Shared Hosting Cache: Hosts that Offer Server Caching

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You can have caching on shared hosting in two ways – via a plugin, or through the server itself. Server caching is faster. With WordPress for instance, examples of cache plugins are W3 Total Cache, WP Super Cache, and WP Rocket Cache. Server-based caching however, is implemented directly on the server. While you still might need a plugin to configure the cache, all the heavy lifting is done on a higher level. This leads to far better and consistent performance.

Shared Hosting Providers with In-Built Server Caching

There are very few hosts that provide dynamic server caching out of the box on regular shared hosting plans. Here’s a list of web hosts that provide server-based caching on their shared hosting plans:

Web Hosts with In-Built Server Caching
Hosting ProviderStarting Price ($)Starting PlanDetails
NameHero$3.89/moStarter Shared HostingThe LiteSpeed Web Server
allows in-built caching with all
shared hosting plans
GoDaddy$4.49/moBasic WordPress HostingWordPress hosting only
SiteGround$5.95/moGrowBig Shared HostingDynamic caching only starts
with the GrowBig plan. Missing with
the StartUp plan.
Hostgator$5.95/moStarter Shared HostingWordPress hosting only
A2 Hosting$9.31/mo“Turbo” Shared HostingWith “Turbo” Plans Only
Bluehost$19.95/moWP Pro “Build” WordPress HostingOnly with managed WordPress plans

As you can see from the table, NameHero is the only web host that provides server-level caching for all its shared hosting plans. This is because it doesn’t use Apache, but LiteSpeed instead.

Table of Contents:

Shared Hosting Caching – Not a Normal Feature

In general, web hosts don’t offer server caching for basic shared hosting. This is because it requires special architecture to make it happen on Apache. We need to configure a reverse proxy like NGINX or Varnish.

Varnish Cache on Shared Hosting

Varnish is a server-side component that specializes in caching static version of dynamic pages. It’s called “app accelerator” and sits on top of a “real” web server. Both Hostgator and Bluehost implement varnish caching for their WordPress offerings. Though Bluehost only offers it for their “managed” WordPress solution and not the regular one.

One of the disadvantages of Varnish is that it doesn’t need an SSL certificate. In today’s world, that’s a huge drawback. We need to add an extra layer of SSL termination in front of Varnish to communicate with the service over HTTP. For this reason alone, I feel that Varnish is no longer an ideal solution.

NGINX Cache on Shared Hosting

NGINX is the other popular server caching solution. It can actually function as a full-fledged web server in its own right. So while it’s technically possible to integrate Varnish and NGINX with each other, there’s not much reason to do so. We can use NGINX as a reverse proxy just like Varnish to cache dynamic pages.

SiteGround is the most well-known provider that users NGINX to power their “SuperCacher” plugin. Proper dynamic caching is only available on their GrowBig plan.

LiteSpeed Caching

LiteSpeed is a drop-in replacement for Apache. That means you can just replace one with the other and applications shouldn’t be able to tell the difference. Not many hosting companies use LiteSpeed. However, it comes with in-built server caching capabilities, which makes it attractive for web hosts who want to improve performance.

The LiteSpeed server cache leads to massive improvements in load time as shown here on the statistics module of their plugin:

LiteSpeed Server Caching Improvements on shared hosting

NameHero uses the LiteSpeed web server, so they’re the only web host on this list that offers dynamic caching for all its shared hosting plans – including the beginner ones. However, A2 Hosting implements LiteSpeed on its “Turbo” web hosting packages, which also uses LiteSpeed with server-based dynamic caching.

Varnish vs NGINX Cache Performance vs Plugins

This excellent article on Delicious Brains examines the performance of Varnish vs NGINX vs ordinary plugins. And there’s also an unoptimized WordPress installation without any caching for comparison.

As expected, server-based caching solutions like NGINX and Varnish outperform simple caching plugins. And they, in turn, outperform a regular WordPress installation. However, you can also see that NGINX comes out ahead of Varnish in all the tests. As mentioned above, SiteGround uses NGINX so as far as server-side caching on shared hosting goes, I will be voting for SiteGround.

Memcached on Shared Hosting

Another area where caching helps is with the database. Studies show that database queries can get reused around 70% of the time, and ideally should be close to 100%. As a result, it’s a shame if the database is hit again and again with the same query when it’s already been executed earlier.

The solution to this on Memcached. And for shared hosting, there are only three web hosts I know of that offer it.

