New Service: Opcache For PHP ‘Opcode’ Caching

   |  14 Feb, 2016  #

We promised 2016 would be a busy year for us, and it’s true! Already this year we’ve launched WP StageCoach for staging websites, along with CloudFlare Pro for our Enterprise plans (and as an optional add-on to other hosting plans).

Now it’s time to announce Opcache, the latest and greatest service being offered FREE to all of our hosting clients across all of our hosting plans. If you are not familiar with Opcache, it is a “newer” caching service that is bundled directly inside of PHP itself as of PHP version 5.4. In fact, Opcache used to go by a different name — Zend Optimizer — and was previously a proprietary software, until the recent partnership with PHP helped shift it into an open-source application.

This is GREAT news. Previously, installing an “opcode” a.k.a. “bytecode” cache on your server meant re-compiling PHP (and/or Apache) with a 3rd party caching service, meaning more time and configuration (and tweaking) was required. For several years, APC was the most popular opcode cache, which is now all but dead as the software has been abandoned. (Actually, APC was both an “opcode” cache and also an “object cache” at the same time, whereas Opcache is only for opcode caching. This left the door open for object/session caching to evolve in the past few years, leading to much debate and confusion. Memcache (or Memcached with a “d”) are two of the most popular object caches in use, although more and more preference is being given to Redis for this purpose due to its highly organized releases and reliability, among other things. LittleBizzy has also recently begun offering Redis caching on a case-by-case basis for Premium and Enterprise clients.)

For less-geeky readers, you can summarize Opcache by saying it allows your website to load PHP files more quickly, because your server (PHP) simply “caches” the code that exists inside every requested PHP file for a specified amount of time rather than parsing that file every single time its needed. Clearly, for sites that use WordPress, which is entirely based on PHP template files, this can bring significant improvements. While many case studies show that Opcache only offers a minimal difference in performance (i.e. less than %15 improvement), the truth is that during traffic spikes or other busy server events, the technology behind Opcache could save your website from sluggishness — or worse.

From the beginning our goal with LittleBizzy has been to offer top notch speed and stability in a hassle-free environment; from setup to billing to website management, we wanted to make sure that “tech savvy” clients appreciated our configuration, but that “less savvy” clients were also not overwhelmed by features and options. For this reason, we waited on offering Opcache until we were sure it could be easily managed via WordPress itself. We are happy to introduce you to a new (and free) WordPress plugin called Opcache Dashboard, which is a fantastic way to both monitor your server’s Opcache usage or invalidate the entire cache too, if needed (we may also launch our own plugin for Opcache in the near future… but keep in mind that Opcache will automatically refresh files every few minutes no matter what, so usually there is no need to clear it).

The enabling of Opcache is done completely by our team during server setup, and remains enabled for all our clients regardless of them installing this plugin or not; however, we highly recommend keeping this plugin installed so that your developers are aware of your Opcache and are able to properly clear the cache if so needed.

We hope you enjoy the added stability offered by Opcache! Paired with the recommended Comet Cache plugin (which caches “page content”) you should achieve a much more stable and quicker-loading WordPress website :)

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