5 (FREE!) steps to turbo-boost your WordPress blog by 10x
10x performance increase sounds a little dramatic. But who doesn’t like 10x performance improvements. What if I tell you that you can do this at a really great price point of ZERO! Yup. Zilch. You don’t have to pay a single cent.
But really? 10x? Ok. I relent. It’s a little dramatic. To be honest, it really depends how fast your existing site already is. But to give you a context of the kind of speed improvements you’d gain, my site here used to load up anywhere from 10-20 seconds. The longer and more photos the article had, the longer it takes. But after I went through the steps which I’ll be sharing here in this article, I’m now seeing an average page load times of about 2-3 seconds. So, in the same time it took to load a single page, you can now load about 10 pages.
Ok, let’s cut to the chase and get on with the steps.
1. APC – Alternative PHP Cache
In simplistic terms, APC is a framework that optimises PHP and caches compiled codes in memory for re-use. What that means is simple faster overall performance since PHP does not need to compile each and every page loads from your readers. If you want to know more about APC, just read up its own Wikipedia section here.
If you have root access to your server, installing APC is relatively easy. There are tonnes of guides in the Internet that provides you with step-by-step instructions to install APC and get it running. If you’re running Ubuntu 12.04 LTS, then my guide here on WordPress migrations includes the steps you need to install APC.
If you don’t have full access to your server, then I recommend that you check with your host provider to know if APC is already installed where your WordPress blog is running. In most cases, APC (or an equivalent PHP caching framework) would have been installed as well. If so, then you’re already set to go!
CloudFlare (http://www.cloudflare.com) both accelerates and protects your site through its globally distributed content delivery network (CDN). In normal cases, your readers would be directly served by your host server. With in place, your readers would now instead be served by Cloudflares content delivery network and they would essentially not be hitting your servers directly. Content would instead be fetched from your servers by CloudFlare to be distributed globally. What this means is simply faster access of your contents to anyone, anywhere in the world. So even if your host is located in the US, readers from Asia would also get faster access to your content since they now being served by a CloudFlare server near them. CloudFlare also helps to secure your site by filtering out known attackers, thus minimising online threats like bot spamming, DDOS and SQL injection to your site.
Best of all, CloudFlare has a free plan which is sufficient for a small blog site.
All you need to do is just sign up with the free plan and follow the instructions provided by CloudFlare. One thing to note, you’d need to swtich your domain’s nameserver to CloudFlares’ and have all DNS settings setup on CloudFlare instead of your domain provider. If this sounds like foreign language to you, then do get someone to help you with the required change of settings for your domain name, or simply drop me a comment and I’ll reach out to you to help you get through what you need to do as much as I’m able to.
Once you’re set up, you’ll be able to tweak the security and performance settings for your website on the administration section on CloudFlare. Most of the settings are pretty self-explanatory and I recommend that you experiment with some of the settings to see what suites your site the best.
However, you do not need to do much if you’re not sure since the default settings works great.
3. Enable JetPack’s Photon
If you’ve not yet installed JetPack (http://jetpack.me) plugin in your WordPress site, please do so now. It’s just too awesome not to be running on your site. I’m not going to detail out all the features of JetPack here but instead just focus on Photon (http://jetpack.me/support/photon/).
Just like CloudFlare, Photon is also a content deliver network that acts only on the images in WordPress posts and the featured images.
To turn it on, simply enable it on the JetPack configuration page in your WordPress Administration section. It’s that simple.
You might think that with CloudFlare, Photon is no longer required. I thought so too. But in my experience, my site pages load a lot faster with Photon enabled, than without, even with CloudFlare already helping to cache and delivery the images.
4. W3 Total Cache (W3TC) plugin
In order to fully harness the power of APC for WordPress, you will need to install a WordPress caching plugin. And for this, I’ve found W3 Total Cache (http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/w3-total-cache/) to be one of the better ones, especially since it also provides integration to CloudFlare and thus negating the need for another CloudFlare plugin.
5. EWWW Image Optimizer
Lastly, you’d also want to optimise your images as much as you can. Sure, there’s already JetPack Photon and CloudFlare to help optimise those images of yours, but why not make sure that the images you uploaded are optimised right from the start. To achieve this with ease, I use the EWWW Image Optimizer plugin for WordPress (http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/ewww-image-optimizer/). There are some requirements for this plugin to run but I believe most hosts would have these installed. If you have full access to your server, then simply install any components that are missing.
So there you go. Those 5 quick and easy steps would get your WordPress-powered site load a lot faster than before.