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Can W3 Total Cache be Used with the Thesis Theme?

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In this session we discuss using W3 Total Cache with the Thesis Theme. Caching is a very complex subject and is made more complicated by the fact that people use different kinds of plugins and those plugins have differing tolerance for caching. We use W3 Total Cache on our site but we don’t teach how to use it because it is too complicated. However, W3 Total Cache is highly customizable so that it should be able to work in any context. Some plugins that are compatible with it are WP eMember and WP eStore. We also talk a bit about what Amazon S3 does and how it works.

Video Transcript

Member: During the Thesis theme Responsive Theme Child Theme course, which of course, is outstanding at every level. I think you mentioned briefly something either there or something on your site that for Thesis theme, W3 Total Cache wasn’t so great. You’d said some problems
potentially or sometimes. And I’ve heard that you know, Super Cache is pretty good. So I’m wondering if you have an opinion about either or both of those… to speed up your site.

Rick: Well, I use W3 Total Cache on my site.  Caching is a very complex subject. And it’s made more complex by the fact that people use different kinds of plugins and different kinds of plugins have different amounts of tolerance for caching and whether it’s caching CSS files or caching javascript files. And then there are certain things that just can’t be cached because it’s dependent upon the immediate moment. And so caching is pretty complicated and it’s complicated enough especially on my site. My site has a lot of complex things that are happening all the time and I don’t do that myself. I have an expert that I hire to keep that running properly because I want to have somebody to fall back on when something isn’t working right. And it interferes with, financially most important parts of my site. It interferes with the membership sign up and with payment processing. And if I didn’t have membership sign up and payment processing then it would be probably pretty easy to use W3 Total Cache, relatively easy because I would be able to you know, limit the amount of things I have to exclude from W3 Total Cache.

But anyway, I use W3 Total Cache but I don’t teach it because it’s actually far more complicated than I understand. And so you know, anytime you see a simple tutorial on how to use W3 Total Cache, the person is either using an extremely simple site or they’re completely full of sh*t. I mean, it’s one of the two things because it’s not super simple and whether it’s Super Cache or W3 Total Cache.

Now the thing about W3 Total Cache is, it is so highly customizable that it should be able to work in any context. I’m using it, not on an Apache server. I’m using it on a Nginx server and I’m using it with fairly complicated systems and Anthony’s been able to tweak it to the point where everything works properly. And so I’m not sure that it could be done with a more run of the mill plugin. But most sites aren’t as complicated as this one is. But if you’re running a membership site, if you’re creating a membership site and you’ve got decisions about what to display based on whether somebody is a member and you are tracking membership levels and stuff like that, it’s more complicated to make work.

Now the people who make WP eMember say that their plugin is compatible with W3 Total Cache. And they do say they have properly configured WP eStore as compatible with W3 Total Cache and I have found that to be the case.

Member: Is that what you’re using?

Rick: Yeah, I use WP eStore and then WishList Member. Now, WishList Member says they are not compatible with W3 with W3 Total Cache but my guy has been able to get it working properly anyway.

Member: Nice.

Rick: So we use W3 Total Cache. Anything in negative I say about it really is just that it’s complicated. And it’s not complicated because the plugin itself was complicated. It’s complicated because the subject is complicated. And to really optimize it or to take full advantage of a lot of its power, you have to have control over your server. And so you need to have root access to the server to be able to configure server settings, things that you can’t do in a normal shared hosting environment and that you often can’t do even in a virtual private server environment. But some kind of caching… the thing is that when caching is up and running on my site, my site’s several seconds faster.

Member: Yeah.

Rick: So now the only site I have any caching on at all though is this one. So the demonstration sites don’t have any caching and my toolbox site doesn’t have any caching and they seem to run fast enough for my taste. The main reason why we needed to do caching on this was just because of volume. There’s so much traffic that we need to take the load off the server and serve optimized stuff.

Member: Gotcha. What about… does he integrate a content delivery network like MaxCDN?

Rick: Yup. If you right click on any of my images and look at the URL, you’ll see that the address to any images on the site are to cdn.byobwebsite and it’s related to Amazon S3. It’s stored at Amazon S3.

Member: Okay because I’m going to… that made me realize, I’ve got another woman who’s going to… I’m going to build a photography site for her. And so we don’t need to get into right now but I guess, maybe if I use like a content… she’s really concerned about speed. I don’t blame her. Because she’s a photographer, she’s going to have a lot of photos and images. So I guess, if I use maybe a CDN and Amazon S3 and set that up, that’ll help all the images load up speedily. In your opinion, is that the way to go?

Rick: It takes the load off of your server for serving the images. So you share the load. And Amazon is like MaxCDN or any of the others. They’re promising quick through put. So they’re hosting your stuff on very fast powerful servers that are connected well to the internet and so it speeds it up and places like Amazon, if you’re in Asia or Europe or South America where you’re long ways away from servers, they have EDGE servers where they can serve stuff from. And so Amazon S3… and actually, it really is Amazon CloudFront. I said Amazon S3 but I meant Amazon CloudFront is where the stuff is stored and served from. And what it does is it just splits up the load so your server and your bandwidth now doesn’t have to process everything. It can process the HTML and somebody else’s bandwidth is processing the images. And that’s why it speeds things up.

Member: Gotcha.

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