I wanted to write about this LiteSpeed Cache review for a while now. It was a game-changer for me and I think it can be for you as well. LiteSpeed Cache offers so many optimization features and an unparallel caching performance that it deserves to be looked at closely by anyone using WordPress. In this review, you will get to know exactly why I like it so much and how it is not just another of those WordPress caching and optimization plugins.
And before I go on about those, here is an unraveling of the truth.
If you thought LiteSpeed Cache is only for LiteSpeed web servers, you are simply NOT RIGHT.
Sure, it works the best with a LiteSpeed server because of their seamless caching integration but you can use all other optimization features of this plugin on any servers like Apache and NGINX.
To make it even more appealing, LiteSpeed Cache is the only plugin that takes all the paid WordPress optimization features out there and makes them available for free.
What Is LiteSpeed Cache
LiteSpeed Cache is an amazing caching and optimization plugin for platforms like WordPress, Magento, Joomla, OpenCart, Drupal, and some others. This plugin is intended to be a server-level caching plugin and meant to work seamlessly seamlessly with the LiteSpeed web server.
Both the LiteSpeed web server and the LiteSpeed Cache are from the same company called LiteSpeed Technologies. These two products have been optimized to integrate seamlessly between them. That’s why the caching feature of LiteSpeed Cache is unparallel to anything else. Maybe you can get a similar configuration using FastCGI caching in NGINX, but the convenience and performance you get with the LiteSpeed Cache and LiteSpeed server combo on WordPress is superior in every way.
But if you don’t know about the LiteSpeed web server, It is now considered to be the best web server available today for hosting websites. Especially, if you are using a WordPress site, LiteSpeed is the most recommended one. It outperforms both its competitors Apache, and NGINX by a large margin. See this chart for instance.
LiteSpeed Cache also outperforms other WordPress caching plugins. See the chart below:
In addition to caching, LiteSpeed Cache is a great optimization plugin that does pretty much everything you would need to properly optimize your site for speed. In fact, it is so good at optimization that this plugin alone may change your low Google PageSpeed Insights score to a very high score like in the 90s.
Speaking of which read this best LiteSpeed Cache settings guide for WordPress to know how to properly setup LiteSpeed Cache to get the most out of it without breaking your site.
LiteSpeed Cache Features
Featurewise, there aren’t any caching and optimization plugins in WordPress that can beat it. I am telling it from my first-hand experience.
Sure, you can name a few that do this and that. Some of them offer a specific type of optimization with lots of customization options say for W3 Total Cache plugin, you get total control over caching and some over HTML, CSS, and JS files. But nothing for image or database optimization. On top of that, even a pro user will get bored with the number of settings they offer let alone an average user.
Some other plugins offer a lot of features with a lot of customization options but don’t do a great job so they aren’t really considerable.
A handful of the plugins offer similar features as LiteSpeed Cache but don’t give so many customization options as LiteSpeed Cache does. Take WP Rocket for example. It is a great optimization plugin and very beginner-friendly. It will give you solid results from your WordPress site without even changing any settings. Customizing all its settings is also very easy for anyone. That’s because it only has a handful of customization options.
Conversely, LiteSpeed Cache gives a lot of features and a lot of customization options that you can use to customize everything as per your liking. No other plugin gives you that. And the server-level caching feature in LiteSpeed Cache is superior to any other caching plugins. That alone tells a lot about it.
Below are the features LiteSpeed Cache offers to its users:
Server Level Caching
If I would have to pick one unique thing that LiteSpeed Cache offers, it would be the caching feature. Let me tell you why it is so important.
Every time someone wants to visit any of your webpage on WordPress, the webpage is generated from scratch to serve that visitor. The next time that page needs to be served, it is generated again, and again and so on. This happens for all the webpages on your site. This webpage generation requires running PHP scripts, making database queries, and compiling their results to make a complete webpage. So, this process uses a lot of your web server resources and takes some time to complete which increases your website load time.
Now think about how much processing power and time could have been saved if you could generate every webpage once and then save it so that the next visitors could be served without generating the webpages again and again.
That’s exactly what caching does. It will save the pages once they are generated and then use that saved/cached page to serve any future visitors. Now, there are a lot of caching plugins out there that can do just that. But all these are application-level caching plugins. What it means is that they will save those webpages but in order to serve them to the visitors, they will still need to run some PHP scripts in WordPress.
