Update May 29, 2017: I am deciding to rescind my advocation for WP-Rocket. They haven’t done anything wrong and they made a difference in the past. After switching from Wiredtree (Now Liquid Web) to SSD Nodes, there is almost no difference in the sites speed with or without WP-Rocket. Even though my license doesn’t expire until December 2017 I plan to move to another solution that is free and lightweight. No bad story to give, no bad blood, or anything like that. After all of my testing I just can’t seem to find a reason to tell people it is worth the money.
I will update/re-do this comparison in the future. I plan on switching to a different theme to make the site lightweight and nimble. Between a theme change, a host change, and plugin changes, there is less reason to push this post in it’s original form. Feel free to read it and leave comments, but I will be doing it completely over again without WP-Rocket since I will more than likely end up using a free solution.
Carry on with the original post below.
I stumbled upon KeyCDN’s plugin called Cache Enabler a couple weeks ago and decided to disable WP Rocket and give it and Autoptimize a go for a couple weeks and report my findings. I did just that and I couldn’t believe how much of a difference it made being free plugins. Now, Cache Enabler plugin makes static files so it should be expected to display HTML files quickly.
I decided to message WP Rocket, in private, telling them about my findings. They are always quick to respond and I have invested good money into the plugin along with 200K other websites so I wanted to know if it was worth the investment. They asked to see my results and I was already gearing up to display my results using this post. This comparison is to show the world at large what I have experienced and show WP Rocket my findings.
I also tried KeyCDN’s CDN Enabler with their 30-day free trial. To be honest, I only used 3 or 4 days of it as I was troubleshooting why the site was so slow, making massive changes, and moving from South Korea to the Philippines. I didn’t see any improvement in the short time setting it up and can’t offer any insight into that plugin. If you have used it please feel free to let me know in the comments.
KeyCDN’s third plugin is Optimus that compresses lossless images no bigger than 5MB in size. It also makes WebP images for smaller sizes. I wasn’t willing to try out Optimus for this comparison. Instead, I decided to use Autoptimize that handles the WebP format, and besides, I am not searching for another subscription at the moment. Their offerings seem very solid, but this will be their caching plugin in tandem with Autoptimize against WP Rocket using my environment.
One other factor that I have to include is Cloudflare. I use the free tier and it is enabled for all tests with cleared caches and all. I run SSL using Let’s Encrypt as well. All of this will stay the exact same for each of the three results. Lastly, I have http/2 capabilities through Cloudflare’s service. It should be noted that I know my homepage is big and slow. That was a reason I wanted to do this because I need to lighten up the homepage and give better serving times to my readers. Just wanted to be inb4 “Dude you need to optimize”.
Below is all of my settings on my server and WordPress installation and I am going to make sure nothing changes except the 3 plugins that I am testing for. It’s probably not your type of setup or I missed something along the way. I am not a coder, just a blogger and an amateur website builder. This should even the playing field as I am not tweaking something here or there. I am simply using the plugins “out of the box” and the average WordPress user would do the same. Hopefully, this sets the stage as close to a real-world experience as possible.
I am going to list my software and hardware so everything is on the table. If I missed something just let me know and I will gladly add it or answer for it. I got the Wiredtree special during the sale in Jan 2015 (I believe). I have been with Wiredtree since 2008 and have had nothing but great service. I will note that I am very unsure if I will stay on now that Liquid Web has bought Wiretree. I plan on tackling that in another post. It’s still an unknown factor and I am reading up on everyone’s experiences on other sites. I have not been migrated to Liquid Web’s servers yet so this is still on the Chicago VPS server that I have been on for the past 2+ years.
Here are the main points from the software perspective. Nothing too special but enough to run a couple sites on.
- CENTOS 6.8 x86_64 virtuozzo – host
- WHM 62.0 (build 15)
- cPanel 62.0.15
- PHP Version 5.6.27
- MySQL Version 5.5.54
- Web Server Info: Apache
- PHP Memory Limit 512M
- PHP Post Max Size 20M
- PHP Upload Max File size 100M
- PHP Time Limit 120 sec
- PHP Max Input Vars 1000
- WordPress Memory Limit 512 MB
- WordPress Upload Size 20MB
The hardware is also not that special but still good for the price of $68/month on an annual payment. I have done comparison after comparison and Wiredtree has always been the best bang for my buck.
