I’ve discussed using Amazon S3 and Cloudfront for hosting videos but there is another fantastic way to use those services to make your blog lightning fast. It’s no secret, Google pays attention to how fast your blog loads (part of an SEO strategy). They announced this just recently, it’s important to them, and important is your users. Nobody likes slow web pages, and likely if a page takes too long to load, or there is a delay (intermittent or not) they will leave and never come back.
The W3 Total Cache Plugin allows you to use a Content Delivery Network such as Cloudfront (which uses Amazon S3). Several other CDN’s are supported, but I went with my already useful Cloudfront account. It’s very simple to use, you need a Cloudfront account and Amazon S3 and you’re set. You can manage everything from within the WordPress admin panel. Uploading the proper files to Cloudfront, setting up caching options, it handles it all.
Installing W3 Total Cache
Installation is a breeze and can be completed in minutes. At a high level, you need to perform the following steps:
1. Sign-up for Amazon S3 & Cloudfront
2. Install W3 Total Cache Plugin within WordPress
3. Follow W3 Total Cache Instructions within WordPress admin panel
4. Log in to Cloudfront control panel and create a Distribution for your newly created bucked (done in step 3)
Amazon S3 & Cloudfront
Signing up for your Amazon services is simply, no up front costs, it is entirely pay as you go and dirt cheap! Unless you’re getting Mashable type traffic, I don’t think you need to concern yourself with any ‘surprise’ bills. You can monitor your site usage and check with their rates. I’m sure you will find out it is VERY cheap.
W3 Total Cache Plugin
From your WordPress admin site, install the plugin directly from there, it will show up under ‘Settings’ once installed and then you can follow through its setup instructions. The plugin has a whole pile of cache settings. I’ve yet to really play with any of them, I am mainly interested in the CDN support. So you click on ‘CDN Settings’, input your Amazon information and the plugin will then start uploading your static content to Amazon S3.
Once that is complete, when users access your blog, the plugin changes the url for static content to point to your Cloudfront distribution. This causes users browsers to fetch the static content of your blog from there rather than your host server where you wordpress is installed.
Cloudfront Distribution Setup
You will need to create a Cloudfront Distribution and input the distribution name into your W3 Total Cache ‘CDN Settings’ page. This can’t be done until you have created a ‘bucket’ in step 3. This will distribute your web content stored in Amazon S3 to the Cloudfront Distribution network.
It is really quite simply and quick, make sure you back up your blog before installing any new plugins, if for some odd reason something were to go wrong, you can quickly revert but I’ve done this several times now with ease.
Updates after installation
The W3 Total Cache plugin will automatically start to upload your attached images/media library as you add more, all of this is done automatically so your static blog content stays hosted on the CDN. It has had trouble (at least for me) with odd image names (special characters). Make sure any images/video (etc.) you are using have a basic name with no special characters in it.
What do you think?
This blog is hosted using the Cloudfront CDN, did it load fast? I tested the before and after, and it literally dropped the site load speed by over 50%. Give it a try, because Google really does care, and so do your readers/customers/whomever connects to your WordPress site.