But LiteSpeed Cache is a server-level caching plugin so the cached webpages won’t require running any PHP scripts in WordPress at all to be served to the visitors. That is the most optimized way you could go with serving your webpages. It will require the least processing power and the least time to serve those pages.
Now, you see why I like this caching feature of LiteSpeed Cache so much.
Caching of LiteSpeed Cache on Non-LiteSpeed servers
If you use the LiteSpeed Cache plugin with a different web server like Apache or NGINX, you wouldn’t be able to take advantage of its amazing caching feature. That’s because LiteSpeed Cache and LiteSpeed web servers have been built to work seamlessly between them. So, this type of server-level caching integration isn’t possible with other web servers.
Still, if you are on a different web server than LiteSpeed, you can use any other caching plugins with LiteSpeed Cache to make up for that. But obviously, they would be an application-level caching solution, not server-level. If you are on a different server say Apache, you wouldn’t be able to use server-level caching at all. And if you are on an NGINX server, you could use FastCGI caching to get a similar setup but with a lot of effort and writing some codes. But that still wouldn’t perform nearly as good as a LiteSpeed server. And on top of that, you will lose all the caching convenience that comes with the LiteSpeed cache and LiteSpeed server setup.
But just the unavailability of its caching feature in other web servers doesn’t mean LiteSpeed Cache can’t be used on those servers. Take a look at what LiteSpeed Technologies has to say about it.
LSCWP includes additional optimization features, such as Database Optimization, Minification and Combination of CSS and JS files, HTTP/2 Push, CDN Support, Browser Cache, Object Cache, Lazy Load for Images, and Image Optimization! These features do not require the use of a LiteSpeed web server.LiteSpeed Technologies
This pretty much means that except for the full page caching, all other features of LiteSpeed Cache for WordPress (LSCWP) can be used on any web servers. And as said earlier, you can just use any other WordPress caching plugin to make up for their full page caching feature.
Besides, if I take its caching feature out of the equation, LiteSpeed Cache is still one of my top picks for a WordPress optimization plugin and certainly the best pick if you want a free plugin.
Public and Private Caching
Public caching means caching a webpage that can be delivered to anyone regardless of who is visiting the page.
So, all the visitors will see the same thing on a webpage in case of public caching. Say you run a blog website on WordPress and all the visitors on the site come to see the same thing on your website like your blog posts. This will be public caching.
Because public caching allows you to can just save a page and deliver it to anyone requesting the page, it is generally a very easy caching solution. That’s why you will see all the WordPress caching plugins offer this type of caching.
Private caching means caching a webpage that needs to be changed based on who is visiting the page.
So, different visitors will see different versions of the same page. Say for your blog website, when you log into the WordPress dashboard as an admin, you see an admin bar, your name at the corner of the admin bar, and many other options that no one else sees. In this case, caching those pages will be private caching.
Because private caching requires you to cache pages based on specific user scenarios and correctly deliver them to the right visitors, it is a difficult caching type. So, you will only see a few WordPress caching plugins are providing this option.
LiteSpeed Cache provides you with both public caching and private caching options. While most caching plugins don’t offer private caching, LiteSpeed Cache not only offers it but also gives additional customization options. For instance, you can cache unapproved comments for only the visitor who made the comment.
Additionally, you get to force certain resources to be cached, exclude certain resources from public caching, separately cache mobile views, provide a list of query parameters that should be dropped/ignored while serving cached files, and do some other customizations.
Edge Side Includes (ESI) is a caching type that happens at the CDN edges/data centers. You can also say that it is a mix of both public and private caching.
ESI allows separately caching different parts of a webpage. So, it can separately cache public contents and private contents in a webpage and then assemble them together to make a complete webpage.
This way your webpages can be put together in the CDN edge and therefore accelerate the delivery of those files from the CDN. But ESI only starts sending a webpage after the page has been completely reassembled. This process can sometimes delay the TTFB of your website. Regardless, there are many who can take advantage of ESI.
Most CDN providers don’t provide ESI probably because it still isn’t an officially approved technology. But sure enough, LiteSpeed Cache has a built-in feature for using ESI. However, you will need to use a LiteSpeed Enterprise web server or their QUIC.cloud CDN to use this feature.
LiteSpeed Cache provides a lot of options to better optimize the downloading and loading of different resources like HTML, CSS, JS and fonts. You get all the important controls over how these are done. So, you can optimize they way you want them to be.
HTML, CSS and JS Optimization
It is a standard in any WordPress optimization plugin to minify HTML, CSS, and JS files and combine CSS, and JS files. LiteSpeed Cache also offers these services. What it also does is give some necessary options for how they should be done.