- Wiredtree SSD VPS 4000 (Now Liquid Web)
- Intel Dual Xeon Server (32 Cores)
- 4.5GB Guaranteed Memory was: 4GB
- 90GB RAID-10 Pure SSD Disk Space was: 80GB
- 10TB Route-Optimized Bandwidth was: 6TB
- 2 Dedicated IPs
- R1soft Daily Backups Included in price
- cPanel / WHM Included in price
The plugins are usually where the rub is. I use a lot and I will admit that I had more like 40 plugins at one point. I cleared out a lot of plugins that I could live without or add later. I love to review plugins and other platforms so I just use them as anyone would, but more often. Once I finish testing the plugins I either delete or keep. Depends on what the plugin does and if it makes a difference in the way I achieve my end goals. Here they are:
- ARMember: 1.8.1
- Autoptimize: 2.1.0
- bbPress: 2.5.12
- Cache Enabler 1.2.0
- Calendarize it! for WordPress: 126.96.36.199820
- Crowd Control by Postmatic: 1.1
- Easy Social Share Buttons for WordPress 4.1: 4.1
- Easy Social Share Buttons for WordPress Addon – Post Views: 1.0
- eForm – WordPress Form Builder: 3.6.2
- Elevated Comments: 1.1.5
- Epoch: 1.0.14
- FooBox Image Lightbox: 1.1.11
- Foo Gallery: 1.2.18
- Fusion Builder: 1.0.6
- Fusion Core: 3.0.6
- Gonzales: 2.0.1
- Members: 1.1.3
- MyMail – Email Newsletter Plugin for WordPress: 2.1.33
- MyMail AmazonSES Integration: 1.1.9
- Postmatic & Postmatic Labs: 2.0.14
- Postmatic Social Commenting: 1.1.1
- Query Monitor: 2.13.3
- Selection Sharer: 0.4
- Simple Email Verify for MyMail: 0.4
- WP-Markdown: 1.5.1
- WP Real Media Library: 2.8
- Yoast SEO: 4.4
- Theme: Avada 5.0.6 (Child Theme)
Plugin Setting Screenshots
I kept all the plugins in their “out of the box” settings with the exception of configuring which plugin was minifying or preloading so I could run the test as baseline as possible. I offer this gallery of the WordPress default settings so you know exactly how I had each setting.
I did 4 separate tests to try to get the best performance impact that I could. I left each configuration in place for several days at a time so I have been working on this post for a bit. I left everything as stock as I could to give the “out of the box” numbers. I realize I can tweak things to get even better results. I needed a baseline to start with so I chose this method. I have always tried getting my hosting in the center of the US for latency to each coastline. It’s not perfect, but it’s a best effort.
Obviously, your plugins will be different with different results. All the changes and tweaks will vary too along with your server resources. Hopefully this is worthwhile and beneficial to some folks trying to figure this out piece of the WordPress installs. I did not include the dozen or so other caching plugins on purpose. I have tried many over the years and this would have taken a year to test. I will do it in the future using a demo site or something where I can have a tighter control in place. This was about a paid plugin versus free plugins that are hitting the plugin party with some serious glitter in 2017.
Autoptimize & Cache Enabler
The first test was Autoptimize and Cache Enabler activated and fresh caches in Cloudflare and the site. WP Rocket was completely removed. I wanted to make sure I get clean results.
Here are the GT Metrix & Pingdom scores:
Autoptimize & WP Rocket
This second test is Autoptimize and WP Rocket in tandem. Cache Enabler was removed completely and all caches cleared. Here are the GT Metrix & Pingdom scores:
WP Rocket Only
The third test is WP Rocket alone and the other 2 plugins deleted with all caches cleared. Here are the GT Metrix & Pingdom scores:
This fourth and final test is Cache Enabler on it’s own with fresh caches. Here are the GT Metrix & Pingdom scores:
Here are all of the separate screenshots if you want to look at them in the gallery instead.
There are no affiliate links for these plugins so there was no bias involved here. Two of them are free and the other one I pay for just like anyone else. I have zero bias and I am not a fanboi a plugin author over another. If anything, I want to make sure I am getting my money’s worth when I purchase and add it to my website.
This brings me to my choice on what I will use going forward on this website. I have decided to use Autoptimize and WP Rocket until my license expires, and then I think I will use Cache Enabler instead of WP Rocket. This can change because I know I can tweak WP Rocket a lot and I will do just that now that this baseline test is over. If I can seriously make a significant jump then I will gladly give them my money again.
What are your thoughts on this? Did I miss something in my trials? I tried to get it as right as I could but there are always variables that can be missed. I look forward to hearing your thoughts!
Update April 27, 2017: I have moved to a new server and I will repeat this test using a better control. My speed already is well under 3 seconds now with HTTPS. I know the testing here wasn’t perfect, but I gave it all I had.