I love Wordfence to boost security on WordPress websites. It is a non-negotiable addition to every website we build because it works at helping to keep the bad guys out!
One of the features that we loved with Wordfence was the inclusion of a caching feature called Falcon. It sped up websites by between 30 to 50 times, without adding significant load to the server.
What is Website Caching?
Caching is one of the most important things you can do for your website and your visitors.
Imagine your website is a pizza. When you visit the pizza store, the chef assembles the ingredients for your pizza, cooks it and then serves it to you. This assembly takes time.
Now imagine, that your chef had pre-prepared the most common pizza recipes and had them sitting in a rack ready for when someone orders. This is much faster and results in happier customers who don’t have to wait around to get their order.
Your website is made up of a lot of different ingredients – images, text, fonts, colours and design components. When you visit a URL, all of these pieces are assembled into the whole design for you.
Caching is where your website has stored a pre-assembled version of your site, which means it can more quickly deliver the site to someone who visits. The faster your site appears, the happier your clients (and Google) will be.
The slower your site, the more problems you create. According to Kissmetrics, 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load. A 1-second delay can cause a 7% reduction in conversions.
Google also looks harshly at slow loading mobile sites. If your site is slow to load on mobiles, it can affect where you are shown in search results
Speed is in and caching is one of the ways you can speed up your site!
What has changed with Wordfence?
Unfortunately, in the last 24 hours, Wordfence has notified users that the caching component of the plugin is no longer supported and that users need to find an alternative to cache their websites.
The reasons they have moved away from offering caching are logical and sound. I understand why they are removing the service to focus on what they do best – security.
The “how” they have done it leaves a bit to be desired.
From email notification to the removal of the option was approximately 24 hours. There was no blog post explaining the reasoning during that time. If you didn’t act within that 24-hour window, problems could (and did) occur with websites.
The problem is if you update from 6.2.0 to either 6.2.1 or 6.2.2 (which came out only a few hours apart), the performance tab may disappear even if you have caching enabled.
Wordfence support says that this should be an isolated issue, but over 50% of the sites I managed had the tab disappear during the updates.
Why that is an issue, is that while the tab is hidden your site still has caching enabled. This means your site will have a cached version kept that you can’t access unless you mess with the wp-config file to add a line of temporary code to make the tab visible again. Most casual users would not be game to tackle this code editing.
Your site will keep delivering old versions of the site rather than any new or updated pages – sort of like having the pizza chef stuck on automatic pilot and only turning out Ham and Pineapple when you wanted Supreme.
Also, it can mess with any new caching plugins you decide to add to your site until Wordfence finally removes all trace of the caching code from their plugin.
What do you need to do now if you have Wordfence with Falcon
- DON’T update your version of Wordfence before you do these steps.
- Go into Wordfence, Performance Set-Up
- Select the “No performance improvement ”
- Click save changes.
- Clear the cache.
- If you have done these steps, then you can safely update the WordPress plugin to the latest version.
If the performance tab has disappeared and you still have caching enabled, you need to add the following line of code to your wp-config file
Add it. Make the changes, then delete the code from your wp-config file.
Replacement Caching Options
Finding an alternative caching plugin is not straightforward. If you get it wrong, you could slow your site down rather than speed things up. Some plugins are not regularly updated, and others seem to cause problems if you want to remove them down the track.
For a great clear explanation of what caching options you have with CDN, server caching and plugins, check out a video by my colleague MaAnna over at BlogAid.
MaAnna is currently running tests on the different caching plugins to see which delivers the best results. When the results come back, I will update this post with a link to her findings.
I have chosen WP Rocket as the caching plugin for my sites and my client sites and have migrated all our sites over to this new plugin.
The migration to WP Rocket was seamless, with only a few minor configuration tweaks needed for the different sites to ensure everything rendered correctly.
The results of website speed tests before and after WP Rocket after have been impressive.
Site load times have reduced by between 3 and 12 seconds from the no caching to cached.
I used GT Metrix https://gtmetrix.com/ to test site speed. It is a free service and has loads of handy information on ways you can further improve the speed of your site. All sites I have built now come in with an A Page Speed score (Gold star to me!)
Plugin authors have every right to change their offering and business direction. All site owners need to remain vigilant for changes (or plugins that have been abandoned – which is a whole other blog post!)
In this case, you need to take action ASAP to reduce problems by disabling Wordfence caching and clear your cache before you move onto your next caching option to keep your website zippy fast!