For instance, you can exclude any CSS or JS files from being optimized, choose to asynchronize and defer the loading of CSS and JS files respectively, select how long the optimized CSS and JS files should be cached in your web server, and choose from some other settings.
HTTP/2 Server Push
LiteSpeed Cache takes advantage of the latest technologies like the HTTP/2 server push. Accordingly, it gives you the option to send the CSS and JS files to the browsers before they are requested. Consequently, this sending of necessary files in advance improves the loading speed of your website.
External Font Optimization
Loading and downloading of external fonts like Google fonts slow down the website loading speed. LiteSpeed gives you a way to optimize them. For instance, it lets you decide how fonts should be displayed while they are downloaded. You get the options to load Google fonts asynchoronously, and to remove them from loading on your site.
You get to use DNS Prefetch in LiteSpeed Cache. DNS Prefetch makes it faster for the browsers to connect with the external resources used in your site. This, in turn, helps improve your website speed. LiteSpeed Cache lets you enter specific domain names and allows automatically prefetching the DNS of all the domains used in your site.
It is often more time consuming for the web browsers to download resources from external domains than from your domain. This mostly happen because of the DNS resolution, and TCP connection time involved in connecting with external domains as well as the unoptimized download time associated with those resource.
LiteSpeed Cache addresses this by allowing you to automatically download these resources in your web server and then serving from there.
Lazy loading is an amazing feature that reduces the number of HTTP connections or files download a browser needs to do for your website. Lazy loaded files are only download when they enter into the viewport or in the visitors screen. Therefore, the browser doesn’t need to download all your website files before your website loading ends. This greatly reduces the total loading time of your website.
LiteSpeed Cache will allow lazy loading of the images and iframe elements in your site. Considering that the downloading of images take a significant amount of time for most websites, lazy loading them helps to significantly improve the load time of those sites.
WordPress now adds lazy loading to all the images by default.
Critical CSS is the part of a webpage’s total CSS that is necessary to render or style the above the fold contents of the webpage. Above the fold is the part of a webpage that can be viewed without ever scrolling the webpage.
So, if you load the critical CSS early but delay the loading of the rest of the CSS, the above the fold contents of your webpages will load faster. Consequently, it will give a faster load speed appearance to your visitors. This, additionally, helps improve your speed score in Google PageSpeed Insights.
LiteSpeed Cache comes with this awesome Critical CSS feature. In fact, you will find only a few WordPress optimization plugins offering this feature. And, as of now, if someone is offering, it is part of their paid plan. But LiteSpeed Cache is providing this feature for free with a very generous limit. Critical CSS in LiteSpeed Cache works with the help of QUIC.cloud. You can read more about QUIC.cloud from this article.
Images weigh a lot so they make websites heavy and slows down their loading speed. Therefore, optimizing images by reducing their weight saves a of loading time. Consequently, many WordPress optimization plugins come with this option. There are even many plugins dedicated to optimizing only images. But they are either paid, come with limitations or don’t do a good job.
But LiteSpeed Cache provides unlimited image optimization for free and their image optimization quality is also very good. You even get to optimize a generous number of images for free in its Fast Queue and then unlimited image optimization in Standard Queue. Image optimization in LiteSpeed Cache also provided by QUIC.cloud.
If it lacks anything, that would be adaptive image optimization. But this isn’t a super important feature for most sites. Also, as of now, no other caching and optimization plugin provides this features. So, if you want to use adaptive image optimization, you would need to use a standalone plugin for that.
Low Quality Image Placeholder
This is one of the unique features of LiteSpeed Cache plugin. Low Quality Image Placeholder (LQIP) is an ultra-compressed version of the original image. This compressed version is so much compressed that it weighs only around a kilobyte in size.
And because of this high compression, the image loses all of its details and becomes only a very pixelated or blurred version of the image. But the important part is that because of its small size, it loads super quick compared to the large original image. That’s perfect because this image is displayed in place of the original image until the original image is downloaded.
This way, even though the LQIPs don’t noticeably slow down the page load time because of being super lightweight, they help improve user experience because visitors don’t need to see white space on their screen before the original image finishes loading.
LiteSpeed Technologies, the company behind LiteSpeed Cache, provides a CDN service called QUIC.cloud which has been made to work hand in hand with the LiteSpeed Cache plugin. So, the LiteSpeed Cache plugin has built in feature to integrate QUIC.cloud CDN with your site.
