Cloudflare caching

There are many plugins for WordPress that promise to speed the delivery of our site contents to visitors, including long-time staples such as WP Rocket, WP Super Cache, and W3 Total Cache, and newer offerings such as Hummingbird. Now, Cloudflare has introduced a caching solution that actually works, and that so far seems easier to deal with when you are doing development and updates on your site.

To get Cloudflare up and running, you need to take three actions: Install the free Cloudflare plugin, delegate your website’s DNS to Cloudflare (also free), and then subscribe to Cloudflare’s caching service, which it calls Automatic Platform Optimization. This needs to be done for each WordPress website you want to accelerate.

The plugin connects to your Cloudflare account (presumably for whitelisting, if nothing else), and can be used without the caching service. But for $5 per month per site, Cloudflare will recognize any content of your WordPress site that can be distributed to their edge servers for faster response to your visitors. Once you authenticate your Cloudflare account via the plugin, you can turn Automatic Platform Optimization on and off, as well as selecting “under attack” mode, selecting development mode, and clearing the Cloudflare cache.

I haven’t done exhausting testing, but I have compared Cloudflare Automatic Platform Optimization against WP Rocket, which had been my caching plugin of choice after many years (and on the recommendation of two different developers). Cloudflare Automatic Platform Optimization was not only easier to set up (one button), but it delivered content faster and was easier to use for development.

If you don’t do much (or any) development on your WordPress site, this last point may not seem like a big deal, but one of my sites is a very popular website with a custom theme and lot of moving parts. Even making small changes can be terrifying because the site has to be online and operational at all times, and between WP Rocket caching, Sucuri caching, WP Engine caching, and browser caching, one has to clear multiple caches in just the right order to see any changes, and even then sometimes I can find myself in “cache hell” where I can see the code has changed but it is not getting delivered to visitors.

The one downside is the cost. Those with Cloudflare Professional, Business, or Enterprise plans get Automatic Platform Optimization for free, but if you are the free plan the $60 annual cost is higher than the $49 annual cost of WP Rocket for a single site, and WP Rocket (and others?) offer multi-site discounts that could increase the disparity.

Cloudflare Automatic Platform Optimization does work, though, and offers ease of use for beyond any of the other caching solutions I have seen.