NameHero Memcached

In addition to dynamic caching, NameHero also supports Memcached from the LiteSpeed server. This is great for optimizing database performance and reducing hits to the disk. First, we enable the memcached module from the PHP cPanel plugin as shown here:

PHP Memcached Module in cPanel
Enabling memcached PHP module in NameHero cPanel

Once that’s done, you enable memcached in the LiteSpeed WordPress caching plugin as shown here:

LiteSpeech caching plugin with Memcached
How to enable Memcached in the LiteSpeed plugin on NameHero

This means that NameHero is the only host to provide server caching memcached out of the box for all hosting plans. It’s a pretty amazing deal, and one that other hosting providers struggle to match.

SiteGround Memcached

The first is SiteGround starting with the GrowBig plan. You need to install the companion SG Optimizer plugin, and then enable Memcached from cPanel via the SuperCacher add-on. You can enable Memcached from the SiteGround plugin as illustrated in this screenshot:

Memcached on SiteGround Plugin

This integrates with the switch on the backend and activates Memcached for your site.

A2 Hosting Turbo Memcached Plugin

The second web hosting to offer Memcached is A2 Hosting with their “Turbo” plans. Like with SiteGround, you need to download their A2 Optimized Plugin to enable and configure Memcached and the general cache. The plugin is available for the following applications:

  • WordPress
  • Magento
  • Drupal
  • Joomla
  • OpenCart
  • PrestaShop

Bottom line – if you need shared hosting with Memcached, your only choices are SiteGround and A2 Hosting.

Clearing the Cache on Shared Hosting

For web hosts that provide in-built dynamic caching, the process for clearing the cache is different for each interface. Some like Bluehost require you to access your hosting interface. Others like SiteGround and LiteSpeed based services require you to use a plugin to achieve the same thing. Here’s a screenshot of how SiteGround allows you to clear the cache on its shared hosting:

Clear Cache on Shared Hosting

In general, the ones with a plugin have more sophisticated controls as you can purge specific pages and exclude certain posts from the cache. You can also configure the rules for logged in users and change many more settings. You can also disable the shared hosting cache entirely.

For more details, see the specific instruction below for each web hosting provider.

Custom Server Caching Solutions

Sometimes, a web host won’t use any pre-built caching solution and will develop its own technology instead. But I suspect it’s more likely that they just use one of the above solutions and repackage it a bit to suit their needs. GoDaddy is an example of this. They claim to use their own multi-tiered caching products, but I personally think it’s just NGINX or Varnish.

WordPress Caching Plugins

If you’re using WordPress, then you can get dynamic caching regardless of which web host you use for shared hosting – just use a plugin! Sure, it’s not as fast as server caching and has a bit of additional overload, but it’s still way superior compared to not using caching at all. A few popular caching plugins are:

  1. W3 Total Cache
  2. WP Super Cache
  3. WP Rocket Cache
  4. Page Speed Ninja

Of these, I have to hand it to W3 Total Cache. They’ve been around forever, have continuously improved, and have a pro version with extra features like fragment caching.

And many others. Keep in mind however, that even with server-based caching you need to install a plugin on your WordPress site. This is because a plugin allows you to configure the parameters of caching such as rules for logged in users and those who have just posted a comment. The important thing to remember though is that the heavy lifting is being done server side. Not in the same PHP environment on which WordPress runs.

Now here’s a rundown of the web hosts who offer caching with their shared hosting or WordPress plans.

NameHero Dynamic Cache

NameHero is the only web provider that provides server-based caching right out of the box for even the most basic shared hosting plan. They’re able to do this because of the LiteSpeed web server instead of Apache. It comes with an accompanying plugin called LiteSpeed Cache. This is a truly amazing plugin with more features than all of the other web hosting providers combined.

For example, you can configure “crawlers” that prime your cache for you. You can change the settings for logged in users and for those who have pending comments. The list of options is too large to get into here, but it’s pretty amazing. Like SiteGround, the plugin also offers the ability to minify and combine CSS and Javascript files, but I suggest you use a separate plugin for that.

SiteGround Dynamic Cache

SiteGround is one of the only web hosts to provide server-side dynamic caching on plain shared hosting. Out of the three packages, the first one to have any real caching is the GrowBig plan. Here’s a complete list of SiteGround discounts for all their plans.

The basic StartUp plan only provides for “static caching”. This means that SiteGround will cache CSS, Javascript, images and all other static files and serve them from the NGINX cache instead of from the server. While this is nice, it’s not enough for a site with a decent number of visitors. What we need is dynamic caching starting with the GrowBig plan.

