LiteSpeed Cache BEATS Varnish…EASILY!
I am by no means an “expert” sys admin or dev ops but after dealing with both for low-load and high-load servers, I will say LiteSpeed cache feels better.
REASON #1 – LiteSpeed Cache is easier to use
BOOM! Done. I could just walk out right now with that statement alone. LiteSpeed cache is just flat out easier to implement, easier to configure. I have to give a huge shoutout to their on an incredible product. And btw, kudos to the Varnish team as well for setting the standard in static page caching.
With Varnish – you have to do some command line stuff, not a big deal for sys-admins, but then there’s the whole configuration thing (VCL). It appears to be a dark art figuring out the optimal configurations for each type of server/site, and the stock configuration isn’t as effective or useable out of the box. That’s just my understanding so correct me if I’m wrong! Aside from that, it takes a while to make Varnish cache and to make it purge exactly when you want. The easiest sites for Varnish are the static sites, but guess what, static sites are also super easy for all other caching solutions as well.
With LiteSpeed cache – there’s not much configuration to mess with. There’s no digging around changing arbitrary numbers and settings. You install a plugin that works conveniently with your application…then configure what elements to cache, how to cache them, and how to exclude or expire them. You have just the right amount of settings, and the plugin speaks in the same terminology used by your application. It doesn’t get any easier than that!
Control comparison: does Varnish configuration offer granular control? Perhaps. Is it easier to accomplish high speeds in LiteSpeed than with Varnish? I certainly think so. Varnish makes you think a lot about your server, your traffic, website, before you can configure it for the best settings. LiteSpeed just works right off the bat and easy to activate for non-sys-admin guys. The settings are easy and make you feel like you know what every setting does. With Varnish, there is no “settings page”…it’s like customizing htaccess using REGEX rules. Look online and you’ll see thousands of pages sharing their own Varnish configuration.
Can a true Varnish expert easily configure it to be faster than LiteSpeed Cache? Absolutely, I do think it’s possible. But it still wouldn’t be easier. I suppose, sure…if you’re an expert and have many years of experience with your stack and applications and know your favorite customization already, AND also love tweaking servers. With LiteSpeed Cache, it feels their team already did the thinking for you and all you have to do is activate the plugin.
REASON #2 – LiteSpeed Cache is FASTER (than Varnish)
I get the feeling some NGINX-tweaker is gonna jump on here and school me for saying this but I’ll happily stand by it. For all out-of-the-box standard Varnish applications that I’ve seen, Varnish made little difference to the site performance (compared to without). I never configured those servers, mind you. It was done by the hosting company or whatever tech provisioned the server.
In the many instances that I’ve deployed LiteSpeed Cache on various LiteSpeed servers, you could feel the difference right away. Huge impact and easily accomplished with a few clicks. Varnish for whatever reason failed to impress me under real world use. Either it was slow right from the beginning and never made much impact. Or it was fast in the beginning but then kept missing cache as your site grew (or changed).
REASON #3 – Technical reasons
I think LiteSpeed Cache is newer and feels like it was built exactly for today’s web applications. Varnish feels like an old Michael Jackson song remixed 10 times. It was built back in the days to complement older web server technologies. But now many of Varnish’s functions are already built into today’s web servers. There’s even discussions about whether or not NGINX is even any faster with Varnish.
I also like that LiteSpeed cache functions directly from the web server core whereas Varnish has to be added as a separate layer to your stack. That’s one more proxy, one more channel of communication to process in both directions, on more layer of complexity.
I still like Varnish
Don’t get me wrong, I still like Varnish for its hacky open-source vibe and well aware of the many more companies using it over LiteSpeed.
It’s fun to use…free, quick to setup, and way more configuration possibilities (although 99% of us don’t need it). It can add astronomical speed boosts to any site but you need a real expert who knows your exact site and server config to really maximize it. I think Varnish is great for huge companies that don’t want to pay so much for LiteSpeed server licenses and also have their own in-house application and in-house engineers.
But for the small businesses with active productions sites and no admin sitting around…I don’t see why you can’t just spend the extra bucks and get a guaranteed solution. LS cache is easy to use (costs money but still very cheap) and you get excellent support from the team if you can’t get it running correctly. A cheap price for access to senior engineers if you ask me.