W3 Total Cache vs. WP Super Cache for Shared Web Hosting

You probably know it: caching is one of the best ways to make sure that your website loads quickly. You might also know that there are two main contestants when it comes to caching and WordPress: W3 Total Cache and WP Super Cache. This is not one of the best ranking websites on Google, so if you ended up on this page you might be asking yourself a very specific question: “Should I use W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache on shared web hosting?”

An easy question with a difficult answer

The easiest answer to give is: it depends on your Web Hosting. Some are better than others in general, and some offer more resources and speed than others. Depending on this reason, you might have to experiment with both solutions to get a definitive response.

W3 Total Cache clearly is the best solution if you have a hosting plan that allows plenty use of its resources. You have surely read it elsewhere: once properly set up, it’s lightning fast! And that is true, but if you are on a shared hosting, it might become counterproductive. Even is properly set, it will rain your server’s available CPU and memory. W3 Total Cache is CPU intensive. Try installing the plugin, and test it for a couple of days. Give a quick look at your website’s resources usage (in example using cPannel) and you will see the CPU usage is through the roof!  Because of this your website might get locked down or have its internet speed limited, depending on your web hosting. As a consequence of having your resources limited, your website’s loading times will skyrocket: Loading simple, light, webpage will become a matter of several seconds, and not instants.

Bottom Line: WP Super Cache

The best thing to do, if your W3TC is killing your website, not helping it, is to try WP Super Cache. True, it is not as fast as its counterpart, but you have to ask yourself: How much “faster” is noticeable by the visitor? And what are his/her needs? Would it be better having the certainty that my website loads in 0.5 seconds, or the possibility of it loading in 0.3 while risking it taking as much as 3.0 seconds because of a penalty on the server?

WP Super Cache still uses some of the resources of the server (as, basically, any plugin you will install on your WordPress) but it has two distinct advantages: it’s is easier to set up, and it’s lighter. Chances are that you are not a website as big as Mashable, that needs W3 Total Cache’s power (neither its resources.) You might simply need something smaller, but still very effective.

Always keep in mind: what matters is the effect. No one will know if you are using W3 Total Cache or WP Total Cache. The aim is to make your website load faster to cut the risk of bounces and lost visits. WP Super Cache might be not as “pro” as its counterpart, but if you wanted pro, you wouldn’t be on shared web hosting anyways.

Giulio Menna
Lover of: all things digital, humanities, and medieval manuscripts. I created Sexy Codicology and the DMMmaps Project and run them both with passion and love in my free time. I am an MA graduate in Book and Digital Media Studies at Leiden University. Still happily living in the Netherlands.
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