SiteGround NGINX Cache Implementation

As mentioned above, SiteGround uses NGINX for its caching solution. It’s a more complete framework compared to varnish. One of the benefits of SiteGround is that in addition to dynamic caching, they also provide Memcached, which caches database objects in RAM. This means that not only files, but also database requests are faster.

Here’s a screenshot of the three levels of caching in SiteGround:

SiteGround caching levels

As you can see, there are three “levels”, and all of them are available with the GrowBig plan.

SiteGround Cache Plugin

The cache interfaces with your website in two places – via the cPanel section, and the plugin allows for dedicated SiteGround WordPress caching. The screenshot above is the cPanel implementation. The plugin is called “SG Optimizer” and you can download it from here.

The two work together to communicate and create static caches of dynamic pages on your site. Once you install the plugin, you can enable caching from WordPress as shown here:

Enable Dynamic Caching

Keep in mind that unlike normal caching plugins, SG Optimizer doesn’t actually do any heavy lifting on its own. What happens is that it interfaces with the SuperCacher extension on cPanel, and the server is the one creating the static copies. This means that it’s much more efficient compared to regular caching plugins. If you have the SiteGround plugin working with SuperCacher, you don’t need any other caching plugin.

The SiteGround cache plugin also allows you to do cool stuff like lazy load images, combine and minify CSS files etc. However, I personally find it better to do all that using the Autoptimize WordPress plugin instead. You can pick and choose which functions you want to enable. You can also prevent caching with an exception list for certain pages. Very useful for those posts with constant dynamic content and updates!

SiteGround Caching with WooCommerce

Caching plugins are great if your site is mostly static. But this presents a problem with things like WooCommerce shopping carts, or any other situation where content is personalized to a particular visitor. We have to be careful not to serve a cached page to someone who has added an item to their shopping cart!

Fortunately, SiteGround cache works wonderfully with WooCommerce. The plugin automatically takes care of special situations and smartly decides which version of a page to serve. If you’re running an eCommerce store with WooCommerce, SiteGround will check to see if the user has an empty shopping cart. If not, they will get a dynamic page and not one from the cache.

This feature alone sets SiteGround apart from the competition. The amount of work they’ve put into their caching plugin is pretty amazing. This makes them the top choice for WooCommerce hosting among all the regular shared hosting providers. Of course, there are other services like Liquid Web WooCommerce hosting that are faster, but those are far more “premium” offerings. As far as ordinary web hosting goes, no caching solution is superior that provided by SiteGround.

Hostgator Server Caching

The cheapest plan with which you can get server caching on Hostgator is the WordPress Starter plan for $5.95/mo. This means that there’s no in-built dynamic caching on their regular Hatchling, Baby, or Business plans. So if you require this feature on their regular,  cheap hosting packages, you’re going to have to install a caching plugin.

Of course, this isn’t as fast as backside caching, but that comes with the territory of cheap web hosting. But the optimized WordPress plans on Hostgator come with a bunch of other features like:

  1. Cloud Architecture
  2. CDN for static images, CSS, and Javascript files
  3. Lower density servers compared to traditional web hosting
  4. Malware scanner and removal
  5. Customized dashboard instead of cPanel
  6. Automatic plugin and theme updates

Here’s my full review of Hostgator WordPress hosting. If your site runs WordPress and you want to choose Hostgator, I strongly recommend this instead of shared hosting. It has a lot more power and includes server-side caching as well!

Hostgator Varnish Cache

The architecture for the multi-tiered dynamic caching on Hostgator is based on varnish. Now since Varnish doesn’t inherently support SSL, it means they probably hook it up with another layer for SSL terminations.

The Varnish architecture is used not just for WordPress, but for the Hostgator Cloud hosting platform as well. But the cloud hosting platform is missing crucial features such as a CDN service. So given a choice between the two, the WordPress package is superior to the cloud package.

How to Clear the Hostgator Cache

Sometimes when you update your site on Hostgator, you don’t always see the changes immediately. This is because the cached versions of your pages haven’t been updated yet. It’s a process that should happen automatically when changes are made, but sometimes there’s a glitch and it continues to show outdated versions.

To clear the cache, follow these steps:

  1. Go to your hosting panel and click the “WordPress Manager”
  2. Click the “gear” icon next to the site you want to manage
  3. Click the “Cache Settings” page as shown here:
Clear Hostgator Cache

From this panel, you can manage all your cache settings including clearing or disabling the cache entirely. If you’re going to work on your site for a while, it’s a good idea to disable the cache during that time so that you can see the results immediately. You can always re-enable it later.

