want to consider, especially as you gain more traffic, is caching for your WordPress blog.

What is that you say? Well, most simply it’s this:

WordPress caching (or caching your WordPress blog) is a technique used to speed up your blog.

Now, you could spend the next year reading in-depth articles about the ins and the outs of the art and science of cacheing (and you’re more than welcome to!) but I want to provide some of the basics so that you can feel comfortable using a WordPress caching system and plugin.

Ready? Here’s a quick video overview to get you started and then feel free to jump into the content!

[tentblogger-vimeo 22757313]

Hope that video intro helps! Here’s some more info for you!

Two Types of Caching To Understand:

To start there are two areas of caching related to WordPress that you’ll want to generally understand, the first being browser caching and the second being server caching.

1. Browser Caching

Hah! Love this cartoon!

This essentially helps a server (and hosting provider) reduce the number of requests that each visitor makes when it visits your site.

For example, if you’ve set up the right settings on your some of your blog’s files, such as images, CSS, and JavaScript, they will be “saved” or cached on the user’s computer.

What this does is lets the users browser check to see if the files have changed before requesting them from the server.

If the files have changed then the visitor’s browser requests the new information. But, if the files have not changed, then the browser just served the content and files from their local machine. Obviously, the more files that are saved locally the better since it’ll provide a faster (and better) user experience!

In addition, since your server is not having to handle so many requests so that it can handle more users and traffic for you! This, of course, is a good thing.

2. Server Caching

Server caching is a bit more complex but the general idea is still very much the same. Essentially your WordPress blog is a “dynamic” piece of software instead of a “static” one and requires that information is requested and sent every time one of your visitors visits your blog.

Caching is awesome!

This requires resources from your server and your mySQL database and too many requests can slow down your blog, page load time, and even crash or stop requests altogether.

Server caching allows that information to be stored and retrieved much quicker for the end user putting less strain on the server as a whole. There are many ways to do this and many options and if you’re someone who needs to know the ins and outs you can certainly Google to your hearts content.

Essentially server caching changes a dynamic website, like your blog, into something more like a static website (just plain HTML for example).

WordPress Plugins to Use:

Although you might be personally interested in WordPress caching as an art and science I would imagine that most of you have little to no interest to know the exact details of what’s going on and instead finding a WordPress plugin or system that can help speed up your blog.


Again, WordPress caching will help in the following major ways:

  1. Faster load speed for your visitors.
  2. Better user experience for your visitors.
  3. Decreased resources for your server and hosting, which results in the two above!
  4. General increase of performance from nearly every angle as it relates to your blog.

Like I always do I counsel you to do your research when you start looking for caching plugins and systems to use for your blog. Here are some considerations that you’ll want to make sure you “check off” before you install something without thinking:

  1. Plugin impact to your server and end user experience.
  2. Server requirements for your hosting and service.
  3. Understanding what the plugin actually does specifically for your blog.
  4. Competing systems and/or plugins that you’re already using.
  5. Other secondary requirements necessary for optimal use, like a CDN system.

Generally you’ll want to take the time to do the research necessary so that you know what you’re installing and can have a reasonable expectation of what is actually going to happen to your blog. Make note that not paying attention could take down your site completely.

Yes, installing any old WordPress plugin, especially as it relates to caching, could literally “blow up” your blog. So be careful!

Here is a list of WordPress plugins that can help with caching:

  1. WP Super Cache
  2. W3 Total Cache
  3. WP-Cache
  4. Hyper Cache
  5. DB Cache
  6. DB Cache Reloaded
  7. WP Widget Cache
  8. Quick Cache
  9. WP File Cache
  10. 1 Blog Cache

There are, of course, more than just these 10 plugins but they are the most widely used ones. I have listed them in order of general popularity as well but you will want to study each one and see what the best one for your environment is!

Finally, you’ll also notice that I have bolded the first two options, WP Super Cache and W3 Total Cache as I believe that these two plugins are, out of the box, the best to use for majority of bloggers!

And as a result I created two tutorials and guides for them! Check them out here and here!

If you have any questions you can typically ask your hosting provider for information, ask the plugin author, or even Google for some general results related to your specific question!

Let me know if you have any questions!

[This post is part of the Ultimate Guide to Launching a WordPress-Powered Blog series.]