Last updated on February 12, 2017
I probably should have caught this one a long time ago, but I didn’t. For a while now I’ve been complaining endlessly, at least in my internal monologue, about the poor performance I’ve been seeing from WP-Supercache on my VPS. Preloaded cache files simply shouldn’t take 1-1.5 seconds to serve up. They should be quick quick quick. Yet I was seeing such slow load times.
I’ve been struggling with the issue for quite sometime. I had changed from WP-Supercache to W3 Total Cache, added memcached, cached DB operations and so on and so forth trying to figure out why my pages were so slow to load.
What struck me, was that when I rolled back my W3 Total Cache implementation to no caching, responsiveness stayed about the same or got slightly better. As a non-logged in user, the inverse should have been true. Pages should have taken longer to load without a caching implementation than with one.
Then it hit me, Nginx config files are parsed in order.
Okay, let me take a step to the side here a moment. On Dreamhost VPSes if you’re running Nginx the server looks for supplementary config files in ~/nginx/$domain/ for each of the virtual hosts it’s configured to serve. Knowing that Nginx config files are read in order, I organized mine using the ##-description.conf style. So I might have 10-rewrites.conf, 50-wordpress.conf, 60-supercache.conf.
On a lark the idea struck me that maybe I should try loading the supercache rules before I got to the regular Wordpress rules, which include the directives for passing requests for .php files back to the PHP back-end.
A quick rename of 45-supercache.conf to 30-supercache.conf, thus placing the supercache rules ahead of the Wordpress rules, and my non-logged in user (i.e. reading from the static HTML cache) page response times dropped form 1-1.5s to less than 400ms.
Suffice to say, all my grumbling about slow performance was entirely due to poor configuration on my part.
I’m sure there’s probably a note about this somewhere in one of the myriad of guides for running Wordpress and WP-Supercache on Nginx, but I missed it.
I’d still love to improve the response time for pages that are being processed with PHP, but I can live with it being a touch slower for me knowing that it’s a whole lot faster for everybody else.