This LiteSpeed Cache and QUIC.cloud CDN setup is the most seamless reverse proxy CDN setup for WordPress. Besides doing everything that any conventional CDN does, reverse proxy CDNs can also cache the HTML document of your webpages which helps significantly improve your website speed.
But HTML caching is not a very convenient thing for dynamic websites like those created with WordPress. That’s because improper setup causes a lot of issues like displaying wrong content to the visitors. This is why there aren’t many providers offering reverse proxy caching let alone reverse proxy caching for WordPress. And the few that do provide, often create a challenge to set up everything properly and to avoid having any issues.
But LiteSpeed Cache with QUIC.cloud setup made it super easy to use reverse proxy CDN with your WordPress site. They also provide a few GB of free CDN bandwidth per month based on your web server type. Their free bandwidth limit even be enough if your site doesn’t have that much website traffic.
You can read more about QUIC.cloud in this review article. You can also read more about the difference between QUIC.cloud and Cloudflare, which is another popular reverse proxy CDN provider, in this article.
Another important feature in LiteSpeed Cache is database optimization. WordPress websites needs to go through the database for performing any tasks like serving a webpage to the visitors. So, if the database size is bigger, those tasks takes longer to finish.
The database, however, grows over time and keeps many data that are no longer necessary. So, by removing those unnecessary data from the WordPress database, you can make your site run faster. And the database optimization feature of LiteSpeed Cache does a great job at that.
Everytime someone visits a webpage on your WordPress site, the webpage is dynamically generated from scratch and then served to the visitors. This dynamic webpage generation process takes some time and that is the extra time visitors need to wait before being able to see the page.
You can overcome this issue using full page caching on your site like the caching feature provided by the LiteSpeed Cache plugin. Which stores the webpage after the first time it is generated for serving a visitor and then serves the saved page to subsequent visitors which takes out the extra page generation time required for those subsequent visitors. However, the first visitor still needs to wait the extra time for the page to be generated.
To even overcome this issue, crawler is used. The crawler goes through each page on your site behaving kind of like a visitor. So, with the crawler, any uncached page gets cached and therefore even the first visitor to the pages gets served from the cache eliminating the necessity to wait for the extra time.
LiteSpeed Cache comes with such a crawler that helps make your website load faster even to the first visitor on the pages.
LiteSpeed Cache User Interface
Yeah, undoubtedly, LiteSpeed Cache is a feature-rich plugin that comes with a lot of customization options. And when you combine those two, you usually end up with a clunky interface and drown in the ocean of too many options to fathom. But LiteSpeed Cache has done a great job with their user interface.
They stripped down everything that could have been taken down without limiting the customization options. Then nicely put the rest of the things in a neat and organized fashion. I really mean organized. You can get the hang of it really easily. But, still, you are left with a lot of customization options in hand. These options may be all a pro user has always dreamed of. But for an average user, that’s a different story.
Properly setting them up will require specialized knowledge. The good news is LiteSpeed Cache works out of the box without doing any setups. But you will need to configure the plugin yourself if you want to go anywhere near the possibilities that the plugin offers. That means to get better performance from your site, you will need to configure it properly as per your needs.
But those many options even in such a neat package are still too much for an average user. Especially for optimization and caching plugins like LiteSpeed Cache, every on/off button needs to be properly thought out. That’s why such a convenient interface of LiteSpeed Cache still isn’t convenient enough for nearly everyone.
You can check out this LiteSpeed Cache best settings article to be able to properly configure all its options without missing out on any details.
Only Free Plugin with All Pro Features
If you are willing to spend some money on WordPress optimization, you will find a few plugins that provide all the necessary option features. But if you are looking for a free option, LiteSpeed Cache is the only free plugin that comes with all those necessary optimization features. Even though free, its optimization is similar, if not better, to all those premium plugins.
However, some of the features of the LiteSpeed Cache plugin comes with a usage limitation. But, to their defense, those features use up their QUIC.cloud server resources instead of using your web server resources. Additionally, their usage limitations are pretty generous so your site may not even need to go over the limit. In addition to that, none of those features are provided for free by any other plugins.
By the way, CDN, image optimization, Critical CSS, and Low Quality Image Placeholder (LQIP) are the features with usage limitations. However, image optimization doesn’t really come with any usage limitations as you can do unlimited image optimizations for free and because the limitation only applies to Fast Queue and not Standard Queue.
Therefore, LiteSpeed Cache is really the only free WordPress optimization plugin with all the pro features.