(originally posted on Bring Your Own Design)
Most of us don’t need to serve up millions (or even hundreds) of pageviews a day, but, eventually you’ll run into a situation where your site is running slow. While the reasons for a slow-loading site are countless, there are a few things you can do to help increase your WordPress site speed.
It’s easy to get tempted by cheap hosting. You can even find free WordPress hosting if you look hard enough! But, the old adage of “you get what you pay for” definitely applies to the web hosting world. Cheap hosts tend to overcrowd their servers, and one badly-behaving site can take down multiple others! For mission-critical sites, we recommend using a managed hosting provider like WPEngine or Synthesis (if you’re on StudioPress Genesis). If you’re handy with a command line, a managed VPS like A Small Orange offers is probably your best bet.
Content Delivery Networks (CDNs)
If you have a lot of images or other media, a CDN is the way to go. Content Delivery Networks are basically copies of your local files that exist in different locales for faster access around the world. For example, if you have a site that is popular in Europe, but your hosting is based in the US, it would make a lot of sense to use something like MaxCDN or Amazon Cloudfront to cache files on one of their locations in Europe for quick access from that part of the world.
While speed is the ultimate payoff with CDNs, cost can be a beneficial factor as well. Most CDNs will allow you to store gigabytes of data for pennies, compared to the much higher prices of purchasing additional storage and bandwidth from your hosting provider.
To help you manage using a CDN with WordPress, we’d suggest W3 Total Cache. While it is a full-fledged optimization plugin, it can be used only for the CDN functionality (but you really should use the other stuff too!).
W3 Total Cache is our favorite for handling those tasks. Another thing that it does well is generate static files to serve up, instead of hitting the database on every single request. This method works best on sites with pages that don’t change much, but even busy blogs can benefit from it.
Here’s where we get into the really heavy stuff. If you’ve outgrown managed hosting, and are running a VPS, you’ll definitely want to swap out Apache for NGINX. Many of the biggest and most popular WordPress-based sites run on it (because it’s simply just faster than Apache for WordPress). Another huge advantage for WordPress site speed is being able to easily use APC and memcached on NGINX. With a VPS, you’re typically on your own to get these things running, but some VPS hosts offer configurations like this as an option or a paid service. Either way, it’s well worth it to squeeze the extra speed out of your installation.
Plugins (or rather, getting rid of them)
Many people make the big mistake of overdoing plugins. Even for the simplest task, a plugin has to make a database call, which slows loading of the page. Simple things like social media buttons can be coded directly into the template to save resources. Offloading plugin functionality to the theme really does make a huge difference in speed.
While this is by no means a comprehensive list of to-do items, it certainly will give you a solid set of ideas and tools to work with on making your WordPress site faster. Is there a trick or tip that you think should be included? If so, leave us a comment!
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