ZenCache: The BEST Caching Plugin for WordPress
This summer i worked for two months with a small hosting company, helping them with their WordPress customers. I had to suggest and install some default plugins to all shared servers and a standard caching plugin was one of them.
There are a lot of reviews of caching plugins around the web but most of them are “reviews”. Also there are a few really good benchmarks of WP caching plugins that clearly show the best performing ones. But is caching only about speed ? How about stability ? Is the data fresh and updated as it should be or old data is served ? Is the plugin well supported ?
I’m very familiar with all caching plugins for WordPress, simply because i HAD to use one due to my blog’s hosting plan limitations. But i had never used any of them on a high traffic WordPress installation. After two weeks tests on a heavy traffic WordPress 4.3 blog, i found several interesting things about them. Also i visited each plugin’s support forum at WordPress.org and looked around. I must confess that i had a lot of fun doing all those tests and comparisons.
For my live tests i also Xenu Link Sleuth software to push the limits a bit. I will write a few lines for each caching plugin i tried, with my findings.
Clearly the winner was ZenCache Lite.
ZenCache Lite (formerly Quick Cache) is definitely the best caching plugin in everything, it is fast enough and extremely stable. ZenCache also won because of unsurpassed support (for the free Lite version) both at WordPress.org and Github and also because of his modern and clean interface.
I installed it to all WP sites in all shared servers, removing all other caching plugins, as the company policy demanded. I had very few problems, most of them with custom types that shouldn’t be cached and were easily excluded in the plugin’s cache settings. All servers are now working much-much better and smoother.
I think ZenCache Lite will also be officially suggested to all company’s customers with all kind of plans, shared or not. For webmasters that need more than the Lite version, there is a Pro Version available at a very low cost, but in my opinion it is not needed.
(February 2016 Update: ZenCache has AGAIN changed his name to Comet Cache. I dunno why these guys keep changing names every year, since this is cleary hurting their product.)
Here are some comments for the other four WordPress Caching Plugins that i tested:
Hyper Cache has a low memory footprint and uses very little resources and seems very fast. Hyper Cache version 2 was a plugin i used in my own WP website sometime ago, and to be honest i had some trouble communicating with the Italian developer and for that reason i switched to Quick Cache (the name of ZenCache a year ago). But now Hyper Cache it is at version 3, totally re-written and most of the problems seem to be solved (but the interface is still old). I think HyperCache is ideal for low cost WordPress hosting plans.
W3 Total Cache
If you are using a Shared Hosting plan, just forget about W3TC. This is a huge monster plugin, not suited for Shared Hosting. Memory and disk hungry, W3TC was very hard to setup and tune, not to mention that a lot of options didn’t work as expected. Object and DB Caching should not be used in Shared Hosting. So i actually had to remove W3TC plugin from several websites, because it was causing huge server problems and was torturing the disk subsystem. I strongly believe that there is no need for such a plugin in 2015.
I know that a lot of people will disagree with me, still i haven’t seen such complicated plugin in my life (and i try to keep things simple in my job). Or maybe i’m not that talented.
(UPD: W3TC doesn’t seem to work at all with PHP 7, there is a small fix from some user but …)
WP Super Cache
Wp Super Cache was the first caching plugin i installed and tested, because of its 1.000.000+ active installs from WordPress.org and because it is by “Automattic”. I had one major problem: the Home Page caching was sometimes not working right, serving old data. No matter what i tried, it didn’t solve the problem, even by selecting some special double check for the Home page in the plugin settings. Also WP Super Cache seems to slow down a bit the whole website, especially the admin part.
The plugin has a lot of options and seems flexible (cache pre-loading for example) but looks old and the support seems a bit neglected.
Update 1: Looking at my notes, it seems that WP Super Cache stalled a couple of times during our tests, displaying garbage.
Gator Cache is an overlooked caching plugin, with a small installed base on WordPress sites. Gator Cache was a bit weird to install because it creates its folder in the root of WordPress (and not in wp-content folder). If you accidentally check an obscure option during the initial installation, the cache folder is even created OUTSIDE the WordPress folder ! I have no idea why this happens, Gator Cache should silently create the caching folder inside wp-content folder, as ALL caching plugins do.
An other problem was that Gator Cache created TWO static html file for each post/page, one compressed and one not compressed. And to disable that, you need to manually change some INI file. Very complicated with no reason, especially if you already use a web server with automatic compression (like LiteSpeed).
Gator Cache seems to do a lot of non-standard things, like creating folders and files in the root (and outside), but worked just fine with my tests, was fast enough and had all the options needed for a WordPress website.