Faster site with cache

fast car

With a little luck, the site(s) should now be a little bit faster. For those of you who are interested let’s look at how we made Author Buzz a bit faster.

Pretty much most of the speed improvements have come from installing W3 Total Cache. Despite my reservations, it seems to have been worth the effort.

I was hesitant to do us W3 Total Cache. There had been a problematic XSS vulnerability from the plugin last year. However, it looks like that hole has long since been patched. Which is why we took the plunge and installed the plugin.

On the whole, things seem to be going smoothly but I have to say that I am still not happy with the speed of the site. There are options for further speed boosts. So we will be looking into them next.

More aggressive caching

We have set a lot of options to more aggressively promote browser caching of common files. This does not solve the initial page load times but every page visited after that will be a lot faster for everyone.

This is something that W3 Total Cache takes care of which reduces my workload considerably.

Minifying for faster loading times

It might seem obvious but smaller files load faster. One of the more common tricks for improving load time and reducing the bandwidth of a page is to remove whitespace from Style Sheet and JavaScript files. This is known as minifying for some reason. Anyway, minifying is what we have tried to apply where possible.

minified files work the same and are fractionally faster, but are no good for editing. Thus we have a development version (easy to read and edit) and a production version (ready to load as fast as possible).

What’s next in the search for a faster site?

Faster sites through Memcached

When this server was provisioned it was set up to provide the option of using Memcached. Memcached is a caching system that using active memory to store frequently used database queries in memory. As database hits are generally the bottleneck for most things, this may do the trick for Author Buzz too.

Faster intermediate PHP code

Another possible avenue of speed gain could come from PECL Alternative PHP Cache (APC). APC is a free, open, and robust framework for caching and optimising PHP intermediate code. One of the drawbacks to using APC is, as the PHP doc site says, “This extension is considered unmaintained and dead.”

I’m in two minds about the advisability of using APC. I would rather not depend too heavily on something that is unmaintained.

True static pages are faster

We’ve been kicking the ball about a bit on this point. True static pages are lightening fast but a pain to maintain. WordPress can handle pages as a basic CMS and I am of a mind to let it do that. On the other hand, there are some substantial gains to be had from serving pages non-dynamically.

Is Author Buzz faster?

I don’t have any number or benchmark tests to back me up here but the site certainly feels faster. Some of the lag we were ntoicing around the first load of a page for any of the sites seems to have dropped. This, in itself, is promising.

We will continue to work on making Author buzz fast and reliable. This round, at least, seems like a win.

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