Bluehost Server Side Caching

Bluehost follows the same model as Hostgator – namely Varnish based caching. However, unlike Hostgator, they don’t offer server-side caching on their regular WordPress plans – only for the managed WordPress packages.

Bluehost’s ordinary WordPress hosting is just regular shared hosting with a few additional features like:

  1. Automatic WordPress installation
  2. Automatic WordPress updates for themes, plugins, and the core

Apart from that, there’s no difference. Specifically, Bluehost does not offer server-side caching for its WordPress plans. That feature is reserved only for its “WP Pro” package.

Bluehost Caching Options with WP Pro

While the regular Bluehost WordPress plan doesn’t allow caching, the WP Pro version does. This is because the Pro version is a complete managed WordPress solution. To  change the cache settings, you need to take the following steps:

  1. In the “Hosting” tab, click “Performance”
  2. On the left-hand side of the page, click “cache control”
  3. From here, you can either:
    1. Turn off the cache for all domains
    1. Clear the cache for all domains
    1. Perform either of the above two for a specific domain

Like with Hostgator, you need to clear the cache anytime the content on your site changes. Unlike with SiteGround however, this might mess up your site if you have an online store like WooCommerce. The server isn’t smart enough to recognize scenarios like shopping carts and adjust accordingly. So if you have a regular website, the Bluehost caching options might be good enough for you. But if your site is primarily dynamic as in with eCommerce, you should look elsewhere.

GoDaddy Server Cache

The fourth web hosting provider we’re looking at is GoDaddy. Like the others, they don’t provide server-side caching with the regular shared hosting plans. That caching feature comes only with the specialized GoDaddy WordPress plans.

However, GoDaddy’s caching system seems to be fundamentally messed up. Many users have reported that their site actually performs worse with the cache enabled, than it is with it. That’s not a ringing endorsement of their services. Moreover, they haven’t provided any information about what kind of caching architecture they use, so we have nothing left but guesswork.

There’s no official GoDaddy cache plugin either, so if you want to get better performance, you have to use either W3 Total Cache, WP Super Cache, or WP Rocket (paid). But if you’ve installed WordPress through GoDaddy, you should see a “Flush Cache” option on your WordPress dashboard.

A2 Hosting Cache

By default, A2 hosting doesn’t support server-based caching on their regular shared hosting plans. However, they have an additional option called “Turbo” which essentially runs your shared hosting on a LiteSpeed webserver just like with NameHero. They claim this increases speeds by up to 20 times – but that’s just the effect of caching.

With the LiteSpeed plugin, you can manage your A2 hosting cache just like with NameHero. However, A2 Hosting also offers Memcached functionality with its Turbo hosting, so that’s a benefit not offered by NameHero.

Automatically Prime the Page Cache

The problem with dynamic caching is that the first visitor for every page will always get slower page load times. That’s because the system has to generate the page, store it, and serve it. Once this happens, the cache is “warm” and subsequent visitors will get fast speeds.

But every visitor is important – even the very first one. We can solve this problem by “warming” or “priming” the page cache with the right tools. Unfortunately, out of the server-side cache solutions above, only the LiteSpeed cache plugin allows you to automatically prime the page cache via a crawler. In it, you can configure the crawler settings to ensure that it doesn’t overwhelm your site by crawling too much.

Here’s a screenshot of the LiteSpeed caching plugin crawler settings:

LiteSpeed Crawler Settings

Ultimately if you want to enable automatic priming of the page cache without LiteSpeed, you’ll have to use one of the 3rd party caching plugins like W3 Total Cache or WP Super Cache with their “Preloading” feature.

Another option is to use the separate plugin called “Warm Cache” which crawls your site and generates static pages no matter which caching solution you use – server side, or with a 3rd party plugin. Ultimately, this is my preferred solution because it decouples the two functions – cache creating and crawling. You can configure the plugin to automatically crawl your site based on any XML sitemap.

Summary

I hope this answers all your questions about shared hosting caching. Most web hosts only allow server-side caching with their higher tier web hosting plans. Overall, I’d have to choose SiteGround for this because of it’s Memcached integration and the fact that it’s available right with the GrowBig plan.

There’s no indication that web hosts other than A2 Hosting and SiteGround offer Memcached, so if you’re really serious about your site’s performance, you should choose one of these two providers.

About Bhagwad Park

I've been writing about web hosting and WordPress tutorials since 2008. I also create tutorials on Linux server administration, and have a ton of experience with web hosting products. Contact me via e-mail!